Settlers of Catan – Tips and Strategies For the Basic Game
One of the great things about Settlers of Catan and its variable setup is that each game is different. Each session is a new puzzle to solve to determine the best way to exploit the resources of Catan. Here are some fundamental principles to help you determine the best way to settle Catan.
The first and foremost strategy principle is: Resource production is everything, and (contrary to what your first perception of Catan may be) resource variety is secondary, possibly even trivial. When choosing your starting location or which direction to expand to, your first priority is to chose a location which will produce the most resources. I often tell newbies that are unsure of how to place their starting settlements is to look for the intersection that has the most dots. It works for newbies, and the strategy for advanced players isn’t that much different.
Many players believe that having access to all five resources is the way to go. But if you have suboptimal resource probabilities, it isn’t going to help. What you should focus on is having number variety, not resource variety. By number variety, what I mean is having production on the widest variety of possible die rolls. Of course, focus on the highest probability numbers first.
In my starting placement, the dream scenario is to have production on a 6, 8, 9, and 5. It doesn’t matter what the resources are. It’s rare to be able to find placement that provides that, so I usually settle for 3 out of 4 of the aforementioned highest producing numbers. Having a variety of the top numbers ensure consistent resource production, regardless if the dice trend one way or the other. It doesn’t matter if all of those hexes are sheep, I’d rather have quantity over quality. The surplus resources can always be traded and turned into what you want somehow. There’s no such thing as a worthless resource.
The second priority after number variety is to optimize my production through ports. I look for positions with two high producing hexes of the same resource near its matching port. Do not start on the port, the lack of resource production early in the game will cripple you. But, make it a priority to build to the port later.
Having a port helps make you self sufficient. Being self sufficient is better than having to trade to get what you need. Other players will only trade if the deal helps them, making trades win-win. I’d much rather just me win instead of win-win, so I look to the ports to help become self sufficient. Once you have obtained diversity in production numbers, then take a look at what resources you happen to have. There are two main strategies that flow depending on what resources you are strong in:
Settlements and roads: If your strong in wood and brick, this will make settlement production easy, and road production natural. Longest road will be a big part of your winning strategy.
Cities and development cards: If you’re stronger in ore and grain, this is the way to go. All things being equal, if your choice is between focusing on a new settlement or upgrading a city, then upgrade into a city. Generally, spots where you already have a settlement are superior to spots without settlements; otherwise you would have not placed your settlement there. It is better to double up on good production than to expand into mediocre production.
Ultimately, be flexible go where the resources lead you. Set a goal to each turn build something. Each turn get something on the board. Even if it is just a road. It’s better to get a good thing on the board now than the best thing on the board on a later turn.
When trading, whether you are trying to get a city or a settlement, do whatever it takes to get what you want this turn, even if it is an unfavorable trade for you. It is better to have an expensive settlement now than a cheap settlement later. If you miss the chance to build on a ten, then nothing but tens will be rolled and you’ll have missed your opportunity. I hope these tips were helpful. May all your Catan settling be prosperous, and game with honor!