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How To Play Virtual CATAN®

The world is experiencing unprecedented times, and people are responding in unprecedented ways. While we stay in our homes, we have found ways to get closer through technology.

Video conferences have gone from the boardroom to the living room as people share meals, happy hours, and even birthday parties from a distance.

The creativity we’ve seen over the last weeks has been astounding, and we thank everyone who has been playing and sharing their games with us.

Now, we want to help you play CATAN with your friends on the other side of town, or the other side of the globe, using tips and ideas shared with us by real fans like you.

What You Need

  • A CATAN board game for display. It’s helpful to have a copy at each physical location, but not required. (We will share some modifications at the end to help you play with just one copy.)
  • Devices with cameras on each player - phones, laptops, or tablets will work
  • An additional device to display the board - a phone, laptop, or tablet will work
  • A video conferencing platform. There are many! Pick one that everyone can access.

The Basics

Get online

Invite all participants (including the device pointing at the board) to your video conference.

Game Setup

At the home with the main board, set up the board and playing space as usual and set up the device as close to overhead as you can manage so everyone can see it clearly on their screens. We have seen so many creative setups to achieve this. Here are a couple:

Boardgame Camera Stand Boardgame Camera Stand Boardgame Camera Stand
Click to enlarge - Credit: Aleksandra Reetz & Hannah East

At the homes without the main board, pull out from the box:

  • Resource cards
  • Development cards
  • Player pieces
  • Dice

Resource Cards

Use your resources as normal, taking cards from your own supply.

Trading Resource Cards

Trading two sheep for one wheat? We trust you to put two sheep into your supply and take one wheat. Your remote trading partner must discard one wheat and take two sheep from their supply.

Stealing Resource Cards

The thief selects who they will steal from and the victim holds up their hand. The thief selects a card: “The third card from your right.” The other players look away. The victim shows the card to the camera and puts it into their supply. The thief picks up one of those resources from their supply.

Development Cards

We think the easiest solution is the honor system.
The person who is hosting the main board draws the top card and shows it to the camera while everyone else looks away. The player who bought the card can add it to their hand from their own deck.

Player Pieces

If you’re at the home without the main board, set aside the pieces you have built so you know how many are left in your supply.

Placing Your Pieces

A simple method in telling the other players where you want to place a road, settlement or city is by saying the resource type and number on the hex fields adjacent.

Example:

  • "Place a road between the 9 Ore and the 5 Brick."
  • "Place the settlement between the 2 Wheat, 4 Lumber and 6 Wool."

Shadow Boards (optional)

Players can set up their own “shadow boards” with the exact same setup, but they don’t have to if the view of the main board is good. When a player builds a settlement, road, or city, those with shadow boards would place the same piece on the same location on their board.

Modifications

If some players don’t have the game

It’s easiest if all the participants have a copy of CATAN so that everyone has access to their own resource cards, development cards, dice, and player pieces. However, that may not always be possible.
Print out this tracking sheet to help you keep track of your resources, development cards, and player pieces.

You can use coins, buttons or beans as trackers, or you can use a pencil with a good eraser.

Development Card Modification

If you’re playing in just two separate locations, each location can use their full Development Card deck, but beware that there will then be double VP cards, Monopoly cards, etc.
Hannah East tried this approach:

“Being as these need to be kept secret...we decided to just keep both decks and call that good. We'd draw from our full pile and they'd draw from theirs. It didn’t seem to cause any issues.”

Make it a party!

Visit our Virtual CATAN Party Supplies page where you can find invitations that you can message to your friends and digital “trophies” for the winner.

Fan Tips and Inspiration

We’ve been so inspired by the ingenuity of CATAN players from around the world. We reached out for their real-life experience and tips.

Use a Proxy

Boardgame Proxy Boardgame Proxy
Credit: @MissMeagen

We heard from @MissMeagen who played with her family as the only remote player. The four people at one household played together, and one person – her step-dad – became Meagen’s proxy.

“My family set up the classic with extension, and sent me pics of the set up. I copied it exactly. Then, my stepdad basically became my hands. He held the FaceTime and drew development cards for me. I rolled my own dice, and kept track of the entire board myself so I could strategize. It wasn’t the easiest way to play a game, but we did it no problems and had a blast. I wound up winning after all!”

Make it your own

Nicole Waibel recently played with some friends and found a way to make it even more fun!

“Some video conferencing tools also have fun green screen features. So go ahead and pick your background if you're into that sort of thing (we played from Paris and from Space).”

We’ve even put together some CATAN-themed backgrounds for you here.

Virtual Background Virtual Background
Credit: Nicole Waibel

Snacks and Drinks

What would a game of CATAN be without snacks and drinks? Find some delicious ideas here.

Share the Fun

We love to see photos of our fans’ ingenious set ups. Tag us in your photos on Instagram – @settlersofcatan or Twitter @settlersofcatan and use #catan!

See it in Action!

The gaming channel GEGGHEAD is streaming virtual CATAN games on Facebook Live, Fridays at 3 p.m. Pacific, 6 p.m. Eastern.
See recordings of the streams on YouTube.


Or, if you prefer complete digital gameplay, check out CATAN Universe, our online platform to play the digital adaption of CATAN, available for desktop and mobile systems.