Several people I've met play Settlers of Catan with the house rule "you may not build anything that isn't a knight next to the robber". As far as I can see, it's not in the rule book.

To clarify: this means that you can't place a road, settlement or city next to the robber. When we play, city improvements and the merchant are unaffected. On the rare occasion we combine with seafarers, we say the robber prevents land building, and the pirate prevents ship building/movement.

I actually prefer this variant, but this question isn't about that. My question is:

Where did this rule come from? Was it in an earlier version of the rules, or was it used for some tournaments? I've met a number of unrelated players (in Australia/Germany) who have heard of this rule, so I wondered if it came from somewhere other than word of mouth.

I'll also accept "this isn't in any of the published rule books and isn't used for tournaments" if that is the case (I only have the latest rule book to hand, so I can't check).

  • I've not played this variant, but it sounds similar to the pirate ship rule from seafarers of catan (can't build/move shipping routes next to the pirates).
    – tttppp
    Mar 29, 2012 at 12:12
  • @tttppp, but aren't ships more like roads than settlements? It would seem weird to apply this building rule to the robber to prevent building settlements as well as roads. I wonder what the OP meant by anything? (city walls? a city (from a settlement), city improvements in the development flip books (if the only city a player owns is adjacent to a robber), merchant cone (is this "building")...
    – user1873
    Mar 29, 2012 at 19:29
  • The rule usually applies to roads, settlements or cities (anything land based except knights). We don't usually play with seafarers - but if we do, we play the robber stops land based building, and the pirate stops ship building/movement. City improvements are unaffected. The merchant cone next to the robber has never come up - though I don't believe it'd be considered building. Also, I think in most situations where you'd want to put the merchant on the same hex as the robber, you'd have some other hex of the same type you could place it (avoiding this situation). Mar 29, 2012 at 23:03

2 Answers 2


In the seafarers expansion, you cannot move or build a ship to or from a hex containing the pirate. This could be where the house-rule applying to the robber too came from, by blocking land-based building rather than sea-based building.

  • 1
    This would be my guess as well. The reason for this "added power" likely being that the robber blocks production and there's no production on water. Since the pirate doesn't block production, a different ability is called for; hence the sea hex control. Apparently there's no fishing on Catan. Or there is, and it just doesn't produce much besides drunk fishermen.
    – Task
    Sep 19, 2012 at 15:06

I would guess it was Multiple Discovery. The rules have not changed significantly from 4th Edition from the original. The only noteworthy changes in 4th Edtion are that harbor placement is fixed, the Robber is allowed to move to the desert tile, and the merging of Trading/Building phases.

This Robber blocking building isn't listed as any official variant, or within any variant within the various rule books, or the big 15 Variant Book.

  • Hasn't cities and knights had card changes since the original? I wondered if this rule was in a variant rule section in the cities and knights of seafarers rulebook. Mar 29, 2012 at 23:05
  • Are you sure that the rules haven't changed much from the original? The comments on this answer suggest that the trading rules used to be different (presumably pre 3rd ed). Mar 29, 2012 at 23:28
  • I read through the Base Edition, Seafarers, Knights and Cities, Traders & Barbarians and didn't see any mention of these Variants. Neither was it mentioned in Klaus Teuber's 15 variant book. I did forget about the merging of the Trading/Building Phases, and have updated the answer accordingly.
    – user1873
    Mar 30, 2012 at 0:56

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