Settlers of Catan Comprehensive Strategy Guide

Settlers of Catan – Comprehensive Strategy Guide

Base Game (no expansions)

By Preston Derosiers

Whether you’re a new convert or an experienced veteran, the below Strategy Guides host a comprehensive resource of tactical and social strategy to aid your in your quest for ultimate dominance.

Catan is a blend between luck, strategy, and a social element. With this guide, you’ll be prepared to exercise your control over the latter two, while optimizing the former.

Initial Settlement Placements:

Below are the three main factors that are considered for placement, in my order of importance. It’s always a combination of these considerations, but this is my loose ranking:

1. Probability Sums

Have you ever noticed those dots below the numbers?  Each “pip” represents 1/36 chance of that number being rolled.

One of the most important aspects to your first placements is the number of pips that border that intersection. If you have the great fortune of placing on an intersection that borders an 8 (five pips), a 9 (four pips), and a 5 (four pips), you will notice that the sum of the pips on those tiles equals thirteen, the best possible combination. (It could never be more, because two red numbers are not allowed to be placed near one another).

One unfortunate aspect of the Catan 5th edition is that they’ve removed the pips, which might make it harder for new players to quickly calculate the value of an intersection. Below is an example of counting pips in the 4th edition artwork.

2. Number Diversity

There is a reason why you’ve heard the term “not putting all your eggs in one basket” – it can be the source of great misfortune and frustration.

If you are able to start the game with a total of six healthy and different numbers, you are off to an amazing start (i.e. If you had 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10). You will consistently be picking up a card almost every roll.

Existing on too many similar numbers also makes you more susceptible to the robber stealing half your cards. This will become even more apparent once you start raising cities.

(Yes, you may have had a game where putting all your eggs in one basket launched you quickly to victory, but it’s still a less reliable path to success.)

Similarly, tile diversity is an important consideration. Placing two settlements against the same tile makes you incredibly vulnerable to the robber. First, opponent’s searching for a good initial robber placement are more likely to draw their eyes to your precious tile. Second, that kind of resource drought so early in the game will be doubly painful to your expansion efforts.

3. Resource Diversity & Choice

Obviously, it also certainly helps to have decent income on a variety of resources. Yes there is trading, and yes there are ports, but how amazing would it be if you weren’t relying on that as much as as the other players were?

It’s also worth considering that brick and lumber are incredibly important to the initial expansion phase, and it can be very aggravating to not have good access to either at the onset.

4. Expansion Opportunities

You should be thinking not just of which placements are valuable starting spots, but also where you hope to expand and how realistic it will be to reach those spots. Which expansion spots are going to best diversify your resource, number, and tile diversity? See more on this below.

Other Considerations:

1. The specific board

The variable board set up is going to be a huge determining factor in your placement. Is brick going to be incredibly scarce this game?  Maybe it’s worth placing on that “5 brick” hex even if it means sacrificing starting with two red numbers. Not only will that brick be useful for your own building, but also if it’s that valuable you may be able to bargain for multiple cards with it.

2. Predicting opponents’ placements

You need to think carefully about where the other players are likely to choose. This is important not only for thinking about your second placement, but also for your road placements and initial expansion plans. (See Initial Road Placements)

p.s. I have been screwed over a few times by novices who placed very poorly and thus were entirely unpredictable in their placement. I have no advice for overcoming these situations, except maybe to offer them “friendly advice” and hope no one sees your ulterior motives.

Initial Road Placements:

During the Initial Placement Phase, you better be thinking about more than just your first two settlements – you should have at least the third and fourth in mind as well.  It’s a balancing act between pursuing genuinely valuable placements and not being too optimistic (if other players are still placing their first settlements, an “11-pip” or “12-pip” intersection is likely to be claimed by the time the game starts). Set your goal toward those middle-of-the-road placements that are likely to still be up for grabs.

Ports: I rarely place on a port in my initial two placements. Picking up more cards is more important than a trade ratio this early on in the game. Trading among players is much more common in the early-mid game than later, when you will need to be more self-sufficient.

However, a port make a great third or fourth settlement, so you might orient your road accordingly. In general, pointing your initial roads “outward” toward the sea makes it less likely you will be cut off.

Initial Expansion Phase:

This can be a considerably stressful part of the game, particularly if you start the game with an immediate face off for a hot spot.

You should always have a goal of what your next expansion goal is for a new settlement, and you need to be wise in your priorities. The two factors to be considered are a) the placement’s value to you personally, and b) the vulnerability of the location to other players’ expansion.

When is a placement most valuable to you?  If it adds additional resources or numbers to your portfolio. If you start the game with no brick, it would be incredibly helpful to reach a brick tile for your 3rd placement.  Similarly, if you start the game with no access to “5’s”, it’s nice to get on a 5 soon.

If you’ve decided on your third settlement goal and it’s in hot contention, you need to make a big push toward it. This is a crucial phase that will have a big impact on the game, so it’s okay to make some sacrifices for it. I have made some “poor” trades for such placements (2 cards for 1, or even 3 cards for 1), and they set me early on the road to eventually winning.

Whatever you do, do not get distracted with establishing Longest Road at this point in the game. You will be silently judged by any experienced Catan player at the table. What does the Longest Road card do for your momentum? Nothing. Wiser players will just steal it later when you don’t have the resources to sustain it.

If the opportunity to pursue the Longest Road card is there after you have 4 placements, then let’s talk.

Trading:

1. Don’t trade unless it clearly benefits your next goal. Seems like an obvious point, but I see too many newbies disregard it and trade somewhat casually.

2. Don’t trade when you only have one or two cards in your hand. If you only have one card in your hand, you probably don’t have a clearly defined action plan. You are waiting to see what the rolls bring in before your next turn. Making a trade when your hand is so small usually means the other guys is benefiting way more from the trade relative to you. 

