Custom Painted and Cut Catan Pieces

The Settlers of Catan is an awesome, as you might know from my previous posts on the modifications I’ve made to the game board (Hexels and the Pop-O-Matic). I’ve been playing the game for quite a few years, and while I still love it, frankly, I’ve gotten bored with the standard game piece colors: red, orange, blue, white, brown, and green. For the past six weeks, I’ve been working on creating my own game pieces to paint custom colors, and the project is finally complete!

Pile of Catan pieces

So many Catan pieces, 288 total (60 settlements, 48 cities, and 180 roads).

I started by cutting the pieces from basswood, purchased at your local hobby store. The wood probably cost less than $12 total. I used one board (1/4″ thick by 3″ wide by 36″ long) to craft the settlements and cities (luckily, the pieces are only 1/4″ thick), and several small sticks that were the exact width of the roads.

Using a coping saw, band saw, belt sander, and sand paper, I carefully cut out each piece. The roads were the easiest. The settlements I cut from long strips of wood, creating the angle of the roof on the belt sander.

The cities were the most difficult. I used a band saw to cut the basic outline then finished them with the belt sander. The pieces aren’t exactly the size of the originals, but they are pretty close.

My pieces compared to the original Catan pieces

Even though the cities are slightly bigger than original, casual gamers can’t tell unless they are holding both my pieces and the originals in their hands at the same time.

Truthfully, if you look closely at the original Catan pieces, you’ll find imperfections in the manufacturing process as well. I’m satisfied that the pieces turned out as well as they did!

Next, I painted the pieces with various acrylic paints. The pieces were a little rough after the paint job, so I gave them a light sanding with fine-grain sand paper. This removed the paint in some spots, giving the pieces a weathered look, which I came to like. My pieces have a matte finish post-sanding, not a nice glossy finish like the original, but they still feel good to the touch.

And that’s the most important factor I was going for: how well do the pieces feel in your hand? Catan is a tactile game, and while most people probably aren’t consciously aware of it, I think part of the appeal of the game is that there are so many things to touch.

Yellow Catan pieces.

I started with the yellow pieces. The yellow color I chose is a bit brighter than the yellow used for the arches in Cities and Knights, but I think it still looks authentic for the set.

Black Catan pieces.

Black was a color sorely missing from the original set. Of all six original colors, my friends find brown the least appealing. Black is so classic, though, that I’m surprised it’s been omitted from the game.

Pink Catan pieces.

Some of my girl friends are excited about the pink color. I think these pieces look like Double Bubble. Maybe Mayfair should release Catan bubble gum!

Purple Catan pieces.

Purple pieces round out the rainbow of colors. This purple is a little dark, but it actually fits best with the original color palette.

Electric blue Catan pieces.

I wanted to create 6 sets of pieces, and after exhausting the rainbow, I knew I’d have to double up on some colors. This electric blue color was requested by multiple friends, and is actually my favorite shade of blue.

Seafoam Catan pieces.

Seaform/mint green was also requested by several ladies.

When you compare my pieces to the original pieces, it’s clear that my palette is brighter, and in some cases, pastel compared to the original:

Palette comparison of original and custom Catan pieces.

However, my pieces now round out the rainbow very nicely, so I’m satisfied with this much-needed addition to the game!

Rainbow of Catan pieces.

While my group of friends doesn’t play Cities and Knights that often (the only expansion I have right now), it would be nice to have Cities and Knights pieces with my same colors. My only hesitancy in making the C&K pieces was that the knight pieces in the original use stickers to distinguish between active and inactive knights, and I didn’t want to come up with some symbol on my custom pieces to indicate that.

Then I learned that you can buy an unpainted set of Cities and Knights pieces for $3.50 on Mayfair’s website. So six sets would be $21: a little pricy, but it might be worth it so I don’t have to go through the hassle of cutting custom pieces again.

I also learned, after the fact, that you can buy an unpainted set of Catan pieces for $3.00 on Mayfair’s website.

Game on!


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