Because of its very unusual non-zero-sum game mechanic, many economics professors use this game to teach concepts of comparative advantage and other economics concepts.
Since its original release, several related games in the Catan universe have been released, including Starfarers of Catan, Catan: The Settlers of the Stone Age, Catan Histories: Settlers of America, a couple of Themed Stock Board Games (Star Trek Catan based on Star Trek: The Original Series, A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch based on A Song of Ice and Fire) and The Moral Substitute, Settlers of Canaan (not that its creators, who licensed the game legitimately, think the original is immoral; they just wanted to play on a map based on The Bible).
The Settlers of Catan and its expanded universe demonstrate examples of:
- Anti-Hoarding: You can hold as many resource cards as you want in your hand, but if anyone at the table rolls a 7 (which is the single most likely roll on a 2d6) when you have more than 7 cards, you have to discard a full half of them. This encourages the players to spend their resources on buildings quickly or to trade them for others they need. The Cities & Knights expansion allows building ramparts around up to three cities, each adding 2 cards to the maximum. Given the greater number of different resources in this game, building at least one is indispensable.
- Break the Haughty: Being in the lead can be bad; players will stop trading with you, rob you, and generally direct all of their development/progress cards towards keeping you down. In fact, leading the whole game and winning is somewhat of a feat.
- Command & Conquer Economy: Roads, settlements, cities, etc. do not appear by themselves.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Siegfried, even though he is supposed to be some sort of medieval knight. (Not that the two are necessarily incompatible.)
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Mary-Ann has the lowest stats (individual and as a whole) of the computer opponents in the official video games. However, she is one of the toughest opponents thanks to a development-card-heavy strategy that often gets her largest army and a host of victory card points.
- Dark Horse Victory: The game has a tendency to end in this. Especially if a game has been going on for a long time, you had better watch who's in the running for the longest road or the largest army, or if anyone has been hanging on to some unplayed development cards for a long time. If one player approaches 10 points while the others are lagging behind, usually the players start helping each other to get points away from the player in the lead. In fact, it's probably best to say that one of the worst things you can do in the game is get an early, solid lead and become the focus of everyone's wrath for the mid-game.
- Expanded Universe: At the time of this edit, there are: a novel, a computer game with a story, characters with personalities, and a lot of minor characters who appear in the card game and adventure games. Even the robber was made into three characters with their own comics.
- Fourth-Wall Observer: Magistrate William, author of the famous treatise "The World as a Buildup Strategy Game", which proposes that reality is nothing more than a bunch of hexes, cards and dice.
- Gang Up on the Human: Very badly in the first computer game, to the point that all of your opponents will sometimes simultaneously refuse to trade with you when you haven't even had time to make an offer. It's also not uncommon for them to refuse to trade when doing so would clearly be in their best interest, and would even benefit them more than you.
- The computer also focuses a lot more on Development cards than the average human player. As a result, expect a lot more Robbers being moved as the AI will place Knight Cards like there's no more tomorrow. A play-style focused around Development Cards is a lot riskier than typical expansion and city-building, but when all 3 AI do it, there's an increased chance one of them will be successful (and thus you, the human player, will lose).
- Note that computer opponents will refuse to trade with anyone if that individual has 8 or 9 points (on a 10 point game). They will not accept your trade requests, nor accept your offers for when they are making their requests. This can lead to Artificial Stupidity if they refuse to make a trade with you on their turn that would allow them to immediately win.
- Even the most recent computer/phone based game is really bad at this. The AI players will not only turn down your trades, they will even refuse the exact offer that they themselves made just seconds before, even if they made multiple attempts to get the resource in question, even when you offer more resources to still get only one. Basically, the computer will make offers to you, but you cannot make offers to the computer.
- Innocent Innuendo: Pretty much any trade request or statement involving the wood resource. Like, "I have so much wood in my hands right now", or "I have wood for sheep". (Or not innocent... If you actually use the resource names the game provides, that line would be "I have lumber for wool." This is a key reason nobody ever uses those names.)
- Carries over into other languages, too! In Spanish, "paja", the word for hay, can mean... ahem, something else. This leads to exchanges like Te doy una paja por piedra, "I give you one hay in exchange for rock", which can also mean "I'll give you a handjob for crack".
- Kingmaker Scenario: The end-game is often a duel between two players, so the other two players are basically deciding which one wins.
- Patchwork Map: Built randomly from interchangeable hexes.
- Plunger Detonator: In the Xbox Live Arcade version, one of the emote animations shows a player using one of these to blow up the dice. The AI sometimes uses it when it has a run of particularly bad rolls.
- The Quisling: Sometimes encouraged in Cities & Knights when the Barbarians come calling, if it lets you push weaker players under the bus.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: If you've got a lot of a given resource, and it's coveted enough, and you've also got a "Monopoly" development card, you can obtain this effect by trading a lot of goods for that resource, no matter the price, like there's no tomorrow, and then have it all back. Pulling this is guaranteed to grant you the ire and defiance of all the other players, but that's the price for quite literally having your cake and eating it too.
- Supernatural Is Purple: In the card game, the magic-related expansion (Wizards & Dragons) is very purple, the magic resource is purple, and all magic items (e.g. spellbooks) are purple.
- Take a Third Option:
- In Cities & Knights, players have the option of trying to tie or win the war with the Barbarians. Intentionally losing the war becomes a viable option, however, when trying to prevent other players from gaining victory points or progress cards, or causing the player(s) with the least amount of knights to lose a city.
- Unstable Equilibrium: Averted to some extent. As described above under the Dark Horse Victory, one of the worse things you can do is get an early solid lead, as that will just make the other players gang up on you. Typically, the trick to winning is to not look like you're winning.