Can You Play Catan With 3 Players? Tips to Have Fun & Win!

By Kimberly

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If you are fond of board games dealing with resource management, building, and trading, consider adding Catan to your shelf. The game plays for a little over an hour and is a great game to introduce to kids who are starting to look for more challenging games to play.

Catan (AKA Settlers of Catan) is a board game for 2 to 4 players (ideally 3-4). Players take on the role of different settler groups, trying to develop their settlement by acquiring and trading resources. Players win when they get 10 victory points, which are earned as their settlement advances.

Are you interested in the game Catan? We can learn more by reading the article below. I’ll explain some basic things players need to know before purchasing or playing this game.

An image of a German board game called The Settlers of Catan.

Is it “Catan” or “Settlers of Catan”?

The current game edition is called “Catan.” Previous versions of the game were called “Settlers of Catan.” It is still technically the same game. The changes between versions are in the game’s overall aesthetic, and some rules have been rewritten for clarity.

How Many People Can Play Settlers of Catan?

The base game can play up to four players. However, playing up to six players is now possible with the expansion.

If a player ever decides to play the game with a large group, it’s good to consider all the expansion sets of the game so they can include more players at the table. One of the expansions also contains an official two-player variant for the game Catan, which is good to consider if they prefer to play board games with only one other person.

Note: the base version of Catan can be played with 2 people, but it’s not as fast-paced or exciting as if there are 3 players. When we play a 2-player game of Catan, we usually call the game when one of us reaches 5 victory points rather than 10.

Is Catan Better With 2, 3, or 4 Players?

The best number of players for the base Catan board game is 3 to 4, which adds enough variability to make the game exciting for experienced players but manageable for new players. If there is more than 1 new player to Catan, plan on having 4 players to make the game fun.

However, if a player is looking for something with more challenges, three players are the ideal number. Having three players allows people to strategize more and keep a closer eye on the game’s participants.

Can you Play Settlers with 3 Players?

Settlers of Catan can be played as a 3-player game. Give it time if the board seems too large with only 3 players. The board will fill out as gameplay proceeds. Or you can play a customized game version and remove some hexagonal map pieces or replace them with extra desert pieces.

Several people have figured out personalized solutions by experimenting with the game. Personalized customizations can be a lot of fun; make sure everyone’s on board with the changes before the game starts.

How do you set up 3 players on Catan?

3-player Catan is set up normally; players set out the hexagonal map and place their initial settlement and road pieces. If the players decide the map is too large, they can replace some hexagons with desert hexagonal map pieces.

The number of hexagons replaced or removed is totally up to the player. However, the recommended number is either three or five.

  • When removing three, take away one wheat, one sheep, and one wood resource.
  • If we remove five hexagons, remove or substitute one of each resource type.

How long does 3-player Catan take?

On average, a 3-player game of Catan takes up to one hour to play. Some games may last up to ninety minutes. Of course, this all depends on the speed of how the players finish their turn. Games with newer players may take longer.

An image of Friends playing settlers of Catan board game, the concept for people playing board games.

Can You Play All of the Settlers Expansion With 3 Players?

While the Catan Expansion raises the max limit of players to 6, it can be played with as few as 3 players. However, playing the expanded game with only 3 players becomes less challenging as the board becomes too big. Resources are either plentiful, or players fight for specific hexagon spots.

A simple solution is to increase the number of Victory Points needed to win the game. However, there’s a chance that two players might tie at the end of the game. So, they can also remove some hexagon pieces to make the game more challenging.

I suggest sticking to the base game if there are only three to four players. If there are 4 or more players, it’s time to whip out the expansion when more people enjoy the game. Otherwise, the game may be less exciting.

An image of a German board game called Settlers of Catan.

Tips to Win Catan (base game or expansion)

There are so many ways to gain Victory Points and win in Catan. While these tips may not always work out, players can adopt several winning strategies to win the board game. Here are a few to take note of when playing Catan:

Tip #1: Procure all five resources

This may be a difficult feat to do, but it is possible. Relying on other players’ resources will bring opponents closer to victory rather than our own, so it’s best to try to produce the needed resources on our own. Try to aim to produce all five during the early game so you have the advantage later on.

Tip #2: Build cities

Once you have a fourth settlement, concentrate on upgrading your settlements to a city instead of building another settlement.

Tip #3: Get the sixth Hexagon

If playing first or second, try to grab the sixth hexagon. If not, consider going for the fifth or ninth hexagon. This way, you get more resources.

Tip #4: Bet high on wheat and ore

Wheat and Ore are some of the most valuable resources and make the best spots more productive. Development cards and upgrading settlements into cities come into play if players have these resources.

Tip #5: Concentrate on brick and lumber early in the game

We need these resources to build roads and settlements. So when creating our first settlement, try to put it near a forest or a brickyard.

Tip #6: Do not underestimate the harbors

Harbors can make or break your game. If you have settlements or cities on productive grain fields, try to build a settlement on the “grain” harbor. The same goes for any other 2-to-1 harbors.

The 3-to-1 harbors can also be game-changers. They’re more flexible; it doesn’t matter what 3 resources you’re trading for 1 of another kind. If you’ve got a ton of resources, head over to claim the 3:1 harbor by building a settlement.

Tip #7: Plan ahead with space

Leave enough room for expansion when building settlements. This allows players to expand and avoid getting surrounded by their opponents.

Tip #8: Trade a lot

If you were strategic in your settlement placements and focused on getting all of the resources, you’re in a good position to be a trader. By having several resources up for trade, players bring themselves closer to victory because people will rely on them for resources. And it’ll be easy for you to get what you need.

Tip #9: Be strategic with roads

Think before building a road. Creating a settlement might be better than building roads on valuable spots.

Tip #10: Make good use of the robber

Use the robber on the player with the most Victory Points to stop them from winning.

Tip #11: Look at the other players

Regularly evaluate each of these things for both yourself and every other player.

  • The resources each player is built on;
  • The number of development cards (both played and unplayed) each player has;
  • The known and potential Victory Points everyone on the board has.

Keeping track of the game is crucial for victory.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

These are just some helpful tips to keep in mind when playing a game of Catan. The most important tip is to keep your head in the game and focus on having a good time. Table talk and light banter are always welcome at the table.

Catan and its expansions are a great box to own if we’re looking for a game that can be as challenging or simple as we want it to be. It’s a great after-dinner or party game because it can be played with (or without) conversation. It’s a classic game every game aficionado should own.

If everyone has had their fill of Catan, make sure you’ve also got Ticket to Ride Handy – and know How Long Does Ticket To Ride Take? Timing Ticket To Ride Games. We’ve gotcha covered there.

Resources

Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as gamers.

  • Game Rules. (n.d.). CATAN. https://www.catan.com/understand-catan/game-rules
  • Three player Catan help. (2016, January 30). Reddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/Catan/comments/43dq0b/three_player_catan_help/

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