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I was under the impression that the play time in Settlers of Catan was more modest than say, Risk. However it seems almost as long. This is often due to a lot of trading and talk which drags on for a lot of time as people propose variations on a declined trade. Have any of you found similar problems? How would you solve this?

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Turns in Catan have much less potential to go on indefinitely than turns in Risk, but both games (just as all other games) can drag if you introduce analysis paralysis or jibber jabber. The tolerance for both should probably be discussed by your group, and the consensus enforced. –  Andrew Vandever Feb 14 '11 at 2:10
Are you playing with more than 4? (expansion) –  Andrey Feb 14 '14 at 15:18

8 Answers 8

up vote 21 down vote accepted

First, make sure you're following the rule that the person who's turn it is must be involved in all trades during that turn. If you let everyone trade during the trading phase, discussions could take a while.

Assuming you're following that rule, it really shouldn't take that person very long to figure out all of the available trades. If you start out by saying "I'm looking for sheep and ore. Is anyone willing to trade those to me?", you can very quickly get a sense of whether any trades will be possible. If anyone says "yes", you say "I have wood or brick that I'm willing to trade, are you interested in either of those?" Now you allow them to propose the precise details of the trade, or you let them say "I'm interested in brick" and you propose a precise trade. There really shouldn't be much of a back and forth; either there's a trade that both of you are interested in, or there isn't, and it shouldn't take more than a few seconds to figure that out. Yes, occasionally you will have a back-and-forth negotiation, but it shouldn't happen in the majority of trades.

It can take some practice to get into the habit of trading quickly and efficiently. I'd recommend trying out Bohnanza(bgg|wikipedia) with the group; it's a fairly quick and easy game that consists almost entirely of trading, so if you play it, you will get in the habit of trading quickly and efficiently or else the game will drag on forever.

Beyond that, it's really a matter of being disciplined while you play. In almost any game, if you allow people to take too long making up their minds or getting distracted by something trivial, it will take a while. Try and set a reasonable pace for the trading by example and by encouraging other players to trade efficiently, and it should speed up after a little while.

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oh, i know people who can trade for ages, in #bohnanza, in other games, try to get everybody involved (You give me A, then I can give A to the other player and get B which I can give to ...) –  johannes Oct 1 '11 at 23:22
Multiple trades of the same bean are prohibited by the Bohnanza rules. Any bean which is traded is set aside and planted at the end of the trading phase, but cannot be traded another time. You can see a slight variant of this, when you receive one bean from a player and trade one of the two trade-stock beans of the same type to someone else, but that situation is fairly rare. –  jjb Nov 30 '11 at 23:49
@jjb, off topic, but it sounds like your bohnanza trades are not following the rules. You cannot trade away anything you receive in a trade. You are required to plant everything you receive in trades –  atk Jan 6 at 0:47
@atk - I say right there that you cannot trade a bean a second time. Twice. What I'm referring to is a situation where you can sort-of arrange a trade between two people, as long as one of your two new beans matches. That is, player A wants to trade an 8 to player B, with a 10 going back. You have an 8 and 10 that were dealt as your two beans. Player A gives you, say, an 8 and 20. You trade them the 10 you were dealth. Player B gives you a 10 and 20. You trade them the 8 you were dealt. Net: A and B effectively traded, and you got two 20s for your trouble. It's rare. –  jjb Jan 8 at 6:36
@jjb, You're right. Your comment was very clear. I suspect that my original intent had to be to respond to johannes, but I probably selected the wrong username. –  atk Jan 8 at 15:57

If analysis-paralysis is your issue see here. Some minor encouragement to speed things up usually helps, and if not you can think about imposing a turn timer if you think its necessary. Its tempting to figure out every possible trade you could make, but its rarely beneficial or a good use of time.

If you've played the game a few times, solved your long trades issue, and still want quicker game there's a few other tricks you can try. Granted these will change the strategy of the game in minor ways.

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We often play to 7 VP for a faster game (especially with beginners). At 5‒6, it still feels like anybody's game, but there seems to be a plateau after 7 that can drag things out. –  Gossar May 24 at 22:28

At Oxcon, games have a 1-minute timer available. If you think someone is taking too long, you can force them to conclude their turn within a minute. This works well, and games rarely take longer than an hour.

Alternatively, get a DGT cube or equivalent smartphone app.

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You can also use the accelerated start: instead of placing two towns and two roads, you start placing (with the usual order): 1 town + 1 road, 1 city + 1 road, 1 road.

This rules made the game notably faster in my usual gaming group.

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You asked how I would solve this... well I wrote an app for that!

My friends and I have always had the same problem - especially if there is any drinking going on... We find that playing with only 3 people is not so bad but 4 and above the games seem to get exponentially longer. So I wrote an app I call 'Time for Settlers' which does a couple things to help speed up the game - and it really has helped us get more games into an evening.
1) It provides a turn timer - a time limit for each player to do whatever they are going to do in their turn. You run out of time - your turn is over - with or without a completed trade. This really helps people focus on what they need and get their trades done quickly at the beginning of each turn.

2) It rolls the dice for you. Seems simple but this does actually help keep things going, and the app offers multiple rolling styles to vary the degree of randomness and/or roll distribution during a game. A more even distribution can actually speed up a game too since most people place their settlements and cities where they have the highest odds - but sometimes regular dice do strange (random) things and roll a bunch of 2s, 3,s 12,s etc. meaning that less resources are paid out and the game drags.

Together, the timer and the dice rolling really can speed up a game. And as an added bonus the games tend to be more fun with the added pressure of time. It has worked really well for us - it could work for you too!

Its free on iOS and Android:

Google Play Store

Apple App Store

Also, +1 for the answer provided by shrlck - we call this Tournament start and we always play this way now.

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This house rule might speed up the game a little bit:

  • friendly robber - doesn't block players with 2 pts
  • super friendly robber - doesn't block at all, but gives additional resources on hex he's standing on. If settlement - take 2 instead of 1, if city - take 3.
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We play with open hands - everyone sees everybody else's cards. That saves a lot of time asking if anyone has a wood for sheep, and we end up with more complicated trades. We also allow everyone to trade and build on anyone's turn (if there's a conflict, priority is clockwise from the current player).

I believe these changes shorten the game, but teh real advantage is that they keep everyone involved all the time, so they don't get bored waiting for their turns.

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You are not playing settlers of catan anymore –  Andrey Feb 14 '14 at 15:17
Your players would speed the game up greatly by not "waiting for their turn" but planning their move in advance, including analysing what others are doing. –  Cheeseminer Jan 8 at 22:35

Our group plays Catan with no trades, if you need something, go to the bank. Not even a houserule actually - simply most of our players have a policy of autodeclining everything (or at least anything that's not strongly in their favor like "I'll give you two grain and wood for that single sheep I desperately need"), and trading can't take long even if someone wants to trade, either he makes a very strong offer (which would happen very rarely), or the player who's turn it is simply says no and moves on.

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To me, this is not a good solution. Trading is a major part of the game and removing it makes the game much more luck based. –  bengoesboom Feb 12 '14 at 16:40
I would expect this to cause the game to take longer since it would require more resources to obtain the trade, and thus to be able to build. –  LemonadeGT Mar 10 '14 at 23:32
No trades? Why do you even bother playing? –  nanny Jan 13 at 20:52

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