Globefarers of Catan

Welcome to the Catanosphere!  

Do you want to make a great centerpiece for your board game sessions? Do you ever look at the surface of your game table and think it's a little plane? Do you love Settlers of Catan, but sometimes wish it could be a bit less Euclidean? Then wrap your head around this...

This Instructable will show you how to make your very own Catanosphere, so you can have mind-bending battles of territorial expansion over a whole new environment. It's designed to work with a standard Settlers of Catan game set, and you won't have to sacrifice any of your pieces to make it. You will, however, need to attach a few magnets to the pieces. OK, actually a few hundred magnets, but I think it's worth it.

I'll provide plans for how to cut out and assemble all the cardboard globe pieces you'll need, as well as software that will let you customize the specific dimensions (e.g. road width, tile size, hole depth, material thickness) of your Catanosphere, then output it as a printable or laser-cuttable file. Want to make your own yurt-sized version out of wood? No problem!

Once I've talked you through how to build your Catanosphere, I'll briefly discuss some suggestions for gameplay and then narrowly avoid going off on a tangent about surface geometry (see what I did there?).

I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to seeing all your Catanospheres soon!

Features of Globefarers of Catan (a.k.a. Settlers of Riemann)
  • 31 playable tiles!
  • No edges of the map!
  • Befuddling upside-down gameplay!
  • Convenient magnetic storage of all your game pieces!
  • Looks like something people would play in a '90s sci-fi TV series!
Disclaimer: This is in no way intended as a replacement for or an official expansion of Settlers of Catan. It was made for fun rather than for profit and is meant only as a fond tribute to the amazing games of Klaus Teuber. If Hr Teuber does see this project, I sincerely hope that he views it only as a new surface on which to play his games rather than an attempt to infringe on his intellectual property.

Paso 1: Getting started

The Catanosphere is a modified truncated icosahedron, much like a soccer ball. It has 32 panels (12 pentagons and 20 hexagons), 60 vertices and 90 edges. Each of these requires its own magnet.

Each edge and vertex of the Catanosphere is also flattened so that roads, ships, settlements and cities can be attached without leaning at ugly angles. Also, the faces have recessed areas for inserting Catan tiles. All in all, this makes for some quite fiddly geometry. Don't worry, I'll go through it all slowly...

To make a Catanosphere you will need:
  • Settlers and/or Seafarers of Catan
  • Thick card (I used three A1 sheets).
  • About 400 small magnets (at least 380, but I used closer to 500).
  • Two A4 adhesive magnetic sheets.
  • Plastic tubing or dowel for the axle.
  • Hot glue and a glue gun.
  • Super glue.
  • Non-metallic tools, such as chopsticks, for moving magnets around.
  • A laser cutter and/or craft knife.
  • A sheepload of patience.
If you want to use the same design I used, carry on to Step 2.

If you'd rather play around with designing your own Catanosphere, skip ahead to Step 3.
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HicksCustomFurniture dice: Mar 3, 2014. 7:05 PM

Great instructable! Will share some photo's when I'm done.

Word of warning for anyone doing this without a laser takes frikin' ages!

HicksCustomFurniture dice: Mar 31, 2014. 12:52 PM

That was wayyyy more effort than I was expecting...but it's finished! Haven't played yet but am chomping at the bit. Thanks for the instructable!

kuraisen dice: Feb 21, 2014. 6:50 PM

Hi! I'm very interested in making one of these. I was looking at the prices for the magnets and they seem pretty expensive. Would you be able to post a recommended site where you get your magnets or a cheaper alternative to the magnets that you use?

oofnivlak5 dice: Feb 17, 2014. 10:02 PM

Would like to make this, what size magnets did you use and where did you get them from?

BrainLobster dice: Feb 12, 2014. 5:46 PM

Wow, this is great. I recently made a game for a game design class that utilized a similar spherical design with magnets etc. It's definitely influenced by settlers, and features space stuff like satellites and asteroids.

I really like how your magnetic frame design lends itself to different tile arrangements. Great job overall, man.

