2 Player Settlers of Catan


Recently we have revived a habit of playing lots of 2-player Settlers of Catan. The official rules don’t have a 2-player version, but it turns out that just using the ordinary rules as is gives a tolerably good game.

The most significant problems with the game played like this are: essentially no trading between players; possible for one player to be plagued by the robber for long periods of time. I do not propose a solution to the trading problem.

There are lots of 2-player rule variants available on the internet which try and help the robber problem and other problems. Of the ones we’ve tried (and invented), none seemed simple enough.

Then we had the following idea, which we have tried a few times now and seems to work well:

The robber can only rob for 4 rolls of the dice. In other words if the robber is on a hex (other than the desert) and hasn’t moved for 4 rolls, then after the 4th roll it is returned to the desert hex.

The other value of 4 that we have tried is 3, but I think 4 seems to work slightly better.

We use a coin to maintain the count (you’d think you’d be able to count to 4, but it’s surprisingly tricky). The coin is given, heads-up, to the player who has roll number 2 (that is, the player whose roll is not next). After you roll if you have the coin then you either flip it over, if it was showing heads to begin with; or, return it and the robber to the desert, if it was showing tails.

All the other problems with the 2 player game seem minor in comparison and can be compensated for by playing more games in a row. The 2 player game is quite short.

[Much later: 2009-11-22: Making it not quite so simple, we have added a further rule (to the 2-player game): Longest Road and Largest Army are worth 1 point each; they’re roughly twice as easy to get and keep compared to the 4-player game. The “4 turns” rule for the robber continues to work quite well.]

5 Responses to “2 Player Settlers of Catan”

  1. Nick Barnes Says:

    Is roll number 1 the roll of 7?
    That is, if A and B are playing, and A rolls a 7 and robs B, then do you get B roll, A roll, B roll, A roll, robber retires? Or something else? Is it different if the robber is moved by A playing a soldier card? How about if he plays a soldier card before rolling? Are these the only three possibilities?
    What if A or B rolls a 7 or plays a soldier card on one of the turns while the robber is active?

  2. drj11 Says:

    If the robber moves because of a roll of 7, then that roll is roll 0. But your example scenario is correct: A rolls 7; then B, A, B, A; robber retires.

    If you play a soldier card immediately before rolling then that roll will be roll 1 (of 4); pass the coin to the other player. If you play a solider card after rolling then the other player will be making roll 1; take the coin for yourself.

    If the robber moves whilst active, then the count is reset; pretend the robber was in the desert.

  3. Nick Barnes Says:

    Thanks. That’s clearer to me now.

  4. Nick Barnes Says:

    Also: we have found that trading can often be mutually beneficial (indeed, most trading is) and so is not very rare in 2-player. This might be a personality thing.

  5. Matt Says:

    I have come up with some optional rules for making a 2 player variation of the game that can be a bit more interesting than the official rules.

    1. Players start by building 3 settlements and adjoining roads instead of just 2. Build order goes 1 2 2 1 1 2

    2. There is no robber in the 2-player game. Instead of placing the robber on a 7 you steal a card at random from your opponent. If your opponent wants to prevent you from stealing he can flip over an unused knight at that moment to prevent the theft, or he can use the night later on his turn to steal a card at random from you.

    3. You are allowed to have up to 10 cards in your hand otherwise if a 7 is rolled you have to drop half of them before a card can be stolen from or by your opponent.

    4. The game is played to 13 points, since it goes faster. If you have no victory points other than from buildings that means you have to construct all of your available settlements and cities. For this reason, Development cards are purchased quite frequently which lead to the creation of rules 6 and 7.

    5. Trading is allowed but tends to happen less frequently between experienced players.

    6. The longest road card is awarded for roads length of 6 or longer.

    7. The largest army card is awarded for having 4 or more knights.

    8. The monopoly card works as usual but also matches the number of resources that you collect from your opponent with an equal amount from the “bank”. So if your opponent has 3 grain and you take them with a monopoly card, you also get 3 more grain from the bank.

    9. Rolling a 7 does nothing until someone builds an additional settlement or city. Once someone builds an additional settlement or city beyond the original number of settlements they started with, then the rules for rolling a 7 apply to all players. (This is a house rule that my friends and I use in the full game as well)

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