I don't like that the rules assume players are honest. One time, we had a player that lied about not having the requested resource, but was caught in the next turn when he tried to buy a road with that resource. However, a cunning opponent can lie and get away with it.

What's the most practical way to handle this situation? How do you deal with it? I don't really like any of the solutions I can think of. Forcing everyone to show all of their cards, having a judge/game master who checks everyone's cards, relying on everyone's honesty, ... all of them are either impractical or unfair.

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    it's easy: don't play with cheaters.
    – Pow-Ian
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:40
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    This is a very relevant post
    – Pow-Ian
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:41
  • 2
    @Pow-Ian: don't find that easy. There are two problems there: 1. as I said, a skilled player can fairly easily avoid being caught, thus making identifying a cheater hard; 2. the fact that you can get away with it creates incentive for otherwise honest players to lie about this on exceptional occasions, thus making your rule very hard to follow :)
    – stojadin
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:54
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    How can a skilled person avoid being caught? All cards going into your hand are public knowledge, or known to the person you are robbering. All cards leaving your hand are public knowledge, or known to the person taking it. Once someone says they have 0 of something, people just have to track how much they have. They will be caught eventually. (Unless they never spend it, and no-one happens to steal it using a robber, but then what was the point in cheating?)
    – Nick
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 13:05
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    @Nick: Also, consider an example where I play the monopoly card and ask for all the bricks, and all players give me all their bricks, but player X has one but doesn't give it away. Then, on the next dice roll user X receives 3 bricks. Then, maybe they use the robber and steal yet another brick. Or they trade and buy yet another brick. It can take them a couple of turns to spend all of those bricks. All of this doesn't make it impossible to check if the user lied when the monopoly card was played, but it sure makes it not trivial.
    – stojadin
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 15:48

7 Answers 7


Count the cards in the supply

In Settlers of Catan you are always allowed to count the number of resources left in the supply decks. It is a perfectly legal move to count the deck before using the monopoly on a resource.

This also means that after you got the resources you can just check how many you have in your hand, and how many are left in the deck. If you are missing one, then someone is cheating.

In the 4th edition of the game there are 19 of each resource card.

Even if you think that counting the deck is out of the spirit of the game, having someone do it after a monopoly reveals no new information, and just controls for cheating.

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    Not playing fair with friends is also out of the spirit of the game ;)
    – kreys
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 13:30
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    @kreys There is a reason why in Magic the Gathering any time you force your opponent to discard a type of card from their hand, you also get to look at their hand. Any good rule set should be cheat proof to that extent
    – Andrey
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 15:47
  • Yay, this is exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for! It's by the rules, and avoids creating the cheating-as-a-strategy meta game thing. Brilliant!
    – stojadin
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 16:03

In my group we always employ the 'Shenanigans' rule.

I have a couple of 'creative' players and though they may swear they are not cheating, they may be doing it inadvertently or from sheer ignorance (or they may be untruthful). Thus the birth of the 'Shenanigans' house rule set.

We add one rule to cover all cheating that is detrimental enough that if caught, the player would be at a severe disadvantage but not out of the game. For example: our shenanigan rule for cheating in Catan is as follows:

You start by discarding your entire hand, If you have no cards in hand you must remove a city, or a settlement, or a road and finally a development card. If you have none of these things to remove then you are simply removed from the game. Zero tolerance. If you are caught cheating three times you are removed from the game.

The way you call 'Shenanigans' is a lot like the classic card game of 'I Doubt it'. After a player takes an action, anyone can call 'Shenanigans'. If the accusation is accurate then the player who was accused is given the penalty as described above, if it is in-accurate, each player has three strikes; the first three times a player wrongly calls 'Shenanigans', there is no penalty. If they are wrong a fourth time however it is considered harassment and they are instead given the penalty.

This has proven to be equitable for all involved in our group because we agree to it at the outset.

In your case above, I would have called 'Shenanigans' when the player tried to build the road and they would have had to discard their entire hand.

If you have more creative players, you simply need to get more creative with your penalties. The important part here is that everyone understands at the outset how it works and that you make sure everyone can still have fun playing this way. Otherwise you may find yourself lacking a group of individuals to play with.

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    This is an interesting approach, though it runs the risk of creating a meta-game where cheating is considered a valid strategy as long as it is weighed against the cost of being called on your Shenanigans. In some groups, that might very well be considered perfectly fine, but definitely something you want to clarify up front. It does have some interesting consequences for games like Catan in particular, since a coalition of cooperators can starve a known cheater of trade opportunities.
    – Dan Bryant
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 15:26
  • you have summed up its strengths and weaknesses very well. They are of course acceptable in our group which is why I emphasize this only works if everyone agrees they can have fun while using it. And it certainly does create a meta-game, which we find can some times be very entertaining in and of itself.
    – Pow-Ian
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 15:33
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    On the other hand, in this specific case, the question "do you have a sheep in your hand or not?" isn't exactly a complex concept open to interpretation/misunderstanding of the rules... Commented May 15, 2014 at 1:53

The way I handled this - as we played with a player who subscribes to the philosophy that "it's up to the other players to enforce the rules, and he is only 'using his resources' (the unknown being one)" - is we added writing down our resource transactions on paper face down (we use small notepads like you'd use in clue or yatzee)

like this:

