Can You Play Settlers Of Catan With 2 Players? The Answer May Surprise You!

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Settlers of Catan is a great resource and trading game created by Klaus Teuber and released in 1995. Your task is to settle on the island of Catan and gather resources to expand, trade, and earn victory points.

You can play 2 player Settlers of Catan either by buying an expansion or reading the rest of this article for great variations such as:

  • 3 settlement beginner variation
  • 3 settlement intermediate variation
  • Isthmus of Catan

Make sure you checkout the Isthmus of Catan variation as it has a very different board layout to the normal game.

Can you play settlers of catan with 2 players?

Table of Contents

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

There are two main reasons why Settlers of Catan doesn;t work with 2 players: the board is too big and trading doesn’t work.

The size of the board means that the two players can literally expand without ever coming in contact or being affected by their opponent. With 3-4 players there is much more chance of your progress being hindered by the expansion of your opponents.

You’ll also notice an increase in the speed of play and find it difficult to gather resources. This adds to the fun of the game and just isn’t there with two players.

Trading is a great aspect of Catan. Trying to get the best deal whilst not giving your opponent too much is one of the best things about Catan.

When there are only two this becomes a bit flat. If one player is ahead the other will not want to trade with them as it will advance their lead further. If you both want to trade it is likely that it will not forward either of your efforts to gain a lead.

Therefore usually the motivation to trade goes away and so this fun part of the game is non-existent.

How can you play Settlers of Catan with 2 players?

The good news is there are plenty of great variations that 2 players can play Settlers of Catan. In this article I have instructions for 3 variations for the beginner, intermediate and one complex version.

I just had to add the last one to the mix because of the use of the tiles. It looked so cool.

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

3 settlements beginner variation

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. 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
Board layout with players settlement placements

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.

3 settlements intermediate variation

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. It builds on the previous variation.

Set up the game with 3 settlements. There is no inter-player trading in this variant but you can still perform maritime trades.

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.

Isthmus of Catan

Here is a more complex variation of Settlers of Catan for those who are looking for something a little different. This version has a unique board layout and a few major changes to the rules including a robber equalizer.

The Isthmus of Catan also allows trading but 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
The three mountains make up the Isthmus

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.

Catan board setup for Catan of Isthmus 2 player game

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 add 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 differenceRoll for success
2
3
14
1 ⅓5
1 ⅔6
27
2 ⅓8
2 ⅔9
310
3 ⅓11
3 ⅔12
Table: Roll for success depending on points difference

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

Settlers of Catan can be played with 2 players and still be a lot of fun. With the more complex variations you even still get to enjoy the trading. 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 can’t rattle up enough players for a 3-4 player game then these variations will maximize the fun for 2 players.

If you often play with 2 players then perhaps How To Play Codenames With 2 Players will be interesting to you. Or maybe Dixit vs Codenames will peak your curiosity.

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