Can you play Settlers of Catan with 2 players?

Ever want to play Settlers of Catan but only have the two of you? Do not fear.

You can enjoy playing Settlers of Catan with two players. In this article you learn three amazing variations that you can play with one other person. Allowing you to be able to enjoy this game more often when you can’t rustle up enough players. Don’t miss the Isthmus of Catan and its mind-blowing board setup explained below.

Why doesn’t Settlers of Catan with 2 players work?

Can you play Settlers of Catan with two players? Here's how.

You’ll find playing with two is less balanced for several reasons. One of the delights you’ll find with Settlers of Catan is the ability to trade with your opponents. When it comes to only having two of you this is not possible. Here lies the imbalance as either players will remain equal or one will run away with lead.

The board is also designed for more players and so when there are only two it reduces competition. In two player games you can avoid one another completely.

You’ll also notice an increase in the speed of play and find it difficult to gather resources. Sounds frustrating? Let’s look at the solutions that will delight you.

How can you play Settlers of Catan with 2 players?

Here we come to the fun bit. I have researched several methods of playing with 2 players and you will find 3 variations described below. 

The first will be for those new to Catan and so will enable you to enjoy two player games without having to modify the way you normally play too much. For the more experienced I will offer some more complex variations that will make the games you play more interesting.

All these are variations of the base game so I won’t discuss how to play the base game here but only the variations.

Simple adjustments to playing Settlers of Catan with 2 players

If you are new to Catan and want to play two players then this variation is for you. It is a simple variation and so easy to learn and play.

3 settlements and double rolls variation

This variation works to increase the resources that the players accrue during the game. It also modifies the winning scenario requirements.

Setting up

Set up the game as normal, the first change happens when you are ready to place your settlements. The player going first then places one settlement and road followed by the second player who places two settlements and roads. Finally the first player places their last two settlements and then the second player places their last settlement. This gives each player three settlements to start.

Catan 2 player Simple variation board setup

Now each player takes resource cards for the hexes around their third settlement.

Play

Now play as normal with the exception that each player rolls twice. This is to increase the resources only so the player still only gets one action phase at the start of their go. Each dice roll increases the resources that each player receives, solving the under-resourcing issue. To extend the game the final points required to win is raised to 15. If you want to extend the game further then just increase the win points to 20.

Tip:
Increasing the rolls also increases the likelihood of being robbed. So spend those resources quickly.

Intermediate adjustments to playing Settlers of Catan with 2 players

For those looking for a little more from their Catan two player game this variation will be for you. It adds a little more variation but is not so complex there is a lot to think about.

3 settlements, double rolls and delaying the robber

This variation builds on the variation. Set up the game with 3 settlements. There is no inter-player trading in this variant but you can still trade with the bank.

Setting up

The first player puts down a settlement and road then the second player places two settlements and roads. Next the first player places two settlements and roads and the second player finishes off with one settlement and road.

Play

Play as normal except each player performs two rolls. This is specifically to produce more resources. Players can’t take actions in between the first and second roll unless it is a 7.

The winning scenario is the first player with 15 victory points, This can be increased to a maximum of 20 to make the game longer if wished.

Catan Robber

Robber

The threshold for returning half a player’s resources to the bank is increased to 8 cards.

The robber cannot come into play for two rounds. If a 7 is rolled during this time the player must re-roll. After this the same rules to the robber apply unless a 7 is rolled on both rolls for that player.

If the 7 is rolled a second time then the player does not have to move the robber. They can also choose to take two resources from the bank instead of the other player.

Complex adjustments to playing Settlers of Catan with 2 players

Here is a more complex variation of Settlers of Catan for those who are looking for something a little different.

Isthmus of Catan

This version has a unique board layout and a few major changes to the rules including a robber equalizer. This variation also allows trading only with the bank.

Setting up

The desert hex is not used in this variation. 

The word Isthmus means a narrow strip of land that joins two larger areas of land across a body of water. That is how the board will look. 

To start, take three mountain hexes and line them up in a row as the centre of the board. This will be the isthmus.

Take one hex of each type and put them to one side: Hills, Forest, Fields, Pasture. This will leave 12 hexes to use for the islands.

Isthmus of Catan board layout

Use the Variable method in the base game instructions and lay them out as above. Then place 8 ports randomly around the barbel with a 3:1 on both islands.

Place 3, 8, and 11 number tokens on the Isthmus with the 8 in the middle. Now place randomized numbers on each hex for both islands as follows. Island 1 gets 4,5,8,9,10,11 and Island 2 gets 2,3,5,6,9,10.

Players now place their settlements as normal, two each. They cannot place them on the Isthmus mountains joining the two islands. Each player takes resources for their last settlement.

Robber

The robber has a few variations during the game. The first rule variation is that the player will roll again if a 7 is rolled during the first 6 rounds preventing the robber from taking any resources.

The second variation is called the Robber Equalizer and its objective is to stop one player from running away with the game. It does this by making the player in front less likely to roll a 7. The further in front they are the less likely the robber will come into play for them.

Determine who is in the lead by counting up victory points not including longest road or largest army. Then ad ⅓ for each played soldier, played development card, and road link.

When a 7 is rolled who is behind it always counts and action is taken as per the base game rules.

If the leader throws a 7 then they must reroll to see if their robber is successful. They must score a higher roll the further they are in the lead as per the table below. If they are 4 or more points then the robber is never successful.

Point difference
1/3
2/3
1
1 1/3
1 2/3
2
Roll for success
2
3
4
5
6
7
Point difference
2 1/3
2 2/3
3
3 1/3
3 2/3
Roll for success
8
9
10
11
12

If the re-roll is unsuccessful and the robber fails then that player re-rolls until they get a score that is not 7.

Play

Begin play as normal, the winner is the first person to 12 victory points.

Conclusion

There are many 2 player variations and once you get the hang of these above you could try making some variations of your own.

If you enjoyed this article then perhaps you’d be interested in some game night ideas to add to the fun.

There are also the official 2 player rules written by Klaus Teuber which can be found here. I would also like to thank George Jaros for his excellent resources on this subject that can be found here.

Family Board Game Night Ideas

5 Best Family Board Game Night Ideas

Whether you have family board games on a lazy Sunday afternoon, at weekends, whilst on holiday, or a quick pre-bedtime family board game night. Playing board games can be really rewarding and all round good fun. 

It is believed that board games help your child learn how to play as a team, win or lose graciously and build up concentration, mental acuity, and patience. Many games are also educational and can incorporate things like mathematics, reading, spelling, drawing, finance, commerce and strategy whilst building motor skills to boot.

Here are 5 Family Board Game Night Ideas that will increase the fun. Including keeping the kids engaged, some yummy food and drink ideas or getting into the spirit with a themed night. Jump in and let’s take family board gaming to the next level.

Can you play Risk with 2 players?

Can you play Risk with 2 players? | Solved and Explained!

I discovered Risk many years ago and enjoyed playing with 4 or 5 players. I can remember attempting to play with two players using the normal rules. You can imagine the disappointment when the game didn’t play as well and was over pretty quick!
Discovering the 2 player variations was a revelation. Learning these variations will enable you to enjoy Risk with two players as much as I do.
All the variations I have found use the same basic principle. They use more armies to soften the fact you both own 50% of the world. This means there is more to worry about than your opponent and the strength of their army.
I have separated the variations in two with neutral armies and allied armies. Within those there are several variations on how to set up the games.
So, get ready to learn how to have fun playing Risk with two.