  • Jim - roll - transactions(s)
  • 7 - robber lost 1 brick
  • 9 - 2 wheat, 1 sheep
  • 3 - 1 brick, built house
  • 5 - 1 ore, 1 wood
  • 4 - monopoly played - 3 wood gain
  • Lisa
  • 7 - discard 3, stole 1 brick
  • 9 - 1 sheep, 1 brick
  • 3 - 1 wood
  • 5 - 1 wheat, 1 wood
  • 4 - monopoly 0 wood lost
  • You get the idea. - Going with the examples above: If Jim 'challenges' Lisa (on wood) he would see she SHOULD have 2 wood. The "challenge" - he gets to look at the 'resource record' and compare her hand to the record. If he is correct Lisa must discard her entire hand and cannot draw any resources on her next turn. If Jim is incorrect (in this case he is not) he must discard his entire hand - right then - and may not draw resources on his next turn. (The reason we added the second part is to discourage the use of challenges as a method of seeing other player's hands. )

    We explain "The Challenge and Resource Log" at the beginning of every game. It adds a little bit of time, but hardly any and it really adds another layer to the game. It doesn't necessarily STOP someone from cheating, but it does make the penalty a bit ickier than just a tsk-tsk from other players.

    • Welcome to the site. An upvote for a good suggestion.
      – Tom Au
      Commented May 12, 2014 at 14:18
    • Stealing cards due to the robber or a soldier/knight card messes this up though; as it's not public information what was stolen.
      – GendoIkari
      Commented May 12, 2014 at 14:39
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      i don't see how keeping the log helps you compared to just looking at the "I don't have any" player's hand and showing "yes you do" or "I see, no you don't." Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 18:24

    It could be possible in two ways:

    1. Involve house rule of checking hand - each player is checked by the player on his right. Disadvantage of this method is then each player would have knowledge about one of his opponents hand.
    2. After playing monopol, note down every usage of that resource - trade, drawing and spending. Then you will easily find a cheating behaviour in a few next turns.

    Both these methods should then give the cheater some penalty, discouraging that player to cheat again.

    Anyway, cheating is just killing such gaming - hope that you won't face many cheating players, arguing and giving penalty isn't a nice thing for the game and friendship atmosphere.

    • 2
      As soon as people start cheating, you know they're playing to win and nothing else. Such environments can get pretty unfriendly.
      – Joe Z.
      Commented May 10, 2014 at 18:57
    • We don't know whether anyone's cheating, we know someone suspects somebody else is cheating. How far is that worth disrupting everybody's game? Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 16:58

    Things like "lying" and "bluffing" are really the rightful subject of house rules.

    The rules of the original games don't encourage lying, but they don't always go out of their way to prevent it either, given their designers' knowledge that different players have different "standards."

    In order to prevent such lying in home games, the players should agree on house rules to prevent/penalize it. One such rule could be that if someone is caught in a lie, s/he automatically loses the game, which is a bit harsh. A lesser measure is that if the person lied about not having the card, s/he should not be allowed to play because someone else actually should have that privilege.

    • The second one isn't really a penalty. Had the person given the card like he was supposed to, he wouldn't have been able to play it anyway. At the least it should be obvious that the person caught with the card should have to give the card to the person who played the monopoly card; this isn't just a house rule, that's what the rules say should happen when you play the monopoly card.
      – GendoIkari
      Commented May 12, 2014 at 14:58
    • @GendoIkari: Changed "penalty" to "measure" and explained that someone else should have the privilege of playing the card.
      – Tom Au
      Commented May 12, 2014 at 22:37

    In games I play with my friends, we just play with our resource cards revealed. (Development cards are still kept hidden, though.)

    We're not exactly tournament-level players. Counting cards is something we're bad at, and we don't tend to find particularly fun, either - so just having everyone display the resources they have at all times effectively mimics everyone at the table having a perfect memory of what cards everyone gains and loses. This does mean that cards stolen via the robber are public knowledge, but honestly we've never noticed it making enough of a difference to matter.

    I once played in a game where some players played with open hands while others insisted on playing with their cards hidden - and the winner was one of the open-information players; Secrecy just wasn't enough of an advantage to make a difference.


    There's really no need for all these complicated solutions and rule-sets.

    Unless, you are participating in an organized tournament -- in which case, you should notify the judges, because cheating would likely result in disqualification -- you do not need to put up with cheating. When playing a friendly game, there's no reason for anyone to lie and cheat. It throws off the balance of the game and makes it no fun for everyone. Isn't that why we play games to begin with?

    I've played hundreds of hours of Catan (and other games) with my friends and if we ever discovered someone was cheating, we'd probably do our best to fairly penalize them for their misdeeds. If they continued to cheat then we'd simply refuse to play with that person and not invite them to future games.

    Speaking for myself, if I discovered a cheater, depending on the circumstances, I would probably refuse to play as long as that person was playing.

    If that's not an option, then yes, make up some house-rules to deal with the situation. If it is an ongoing problem then implement an immediate-lose rule which forces them out of the game.

    • Holaymolay, some people just like to cheat. They think of it as the game-within-the-game, to see how much they can get away with without getting caught. It's "perfectly rational" because now they're getting the fun of two games for the price of one! And they're terrible people. See this other question: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/7183/… Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 16:33

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