It occurred to me after a time, that this idea probably deserved its own entry. I’m sure there are plenty of dice-replacement variant rules out there for The Settlers of Catan, but I wanted to offer mine, which simply exchanges a standard deck of fifty-two playing cards for the dice.

What you need for this variant:
* The Settlers of Catan (obviously)
* Standard fifty-two deck of playing cards (remove jokers)

Now, set up the board as you usually would, following all the same rules for placing the terrain tiles and the “circular number tokens,” and all that good stuff. You’re basically playing your typical game of Catan, with only one very minor difference. Put the dice away. Don’t even look at them. Just leave them in the box.

If you do look at the dice, make sure you glare at them like they’ve done something wrong. Because they have. They’ve made a perfectly lovely game into a nightmarish nightmare-thing. Like Monopoly but even more frustrating.

Now, make sure you remove the jokers and any of the other weird cards that came in your box of fifty-two cards. Unless they’re already numbered specially, you’re going to have to remember the values for the four following cards:

Aces are worth one
Jacks are worth eleven
Queens are worth twelve
Kings are worth thirteen

Now, whenever you would roll dice to gain Resource Cards in Catan, draw a card instead. If the number is anywhere between two and twelve (Queen), the game proceeds as normal. If you draw a one (Ace), then Catan is experiencing a drought or a famine or something, and every player must discard one card.

If you draw a thirteen (King), Catan is experiencing plentiful rains, a good growing season, or the workers are just working harder, and everyone gets to draw one Resource Card of their choice from whatever Resource Cards are available.

Shuffle the deck only once at the beginning of the game, and then again if you somehow run out of cards in the deck. Hopefully it won’t take the entire deck for someone to win the game, but it might if the players are really crafty, or put their settlements in really, really bad positions. Or can’t trade to save their lives.

If you play this way, you should notice that there are a lot fewer “sevens” in the game. That’s because instead of a seven occurring with every combination of 1 and 6, 2 and 5, or 3 and 4 on the dice, there are four of them. In a deck of fifty-two cards, that means the bandit moves, like, less than ten percent of the time.

It also makes knights totally worth it.

The game might well be friendlier, because everyone’s guaranteed an equal chance of their numbers coming up. The people who experience “plenty” in the beginning will find that their numbers are exhausted as the deck grows smaller, and the people whose numbers didn’t come up much in the beginning will get their windfall.

If you want to make the game even nicer to the people who are having trouble, you can make it so that whenever an Ace is drawn, every player gives a Resource Card to whomever has the fewest Victory Points. That’s up to you, though.