Settling the Rules of Catan

Following on from our how-to-play Catan video, here are some rules which are often misunderstood, or omitted from the base game of Catan.

Settling the Rules of Catan

Before you can truly master a game, it is essential to understand the fundamentals. Although playing does not allow you to make any illegal moves during a game, misunderstanding the rules of Catan can still be a detriment to your strategy if you find you are unable to take a certain action too late.

While playing itself is a great way to learn the rules, we have also created a how-to-play Catan video, which breaks down the rules of the game with examples within the interface.

Even after reading the rule book, there are still many occasions when the rules of Catan can be misinterpreted. For this reason, I thought it would be a great idea to go over a few of these misunderstood rules and clear things up once and for all!

Future Trading in Catan


Player A offers player a brick and the promise of 1 wood in return for 2 ore.

Although this trade could technically happen, there are no rules to enforce that player A will cough up the promised wood once he receives it. For this reason, future trades are not allowed in the rules of Catan. You are however allowed to negotiate a future trade, with the understanding that no one is bound to follow through with their end of the bargain.

Playing Multiple Development Cards


Player A plays a knight card at the start of their turn, playing the road-building card later in their turn.

There is some confusion over development cards and this is a rule that is often either ignored while playing the board game or tends to surprise players when playing online. Although player A is allowed to play the knight card at the start of their turn, they are then unable to play any other development cards that turn.

  • You may buy as many development cards as you wish each turn.
  • You may only play one development card each turn (at any time).
  • You may not play a development card that you have just received on the same turn.

Playing Multiple Victory Point Cards


Player A has 8 victory points as well as a +1 victory point card. They then purchase another development card (drawing another +1 victory point card) and play both of them, immediately winning the game.

This is the one time when a player is technically allowed to play more than one development card in a turn. You are allowed to play as many victory point cards as you wish if it results in you winning the game (10 victory points for the base game)

Showing How Many Resource Cards You Hold


Player A asks Player B to show how many resources they are holding.

In you are always able to see the number of resource cards that each player is holding but this isn’t necessarily true when playing the board game. You are however obligated to show your cards (face down) when asked to show how many cards you have.

This rule ensures that no one is hiding cards and failing to half their hand when a 7 is rolled, but it is also very useful information for anyone playing the game. If you know that the player in the lead currently has 15 cards, it can help you to strategize and understand whether or not they can win the game in their next turn. It can also influence your decision for who to steal a card from when placing the robber.

No Resources Left

Example A:

Player A rolls a 2 and is the only player to collect ore, unfortunately, there is no ore left in the resource pile.

Although this doesn’t happen too often, if a player goes to collect a resource but there is none of the corresponding resource left, they are unable to collect this resource.

A caveat of this rule occurs when there is one of this resource left but the player is allowed to correct two (having a city on the hex). In this case, the player can collect this resource until there are none left in the resource pile.

Example B:

Player A rolls a 2 which would result in Player A and B both collecting 1 ore, unfortunately, there is only 1 ore available in the resource pile.

In this situation, no player is allowed to collect this resource as there are enough resources to be distributed to each player. This is a rule that is often played incorrectly and will normally result in the resource being awarded to whichever player is the quickest to pick up their resource card.

Counting Resource Cards


Player A asks to count the resource cards in the resource pile before playing a monopoly card.

This rule is often played incorrectly as many people believe that you should be watching and remembering which resources have been awarded each turn. If you are playing, you can easily see the remaining number of each resource left. When playing the board game, any player can choose to count each resource pile.

This is incredibly useful for anyone wishing to use their monopoly card as they can choose to ask for the resource with the least amount of cards left in the resource pile.

Showing Your Hand

Example A

Player A rolls a 7 and is deciding who to rob a resource from, they announce that they are looking for a sheep. Player B steps in and shows their hand, revealing that they have no sheep in their hand, this causes player A to steal from player B.

Although you are free to talk about what cards you have in your hand, showing your cards to the other players is against the rules. It is for this reason that there isn’t an option to show another player your card while playing Not allowing players to show each other their hands creates another layer of strategy as players must work out what cards others are holding.

No Gifting Resources


Player A can see that in the next turn, Player B can take the longest road card and win the game. Player A decides to give Player C 2 bricks and 2 wood without receiving any cards in the trade.

Gifting another player your resource cards is against the rules, and each trade must consist of cards being exchanged rather than given for free. You are however allowed to offer as many cards as you wish for only 1 card in return.

So That's Settled Then

Hopefully, that has helped clear up a few rules that you and your friends may have disagreed on in the past. The thing is, sometimes rules can be changed to fit your playing style, this is why we provide a variety options to change your Colonist experience each time you play.