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Before you read this articleyou will need to know the following terms and definitions: 

Game(-s): Noun. Singular or Plural. A standalone version of Settlers of Catan, which can be played right out of the box without making additional purchases. There is only one standalone (base) game of Catan.
Expansion(-s): Noun. Singular or Plural.  An Catan game that cannot be played by itself. It must be used in conjunction with a standalone (base) game. The 5 & 6-player expansions are a good example of this.
Scenario(-s): Noun. Singular or Plural. A small set of playing pieces and instructions that can be added to normal Catan gameplay. It cannot be played by itself--it must be used in conjunction with a standalone (base) game. The "Oil Springs" scenario is a good example of this.
Variant(-s): Noun. Singular or Plural. A set of instructions for using the pieces from a Catan game or expansion in a new way. Most variants are fan-generated and require printing and cutting out new pieces.


Building Improvements

  • One of your most important consideration as a leader of Catan is the continued improvement of your buildings. This improvement is made possible through the use of commodity cards.  You are able to improve your buildings in three areas of development: Trade (yellow); Politics (blue); and Science (green).  Note, however, that you may not purchase any additional building improvements until you have built at least one town.  Once you own a town again, you may purchase improvements in all 3 areas, even if you own only 1 town.  The reason for this rule is that you must be able to harvest commodities (to pay for building improvements), and have a space to place your free Metropolis if you reach the 4th level of building improvement in any one of the three colored sections.
  • Your building improvements are tracked with your development flipchart. Your flipchart is divided into 3 separate sections, 1 for each of the 3 areas of development.  Each section has 5 pages, which correspond to the 5 levels of improvement you can acquire in each area.  At the beginning of the game, open all three sections of your flipchart to their first page; the page indicates that you have no improvements.
  • The Various improvements are represented by important buildings that can be constructed in your cities, such as a market, a cathedral, or a library. The cost of a building is shown in the lower-right corner of each flipchart page.  Each page also shows the cost of flipping your chart to the next page (upgrading your city to the next level of improvement).
  • Example: See Illustration J. The Market costs 1 cloth.  Pay 1 cloth and flip the Market section of your development flipchart.

The first improvement in each area always costs 1 commodity of the matching type.  The second improvement in each area costs 2 of that commodity.  The cost of each subsequent improvement is again increased by 1.

There is one restriction on the purchase of improvements, however.  If you have no towns or cities on the board (because the barbarians have pillaged your last building that was second-level or higher), you may not purchase any building improvements until you have constructed at least one (1) second-level building (at least a town).

Each improvement increases your chance of being eligible to draw progress cards.  Each page section depicts and illustration of the improvement.  Above that picture is a row of red dice.  Each die shows a number.  These die tell you if you acquire progress cards. If the event die roll shows a city gate, you may draw a progress card of like color—but only if the number on the red die matches one of the dice pictured on that color’s section on your development flipchart.  A higher level of improvement increases your chance to draw progress cards.

Example: See Illustration K.  If you have built the market improvement, it shows 2 red dice.  If the event Card Event Die shows the yellow city gate, and the red die shows a “1” or “2,” then you may draw a yellow progress card (Trade).


In addition, when you build the third improvement in each area, you receive a special ability.  You are able to use this ability for the remainder of the game, even if other players also achieve the third level of improvement (in which case they also get the advantage), or if you purchase improvements beyond the third level.  The advantage that you gain from each color of improvement is different:

  • Trading House (Trade—yellow): You may trade commodities (of the same type) 2:1 for any commodity or resource. You may make this trade only during your turn, as if you were using a harbor.  This special trade advantage does not include resources, only the three commodities.
  • Fortress (Politics—blue): You may promote strong knights to mighty knights after you have built the fortress. You must still pay to activate the knights normally.
  • Aqueduct (Science—green): If, when the Event Card is picked and the Production Number is resolved for production, you do not receive any resources or commodities, you may take any one resource of your choice from the bank. You may not take a commodity.  You may also qualify to receive a Favor Token.  You may not, however, use this ability when a “7” is shown. The Aqueduct building improvement yields only cards, not tokens.


Purchasing building improvements is also important if you want to have a capital.  Each capital is represented by a flat, colored cardboard token.

  • Only three capitals may be in play at any given time: one each for trade, politics, and science. The colors of the three capital tokens match the three colors of the three areas of improvement.
  • If you are the first player to achieve the fourth level of improvement in any one of these 3 areas (the bank, the cathedral, or the theater) , you may take one of the corresponding-colored cardboard capital token and place it under one of your eligible cities. You may also add one of your metropolis towers for free to the same eligible city.
  • You may take the capital city token only if no other player already controls the fourth level improvement of that color, for there can be only 1 capital for science, trade, or politics. When you acquire a capital, place the capital token of the appropriate color under your eligible building (only towns and cities can be deemed capitals, because only they can receive metropolis towers)
  • A city with a metropolis is worth a total of __ Victory Points! This includes __ points for the original settlement, __ points for the town, __ points for the city, ___ points for the capital designation, and ___ points for the Metropolis tower.
  • You may steal another player’s Capital token if you are able to acquire the fifth level of improvement in the matching color before he does. If another player reaches the fifth level of improvement before the Capital owner does, he may take the colored Capital token, and the previous owner loses his Metropolis tower.
  • If you have reached the fifth level of improvement in any area and you are the owner of a Capital, no player may take your Capital away. A Capital is immune to the barbarians.  It can never be pillaged or reduced.  However, the Capital is counted when determining the strength of the Barbarian Invasion.
  • You may build more than one Capital. If you are the first player to reach the fourth level of improvement in more than one area (or if you reach the fifth level, thereby taking another player’s Capital away), you may place the Capital token under another of your towns or cities, along with another free Metropolis tower.
  • However, you may not place more than one Capital token under a single town or city.
  • You may not purchase any improvements beyond the third level of a given color unless you have a city where you could build a Metropolis tower. If you do not have such a town or city on the board, you must wait until you have built at least one more building.


  • A metropolis is represented by a piece that matches your player color and is designed to fit over the wooden building pieces.
  • When a player flips over his fourth level of building improvement, he may claim the corresponding-colored cardboard token and place it under one of his eligible cities, to which he may add one of his metropolis towers for free. If another player later exceeds that level of building improvement in that colored area, the original player loses both his cardboard token and his free metropolis tower.
  • You may also directly purchase a Metropolis for _____.

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