Fun-Day Friday – Settlers of Catan

This week we’ll cover a board game that is tons of fun to play, but takes a lot of time.  This is a good rainy day family fun day game, so if you’ve never heard of it, read on.

The Settlers of Catan game includes a board that is dynamic.  The pieces that make up the board can be put together like a puzzle, but they’re mixable so you can move where each little land plot can be placed.  The instructions include a recommended default layout for beginners, and it is highly recommended to follow it, since it gives a good balanced layout of lands around the board.

First you build the outer border (which is supposed to fit together the same way every time, with number tabs/slots that connect.)  Then you place hexagonal land pieces inside like a honey comb.  Once the whole board is laid out, you place numbered tokens on each land.

A “robber” piece goes on the desert land.

Each player picks a color and takes 5 settlements, 4 cities, and 15 roads.  Each player places two settlements and two roads on the board to start.  A settlement goes on the corner of one of the hexagonal shaped land pieces, and a road runs long the edge of the hexagonal land piece.  Each land that a settlement touches allows that settlement to potentially obtain whatever resource it can produce in a round.

A round begins by rolling the two six sided dice “for production.”  The roll applies to all players, not just the person rolling the dice.  Whatever number is rolled determines which lands may produce resources that round (based on those numbered tokens that got placed on each land.)  Any settlement on the corner of land that produces that round gets a resource card for the resource that particular land produces.  Rolling a 7 is special, and we’ll get to it in a bit.

After rolling for resources, the player that rolled the dice may trade resources.  There are two kinds of trade.  Domestic trade allows the player that rolled the dice to trade with the other players on negotiation terms.  The other kind of trade is maritime trade, and allows for “trading” resources without trading with other players.  The normal (and worst) maritime trade is a 4:1 ratio.  A player may turn in any 4 of one resource card in exchange for one other resource card.  If the player has a settlement on the outer edge of the island next to a harbor, the harbor allows for maritime trade, which has more favorable ratios.

Once trading is done, if any, the player that rolled the dice may build.  Building costs are dependent upon “building cost cards.”  Refer to the card and spend the appropriate number of resources to build a new settlement or road, or to upgrade a settlement to a city.  You can’t build a settlement on an unoccupied intersection if any of the adjacent intersections contains a settlement or a city.  This means you can’t ever have more than three settlements/cities on one hexagonal land piece.  You also have to build the new settlements along one of your existing roads.  You can also spend resources to obtain a “knight card” or a “victory point” card.

A special “longest road” and “largest army” card are set aside until someone earns them.  To earn the “longest road” card, you need to be the first to build a continuous road of at least 5 individual road pieces.  After that, it can be stolen by someone else if they build a road that is longer than yours.  The “largest army” card is earned by becoming the first player to earn three knight cards.  Anyone earning more knight cards than you will take it, later.  Each of these cards is worth two victory points for the holder of the card.

To put a damper on things, there is a robber in the desert.  Any time someone rolls a “seven” several things happen.  First everyone with seven or more cards must discard half of them (odd numbers rounded down, first.)  Next, the player that rolled the seven must move the robber to the number token of a terrain hex, or back to the desert if it’s already on a terrain hex that isn’t desert.  Finally, that player is allowed to steal one resource card from one player with a settlement next to that resource hex.

If a player plays a knight card on their turn, they move the robber as if a seven were rolled and attempt to steal a player resource card.  The player being robbed places his cards face down and the robbing player picks one at random.  If the robbed player has no cards, nothing is stolen.

The first player to reach ten victory points wins.  Points aren’t awarded each turn, they are counted based on what the player holds.

  • Settlement = 1 VP each
  • City = 2 VP each
  • Longest Road card = 2 VP
  • Largest Army card = 2VP
  • Victory Point card = 1VP

This game is complex, and play time can reach or exceed the time it would take to play a decent game of Monopoly (for comparison.)  It does help develop strategic thinking, though, and does so with an excess of fun.

I’m sorry this one ran a bit long, but it is what it is.  Thanks for reading!

The Game is available at Amazon, and probably other retail outlets.

Fun-Day Friday – Mastermind Game

I originally planned to cover Settlers of Catan this week, but we didn’t get to play last weekend, so I’m saving it for a later post.  Instead, we’re going to cover Mastermind, which is a very fun logic game.


The game plays similarly to Battleship in that there is a “blind” to keep the “guessing” player from seeing the other player’s code, and pegs are used to indicate a guess, and to mark a success or failure.

One player sets a code, flips the blind up so that the other player can’t see the code, then the other player is allowed to see the board.  There are 6 different colored large pegs, as well as black and white smaller pegs.  The colors are red, blue, green, yellow, white, and black.

The board ten rows across the board that contain four small peg holes at each end of the row, as well as four total large peg holes across the middle of the row.  The player doing the guessing has to pick colored pegs to place in the larger peg holes, to indicate that they guess that’s what the code is behind the blind.

The person that set the code then compares the guess against the code and places a white peg for each guessed peg that is a correct color, but in an incorrect location, and a black peg for each guessed peg that is both a correct color and in a correct location into the four smaller peg holes on one side of the row.  Once these pegs have been placed, if any, it is the other player’s turn to make a new guess.

If the code is correct, the code maker can flip the blind up to indicate a win.

The other side of the board can be used to mark how many wins each player has had.  This makes it possible to extend a “game” by playing multiple matches until one player or the other wins an agreed upon number of matches.  It also makes it possible to extend the number of guesses before saying a player “loses” by marking one of these for a full ten rows of guesses before clearing the board to try again (which would also make the game harder, since you lose the history of attempts, doing that.)

Finally, some people raise the difficulty by allowing there to be missing pegs.

Matches are usually fast paced, so this game can take as little as a few minutes to as long as several hours, depending on house rules and how many matches constitute a full “game.”

Mastermind is fun, addictive, and very good at teaching logic for younger players.  It is highly recommended.