AlternateLives dice: Abr 6, 2014. 6:29 PM

Just took a look at it. That game looks awesome!

zertifikat678 dice: Feb 9, 2014. 10:34 PM

Hey =)
Looks really good what you did there.
I had a similar Idea, but i made mine out of an actual globe.
I dont have my own game so i made houses and everything myself.
Doesnt look as good as your.
But on the other hand i tried to make it so that i could play more than one game. If i find the time im going to make a small world "addon" for it ;P
btw, you are german ?
where are you from exactly?

ps: i just read the comment beneath me. mine does rotate around 2 axis' =P
plus it glows. but it really is just too big and fopr just seddlers i really like your globe because its also stylish

etopsirhc dice: Feb 8, 2014. 10:01 AM

the only way this could get better it adding some mode of rotation to it, like mounting it in a gimbal, or making it levitate.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 8, 2014. 10:26 AM

It does rotate! That's what the bearings in Step 10 are for.

etopsirhc dice: Feb 8, 2014. 7:32 PM

i was talking about along all 3 axies.

Regiux+ dice: Feb 7, 2014. 11:07 PM
simply awesome!
PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 8, 2014. 8:59 AM

Thank you very much :)

legomensa dice: Feb 7, 2014. 8:09 AM

would it be possible for you to put this into a dwg file? i would love to look at this in AutoCAD.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 8, 2014. 8:58 AM

Here you go! I don't have AutoCAD installed at the moment, so I'm not sure how these turned out. I hope they help.

legomensa dice: Feb 10, 2014. 5:36 AM

awesome. i'll take a look at it.


Lord_of_Sofa dice: Feb 6, 2014. 3:38 AM

Finally a new project for my 3d printer. Maybe I will skip some of the magnets and use my own tiles and a space elevator instead of harbors.

brycrbnsn dice: Feb 5, 2014. 1:08 PM

How thick was the card stock you used?

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 6, 2014. 2:53 AM

I used 1.4mm thick mountboard as my card stock.

bsquared33 dice: Feb 4, 2014. 9:35 AM

I'm seriously considering doing this as I have friends who would lose their minds over it, and I have access to to a laser cutter & 3D printer, but no excuse to use it.

How do you feel about magnetic paint? Perhaps only for the roads. As you've stated the stronger pull is important when tiles are stacked. But it could save a ton of time and magnets. I've read good things and seen it work well for large posters. Rare earth magnets are touted as the best to use with the paint.

And I don't know my metric so well, could you clarify what thickness of card stock & other materials you used?

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 6, 2014. 3:05 AM


I don't have any experience using magnetic paint myself, but I've heard very mixed things about it. Some people swear by it, while others struggled to stick anything to it at all. If you do try it, please let me know how it goes. It's just as useful to know what doesn't work as to know what does work!

The card stock I used was 1.4mm thick. In American units, that's almost exactly two dozen hogsheads per acre. Or, if you prefer, just under 1/16 inch.

The axle diameter was 25mm, which is about an inch.

bsquared33 dice: Feb 4, 2014. 9:35 AM

I'm seriously considering doing this as I have friends who would lose their minds over it, and I have access to to a laser cutter & 3D printer, but no excuse to use it.

How do you feel about magnetic paint? Perhaps only for the roads. As you've stated the stronger pull is important when tiles are stacked. But it could save a ton of time and magnets. I've read good things and seen it work well for large posters. Rare earth magnets are touted as the best to use with the paint.

And I don't know my metric so well, could you clarify what thickness of card stock & other materials you used?

AJMansfield dice: Feb 3, 2014. 3:03 PM

You should seriously consider getting a better postscript conversion tool. The postscript files should be at most 10kB, not 5MB. Adobe Illustrator is really not very good when it comes to postscript output, as it includes miles and miles of extra unnecessary preamble and definitions, which nobody ever even uses anyway, and then sticks the actual details of the file's contents in an ugly binary blob at the end.

noel0leon dice: Feb 3, 2014. 3:32 AM

This thing is so much win i bet Charlie Sheen will get one

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 6, 2014. 3:07 AM

Hopefully he'll build one himself :)

Peterdog25 dice: Feb 2, 2014. 9:05 PM

"Do you ever look at the surface of your game table and think it's a little plane?"

:) I see what you did there...

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 6, 2014. 3:07 AM

Thanks, I was worried that joke would fall flat.

loachridge dice: Feb 2, 2014. 7:05 PM

Oh, by the way, YOU can sell whatever you build as a "board frame". Its not the game. Its just another unique way to frame it.

Eye+Poker dice: Feb 2, 2014. 4:41 PM

Quite simply one of the most epic board game Instructibles ever.

One improvement I can see. Needs to be built on a lazy susan.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:27 PM

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

There's no need for a lazy Susan, as the Catanosphere includes its own bearings so that it can rotate freely (albeit with enough friction to remain stable during gameplay) on its axle. If the whole thing was on a lazy Susan, the storage sections in the base would keep moving around during the game.

