The Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion adds a ton of depth, complexity, and elements to the game compared to other expansions such as Seafarers. Cities & Knights must be used with the standard version of Settlers of Catan to work and it also is recommended to be combined with Seafarers to provide a complete Settlers of Catan experience. This Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights new player guide will assume that you have read both of the new player guides for the standard variant and seafarers expansion.
At the end of this Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights new player guide you will understand this expansion and also the important changes it makes to the strategies involved with the game. Cities & Knights is very complex but provides many more options for players to explore while playing compared to other expansions and makes the game very interesting once you get the hang of it. Even if you are in last place in Cities & Knights you can easily catapult yourself into first by the added features this expansion contains.
Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights Keywords
Commodities are similar to resources but are only available in the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion pack. There are three commodities and each one is tied to a specific resource and the only way to obtain commodities outside of trade is to have a city next to the appropriate resource hex on the board. In Cities & Knights cities will receive one resource and one commodity from a respective resource hex instead of two resources. The paper commodity is linked to wood, cloth is linked to sheep, and coin is linked to ore. For the wheat and brick resource hexes have no commodity tied to them and you will receive two resources like in the standard Settlers of Catan game.
Commodities are used to purchase city improvements in one of three categories linked to trade, politics, and science. These city improvements allow you to gain progress cards, which replace development cards in the main game, and also lead to a metropolis which is worth additional victory points.
A city can be built to replace a settlement to provide additional resources and/or commodities. When a city is built for three ore and two wheat it is placed where a settlement once was and the settlement is removed from the board and can be built again in another location. You can build up to four cities at any given time on the board and are worth two victory points compared to the one victory point a settlement is worth.
If you are playing Settlers of Catan without the Cities & Knights expansion then each time a number is rolled on a resource hex adjacent to a city you receive two resources instead of one. In Cities & Knights you either receive two resources for brick and wheat hexes. For wood you receive one wood/one paper, sheep receives one sheep/one cloth, and ore receives one ore/one coin.
A metropolis acts like a city when it comes to which resources and commodities you can receive while playing with the Cities & Knights expansion. Unlike a city a metropolis is worth 4 victory points and cannot be built with resources. To gain a metropolis you must upgrade a specific city improvement(trade, politics, science) to level 4 or level 5. Once gained you keep a metropolis unless another player reaches level 5 in that specific city improvement area before you do. Metropolis are also immune to barbarian attacks even if you do not have enough knights to defend against them.
A city wall is only available when playing with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion pack. A city wall costs 2 brick to build and can only be placed under a city that does not have a city wall already built under it. You can have up to 3 city walls built at any given point. The purpose of a city wall is to increase the amount of cards you can safely hold against the robber if a seven is rolled on the dice. Normally you can only hold seven cards without having to discard half of your cards when a seven is rolled on the dice and the robber is played. Each city wall increases that amount by two cards for a maximum amount of 13 cards that you can safely hold if a seven is rolled on the dice.
Knights are pieces available with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion and play a critical role in that variant of Settlers. A player can have up to 6 knights at any given time and cost one sheep and one ore to build. Each player has two level one knights, two level two knights, and three level three knights. To upgrade a knight you can spend one additional ore/sheep to upgrade them and there is an additional one wheat cost to “activate” a knight. Knights are placed in between roads or ships much like settlements/cities.
The purpose of the knight in Cities & Knights is to defend against the barbarians. Each turn the barbarians have a chance of moving closer to attack Catan and every player is in danger. Every active knight on the board is tallied up base don their strength and is pitted against the strength of the barbarians(based on the amount of cities on board). Winning means every player is safe and the player with the highest knight strength gets a victory point. Losing means the player(s) with the lowest knight strength lose one city of their choosing.
Knights also can be used to move the robber off of an adjacent hex for the cost of one wheat after they are already active. You can move knights to open spaces on your road for one wheat after a knight is already active as well. Lastly, a knight can “attack” another player’s knight for one wheat after being active and if their strength is higher than the enemy knight is moved off of that location and your knight takes their place. If the enemy knight has no open spaced to move to then it is taken off of the board. Any actions taken by knights, upgrading knights, and when the barbarians attack will cause the knights to flip over and become inactive. Inactive knights are grayed out and active knights are visibly colored on one side.
The merchant is a special pieces used with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion and is worth one victory point for whoever controls the merchant. To play the merchant you must have a progress card signifying that you can play the merchant. The merchant is placed on a land hex adjacent to a settlement/city of that player and provides a 2:1 trading option for them to use. The merchant only works for the player playing the card regardless of if other players are next to it and it remains in place until another player can move it. The 2:1 trading option only works for the specific resource the merchant is placed on.
If you are playing with the Seafarers expansion for Settlers of Catan you can decide if you want to allow the merchant to trade 2:1 of any resource if the merchant is placed on a gold hex.
Development Flip Chart
The development flip chart is used with the Cities & Knights expansion and has information as to what is required to build any roads, settlements, etc. as well as city improvements. On the development flip chart there are three separate city improvement sections. The yellow one is trade, blue is politics, and green is science and they have five levels(starting with the book closed at level 0). A player can spend commodities(cloth,coin,paper) to upgrade to higher levels to receive bonuses and progress cards. Trade is upgraded with cloth, politics with coin, and science with paper.
