Play Settlers of Catan on the internet

published on • last edited on

In an ever more globalized world where people become increasingly mobile, it is likely that you have friends whom you can’t meet easily because they live far away from you. At times you might not even be allowed to meet with people who live close by, as we’ve all experienced in the recent past …

Thanks to technological progress and the wide availability of the internet, however, it is very easy nowadays to chat or have (video) calls1 to connect with people whom, for whatever reason, you can’t see in person.

But why not play “The Settlers of Catan” with your friends and family over the internet for a change?


Pioneers is a free software computer game modeled after the ever popular “The Settlers of Catan” board game. It employs a client-server architecture, where one game participant hosts the game, while everyone else joins him or her. The host has a little bit more work to do, but is rewarded by being able to set the rules of the game.


Regardless of whether you’re the host or a client, you will have to download and install Pioneers. You can either download it from their website or — as the game is packaged for most Linux distributions — install it from the official repositories via the command line or any graphical interface of your choice. On Debian-based distros2 simply execute the following two commands on the Terminal:

$ sudo apt-get update
# you'll be asked for your user password
# just type it out (you won't see it) and hit Enter
$ sudo apt-get install pioneers

Setting up the host

If you’re not hosting the game, you can skip this section and jump here directly.

Start the Pioneers game. You should see a screen similar to this:

Pioneers welcome screen

Choose your username freely.

Now, you have to decide whether you want to play over your local network (e.g. home wifi) or over the internet. If you choose to play over your local network, only computers connected to this local network will be able to join you.

Local network

To host a Pioneers game on the local network, click on Create Game. You should see a window similar to this:

Pioneers game setup local

Customize the game to your liking. Make sure to not tick Register server if you want to host the game locally. Once you’re done, take note which Server port is specified and click Start Server. This should lead you to the following screen:

Pioneers running local server

This indicates that your server is up and running. Now all you have to do is wait for clients (other players and yourself) to join. For a guide on that, jump to the client section.


To host a Pioneers game on the internet, select the metaserver and hit Join Public Game. A window like the following should open up:

Pioneers metaserver overview

Click on New Remote Game. Another window should open and look similar to this one:

Pioneers game setup

Now feel free to setup the game rules as you wish. Once you’re done, click Create.

You will be immediately redirected to a game board. Take a look at the Messages field and search for a message like this one:

xx:xx:xx New game server requested on port 5561

Take note of the port and share it with the people you want to play with. This will help them to identify the game they should connect to. And this they should do fairly quickly as the server automatically assigns computer players to the game after one minute.

Connecting to a hosted game

If you want to host a game, please refer to this section.

To join a hosted Pioneers game, please start a Pioneers client. You should see a window closely resembling this:

Pioneers welcome screen 2

By now, your host should have told you

  • whether the game is played on the local network or on the internet,
  • which port it is hosted on, and
  • if the game is played on the internet, on which metaserver it is hosted.

Local network

If the Pioneers game is hosted on the local network, your Pioneers client should automatically detect it:

  • If the box next to the Avahi text is not greyed out, select the item from the dropdown menu which ends with :<port number your host has told you>, and hit Join. Continue here.
  • If the box is greyed out, ask your host whether his Pioneers server is running already.


Select the Metaserver which your host has chosen for you and click on Join Public Game. A new window similar to this one should open up:

Pioneers metaserver overview

Select the game with the same port as the one your host has provided you with and click Join.

Enjoy the game!

Congratulations! You’re ready to play Settlers of Catan on your local network or over the internet!

Every connected player should see a screen somewhat like this one now:

Pioneers game

Don’t worry if the map looks different - that’s something every player can change in his/her personal settings. Hopefully, you’ll also have more players connected than just one (compare the Player summary).

From here on the game is fairly self-explanatory (especially if you know the original board game): In the bottom left, each player is being told what he or she has to do. In this case, I am Waiting for my turn. Just try to coast along with what the game tells you3.

If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do, please consult the Pioneers player’s manual.

Other than that, have fun!

  1. Please avoid proprietary apps for doing so. ↩︎

  2. Raspbian works as well, in case you want to play from a RaspberryPi. ↩︎

  3. One hint I am going to give away to those who read footnotes: the Legend which you can find under the Game menu entry is very helpful. ↩︎