Everyone begins with two settlements and two roads. Settlements occupy the center point where three tiles converge and roads branch off from the settlements. In time, players can use resources to upgrade settlements into cities. Each player's turn goes as follows:
Step 1: The player rolls the dice to determine resource production for the turn. Each player with a settlement bordering a resource-producing terrain tile receives one resource card for the given resource. Cities that border a resource-producing tile snag two.
Step 2: In this phase of a player's turn, he or she trades resource cards with other players, announcing what resources are needed and which ones are being traded. Everyone is free to accept or make counteroffers, but only the player whose turn it is can initiate trade. The person also can choose to make a 4:1 trade, giving up four identical resource cards for one resource card of choice from the deck. Having a settlement or city adjacent to a harbor hex ocean tile allows players to make a 2:1 trade.
Step 3: Finally, the player enters the building phase of his or her turn. At this point, he or she may start spending resource cards to build roads, settlements or cities for the costs listed on the building cost cards. A settlement will earn one victory point, and a city will earn two victory points. You can only build a road onto an existing road, settlement or city. Settlements, on the other hand, must be connected to at least one road, and you can only place one on a vacant intersection between three open adjacent intersections.
If you don't want to build anything, however, you can also purchase a random development card for one grain, one wool and one ore. They can be used at any point during your turn.
The development card deck contains three types of cards. Victory point cards score you additional victory points. Progress cards allow you to either collect resources from the resource card deck or other players or to build two additional roads for free. Finally, the solider card allows you to move the Robber to a different terrain tile and steal one resource card from a player with a city adjacent to that terrain.
The Robber is an ominous figure that begins the game on the desert tile. Whenever a player rolls a 7, a lot of bad luck swirls through the island of Catan. Why? First, no terrains produce resources that turn. Second, any player with more than seven resource cards in his or her hand must return half of them to the main deck. The player who rolled the 7 then moves the Robber to the terrain of his or her choice and takes a random resource card from any one player with a settlement adjacent to that terrain. As long as the Robber remains on a tile, that terrain produces no resources.
The fun continues until one player amasses 10 victory points during his or her turn, which generally takes around 90 minutes.
On the next page, we'll talk strategy.