At level 3 a player gets a bonus depending on the section they have upgraded. Trade is able to trade any commodity at a 2:1 with the bank, politics allows players to upgrade to might knights(level 3), and science allows a player to receive a resource card of their choosing if they receive no resources based off of the total of the dice roll each turn. At level 4 a player gains a metropolis and level 5 allows a player to prevent others from stealing the metropolis.
To determine whether or not a player receives a progress card each page of the flip book has red dice and a small event dice on it. A player will only receive a progress card if the red dice and event dice match what is depicted on a player’s development flip chart. For example if you have trade upgraded to level 1 you have an image of the red dice showing “1” and “2” and the event dice colored yellow. If when the event dice is rolled and it lands on the yellow metropolis and the red dice is either a 1 or a 2 then that player receives a yellow progress card. If the red dice is 3 or higher then no progress card is rewarded. As you upgrade to higher levels then additional red dice combinations are unlocked to provide a higher chance at receiving progress cards.
Progress Cards replace development cards when playing the Cities & Knights expansion. Progress cards come in yellow, blue, and green and are tied to the city improvements trade(yellow), politics(blue), and science(green). Players receive progress cards depending on the event dice and red dice totals. Progress cards have a wide array of bonuses capable of boosting you, hurting your enemies, and providing victory points.
Red and Yellow Dice
The standard version of Settlers of Catan comes with one red dice and one yellow dice. Both are rolled at the start of a turn to determine which resources a player might received based on the number tokens on the board. In the Cities & Knights expansion the red dice is used to determine if a player receives a progress card.
The event dice is used with the Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights expansion and is rolled with the red and yellow dice at the start of each turn. The event dice has a blue/green/yellow metropolis and a black barbarian ship on its sides. When a colored metropolis is rolled then a player may receive a progress card if they have that specific city improvement researched along with the correct red dice number. When the barbarian ship is rolled then the barbarians are moved one step closer to attack Catan. If you are not playing with the Cities & Knights expansion then the event dice is not used.
The barbarians are used with the Cities & Knights expansion pack and are represented by a large black ship with a special small board showing how many steps they have before they attack Catan. The barbarians start out in the upper left corner and work their way to the attack step at the end of their route. They are moved only when the event dice is rolled and lands on the black barbarian ship and otherwise they will remain in the same place. When the barbarians attack they are worth “x” amount of points depending on the amount of cities on the board. If the barbarians are worth more than the total strength of knights on the board they win and if they have less they lose.
If the barbarians win they destroy one city of the player(s) with the lowest knight strength. If the barbarians lose then the player with the highest knight strength receives one victory point(defender of Catan card). If two players have the highest knight strength then they instead receive a progress card of their choosing from the top of the progress card deck. Players may pick any progress card even if they do not have the city improvement area for that card.
Setting up the Board
The Cities & Knights expansion doesn’t change how you setup the board compared to Seafarers that introduces sea hexes to the game. Instead the only additional step to set up the game is to place the barbarian board, metropolises, and development flip charts out to be used.
Starting the Match
Unlike other variants of Settlers of Catan when you begin Cities & Knights you place one settlement and then one city to begin the game. When you place your city you still gain one of each resource adjacent to it and it does not provide you two resources or commodity cards to begin with. The only other change is that when the dice are rolled the event dice action is resolved before resources are given out. Therefore if the event dice lands on the barbarians and they attack then the resources are given out after cities are potentially destroyed. After the event dice is rolled resources/commodities are given out then a player may trade, build, play progress cards, or do knight actions in any order. If you are playing with 3-4 players then the turn would then end and pass to the next player, with 5-6 players you will instead allow each player(going clockwise) to build or activate knights. When it is not your turn you cannot perform actions with your knights or play progress cards but you may promote and activate them when playing with 5-6 players. Regardless of the players it is suggested you play to a minimum of 13 victory points instead of 10.
Since Cities & Knights adds a ton of depth to Settlers of Catan it does shift the important of resources in favor of ore and sheep. This is due to knights playing a critical role of protecting your cities against the barbarians and also potentially gaining you victory points. You will want to build at least one knight and activate in your first 1-3 turns since the barbarians usually win the first time they land. Losing your only city early on puts you way behind other players unless everyone loses their city which is rare. If you are able to upgrade your politics city improvements easily to unlock might knights then you should focus on always having 1-2 more knights than other players so you can rack up victory points through the defend of catan cards. Typically in a game playing to 13 points you can receive 5-7 victory points from Defend of Catan if you win every barbarian attack and have the most knights.
A different strategy focusing less on knights is to stick with the standard expand fast method. Keep enough knights so that you either win against the barbarians or do not have the least amount of knights on the board in case you lose. This frees up resources for you to build settlements and to gain the longest road easily. By branching out you can then later on upgrade your settlements to cities on the best spots to provide you with commodities. Once you have your empire built you will easily gain commodities to either get a metropolis or outpace everyone in progress cards which can award the final few victory points you need to win.
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