The Big Picture

Before you can begin assembling the frame for your game of Catan, you will need to understand the following definitions: 

Frame: Noun. Singular. A Catan game component used to outline the maximum limits of the game board, within which hexes (see dictionary entry below) are placed. Composed of stiff cardboard pieces of varying shape and size that are used to assemble an outline of the Catan game board.  The component pieces of the frame have connections (projections and indentations) similar to puzzle pieces, which enable the pieces to hold the frame together on the playing surface and retain its shape.
Hex(-es): Noun. Singular or Plural. A stiff six-sided cardboard game piece used in Settlers of Catan. Each of these game pieces are printed on both sides with illustrations of either land- or waterscapes. Two or more of these cardboard tiles are placed next to each other in a honey-comb pattern on the playing surface within a cardboard frame to create the Catan game board.
Playing Area: Noun. Singular. The space contained within the Catan board game frame, in which players move pieces and conduct other actions on top of the hexes. The maximum playing area is determined by the maximum number of hexes that can be placed within the board game frame.

Purpose of Framing

     Why should you bother using a frame at all? Well, we think the frame pieces are actually a great idea. For one thing, they help set up the board. As we cover in the video above, frame pieces can be very helpful when placing hex tiles on the playing surface, or when using mystery hexes. They also serve as a reference point for placing hexes and moving pieces around the board. In addition, frame pieces keep the board from falling apart when the playing surface gets bumped or jostled, and they add art to the edges of the board. Plus, some frame pieces add additional functionality (like trade ports, travel, and victory point tracking) to the game.  But while the frame pieces can be helpful, they also tend to restrict the game's possibilities.

     In the video above, we explain that one of the major differences between the official Catan rules and the CatanFusion system is that Catan prescribes a very limited board setup. This is why you may be familiar with the now-classic hexagonal board shape. But it wasn't until recently that Catan games shipped with frame pieces. Before that, players simply placed hex tiles together in a hex-like shape. In theory, players weren't limited to the hexagonal board shape--and even now, they are free to experiment with unique game board shapes.

     In this video, we explain that the CatanFusion system promotes and improves the Catan gaming experience through its simplicity, expandability, and accessibility. In this situation, the CatanFusion system keeps things simple and expandable by providing general guidelines for setting up the board, while letting you make the ultimate decision. YOU get to choose whether you use the frame for your game, and YOU get to choose how you assemble it. However, we encourage you to check out our frame experiment below.

Frame Assembly

     Because the shape of the frame determines the type of game that is possible, we experimented with all of the frame pieces from our Catan game and expansions to see what was the largest possible surface area we could enclose.  Even we were shocked by how much space we were able to enclose within a single continuous frame. Here's what it looks like:


Note: The hexes placed within the frame in the video above are simply designed to demonstrate the size of the board game area enclosed by the frame. They are not placed optimally for a true game experience.

The board game frame setup shown above requires frame pieces from all of the Catan games and expansions. Here is what you will need:

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If you don't have the expansion Legend of the SeaRobbers, but still want to maximize your frame, don't worry! Here is a photo of what your board will look like if you are just using the frame pieces from the base game of Catan, along with the expansions Seafarers, Traders & Barbarians, and Explorers & Pirates, and all of the 5+6 player expansion kits.

     As you can see, we had to build this on the floor, because it simply wouldn't fit on any standard table we could find. We recommend that you simply build the game board to fit the space you have, whether or not you choose to use a frame for your game of Catan. Remember, the important thing is what you put IN the frame (the hexes), not the frame itself.

     The following layout maximizes the available space for placing hexes (if you do not own the expansion Legend of the Sea Robbers).  Before building the rest of the board, assemble the frame as shown in the picture below.

  • 6 Corner Border Pieces from Catan, face down
  • 8 Small (one-hex) Side Border Pieces from _____, face down
  • 6 Medium (two-hex) Side Border Pieces from _____, face down
  • 4 Full-hex Extender Border Pieces from _____, face up
  • 2 Puzzle-Connection Border Pieces from the Explorers & Pirates 2-4 player expansion, face up
  • 2 Puzzle-Connection Six-Hex Sea Pieces from the Explorers & Pirates 5+6 player expansion, face up.
  • 1 Puzzle-Connection Three-Hex Council of Catan Island from the Explorers & Pirates 5+6 player expansion, face-up.

On the Flipside

     When extending the frame larger than the original board size, it is actually necessary to flip all of the frame pieces over, so that they are showing their blue sides. The Catan game designers were thoughtful enough to include blue printing on the backsides of the frame pieces, so that an appearance of endless ocean would be created. Note that some of the frame pieces do not have to be flipped upside down when expanding the board. For example, the Seafarers pieces are blue on both sides, and the Explorers & Pirates frame pieces are already flipped (and you can't flip the back, because they have printing on the "normal" side).  The frame pieces from Legend of the Sea Robbers are already flipped, as well. However, the beautiful printing on the reverse sides of the frame pieces from Legend of the Sea Robbers transitions rather abruptly to the all-blue upside-down frame pieces from the other games and expansions. This makes the Legend of the Sea Robbers frame pieces extremely tempting (but more difficult) to use.  Frame pieces from Traders & Barbarians can't be flipped at all, because they have printing on the underside. (Well, you COULD use them that way, but it would look ugly).

     In short, the circumference of the frame you use should be determined by how many hexes you have and how big of a board you need for your game of Catan. Of secondary consideration should be the number and type of frame pieces you possess. Some frame pieces fit together easily, others must be flipped, and some have printing that prevents them from being flipped. Just remember that it isn't completely necessary to use a frame for your game, as long as you can make the board fit your playing surface.

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