The Robber is the notorious villain on the island of Catan. Since the beginning, the Robber, descended from the strongest legionnaire of the Roman army and possibly even from Neanderthals, has been spreading trouble across the isles of Catan. Unlike the other barbarians, the Robber has been there the entire time; a lone vagrant seeking wealth from those who possess it.
Some say that the Robber established a base in the desert soon after the very first settlement, Candamir, was built on Catan. Others state that the Robber came only later when the rival powers came to divide the island. Either way, the original threat of the Robber disappeared once the cities of Catan were established and settled. However, when the first barbarians invaded the land, robbery returned and, it is said, the Robber of old returned once more to ravage the lands of Catan. None truly know who the Robber is, but it is certain that the base of the Robber lies somewhere deep in the Catanian desert, a place that settlers have long avoided because of its harsh soil and dangerous climate.
A Brief History of the Robbers of Catan Edit
No doubt, Catan players have held him in his hands countless times - the robber. Until 2002, he used to appear in the shape of a black, lathe-turned game piece, to plague the terrains of Catan and stall their resource production. If credence can be given to what people told me in e-mails I received during those years, it was a time when the robber caused more than just raised tempers. Even marriages are purported to have broken up because of him.
The truth is that the robber is a harmless fellow who is merely taken advantage of by the players, for the sake of their own benefit. He is pushed around from terrain hex to terrain hex, unable to escape his sometimes quite harsh destiny. What happens is that the robber doesn't always end up safely in the box after a game. Many e-mails sent to Kosmos Verlag during the past years that were bemoaning the loss of the robber reported a bitter end for the fellow in black.
For example, it seems that he was swallowed by dogs, which surely happened because he was touched with hands still sticky from clasping burgers and fries. Children, not knowing anything about his importance, apparently threw him into the toilet and sent him on a long journey through the sewer pipes. Some robbers experienced a hot finale in the fireplace, and others were simply lost.
To me, the robber never was the villain many people see in him. Actually, I always saw him as a group of three harmless, maybe even likeable robbers.
I materialized this perception in 1997, when I created the game piece “Teuber’s Robbers,” as it was called later. Based on my wax model, several thousand pieces were cast in plastic and painted in China. Later they were given away for free at various events.
The game piece “Teuber’s Robbers” was very coveted; therefore, in 2006, I decided to rework it and commissioned a German manufacturer of pewter figures to cast and paint the pieces. Since then, they are available for everyone at the Catan Shop.
The robbers had matured, and each of the three cronies had been given his own distinctive character. Now the idea of telling little stories suggested itself – stories that would make the daily routines of the robbers on Catan come alive. As an introduction, I would like to familiarize you a bit with the robbers’ personalities.
Chef - The gang boss is called “Chief.” Chief is a sly leader who takes care of his group as long as it works to his advantage. However, if his own interests are threatened, charity begins at home.
Lucky - Lucky is a bit slow and, thus, more of the naïve type. He is the unlucky fellow of the group. But he is good-hearted and couldn’t harm anybody, not even a sheep.
Bert - Bert is always hungry, which is why not getting enough to eat is his greatest concern. He is sluggish and is not exactly crazy about work. His favorite dish is – how could it be otherwise – roast lamb.
I hope that the comics give you an idea of the sometimes pretty tough life of the robbers on Catan, so that next time a “7” is rolled you are not too mad at the three fellows blocking the production of your terrains.
In The Settlers of Catan, the Robber begins the game in the desert hex. However, as the game continues, the Robber moves to other hexes. Whenever a "7" is rolled on the dice (and it is rolled quite often due to it being the most frequent combination), the Robber strikes. The player who rolled the number takes the Robber and moves it to a hex of his or her choice. That player then steals a resource or commodity from the hand of one of the opponents bordering that hex. Until another "7" is rolled or another situation occurs where the Robber may be moved, the hex on which the Robber stands does not produce any resources or commodities. If the number is rolled, that terrain hex produces nothing. Once released from the desert, the Robber may be moved back to it if a benevolent player feels it is an appropriate action. Both the Knight card and Tiered Knights can force the Robber to move, as well as numerous other mechanics available in various scenarios.
Catan: Cities & Knights has an extra provision (a variant, if you will) that allows for the Robber to only come to Catan when the first Barbarian invaders land.
Friendly Robber Edit
Some may say that the Robber has become soft over the years. Regardless, if players choose to use only the "Friendly" Robber, then the Robber should not attack or block the hex of any player that only has the starting amount of Victory Points (2 in the base game) or less. Once a player earns an additional Victory Point, all bets are off and the Robber is free to wreak havoc.