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I've read a few reviews, and these are the things I've picked up:

  • game will be longer. This is totally fine and normal, but I'm curious, what's the average time increase?
  • Ports are a little less valuable and harder to get, and trade with other players increases.
  • Intermediate building between turns makes the robber a little weaker because its easier to get rid of resources.

Are these accurate? What other differences have you noticed when playing with 5 or 6 people?

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The time increase depends a LOT on who is playing. But probably double a normal game. I think the fun payoff of the extra people is worth it, though. There are still only one each of longest road and largest army, with two more people, so those tend to get stolen a bit more. I suppose the increase in shoreline is not quite in direct proportion to the increase in acreage, but I don't think ports are dramatically different. You add real estate to make up for the added players, so the overall ease of getting good position is about the same, I think. Building in-between turns is probably the biggest contributor to the game going longer, since you have an extra phase to do it in. That said, if everybody knows what they want it can go pretty fast. And yeah, it can save you from the robber, although IMO the robber would be way overpowered if you couldn't do it. I think that 5-6 is the most fun when you do it with Seafarers, perhaps the scenario with the fog-of-war, since now you can have everybody exploring in different directions. Pretty cool.

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The ports are much less valuable as you can't use them during the building phases (between each players turns). Consequently if you're saving up three-of-a-kinds to trade on your turn then you're much more likely to be hit by the robber. –  tttppp Feb 16 '11 at 8:45
    
Is there anything I can do to make it feel more like regular 3-4 player Catan –  Gordon Gustafson Feb 16 '11 at 13:56
    
@tttppp You already couldn't use them during other players' trading sessions...this may make them slightly less valuable in the scheme of things, but certainly not "much less". Also, the majority of ports are not 3-to-1, so using that as your baseline is a little bit off. –  Andrew Vandever Feb 17 '11 at 6:34
    
@CJD It really doesn't feel that different to me. Maybe I'm just daft. –  Andrew Vandever Feb 17 '11 at 6:34
    
@Andrew However in a 5-6 player game then you can build when it's not your turn (in fact on every other player's turn). In the 3-4 player game it is reasonable to pick central hexes that cover all the resources, OR focus on one type of good and get the port for it. IMO, in the 5-6 player game the latter tactic is always trumped by the first. –  tttppp Feb 17 '11 at 13:38
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I have played the 5-6 player version using the extra building phase and using the normal rules. Here is my assessment assuming that you are playing with people that know how to play the game:

  1. With the Extra Building Phase If you play with people that know the game, this actually makes the game go faster. After every turn, someone yells, "Anyone building?!". There are still times during the game where there are shortages in resources. At least 50% of the time, you will get a unanimous "NO!". However, for those times that someone wants to build, it helps speed up the game because you are able to get your settlements and cities on the board quicker and ultimately win the game faster.

  2. Without the Extra Building Phase The game is slower due to the "robber effect". If you're getting rolls left, right, and centre, you can easily end up with 10-15 cards in your hand by the time your turn comes around...especially later in the game when you've built up some cities. However, it is more likely that someone in the 5 turns before you will roll a 7 and then "BAM", your plans of Catan domination go down the drain. So much for building those 2 cities and collecting that development card on your next turn! That's the potential for 5 victory points in one turn. I've actually seen (on multiple occassion) someone get screwed out of building 3 cities in one turn because they happened to be getting their wheat and ore rolls one right after the other. Long story short, it can take a lot longer to build what you need to build to get those VP's when you don't allow building between turns with 6 players. With that said, it can be a pretty fun way to play as well if you have the time!

Hope that helps!

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Welcome to B&CG! –  SocioMatt Apr 4 '13 at 21:00
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Just like the 4-player is tighter than the 3-player, the 6-player is tighter than the 5-player. The 'special build' really slows things down, but is pretty important to keep your hand culled to stay under 8 cards.

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How does the 'special build' phase slow things down? It would seem like it would shorten the game by letting players do things more simultaneously. A 5-6 player game would be longer without it, right? –  Gordon Gustafson May 20 '11 at 20:20
    
No, you have to stop and have everyone make a choice, and if it matters, it has to be done in order. It really slows it down. –  Lance Roberts May 20 '11 at 20:44
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You don't have to stop. Players have to vocalize their intent and/or throw resource cards towards the banker before the dice are rolled or they miss-out. (*) - the way we play, that is –  The Chaz 2.0 Feb 29 '12 at 4:38
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I find it's slightly easier to get boxed in - even with the additional real estate, there's still only a few sweet spots that everyone will cluster around and fight over.

Ports are slightly less valuable, but I find that's balanced by the fact that most players avoid the water so you have more room to work.

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