A hammer in search of a nail…

Settlers of Catan (SoC) is a great game. We discovered it last year and have played it regularly since. The standard game is for 4 players, but there is an expansion set that lets you play with 5-6 players (which we bought).  You can find further information about the game at it’s website: http://www.catan.com/.

The game pieces themselves are a bit of a problem: the game consists of a number of hexagonal pieces that are placed inside a border. This border is made up of a handful of cardboard pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Here’s a snapshot of the game setup:

Settlers of Catan Setup

Settlers of Catan Setup

In the picture above, the blue “border” is actually six separate pieces that lock together.  The hexes fit inside them. The result is that the “border” holds the hex pieces tightly together. Unfortunately, since these pieces are just heavy cardboard stock, the border pieces work fine at first, but quickly start to warp, the interlocking pieces don’t lock very well, and the borders don’t hold the hexes very well any more.  If you can imaging putting this board together by first adding a coaster onto each border piece to hold it flat and still while you add all the hexes, you’ll understand the frustration. Additionally, once the board is set up, if you so much as “touch” the border during gameplay, the entire board is shifted and the hexes get pushed over and under the border and the pieces need to be re-set (and those hexes have little wooden playing pieces strategically placed atop them and those all get jiggled and need to be put back as well).

I’m sure anyone who has played the game knows what I mean. 😉

So this project set about to replace the border with something more permanent that would hold the hexes tightly and not allow them to move if the board was accidentally bumped.

One last point. The 4 player game has one size border and the 5-6 player expansion has another. Therefore the solution needs to support both sizes.

I found a solution at my local hardware store with 1/4 inch thick MDF boards. I bought three 2′ by 2′ boards. The intent was to make a “sandwich” three boards thick with a cutout in the outer boards that would hold the pieces.

The solution was pretty simple as I was able to trace the inside of the cardboard “border” onto the MDF board. I then drilled starter holes inside the border and cut the playing area out with a jigsaw. I did this twice (once for each size of the border).

After cutting the boards, I essentially had two “stencils” to hold the hex pieces. I cut the outlines small so the result would be a tight fit to the hexes.  This meant a bit of sanding to “expand” the stencil to hold the hex pieces. It was extra work, but the results were worth it.

After making sure both “stencils” held the pieces securely, the next step was to glue the two outside “stencil” boards to the inside uncut board.

Here is the result after gluing:

Settlers Board

Settlers Board

And here is a shot of the 4 player side of the board with the hexes inside. To play with 4 players, you simply use this side and for 5-6 players, you flip the board over.

Catan Board with Hexes (4 players)

Catan Board with Hexes (4 players)

Having used the board for several games, I can attest that the board holds the pieces securely and it is much easier to set up at the start of play. And re-setting the board if someone bumps it is now a thing of the past.

After the board was completed, Laura painted the beach and sea on it and we found clip art for the harbors. We printed the clip art, cut it down to size, then glued it to the board. We put poly over the top, which covered the paper and sealed it along with the rest of the board.

Here are two pictures of the final board, one of each side:

Final Board (4 - player side)

Final Board (4 - player side)

Final Board (5 - 6 player side)

Final Board (5 - 6 player side)

Thanks for reading! Anyone out there play Settlers? Let me know in the comments.


Comments on: "Settlers of Catan Game Board" (2)

  1. Great idea. Our border got ruined by liquids. I have been looking for an alternative.

  2. Such a good idea. Solves the problem of not being able to play on the carpet!

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