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How to Play Catan With Two Players: Variants and House Rules

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Catan is a game that is definitely better suited for more players, but with a few tweaks, it can still be fun to play with just two players.  

Catan with its official rules just does not work well for two as we have gone over in our review. The heavy reliance on negotiations, trades, temporary team-ups, and quite large open modular boards are all things that make the original game great but are really not applicable or practical during a two player game of Catan.

Below are some of the rule variants that can be used to make Catan work for two players.  Some of them are more dramatic changes to the core gameplay than others, but feel free to mix and match them to suit your needs and find a combination that makes Catan more enjoyable for you and your gaming partner.

How to Play Catan with Two Players

Catan Two Player Variants and House Rules

Smaller Board

One major issue with a two player game of Catan is that the original board layout is large enough that competition for resources and space is non-existent compared to playing with more players.  So to remedy this and increase competition between players you can make the board smaller.  There are a few ways to accomplish this though:

  • Create some ocean tiles by flipping over one of each type of tile. Players can still build roads (bridges) on these tiles.
  • Take one of each type of terrain tile out of the game completely reducing the overall size of the map.

Increased Resource Production

Since trading and negotiating aren’t typically beneficial in a two-player game, the game may be quite a bit slower than games with more players.  There are a few ways to adjust for this.

  • Players could take 4 resources at the beginning of the game for each settlement for a one-time initial boost.
  • Players could double their production each time a resource is produced.  
  • Roll Twice. Players roll twice instead of once at the beginning of their turn.

No Trading

Trading is rather pointless in two-player Catan because it becomes a zero-sum game and the only person who will want to trade is the player who is not in the lead. If left in the game, it will just lead to one player pestering the other, so to remove the temptation and make the game go smoother in our opinion players should just commit to not trading at all.  

Catan Two Player Trading Variant Meme

Increase Hand Limit

Since acquiring resources is going to be a little harder in two player games of Catan, it might be worthwhile to increase the hand limit in your games so players are not penalized as dramatically when a 7 is rolled and the robber activates.

If players can keep more resources in their hands, they don’t have to worry about spending them as quickly and can keep the more scarce resources for bigger moves later in the game.  Many other players have recommended a hand limit of 9 if following this variant, but you could make no limit in our opinion if you wanted to.

The “Robin Hood” Variant

A popular variant is to no longer have the player who rolled the 7 activate the robber, instead when a 7 is rolled Robin Hood is activated.  This works just like the robber but the player who rolled the 7 is not necessarily who will gain its effect, the player who is not in the lead will.

This player will get to move Robin Hood and steal a resource from their opponent.  This creates a great catch-up mechanism that is missing in two player games of Catan, making each game more fair and tense.

If you do choose to use this rule, it might be worth creating a victory point track so players can keep track of who is in the lead or not, making it simpler to see who gets the benefits of “Robin Hood”.

Playing Two Handed

Players take two sets of player pieces and play as normal, alternating turns between each color.  Players are allowed to trade between their two different player colors if they wish and also their opponent.  This may seem redundant but it can help move the game along and increase competition on the map.  

Playing this way players can either decide whether the winner is decided by the first person to reach 10 points, or alternatively, once a player reaches 10 victory points, add up the scores of both of their colors and the player with the most collective points wins.  The second option is a little harder to keep track of but can make the game and use of your second player more strategic.


The Official Catan Two Player Variant

The above house rules and variants we’re not official and are just some ideas that people have come up with to make two player games of Catan a little more fun.  But recently an official two player variant was released for Catan. The official full rules and print and play file can be found here: catan_2_player_scenario_en.pdf (asmodee.fun). You do need to sign up for an asmodee print and play account to download the file.

To use this official two player Catan variant all you need is

  •  a copy of the Catan base game
  •  20 trade tokens (can be anything)

This variant plays pretty similar to the original game except for the following three differences:

1. Neutral Settlements

At the beginning of the game there are two neutral settlements that are placed along with each player’s starting settlements and roads.  Whenever a player builds a road or a settlement, they also build one of these for a neutral settlement.  The neutral settlements do not receive resources but can get the Longest Road.

2. Rolling Twice

Players now roll the dice twice, producing resources twice (or activating the robber once or twice).  The dice rolls must be different from each other, if not players reroll until they are.

3. Trade Tokens

Each player starts the game with 5 trade tokens.  They may spend 1 or 2 tokens to do the following actions.  Trade tokens can be replenished by discarding knight cards to get two tokens back, or by building a settlement next to the desert(2 tokens), on the coast(1 token), or adjacent to the coast and desert (3 tokens).

  • Forced Trade: Draw 2 random cards from your opponent, giving them two of your cards back(your choice).
  • Move the Robber: You can move the robber back to the desert hex for 1 token if you are not in the lead, if you are it costs two.

This official variant works fairly well but many including ourselves prefer some combination of the more simple house rules and variants above, but give these a try and decide for yourself if they work for you and your Catan partner.


Two Player Catan Versions and Alternatives

If you’ve made your way through all the Catan two player variants above and still haven’t found one that works for you and your gaming partner, there are a few other options to get your Catan fix when you only have one other person to play with, and these may be a better option for some.

Rivals for Catan
Rivals for Catan
Rivals for Catan

Rivals for Catan

This card game is much different than the original base game of Catan, but it was specifically made for two players and as such works well with this player count.  Even though it is quite different from the original game and missing many of its core aspects, the theme still makes it feel like you're playing Catan.  

In our opinion there are so many good two player games out there, that this probably isn’t worth it for most people, but if you're really craving Catan for two players this is your best bet other than the official and unofficial variants we have listed above.

Catan Traders and Barbarians Board Game Expansion | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure Board Game | Ages 12+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Average Playtime 90 Minutes | Made by Catan Studio
Catan Traders and Barbarians Board Game Expansion | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure Board Game | Ages 12+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Average Playtime 90 Minutes | Made by Catan Studio
Catan Traders and Barbarians Board Game Expansion | Board Game for Adults and Family | Adventure Board Game | Ages 12+ | for 3 to 4 Players | Average Playtime 90 Minutes | Made by Catan Studio

Traders and Barbarians Expansion

This expansion actually makes the game work a little better when playing with only two players as it decreases the importance of negotiation by increasing the options and benefits of trading with the bank.  This expansion also includes the official two player variant we described above.

CATAN Dice Game
CATAN Dice Game
CATAN Dice Game

Catan Dice Game

Not really a board game alternative but many refer to this as Catan Yahtzee and that's really what it is. It has very little player interaction but that's why it works with two players. It's missing most of the core aspects of the original but if the theme is enough for you, this might be an option for your two player Catan needs.


Hopefully, these official and unofficial Catan two player variants, house rules and options help make your head to head sessions of Catan a little more fun and enjoyable. Let us know what you think of these variants or any other ways you play Catan with just two players in the comments below!

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