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How to 3D print your own Catan board

Discover how to 3D print and paint your own boards and pieces for Catan, the incredibly popular German-style board game!

 

How to 3D print your own Catan board

 

3D printed Settlers of Catan boards are gaining in popularity almost as fast as the board game itself, as 3D FDM & SLA (filament and resin) printing has seen much lower pricing in recent years. For under £300 you can get up and running with a 3D printer that will produce incredibly detailed prints that rival retail products once fully finished. this guide will show you how to get started with a 3D printer, what you'll need to create your ideal Catan board, and examples of what you can achieve.

In this guide:

 

Catan 3D printed hex board

Credit: Maisie Reeves

 

3D print everything

In all honesty, it's been a while since I put my "Maker" hat on and started thinking about creating a DIY project. As a laser cutting and engraving enthusiast, in the past I have taken on (and completed most) projects that have mostly been practical or helpful in some way, such as kitchen storage, coasters or desk tidies to name a few. Although my first attempts came out looking like this real-life version of Homer Simpson's spice rack (below), I did eventually become proficient enough to be allowed my finished works in the house.

 

Homer's spice rack from the Simpsons from Reddit woodworking subreddit

 

Most of the 3D printing enthusiasts I know actually made a transition themselves from laser cutting, it seems, as the DIY and maker space in the UK adopts new technology to create their works. Taking up no more room than a PC and monitor, a 3D printer is portable, efficient and produces designs and pieces that look almost exactly like they were bought from a manufacturer, so it is easy to see the appeal of having this power at your fingertips.

Over 200,000 3D printer users in the UK

Consumer 3D printing has taken on a life of its own in the last few years, with the UK totalling 44% of the total 3D printing demand in Europe, according to Ravi Toor, founder of Filamentive - a company providing sustainable 3D printing materials. In 2021 there were over 200,000 3D printers in the UK, with a predicted market size of >£80m by 2024.

 

UK 3D printer market size in Europe

 

Today, makers and enthusiasts can 3D print everything and anything, using either filament or resin materials that come in endless colours, textures and finishes. The limit truly is your own imagination.

Why 3D print your own boards?

Settlers of Catan is a phenomenon, there's no doubt there, with over 40 million games sold to date. I actually had put off playing the game (as a board game lover myself) with family and friends as I'd heard it can become addictive, and also created more disharmony than playing Monopoly. After many years of Park Lane and Mayfair arguments, I was reluctant to add fuel to the family board game fire.

Nevertheless, in a particularly short summer of 2021, I purchased the game and played it for the first time and became immediately enthralled with the mechanics, playability and entire premise of Catan. After a few hours, not only did I have a superb grasp of the game, I also knew who my enemies and allies were in my family circle. Be that as it may, the game is regularly hauled out at gatherings and thoroughly enjoyed by all. As my love for the world of Catan grows, I have looked at making or purchasing custom board pieces myself, and look forward to playing the expansions, too, which add even further enjoyment to the game.

It seems only fitting that when we enjoy something so much, we want to add our own personal spin on how we play it with our friends and family. Fans of board games like Catan are known to buy deluxe editions, add-ons, expansions, custom pieces and more. For true fanatics, the official 3D version of Catan sells for around £200 in the UK, and you can add further depth to your game with Etsy sellers offering 3D pieces and boards for a relatively low cost.

3D printing a Catan board: Breakdown

Making your own 3D printed board pieces allows you to stamp your own creative twist on the game, and whilst the retail version may cost around £200, you can 3D print it yourself for around the same money if you are sensible with how you do it, and have a good supplier for materials.

 

3D printed Catan board unpainted

Credit: Maisie Reeves

 

Using hollowed out prints and being frugal with the number of trees or scenery you use will matter, for example, as well as using as much cheap material (like MDF) as possible. Most of the tutorials out there include these money-saving ideas, so you shouldn't have much custom work to do yourself (we've listed some of these below)

How much does it cost to 3D print a Catan board?

A finished 3D print of Catan will take around 100 hours (if you have some 3D printing experience), and cost around £300 - £400 for all materials involved. You will use wood, glue, 3D printer PLA filament, primer and paint in the process, which is going to work out cheaper if you can find all of the scenery colours you want in one package from a company like Citadel Colour.

 

3D printed and painted Catan board

 

The process is a labour of love, for sure, and will probably only appeal to those who are really big fans of Catan itself, or if they are giving the 3D print as a gift for a loved one. Regardless, as any maker will tell you, it is the journey and the experience that is most enjoyable - playing the game is just an added bonus!

When you consider the amount of time you will put into such an awesome project, the spending and creating will be spread over a good amount of time, so it isn't a big hit all at once in terms of cost.

If you're a beginner, then you shouldn't let the intricacies of such a large project put you off, either. As you will see from the below results, a total novice can 3D print and paint an entire Catan board using a Creality Ender-3 printer with little to no experience.

 

 

Free Catan STL files

You're not short of STL files for a 3D Catan, if you're going to take on the project, either. Thingiverse lists over 1,100 free STL and 3D Catan files that you can use immediately with your printer. There are other sources for STL files, but from our research, Thingiverse seems to offer the best 3D Catan files, and also the highest number of tutorials based on them.

