27 Feb 2014

Settlers of Catan: My own big box solution

I love Settlers of Catan, and especially its many brilliant expansions. But with a game that you can mix and match bits and pieces, playing a ton of different scenarios, storage can become a bit of a hassle, especially if you want to keep your options open, but don't fancy having a major clean-up involving multiple boxes every time you play a game (or taking lots of time to set a game up). I've trialed and error'd my way, using utility boxes, labelled zip-lock bags, all of it to simplify setting up and clearing away the game, as well as making the game easier to bring along with me. And I can now proudly say that I've found a way to put the game and all its expansions into one single box (or, well... case).

First, let me point out what I own in the Catan series;
- Settlers of Catan
- The 5 & 6 player expansion for the base game
- Seafarers
- The 5 & 6 player expansion for Seafarers
- Cities & Knights
- The 5 & 6 player expansions for Cities & Knights
- Traders & Barbarians
- Explorers & Pirates

As you can see, there's quite a lot of components to keep track off. So, how did I manage to fit all of that into one single box? Well, I bought an aluminum case at a local utility shop. It was nice and spacious, while also not feeling too big or heavy to bring around.

The case itself doesn't really look all that flashy right now (I hope to decorate it a little bit later on, so that it becomes more than just a practical way of storing this game). It's hard to see the content in the photo, so here's a more illustrative picture of how I have organized all the components to make it as simple as possible to set up and play regardless of version:

So, let me go through the letters (and offer additional photos where I have them).

A) In the entire left compartment of the case is where I have stored the board frames for all versions of Catan (apart from Explorers and Pirates, which I will get back to further down), reference tiles for all versions of Catan (apart from Explorers and Pirates), goods and development cards for Cities & Knights (you might spot the shine of the zip-lock bag I have wrapped around them to keep them in place) and the metropolis framework and the barbarian ship track, the Rivers of Catan scenario tiles, as well as all the cards from Traders & Barbarians.

B) The top two utility boxes in the middle column (in the two photos above) mostly contain the general components for the game and main expansions, like number tiles, dice, robber/pirate/etc, catan tokens, as well as the components for all the different scenarios offered in Traders & Barbarians, sorted to make it as easy as possible to find the required components for any scenario.

C) The majority of the middle column are the utility boxes where I store the game pieces for the the base game, Seafarers and Cities & Knight. If you open the larger image you will see very clearly how everything is sorted, with roads, houses, cities, boats, metropolis, walls, knights, helmets & tiles in separate compartments. The knights are sorted according to strength, so it's very easy to play the game out of these utility boxes and it makes the clean-up so much simpler.

D) At the very bottom of the middle column are the resource and development cards for the base game. In the image above you can see both those and the Cities & Knights cards in all their zip-lock glory. I use those bags to keep the cards in place (there's no point in organizing if all the components are just going to be flying around the minute you move the case).

E) You don't see much of the lid in the illustrative image, but there's a make-shift compartment in the lid, and here I store two main things. There's the manuals for all of the versions of Catan, and in the green folder we have all the frame pieces for the Explorers & Pirates (as they were pretty lumpy compared to the other framework).

F) Here you see all the components belonging to the Explorers & Pirates expansion (since that particular expansion isn't directly compatible with every other version). I didn't have enough utility boxes right now to divide the player pieces into separate boxes, so right now they are sorted with two colours in each box (which still makes it possible for players to play out of the boxes, they just need a bit more deliberate seating arrangement to make it work). The other utility box contains all the general pieces for the different scenarios of this expansion. I have also stored all the board tiles for this particular expansion, as well as scenario cards, score tracks and so forth in this section.

G) Finally in the bottom right corner we have all the board tiles. Also, here I've been very deliberate with their placement. The stack to the left are the base game tiles, to the right we have the 5&6 game tiles, as well as all the Seafarer tiles. To the top of the section we have the three bonus point cards (Longest Road, Mightiest Army, Harbor Master) and above those we have the Traders & Barbarians special tiles.

Now, it may look like this meticulous organizing of mine will just fall apart the minute I carry the case anywhere, but actually I've done several shake tests to make sure everything actually stays in place. For anyone wanting to emulate my set-up, here's what you need:

- 1 case (found here)
- 8 large utility boxes (third item on this page)
- 3 medium utility boxes (second item on this page) - alternatively you could go with 1 medium and 4 small boxes (first item on this page).
- 2 zip-lock bags (or regular ones, it doesn't have to be zip-lock)
- 1 folder (plastic, so that you can regulate the size easier)

It may not look pretty right now, but it's dead practical, and pretty will come later when I add some decorations.


  1. Looks good, but the links are dead. Would you mind updating them? :)

    1. Updated the links, looks like the store did some changes :)

  2. As I see, I can't buy them on the web. I'm from Spain, so... :(

  3. Aww, that sucks, but perhaps you can find a local store that carries something similar. The boxes I use are meant for storing assortments of nails, screws and the like, so search your local utility stores and see if you can find an alternative that works for you.

  4. Here they're much more expensive. Thank you for the post anyway :)

  5. Could you post the sixe (large, width, height) of the case and the plastic boxes, please?