DIY Settlers

Settlers of Catan is a great game. If you haven’t played it before, there’s a Java version on the web, which is cool but lacks the colonial board game feel of the real thing. If you want to be historically accurate, though, you’re going to need to hand-make a set of your own. Better yet, make a set and give it to someone with whom you like to play Settlers. Here’s my method: 
You’re going to need some resources. normally these come as cards. cards are great game components but for that earthy feel, you’ll want to substitute little objects that represent the resource in question.Wood, for instance, will be little twigs. Two inches is long enough- try not to make them all the exact same size! Also, don’t accidentally use a stickbug, as shown here. By the time you try applying shellac, you will know if you have made this common error.
Rocks are another resource. I borrowed a few pounds of garden stones from the parking lot of Ruby Tuesday’s in Lexington Park near St. Mary’s. Light grey is a good color. Make sure you wash them really good, scrub out the dirt and alfredo sauce.
You’ll also want wool. It’s up for debate whether sheep represent mutton or wool, but since it would be a little tasteless to ask someone to play a game incorporating raw meat, I decided to go with little spools with yarn wrapped around them. I don’t know what other use there could possibly be for these little spools, but god knows they sell them everywhere.
To represent wheat, we’ll use seeds. Sunflower seeds are pretty much the easiest kind to get. Pick out the half-opened seeds and toss them. If you eat a lot of oranges or cherries, go with that. In either case use shellac if you’ve got it. You want at least 20 of these for a standard four player game. In England, seeds are called “pips”.
Bricks are most easily represented by little clay bricks. Go get some red earth clay and make little bricks. Close to uniform is okay, identical is boring. You should be able to stack them into a reasonably cool-looking “bombed out Maginot line” type scene. Congratulations, you’re done with this part of your game. Don’t you feel resourceful?
Unfortunately, you’re going to need some development cards. Now, ideally, you’ll find out what cards come in this deck and make them out of thick parchment-stock and use your printing press to pump them out. If you don’t have a printing press, buy this deck off of the internet for $10.
For settlements and cities, find some wooden knobs, carve some wooden houses, or slice up some thick dowels. I’ve done all three in the past. These are like monopoly houses and hotels, only cooler.
For roads, you want wooden dowels. 1/4″ is good. They didn’t use the metric system in the new world, so don’t sweat the millimeters. Cut these to an appropriate size. Bear in mind they need to be able to fit between a city and the next vertex over on the board. They won’t need to fit directly in between two cities, though, unless you play by some crackhead home rules.
You’ll want some wood stain. If you’re worried about trying to stain those tiny roads and settlements, go with markers. You want 4 easily distinguishable colors in all. Use lots of coats and then spray with matte acrylic finish, since these will get handled a whole lot in the course of play.
The hexagon tiles are freaking tough. If you can’t find ceramic tiles, get a really accurate template and cut some out of wood. Recall that you’ll need 19 for the land tiles, and 13 more for the ocean hexes if you do them. And they all need to fit together perfectly. You’ll have enough clay left over from the bricks if you want to try that, but that’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your entire life. (You’ll need a ruler and an excellent mold)
You’ll need some extra pieces, which should be easy if you’ve done all the other stuff. Dice, obviously. Pieces to represent the ‘Longest road’ and ‘Largest army’ markers. Do not forget to print out a rulebook and some building cards before you try to play. I did that. You want a robber piece, and a bunch of lettered and numbered tokens to place on the tiles. It’s nice, but not imperative, to have small wooden bowls or boxes to hold your resources. All of these are clearly best made out of organic type stuff, rocks and wood especially. Don’t try to make a rulebook out of rocks.

this is all easy to customize to suit your needs. swirled sculpey makes good textures for the hexagons (though paint also works), you might want to do different natural wood stains (clear/oak/cedar/black) for your player colors or maybe you want to make the whole thing out of legos. up to you. have a blast!