Settlers of Catan is an incredible game. Once you’ve mastered its numerous but not overly complex rules, you’re hooked. I’ve seen it happen over and over again, most recently this past weekend as I taught the game to several of my younger nieces and nephews.
No matter your situation in the real world, the Island of Catan is the great equalizer — middle schoolers and managers sit down across from one another and roll dice for the right to build on the best slices of resource real estate. The crucial decisions made in the next hour and a half will decide who will be crowned Emperor of Catan and who will be left one turn away from winning with an unplayed Victory Point Development Card clenched in their fist as they beg their fellow players to stay for a second round. Everyone agrees, and the process starts all over again.
No two games of Catan are ever quite the same, but one thing is certain: There’s never enough brick to go around.
It’s also certain that frequent Catan players will quickly develop distinct personality types that could vary wildly from how they behave beyond the realm of Catan. These traits guide their gameplay, decision-making and in-game demeanor — and obviously come into conflict with the traits of other players.
Below is a list of the 9 most common types of Settlers that I have encountered. Please note that these personality types are not exhaustive or exclusive, as they can coexist within a single player or even shift from person-to-person during a single game. I have also helpfully included a suggested strategy for defeating each of these players.
9. The Port Authority
When everyone is picking their first placements, the Port Authority always heads for the coasts. Whether wheat, sheep, brick or ore, they firmly believe that the better exchange rate of a port is the key to victory in Catan. They proceed to play the game in pursuit of this now more valuable resource, gobbling it up in trade deals and converting it into settlements with abandon. If things are going particularly well, they might build enough roads to grab a second port.
Strategy: Resource starvation. If you don’t get wheat, you can’t spin straw into 2 for 1 gold.
8. The New Kid
While the Slow Poke deserves no mercy for his sluggish ways, the passive pace of the New Kid playing for the first time is more forgivable — often evoking pity or even a complete game stoppage as a wisened player will patiently and pedantically offer advice on the misguided first timer’s foolish fumble.
“You miiiiiiight not want to point your first road that way. That’s the desert.”
Usually the poor sap will be allowed to break convention and move the road. Sometimes when the game is underway, however, seasoned veterans trade knowing glances at the New Kid’s latest idiotic move without a word or explain why it was a bad choice and move along without remedy. Meanwhile, the New Kid just built his roads in a circle around the desert.
Strategy: The New Kid usually has trouble memorizing all of the Catan regulations and hasn’t developed any strategies yet, which means the only way he can win is sheer dumb luck. If the New Kid prevails, rest assured that everyone else at the table will immediately demand a second game to put this upstart in his place.
7. The Robber Baron
Everyone knows that a seven can be a terrible number to roll at the wrong time— and that’s especially true for the Robber Baron. In the last several rounds of turns, this poor soul has amassed a personal deck of resource cards and grand plans for her Catan domination.
Before rolling the dice, she whispers, “I sure hope I don’t roll a seven.”
You know what happens next. The dice fall: 4 and 3. That gray grim reaper sweeps over the board. The once proud Robber Baron becomes a barren pauper, forced to surrender half her hand and the hypothetical Victory Points those cards would have wrought.
Strategy: Don’t be one. And roll a 7 when you’re playing with one.
6. The Tattle Tale
This one hits particularly close to home for me, as my wife will attest that I frequently take on the role of Tattle Tale in games that we play against friends and family. My wife happens to be a rather expert Settler of Catan, so sometimes being a bit of a sore loser is my only recourse. (I once famously called her the “Ore of Babylon” when she wouldn’t trade the hundreds of ore she was collecting with every roll. We have an otherwise happy marriage.)
The Tattle Tale goes to work during the TRADE phase of a currently winning player’s turn, loudly commanding fellow players to enforce a blockade.
“Don’t trade with her! She’s about to win! What do you want? Wheat? I have wheat!”
The Tattle Tale will also stare at the potential winner’s unplayed Development Cards and shriek about the likelihood that they are unseen Victory Points. To be an effective Tattle Tale, it’s best to include these hypothetical Victory Points when announcing score updates. It gives more credence to your call for a trade embargo.
Strategy: Don’t trade with her! She’s about to win!
5. The Slow Poke
No matter how many times he plays the game, the Slow Poke will never get any more efficient at taking his turn. Everyone else plots out potential moves and decides what resources are needed while it’s someone else’s turn, but not the Slow Poke. He might as well be in a coma until the dice come his way.
Strategy: Yelling at them and rushing them. If things get desperate, pull out the timer on your phone.
4. The Road Hog
You can always identify a future road hog. When you’re explaining the rules of Catan to someone for the first time, watch their eyes. If you mention the two Victory Points that can be earned by claiming longest road and their pupils dilate, you’ve just created a Road Hog.
Within the first four rounds of play, this creature will not only claim the longest road advantage, but also have cut off any players in the vicinity. You’re not even sure where they’re getting all that brick. The devil, maybe?
Strategy: Block their path first or get the heck out of their way. If you’re playing against a known Road Hog, make sure your first placements have room to breathe and several clear paths for your own road-building needs.
3. The Bomb Cart
Catan isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t cut out to succeed at a game that requires long-term planning, short-term cunning, improvisation and lucky rolls of the dice. Sometimes these people realize that their best course of action is to just give up and turn into a Bomb Cart.
Just as the Bomb Cart in Mario Kart gives the losing player a chance to destroy other players, the Catan Bomb Cart will not rest until she’s messed with the plans of those around her. Sometimes this means claiming a sought after port for a resource she doesn’t even collect. Other times it means playing a Monopoly card and demanding everyone’s wood, then trying to trade it back to her lumber-starved neighbors at an even steeper price.
On every turn, the Bomb Cart leaves nonsensical chaos in her wake. If you’re not crying, all you can do is laugh.
Strategy: They’re never going to win, so you just have to endure their lunacy and hope they hunt someone who has more points than you.
2. The Development Card Shark
Sometimes you’re playing Catan and notice that the player to your left doesn’t have too much property on the board — just a few settlements and one city. Then you realize that they have been collecting Development Cards like it’s going out of style. Soon they’re using a road builder card when no one has brick to build a road, they’re playing knights and moving the robber at will (+2 Victory Points for Largest Army!). Every turn seems to be a Year of Plenty for them, and it’s obvious that at least one of those three unplayed Development Cards on the table is another Victory Point lying in wait for a victorious, game-ending reveal.
Strategy: Buy your own Development Cards and hope that you’re the one getting the elusive Victory Points. Once you’ve got Largest Army, knights can get pretty tiresome.
1. The Once and Future King
At last we’ve come to the most annoying Settler of Catan. The Once and Future King is a genius. His turns move quickly and his settlements grow. Eventually he’s in a position where every six that rolls gives him an instant city — and sixes keep rolling. The most infuriating part about his march to victory is the fact that he knows he is unstoppable. The game is played with a cool and calculated grace befitting his royal status.
Ganging up on him or strictly enforcing trade embargoes only serve to delay the inevitable. Worst of all, you can’t even pinpoint his strategy…It doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything that different from you! Why can’t you be the king?!
Strategy: Maybe it’s time to play Ticket To Ride.