Settlers of Catan for three players suffers slightly from too much space. I find the four player game much more enjoyable because of the tense competetion for places to settle.

It seems that this could be easily solved, though, by using fewer hexes. I can replace some resource hexes with ocean hexes from my Seafarers game. Of course, it could take some experimenting to figure out what works well, and I'm wondering if others have gone down this road:

  • How many hexes should be used?
  • What combination of resources is best?
  • Is it better to vary in a different way, say, starting with three settlements, and playing to a higher number of victory points?
  • 1
    Looks like there are some good options on this chat: boardgamegeek.com/thread/4883/3-player-rules
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 16:21
  • You could start with removing one of each resource type and replacing it with a sea hex around the edge. That would give you 5 more sea hexes. You could also throw in the extra desert and remove a forest hex (or whichever is the most plentiful resource in a 3-player game) if you REALLY want to reduce the amount of "settle-able" spots Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 17:07
  • Don't forget that the rules explicitly say that in a 3 player game, you have to take out the red pieces! If you take out any other color, you are breaking the rules :-p Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 0:03

3 Answers 3


There are some good suggestions all over the internet for making a three-player board more competetive in the early game. They all boil down to either removing hexes, or replacing them with desert pieces.

The amount of hexes you replace/remove depends on preference, but I'd recommend either removing three or five total hexes. When removing five, just remove one of each resource type. When removing three, remove one wood, grain and lumber (since brick and ore have one less hex to start with).

  • When removing three hexes, take one of each number token 3 and 11 and remove them from the game. Then take one of each number token 4 and 10, choose one at random and remove it from the game.
  • When removing five hexes, take one of each number token 3-4-10-11 and remove them from the game. Then take one of each number token 5 and 9, pick one at random and remove it from the game.

Substituting hexes with deserts means there's still plenty of room for long roads and it puts some distance between viable resources. Also, it allows you to maintain the regular board size. Removing hexes altogether can lead to challenging board shapes, but if you remove exactly five hexes you can still create a hexagonal board:

  X X
 X X X
 X X X
  X X

The best way to get a hexagon with 3 hexes removed is if you make it asymmetrical across one diagonal:

  X X X
 X X X X
 X X X X

A third option found online is increasing the VP requirement. This doesn't match your criteria since you're looking to increase tension in the early game (instead you'll find yourself using more of the board late game) but it's still worth mentioning.

  • why not remove 2 & 12?
    – warren
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 18:22
  • 1
    There is only one of each 2/12 in the game. I wanted every dice roll to have at least one matching hex on the board. But I suppose you could. In the five hex example, removing a 2 or 12 instead of removing a 5 or 9 sounds like a good alternative path.
    – freekvd
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 19:51

I find that putting the desert hex in the middle of the board goes a long way in intensifying the competition for high-yield positions, both in the early game but also in the late game because more roads are required.


I mostly play with three players. I really recommend Cities and Knights, but besides that;

  • Make a mainland and a sea with islands. (force people of the mainland for the discovery point per island and the longest road) Make the island tiles a random of undiscoverd gold and desert so there is a chance of rags or riches for the discoverers.
  • Make one big map with area's of a certain resource so players will have to trade and focus their strategy on the land they chose to exploit while trying to expand. (Make sure the harbors are on the "wrong side" of the map.

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