 

Free Catan STL files on Thingiverse

 

Whilst 3D veterans might be happy winging it, a video showing you exactly what to print and when is ideal. Many of the STL files link to tutorials, but we have listed the best 3D Catan tutorials below that are easy to follow, in English, and use 3D printers you will be familiar with.

Artistic license - the personal touch

Possibly the most important part of the project is going to be deciding which elements are going to be open to artistic license, and let your creativity run wild. There are no dragons on the island of Catan, nor is there any evidence of dinosaurs - but there's nothing stopping you from adding such things. Fearsome mech robots, giant animals roaming the forests, or skyscrapers and swimming pools - it's your choice.

Whilst the mechanics of the game can remain the same, the setting, environments and elements can be anything your heart desires.

Take, for example, 3D enthusiast, Brett Yardley's interpretation of Catan that includes Lord of the Rings elements replete with Middle Earth staples such as the Sauron's pad, Barad-dur.

Barad-dur 3D printed Catan hex board

Further, cast an envious eye over the work of Etsy seller, ChiaHandCraftShop, with a faithful representation of pieces and boards modelled on Game of Thrones:

 

3D Printed Catan Robber Token Dragon

 

3D Print Game of Thrones Themed House Stark for Settlers of Catan

 

Whether you want to include a Starship Cruiser from Star Wars, or a Graboid from Tremors, you really can let your imagination go mad, and truly personalise your next game of Settlers of Catan with the aid of a 3D printer.

Which 3D printer is best?

In terms of cost, speed and ease of use, a filament 3D printer is best to use for a project like this. not only can you choose to buy your filament colours in bulk (or as your budget allows), you will get a very good finish with a decent primer and quality paints.

We recommend the following 3D printers for filament printing: -


Best Budget 3D Printer Under £300: Creality Ender 3 V2 Neo 3D Printer

 

Creality Ender 3 V2 Neo 3D Printer

 

Key Features:

  • Stable Integrated Design
  • CR Touch Automatic Bed Levelling
  • Full-metal Bowden Extruder
  • Quick Assembly
  • Model Preview with New UI
  • Print Speed: 120 mm/hr

View Latest Pricing at CCL


Best Beginner 3D Printer Under £300: Creality Ender-3 S1 3D Printer

 

Creality Ender-3 S1 3D Printer

 

Key Features:

  • Dual-gear Direct Extruder
  • CR Touch Automatic Bed Levelling
  • High-precision Dual Z-axis
  • Dual Y Axis Motors
  • Removable PC Spring Steel Print Sheet
  • Print Speed: 150 mm/hr

View Latest Pricing at CCL


Best 3D Printer For Quality Under £500: Creality Ender 5 Plus 3D Printer

 

Creality Ender 5 Plus 3D Printer

 

Key Features:???????

  • Ultra-large Printing - 350x350x400mm
  • BL-Touch Auto-bed Levelling
  • High-precision Dual Z-axis
  • Extra tempered glass plate
  • Print Speed: 60mm/s-180mm/s

View Latest Pricing at CCL


 

The best 3D Catan board tutorials

With your heart now set on making a personalised Catan board and accompanying pieces, you will be pleased to know that you won't struggle for tutorials.

Dakanzla on Thingiverse

One of the most popular on the internet, Dakanzla's "Catan-style boardgame 2.0 (magnetic & multicolour)" design from 2017 has stood the test of time, and has seen many Reddit posts and prints using the STL files.

 

Dakanzla on Thingiverse

 

Giraffe_Truther 3D printed Catan board)

The ships in the harbour are a lovely little touch, and are testament to the painstaking detail in this build, looking awesome painted or printed with coloured filament.

STL File

Tutorial

 

Beffy5Layer on Reddit r/3Dprinting

One of the most intricate we've seen is this custom build from Reddit user, Beffy5Layer, who frequents the 3Dprinting subreddit. Incredibly, this design took 350 hours of printing using a Creality Ender 5 Plus, and three months of labour, at a cost of $394 USD. That's dedication, but the result is phenomenal. The whole design is a tweaked and customised version of the Catan set by Make Something Epic on YouTube.

The design also comes with a custom case, which really adds to the whole completely personalised project.

 

Custom 3D printed Catan set by Beffy5Layer

 

Custom 3D printed Catan set by Beffy5Layer close up

 

Custom 3D printed Catan set by Beffy5Layer full board

 

Custom 3D printed Catan set by Beffy5Layer custom case

 

Custom 3D printed Catan set by Beffy5Layer inside case

All images credit: u/beffy5Layer

STL Files:

Tutorial

 

JAWong on Thingiverse

Designed to fit inside of the original Catan hex surround, JAWong has amassed quite a following and notoriety for this build. With lots of room for customisation, the STLs are completely free on Thingiverse, and editable once you port them into your 3D editing software such as Blender. As you can see from the printed version below, JAWong's (forest) trees and (ore) mountains really set the whole thing off.

 

JAWong custom Catan board on Thingiverse

 

STL Files

Tutorial

 

Above we have listed the best designs and tutorials we could find on Reddit, Thingiverse and around the internet makerspace, and each can be followed easily using our highlighted Creality 3D printers.

Enjoy!