3D Settlers of Catan
Jan. 2007
Custom Built
Several months ago a fellow Hirst-Arts fan posted about how he had just created a 3D Catan game. I was amazed and just a bit jealous. I enjoy playing Settlers of Catan, and decided that I'd go about making my own 3D Catan board. This page is my attempt at documenting the process. Unlike Geboom, who seems to have created the board overnight, it'll probably take me several months to find time to create all the pieces. But it's been a lot of fun so far!

Geboom, it turns out, wasn't the first to come up with this idea. He says he was inspired by this website. And since I started researching the subject, I've found dozens of others who have made custom Catan boards made out of anything from resin to terrain scenery to supersized boards to cupcakes! Oh, and let's not forget the official 3D Settlers of Catan...

This was the first piece in the great 3d Catan experiment. The terrain was quite simple to make. The ground is just a small layer of clay smashed around, and then sprinkled with a little bit of fine powder sprayed down to give it a bumpy uneven look. The bushes are little balls of clay poked full of holes. And the rocks are actually tiny rocks.

I tried (unsuccessfully) to mold some sheep, but they turned out looking more like tribbles than sheep. I asked my wife to make some sheep, but hers looked more like bloated ticks than sheep. So I finally gave in and bought some small sheep from a local hobby store. The only problem I had while casting was air bubbles in the sheep's heads. Most of the sheep looked either headless or lobotomized. Not to worry - I applied a small amount of green stuff and you can hardly tell the difference.

Correction: My wife says that my sheep looked like bloated ticks and that hers looked like lady-bugs.

The next piece was the farmland (or plain), producer of the wheat resource. Molding it was even easier than the pasture. I smashed some clay around, make it almost, but not quite, smooth, then applied a simple pattern using a nail file, and then scraped some roads out with a toothpick, plopped on some trees (again, little balls of clay poked full of holes). The "crops" are just circles and semi-circles scraped into the clay using a comb.

The difficulty with this piece came in the painting. I'm not much of a farmer, and my wife is a Kansas girl. Well, it took me about five times to get the colors to where she was happy. But the end result looks rather nice. And let's not forget to give credit: My wife was the one who sketched out the idea for the fields. Otherwise who knows what they might look like.

The forest hex wasn't particularly difficult to make, but it did take a lot of time to poke all those holes in the clay balls! Of all the tiles, I think this is my favorite.

The mountains were fun to create. I felt like I was in Close Encounters and was trying to recreate Devil's Tower (except that I don't think I was under the influence of any aliens at the time). This piece took a lot of resin to cast, and is about three times as tall as any of the other pieces.

Another easy piece to mold. I just pushed a bunch of clay around and roughed it up until it looked like a bunch of wind-swept muddy hills. I debated on how to paint it, and finally decided on a red clay look like you find in Southern Utah.

With all of the land pieces done, I setup the game and we got our first taste of 3d Catan. It was pretty cool to see stuff start to come together. For the water and roads/cities/etc., we just used the regular game tiles. The thing that struck us most was that you had to be careful to note when someone had built something on the other side of a mountain across the table from you, because their house might be hidden from your view!

Easily the quickest piece yet. I spent most of the time waiting for things to dry and cure. Casting the plaster hex took 2 minutes to prep, 1 minute to pour, and 20 minutes to dry enough to pop, then about a day to dry.

I'd say about 15 minutes to make the little wave-effects in the clay (although it didn't really look like water until after I painted it - I think it turned out nicely), then another 15 minutes to bake the clay, and another 15 minutes to let it cool before gluing it to some glass.

Of course making the mold took all of 5 minutes to slap some legos together for a retaining wall, and then 4 hours to dry.

Painting was easy - there's about six layers, but as most of them were washes or glazes I had to wait 20 minutes or so between each layer. After painting finished, another 2 hour wait for the paint to really dry, then a coat of sealer, another 30 minutes to dry, and it's photo time.

These pieces didn't take long either. The large gap between the last piece and this one was due to the arrival of a new baby and my work on remodeling a bedroom in the house to accommodate the new family size!

Finally - a change from the large hex pieces. These were a lot of fun to make. I tried to make some sheep again but reverted back to the train models after several failed attempts. At least this time I was able to do it without major air bubbles (although one of the sheep had a missing nose, so it still required a bit of green stuff).

My daughter wanted me to paint each of the question marks a different color. I went for something that reminded me of the old batman tv shows (I don't really know why they do, but for some reason when I look at them I think 'pop', 'bam', 'wap', etc..)

Each of the pieces are actually carved on top of a dime. It's a nifty technique and seemed to work quite well.

The port pieces (Sep. 2006) title=

These are the rest of the pieces for the board, including roads, cities, the desert, and other 'optional' pieces (like the volcano).