We were introduced to Settlers of Catan by some friends around 2004 and it has become one of our favorite family games. Over the years we have evolved our own variant that is much more cooperative and positive – features that we look for in all games. Here’s a list of the changes we’ve made:
- Monopoly cards are treated like a Year of Plenty – the original was a source of contention and could make for a really unhappy experience in a resource-starved game.
- We eliminated the concept of robbing and stealing resources for the same reason.
- Once a settlement or city is built on a port location, any player can use its 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 resource conversion feature. This can result in some strategic trading in order to encourage/reward a particular player to build a port for which resources are plentiful.
- Soldiers don’t steal. They’re not brigands; they’re professionals. They allow the player to put a soldier piece (we use horsemen from a Risk set) on the board adjacent to one of his/her structures. A soldier piece on the board acts like a mobile settlement. It may move to (but is not required to) an adjacent land, whether owned by the player or not, but only on the owner’s turn. When the number of the land tile the soldier is on is rolled, the owner of the solder also receives a resource card for that land. Any number of soldiers may occupy a land tile at the same time. The concept is that soldiers make the inhabitants feel safe and assist in resource gathering, so the land is more productive.
- A soldier can decide to settle down and establish a settlement if there is in a legal building spot where the soldier is location and the player pays the cost of a settlement and a road. The soldier (horseman) is removed from the board and the player gives up the card. The player places a settlement and road on a valid intersection of the tile formerly occupied by the soldier. This is based on the historical idea that soldiers would travel out into wilderness areas, build forts and trade with the locals. Eventually individual soldiers might get out of the military and decide to build a farm, store, etc nearby. This allows a player to project power to a new area of the board to overcome a resource problem or road-block that is preventing them from earning points.
- At the start of the game, resource numbers are randomized and placed face-down on the board. This means players must make blind choices for their initial settlement locations. Once all players have chosen settlement locations, only numbers on lands adjacent to settlements are turned face-up. As players build additional settlements the numbers next to the new settlements are turned face-up. As soldiers move onto lands with face-down numbers they also cause the numbers for those lands to be turned face-up. Reasoning: you don’t know how good a location is going to be for mining, grazing, etc until you go there.
- Rolling 7 does not cause players to discard resources.
- When a 7 is rolled, the player who rolled it may swap the numbers on two of his/her land tiles, or between one of his/her tiles and a land with a face-down number, turning that number face-up in the process. The player may not move a number from a land that is shared with another player unless that player agrees. This gives the player the ability to concentrate his/her resource gathering activities (e.g. use fertilizer on crops, establish a breeding program, innovate better mining practices, etc) based on current needs and how the dice appear to be rolling.