And everyone knows that half the fun of Settlers is building weird constructions from your spare playing pieces in between turns!

dworley dice: Feb 2, 2014. 1:51 PM

As usual, that is pretty goddamn clever. Your patience for careful cutting and gluing far exceeds my own.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:23 PM

Thanks, Dave. It was worth it all for the moment after Step 12 when I rolled the magnetic globe through the house like a katamari ball, picking up tools, cutlery and unsuspecting pets.

dgateley dice: Feb 2, 2014. 11:35 AM

I'll buy a frame kit should you decide to sell them. I want to populate it with small woofers and tweeters so would love it if scale could be specified within some limits.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:16 PM

I'm not sure I can legally sell these, but you can always make your own! I'm sure you could find someone with a laser cutter (or a scalpel and a lot of free time) who could help you make the parts. That way you'd be able to do all the size customization yourself using the Processing script I included above :)

I do like the idea of a booming Catan disco ball, though...

dgateley dice: Feb 2, 2014. 7:41 PM
I've bought kits from creators on Instructables before. It is strictly a private buyer/seller relationship like any other that two people work out. Since you are in a different country than the U.S. that could complicate it, though, at least for me.

Where I am I don't have the ability to farm the laser cutting fab out locally and there are probably others in the same boat. I consider that pretty much mandatory for fit and finish reasons. So if you don't have the fab capabilities or just plain don't think it worth your while, do you know of any mail or internet order shops that could do the job from your data or a scaled version thereof?

For many, many, years I've wanted to lay a 2-way speaker system on a truncated icosahedron but the frame fab always put me off. Yours is far and away the best solution I've seen. I've got no idea how a pair of virtual point sources sound in a room but I want to find out.

In my mind's eye it would be bass ported through the tube that comprises the stand. The optimum length and diameter of that port would be easy to determine by measuring resonances and calculating the Theile-Small parameters used to calculate ports. I'd probably want to bi-amplify and use an active Linkwitz-Riley crossover.

Ultimately I'd like to put the crossover in DSP on a Raspberry Pi with convolutional equalization to compensate any irregularities in the global frequency response. That's stuff I know how to do. For me the hard part is the physical. Not sure where I'd find a fully reflective echogenic room for diffuse field measurement to base equalization on but I'll be that could be located. I've got everything else needed.

If you want to consider it, I'd make you a pair too for the cost of the hardware. Making four isn't that much harder than making two. :-)
PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 6, 2014. 3:13 AM

I'd happily help you tailor this design into something suitable for a speaker system. I don't quite follow your idea, but I'm keen to help. Do you plan to make the icosahedron into a point source by having speakers on each face? Or are you hoping the material and shape will act to diffuse a single speaker's sound in all directions?

If you send me a private message, we can discuss the details of how to design what you want. In terms of actually producing it, I might be able to help but you'd probably be better off using an online laser cutting service. I highly recommend if you're in the USA. They can cut out of many different materials and send you the pieces by mail.

I'm excited to see where this goes...

dgateley dice: Feb 6, 2014. 10:54 AM

Yes, I would put small high excursion speakers on the hexagons for the low end, smaller high frequency drivers on the pentagons for the top end and use the stand tube as a bass port. 40 years ago, when I first began thinking about this design, an analysis program I wrote starting with the acoustic wave equation showed the compliance of the enclosed space to be far too low to be efficient at radiating bass but developments since then have trivialized the design of tuned ports which ameliorate that.

(As an aside, solving the acoustic wave equation for any general source configuration is a horrible problem generally requiring supercomputer simulation but for a spherical source it is closed form analytic and almost trivial.)

As well being an effective point source due to the merging of the radiation patterns, multi-element systems always sound considerably better than single element systems. It has to do with averaging driver characteristics to somewhat cancel any individual variances from nominal. The problem with multi-element systems has been the radiation pattern, they tend to beam, and this configuration solves that nicely.

Thanks for the pointer to Ponoko. I'll drop you private message when I figure out how.

I won't be able to jump on this immediately because I am finishing a project using DSP that can make any 'phone or speaker I can measure (in a proprietary way) sound like any other I can measure. The application of that to what I'm describing here should be obvious. The intrinsic frequency response of the construction doesn't matter because I can transform it to anything else including absolutely ideal so long as it has the bandwidth and has no really, really deep nulls in its response.

