As per the Catan FAQ:

Resource Cards - Do I always have to keep my Resource Cards face down?


With this in mind, consider this scenario that I've encountered occasionally when playing Catan with my friends:

Adam has just rolled a 7 and has placed the robber on a hex occupied by both Brad and Charlie. Adam has been receiving plentiful sheep throughout the game and would prefer to gain a different resource. Brad also has been receiving plentiful sheep, and currently has only sheep cards in his hand. Charlie has more diverse resources.

While Adam is deliberating about who to steal from, the clever Brad proudly reveals his entire hand to the group, showing that if he is robbed Adam will certainly gain a sheep. Adam, not wanting to gain a sheep from the robber, elects to rob Charlie, who is now infuriated at Brad for breaking the rules to sway Adam's decision and avoid getting robbed.

I believe it would be legal to say "I have only sheep", and allow that to influence the robber's choice, but revealing cards in this way is clearly a violation of the rules for personal advantage. My question is what can/should be done in the event a player breaks the rules in this way. I feel some sort of penalty is due, but what? It seems unfair to allow such play to influence the robber's choice, but it also seems unfair to force the robber to choose from the player with the more undesirable resource (this could be used strategically). So how, then, should I handle this (other than choosing players with more integrity)?

Note: This question is different from Can I show my resource cards to other players in Settlers of Catan?

My main focus is on what penalty (if any) can/should be given for this violation. Or, what incentive can be given to prevent it.


2 Answers 2


First off, yes, what he did was cheating. However, there's more details we need to know. Most importantly, did he know about this rule; and thus was cheating on purpose? Or did he not know, and it was an accident?

If it was on purpose, then the question I linked in comments probably covers it: How can I play games with closed information with players who cheat?

If it was an accident, then simply telling him about the rule so that he doesn't do it again is probably sufficient; at least for a non-tournament friendly game. The advantage that he gained was very small. Without cheating, he could have told Adam that he had nothing but sheep, and provided pretty good evidence of that fact by reminding him of what resources were given out over the past few turns. It seems more likely than not that the outcome would have been the same either way.

Ultimately, it's going to be a question of how you and your group generally handle mistakes during game play; not something that's specific to this scenario. For example, my group is very lenient about allowing players to take back / change their move if no one else has done something based on what they did yet. Some groups, however, may prefer strict rules enforcement over being casual.

  • My group of friends and I play Catan quite a lot. As such we tend to be very competitive with each other and nitpick about rules such as this. Often, yes, we will let it slide with a "don't do that again", but as we get more advanced we tend to find it more edifying to enforce these rules more strictly. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 16:10
  • Also, yes, the link you posted is helpful, and I'm sure my friends would accept this behavior as cheating, and change accordingly. I just wonder if you have any clever ideas for incentives/penalties to enforce the rule. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 16:17

I entirely agree with Gendolkari's answer, and finding a resolution through conversation rather than through punishment. A casual home game, no matter how competitive in spirit, still has the advantage of allowing leniency, and therefore finding a penalty is probably not a measure you should take until you believe there's no other way to fix things.

In any case, since that's what you seem to be looking for, I might as well suggest...

Make that player discard half their resource cards.

This penalty is intentionally identical to the robber mechanic when a player had more than seven cards in hand, and has several good qualities, the way I see it:

  • players are already familiar with how this works, as it's using an existing game mechanic
  • it's compatible with all occurrances of "a player revealed their resources", not just the stated one
  • it doesn't affect the balance of the game, as you're only touching that player's resources
  • it hits the player harder if they have more resources, and not as much if they barely have anything
  • while it might mess with that player's strategy, it doesn't kick that player out of the game

The last two qualities up there are especially important if you consider that you want to announce all house rules prior to the game, without exception, in my opinion. With many other penalties I can think of, you'll get stuck in "but which cards should we take away", or "wait, this time the situation doesn't quite allow that".

  • I like that idea. I also agree with Gendolkari, it is only that my friends tend to get very invested in games (we are all pretty competitive) and even if rules like this are discussed before hand, they may reveal their hands as mentioned in frustration or emotion in the heat of the moment. Also, we have been considering hosting a Catan tourney at our university, during which it would be good to have means to handle these kinds of situations. I like your idea of losing half your hand as incentive, but you are right that conversation is the best way to handle this. I appreciate the insight! Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 17:11

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