Sometimes it can be difficult to get a full table of players together for a game, so what should you do if you want to play Catan but have nobody to play it with?
Is it even possible to play Catan by yourself?
If you want to play Catan by yourself you either need to download the app in order to find opponents for the game or find a version of Catan that is specifically designed for one player, but which will feel very different.
While you can have a smaller number of players in a game of Catan, four is definitely the sweet spot for the game.
Expansion boxes allow five or even six players to play, but at that stage, the game becomes too long, and there are many better choices out there.
With three players there is still an opportunity to savour the full experience, and the game still works well at this player count.
Although the box does not specify it, you can play Catan with just two people, and there is even an official variant, but much of the interplay of having more than one opponent is lost.
Any solo variant of Catan would have to replace the trading of resources that is at the heart of the game.
Without other players to trade with, this aspect of the game would be totally lost, and the social element of haggling and bargaining would be lost completely.
Any good solo game needs to put pressure on the player, and in multiplayer Catan, the pressure is applied via the settlements and cities placed on the map, and also in the race for victory points.
In theory, you could play three opponents by yourself, keeping their cards hidden until their turn and maybe using forced trades with them, as in the official two-player variant.
In this variant, a forced trade involves taking two cards at random from an opponent and giving them two of your own cards.
This would keep some of the uncertainty of the multiplayer game, but when it comes to an opponent’s turn you would need to play them effectively, placing settlements and possibly trading as well.
While not wholly satisfactory, at least this way a single player would be able to experience some of the pressure of a multi-player game and be able to play even without any opponents.
While playing digitally is not the same as having a physical board game in front of you, in the case of Catan it is definitely the best way to play it alone.
The Catan Universe app is available for multiple operating systems for free and allows you to play online against real opponents from across the road.
The app also has various expansions and different versions of the game to try out, which means that you can see whether you like a particular implementation of the game before you rush out to buy it.
This way, you can play on your own against other online players and maybe even have another version of the game ready for when you have a full table of opponents in real life.
The dice game of Catan has a solo mode included in its rules, so while this is definitely not the same as the original board game, it might still be able to fill the gap for when you want to experience a little of this world but have no opponents.
If playing online does not appeal, then maybe Catan Dice Game is the way to go, especially as its solo variant is highly regarded.
Unfortunately, the dice game feels quite a long way from the board game, so this might not be what you are looking for to fulfil your Catan desires.
Thankfully board game players are an inventive bunch, and Catan lends itself very well to different approaches, so there are a couple of unofficial solo variants which are available to try.
The Race Against The Destroyer variant is available on Board Game Geek here and has the benefit of sticking to most of the rules of the original Catan game.
In this variant when a ‘7’ is rolled on the dice the robber steals resources and moves, but then there is the possibility that he will slowly begin destroying the tiles on the island.
This version is therefore a race against time to reach the victory points needed before the robber destroys the island of Catan.
Another variant on Board Game Geek is this quick solitaire variant.
This solo version of Catan feels more like a puzzle, as there is no opponent.
Instead of having an opponent, here the objective is to keep building and gaining development cards as much as possible, as the game ends on the turn in which no buying is done.
Once the game is finished it is a simple case of adding up the points and seeing how well you have done.
These two variants are not only quite different from each other but also show different ways to play solo games.
The first is a simple win/lose scenario while the second is a beat-your-own-score variant in which the object is to score better than you have done before.
Some people prefer one type of solo game while other people prefer the other, so why not try both of them and see which one you prefer?
While it is not strictly possible to play Catan by yourself, it is definitely possible to play a version of Catan on your own.
The choice to make is whether you want to play Catan as you know it, or a slightly different version.
If the original version of Catan is the one you want to play, then you need to download a version of the app and play online.
On the other hand, if you fancy trying something different then it is worth trying one of the solo variants and seeing how they feel.