The really big question is a listener's psychoacoustic satisfaction with point source drivers in a room. I want to answer that with idealized sources.


kuraisen dice: Feb 22, 2014. 7:38 AM

I tried uploading the swg files that you provided to the ponoko site but it's giving this error:

You need to use a finer nib!
The cutting lines and/or vector engraving lines in your .eps file are thicker than we can handle. Please reduce all cutting and/or vector engraving lines to a thickness of 0.01mm then try again.

Would you be able to provide a new swg file that fits the requirements? I am completely unfamiliar with the process of creating these swg files for laser cutting.

kuraisen dice: Feb 22, 2014. 8:37 AM

I tried making some more adjustments when I realized the buckyball program can be used for editing but ponoko keeps complaining about one thing or another being wrong with the file. Would you be able to upload a ponoko friendly svg file? It also seems there's other people selling settlers cutouts and whatnot. It would be cool if you can talk with Ponoko and have your design available for print. I agree, a pre-cut laser board kit, maybe even with the magnets, would be a cool kit worth offering which it would make it easier for people to build the board you've designed. I'd be interested in it.

dgateley dice: Feb 2, 2014. 11:02 PM

It occurs to me that perhaps you thought I was asking about the whole game. I understand there could be a problem with that. I was asking about just the black frame.

Instructeee dice: Feb 5, 2014. 10:29 AM

You could (probably) get away with selling just the completed globe and have people put in the tiles themselves. It would still be somewhat of a kit but would save people a lot of work.

loachridge dice: Feb 2, 2014. 10:43 AM

I havent seen the comment I want to make. Hope I dont step on any toes.


So, many ways to use your concept. I wish you worked for me.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:13 PM

I'm intrigued - what other ways do you have in mind? Maybe a multi-planet system, with interplanetary shuttles routes being built out of sheep? Lots and lots of sheep.

loachridge dice: Feb 2, 2014. 7:03 PM

I was thinking lanes made with fish, but thats a whole other story.

I did some math and now have a plot that will handle the 91 hexes necessary for putting 2 expansions and extensions one half sphere 1 pentagon. And a plot capable of handling all 91 hexes on 1 sphere. NO Dysan needed. Its just those 12 pentagons that bug me. Now I need to make the time to prototype. Thanks for the motivation!

makendo dice: Feb 2, 2014. 10:29 AM

Amazing! Pretty sure this tops any custom Catan board ever.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:12 PM

Cheers! I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:11 PM


Sorunome dice: Feb 2, 2014. 8:14 AM

Haha, interesting!

I've always been a fan of Settlers of Catan.

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:11 PM

Danke schön!

bLiTzJoN dice: Feb 2, 2014. 7:12 AM

Definitely favorited for later! I have the limited edition 3D version of Catan. I might have to modify the pieces to embed a bit larger magnets, but the results would be astounding. Very well done!!

PenfoldPlant dice: Feb 2, 2014. 5:09 PM

Great idea! My original plan for this was actually to make 3D papercraft pieces for all of the different resources, but after designing a few of them I realized it would be much quicker to make it compatible with the original set instead. This would also make it much easier for anyone else to reproduce at home :)

When you get round to making yours, please share the outcome - I'd love to see this in glorious 3D terrain!

karrock dice: Ene 31, 2014. 2:03 PM

How does the mix of hexagons and pentagons affect gameplay? (Other than hexes running out of settlement sites faster) Worried it would severely unbalance the game.

PenfoldPlant dice: Ene 31, 2014. 3:21 PM

I had wondered about that before we played it, too. We didn't notice any obvious advantage or disadvantage to players who built on pentagons. In practice, it was very much like when two players build on opposite sides of a hexagon in a regular game of Settlers, preventing anyone else from building on it. Because the board is larger, the pentagons never really caused any overcrowding.

Having said that, I'm sure they would start to affect the gameplay more as you increase the number of sea tiles. As long as there's still a sensible amount of land, the game should not suffer at all.

