I figured out how to fashion a reasonably effective version of the basic Settlers of Catan board game using just a pen, paper, and a deck of cards - materials I would always have on hand, even traveling very light, far away from home.
This instructable is great for people who already own this game and are quite familiar with its intricacies and complexities. Playing with symbols instead of actual pieces makes enforcing certain rules, like 'a player can only have 5 settlements at a time', or 'no more than 19 of a resource may be drawn' difficult. Also, the tax on your imagination and ability to oversee is even greater than usual.
Still, after spending many months traveling the longest of roads, I found this solution to be a perfectly acceptable and fun replacement! I hope you enjoy it.
Step 1: Collect Your Materials
- one pen
- two pieces of paper
- one deck of cards, and
- infinate patience (or effortless perfection).
I'll allow you to choose your difficulty level over the course of the project, with optional:
- extra colours of pen and sheets of paper
- pair of dice, or a digital equivalent.
- a second deck of cards
Players can use symbols or colors to differentiate their empires.
The first deck will represent the resources, with the twelve royals, and the rest of each of the four suits representing the different types. You can divide them as makes the most sense to you. You'll see that in my representations, we have tree-like Clubs, Coal-black Spades, sheepies with beating Hearts, brick-shaped brick-red Diamonds, and Royal wheat (à la 'let them eat cake'). Welcome to my imagination!
(note: in certain circumstances, you will have to make supplemental paper resources. Be sure not to make more than 19, total!)
The second piece of paper, or the second deck of cards, will allow you to represent the Development Cards. More on that later.
If you don't have dice, use an app, or pick twice (with replacement), from a stack of cards containing an Ace-2-3-4-5-6. I also like to play that, twice, everyone yells out a number, and you record the remainder after dividing by six, but I can't say if that is truly random. It is fun though.
Step 2: Draw Your Board.
Step 3: Add Ports
2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, as shown.
Take one of each resource from the deck, and shuffle them together with 4 face-down cards. You can now draw in the five '2-to-1' ports and the four '3-to-1' ports randomly.
Step 4: Place Natural Resources.
Start anywhere, place them wherever you'd like. YOU ARE A MIGHTY CREATOR OF LANDS.
Step 5: Randomize Numbers
Be careful to not allow sixes and eights to touch, if you want a balanced start to your game.
Step 6: Prepare Development Cards
Own a second deck of cards. Let the top 14 cards be Knights, the bottom 5 be Victory Points, and some easy-to-remember combination of other pairs of cards be the Road Builders, Monopolies, and Years of Plenty. Note it down, Shuffle the cards together, and, when you buy a dev card, draw it from a deck like a normal person.
Step 7: Finish Up!
No matter your artistic talents, you have made an adequate surface to play Settlers upon with two or three friends. Feel free to invent your own pictorial mnemonics and symbols - whatever you feel is clear and intuitive is good.
Enjoy your game-away-from-game, and I hope that wherever you are, your copycat island-making skills tide you over until you can get back to the real thing.