The travel edition of Settlers of Catan lacks one important feature of the full-sized game -- movable numbers for the hex spaces. This feature can be added, significantly improving gameplay variety, with a few perfectly-sized magnets. This modification also has the added benefit of keeping the thief in place when playing in bumpy "travel" situations.
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Step 1: Materials
A variety of different magnets are required for the project. Magnets will go under each space on the board, on the top of each space, and inside the thief. I used neodymium magnets because of their strong magnetic field to size ratio. If anything, they are too strong, but not strong enough that they make the board difficult to rearrange at the beginning of each game.
I purchased my magnets from K&J Magnetics, Inc. A direct link to their product page where all of the magnets can be purchased is here: http://www.kjmagnetics.com/products.asp?cat=10 . The amount and type of magnets that are needed are:
20 x 1/4 diameter, 1/8-inch thick neodymium magnets (Part D42) -- For the underside of each hex
20 x 5/16 diameter, 1/32-inch thick neodymium magnets (Part D501) -- For the top of each hex
1 x 3/16 diameter, 1/32-inch thick neodymium magnet (Part D301) -- For the thief
1 x 1/8 diameter, 1/16-inch thick neodymium magnet (Part D21) -- For the thief
You will also need a sheet of sticker paper to attach numbers to the magnets. I purchased 3" x 4" sticker sheets from an office supply store.
**Note of Caution**
The magnets are very strong, so be careful around magnetic equipment and electrical equipment. They are small enough that they should not severely pinch your skin, but it is best to practice caution.
Step 2: Inserting Magnets Beneath Each Hex Space
Align all of the 1/4 diameter, 1/8-inch thick magnets so that their north and south poles are aligned. Putting all of the magnets in a stack will achieve this. Place these magnets placed in the back of the board under the center of each space. Fill in the rows individually and place tape (I used scotch tape) over the row after each row is filled to hold the magnets in place. If you try to put them all in at the same time, the magnets will pop out of their space and stick together due to the strong magnetic attraction.
Step 3: Adding the Numbered Magnets
Print out the numbers in the attached word document on sticker paper (I used a 3 x 4 label). You may have to experiment with font sizes so that the numbers are big enough.
Punch out the numbers from the sticker paper using one of the holes on a three-hole punch. I was able to remove the under-side of the three-hole punch so that I could align the number in the center of the hole. The V-Shaped punch also made it very easy to pull the backing off of each sticker with the aid of a pin.
Place the 5/16 diameter, 1/32-inch thick magnets on the board so that they cover the numbers in the under-side of each hex. The magnets on the underside will hold them in place. **It is important to attach the magnets first or else you might end up with the stickers between the board and the magnet instead of on top of the magnet**
Next, remove the stickers from the backing paper (using a pin to separate the two layers helps) and place a sticker on each of the thin magnets.
Step 4: Magnetizing the Thief
Stack the remaining two magnets (3/16 diameter, 1/32-inch thick and 1/8 diameter, 1/16-inch thick) and push them into the bottom of the thief. Use a pen to push the magnet down until it gets jammed in the thief. There should be between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch between the bottom of the thief and the bottom of the magnet. Placing the magnet any closer to the bottom of the thief will make it hard to move from space to space.
You may also want to insert a dab of glue into the thief before adding the magnets. However, I have played with this configuration for a year and my magnets have yet to come out of the thief.
**Update: After several plays over many years, the magnets are falling out of the thief. I recommend adding glue inside the thief to hold the magnets if you are experiencing this same problem.
Step 5: Play!
Now before starting the game, either before or after placing the resource hexes on each space, randomly place the magnetized numbered pieces on each space.
I have found that the best way to shuffle the numbered magnets is to stack them all face up and then slide groups of magnets off of the top and set them down, face up. Consecutive groups of magnets are then taken off of the top of the original set and placed face up on top of the group that was already removed. Repeat this process several times.
Until the thief is first introduced into the game, it is best to keep it in the box instead of on the desert space because the magnet will pull it off of the desert space at the slightest bump.