The only other effect they seemed to have was creating situations where a player had the choice of building two roads or three ships (or vice versa) to get to the same point. Personally, I quite liked that.

imbigman dice: Ene 29, 2014. 6:40 PM

I'm thinking maybe a Sphere Stratigo. I like the concept you have here. A world of possibilities. ( you see what I did there )

BadPuns dice: Ene 29, 2014. 6:17 PM
I don't know how to play this, but it looks fun. One of these made out of etched Plexiglass and leds would be amazing. You could use conductive paint to make the panels light up when you put them on the board. Great job!
kbrunner dice: Ene 29, 2014. 4:24 PM
Or different game strategies?
PenfoldPlant dice: Ene 29, 2014. 5:42 PM

Oh, don't get me started - I love thinking about how different board games correspond to the surfaces of different shapes :)

Let's have a ponder about Risk. The layout of a Risk board is supposed to simulate the surface of a sphere already. If you keep going East or West, you end up going the whole way round the world, just like on a globe. Although it would look awesome, I'm not sure putting the board on an actual sphere would change the game much unless you added new paths that crossed over the poles. Perhaps you could have new polar territories that everyone could fight over?

But we shouldn't stop there - let's keep thinking of other cool ways to play with the game's shape! If we take a closer look at Risk, we can see some more interesting implications of its geometry. For one thing, there's only a single connection between territories that runs over the edge of the board: Alaska-Kamchatka. We don't know what happens at the north and south edges of the board. This means we have very little information from which to guess the shape of the Risk planet.

Now imagine you're a soldier in a Risk army. All you know is that if you keep going east, there's a path you can take that somehow puts you back in the west again. You have no idea what happens if you go north or south, because there are no paths that way.

Maybe your planet is a cylinder and there's a big hole at the top? That would be consistent with what you've experienced so far in your tiny plastic military career. Maybe you're marching in circles around a cone? Or maybe the top of the map actually connects to the bottom, meaning that your planet is donut-shaped!

All of these different shapes would still work perfectly with a normal Risk board. I think that's pretty nifty for a couple of reasons:

1) It means you could build some really weird-looking boards that you can still play Risk on.

2) It gets you thinking about how 2D surfaces and 3D shapes interact. This is the kind of thinking that eventually leads to people asking questions about the shape of not just our own planet, but our whole universe. Your parents' worst fears were justified: playing geeky board games will one day turn you into an astrophysicist...

But I digress. Yes, a spherical Risk board would be a great project! Make it happen!

kbrunner dice: Ene 29, 2014. 7:12 PM
Yes. Changing the shape of the board could completely change the games strategy. There is a game called chaos (, when combined with Star Trek's three dimensional chess, could create multiple level chaos. O-ya that's an idea!
43totheN dice: Ene 29, 2014. 4:23 PM
kbrunner dice: Ene 29, 2014. 4:22 PM
Maybe more realistically shaped earth?
kbrunner dice: Ene 29, 2014. 2:57 PM
How about a game of (real) GLOBLE domination, or a risk ball?
PenfoldPlant dice: Ene 29, 2014. 3:11 PM

That would look pretty cool, especially if you made it really big! How do you think it would affect the gameplay?

billbucket dice: Ene 29, 2014. 2:48 PM
A sphere is contained in Euclidean space.
PenfoldPlant dice: Ene 29, 2014. 2:54 PM

Absolutely, but when you're constrained to the surface of a sphere you're exploring a two dimensional non-Euclidean geometry.

kbrunner dice: Ene 29, 2014. 2:34 PM
How much did that cost, i might make one
Bongmaster dice: Ene 29, 2014. 2:12 PM

probably would have been easier to use thin metal sheet and rods on the game board/sphere and just put magnets in the pieces :)

awesome looking game tho :)

PenfoldPlant dice: Ene 29, 2014. 2:24 PM

Ha, I considered that but I thought that card would be a lot easier to work with and readjust details as I went along. My metalwork skills aren't quite up to precision machining complex structures like this yet. Feel free to give it a try, though!

Besides, this way the pieces snap into place exactly where they're supposed to go. It's very satisfying :)

Bongmaster dice: Ene 29, 2014. 3:08 PM
ah no i meant glue in bits of metal under the card :) much cheaper than using a load of magnets ;)
PenfoldPlant dice: Ene 29, 2014. 3:16 PM

A fair point: that would roughly halve the number of magnets.

As it stands, some of the magnets in the southern regions have to be able to hold the weight of a hex tile plus a number disc while staying a few millimeters apart (due to the card thickness). I wouldn't want to do anything to weaken their pull. However, many of the ones on the top could probably be replaced with chunks of metal without any settlers tumbling off into space.

Give it a try and report back!

Bongmaster dice: Ene 31, 2014. 6:16 AM

unfortunitely i dont have time or space to build something like this atm x3

u can try on scrap card with differnt metals to see what has the strongest pull :)