Exceptions to Rules 1 and 2:

Relative value. If you know you have zero wheat access, for example, and someone is offering you a wheat for one of your excess lumber… it’s probably best to take the trade. Even if a wheat isn’t immediately needed, or even if you only have a couple cards, one wheat is immensely more valuable to you then one lumber.

Sabotaging other’s trades. (see below)

3. Trading is mutually beneficial. If you see two other people trade with one another, that means they have both advanced their plans and you have not.  That’s bad news.

Sabotaging others’ trades. If you know a trade is inevitable, you may be able to jump in and offer the identical trade. Even if it is neutral to you, you have reduced the number of your enemies that will benefit from that trade (1 enemy benefiting & you remaining neutral > 2 enemies benefiting & you remaining neutral). The decision-maker may actually choose you, especially if the other guy is currently a bigger competitor.

4. Stress their benefit. If someone is reluctant to make a trade with you, don’t be afraid to point out how it will benefit them. “You never get ore, when’s the next time you’re going to get one?”

5. Be proactive. One thing I rarely see new Catan players do is take initiative to trade when it is not their turn. Don’t be afraid to ask the dice-roller what it is their heart desires. (Make it about them rather than about you). Why proactive trading is great for you:

– You may create a trade that would never have crossed their mind

– If there are identical offers on the table, they may be inclined to pick you over another person, since you were first in talks with them. (However, if they are smart, that won’t be a factor)

5. Regarding unbalanced trades. Some would advise against ever making an unbalanced trade, but I disagree. Sometimes an unbalanced trade can bring immense value to you. If you are desperately in need of a wheat in order to build a settlement on that competitive intersection THIS TURN, then make it happen. Start with a regular offer, but work your way up. You never want to appear desperate from the beginning. 

6. Be careful who you trade with. It’s always awkward to see someone trade their friend a lumber, who immediately uses it to cut them off.

7. Don’t trade with people who are 1 or 2 points away from victory. Unless doing so immediately puts you within reach of victory, it’s just a dangerous business.

8. Choosing between two identical trades. When it’s your turn and you are decision maker, with whom do you choose to do business? Don’t be arbitrary, and don’t simply go with whoever offered first. (Or God forbid, don’t pick someone simply because they are sitting closer to you.) Your choice will usually depend on:

– Who is your greatest competitor, relative to you. (Who is vying for the same intersection? Who is trying to beat you to Largest Army?)

– Who is the greatest competitor, period. Who has the most points and/or is on track to victory?

9. Don’t pass the dice until you are certain no one will make your desired trade. This doesn’t mean to extend your turn by 5 minutes of pointless begging. It means getting verbal confirmation from each opponent that they do not have x for sale. Otherwise, you may suffer for other peoples’ lack of attention.

10. You do not need to be honest about what’s in your hand. Since no one is obliged to share information about the content of their hand, when someone asks, “Do you have any brick?” it is assumed that they are asking “Will you trade me any brick?”  Answer with a simple “no” or “sorry.”

Playing your Hand:

Sometimes you need to forsake your original plans in favor of what the gods have given you. Even though I would rather build a settlement on a slightly contentious location, if I have 2 ore, 2 wheat, and 2 brick in my hand; then I am most certainly going to make a trading push to build a city.

Sometimes it’s important to just build something during your turn, because who knows if your cards will even still be there next time the dice come around.

(Caveat: please don’t build pointless roads just because you have the ingredients – save up for a settlement if that’s your next expansion goal. Also don’t necessarily use this as an excuse to buy Development Cards “just cause”)

The Robber placement:

If you are paying attention to the game, you should know within a few seconds of rolling a 7 exactly where you want to place the robber (I have a friend that takes 5 minutes to decide…). The robber’s location can make or break you, and here are some considerations to take into account:

Who do you want to hurt, and what is the best way?  Sometimes this will be the person with the most victory points, and sometimes it will be the greatest competitor relative to you. (Are you competing with someone for longest road? Place it on their “6 lumber”)

Obviously place the robber upon a high value number

Put yourself in their shoes. Which resource do they most need right now? If they are out of settlements and all they can do is build cities, then block their only ore hex

Who is defenseless? If someone has a stack of unused development cards, and you have none, you might think twice before placing the robber on them. Chances are decent it will come right back on you very soon, out of revenge.

– On that vein, if everyone has development cards, you may want to choose the person sitting directly to your right. It will be at least 3 turns before they can move it.

– What card do you need? I would usually place this secondary to the other considerations, because often chance still plays a role here. However, depending on your current hand, how close you are to a big build, and the likelihood of getting the card you want, you may elect to place the robber based on your needs. If I need just one more ore to build my city, and I know for a fact that all 3 cards in your hand are ore, I am definitely stealing from you.

And Finally: If you place the robber on the desert, you can just stop playing now and go home.
Seriously. And if you think it will reap some kind of long-term good will (hint: it only will if you are playing with people exactly like yourself), even the benefit of that won’t outweigh the benefits of placing the robber strategically.

Development Cards:

In a 3-4 person game, there are 25 Development Cards.

14 knights (56%)
5 Victory Points (20%)
2 Road Building (8%)
2 Year of Plenty (8%)
2 Monopoly (8%)

Keep in mind that the probability of what you’ll draw is constantly changing as people draw from the deck. You can’t know what others’ unplayed development cards are, but you are able to keep tabs on cards that have been played.

Knight Cards:

Don’t forget you can play a knight before your turn. It can be useful for getting the robber off your land before you roll the dice.  However, keep in mind that if you proceed to roll a 7, you have kind of “wasted” the knight card, because you would have been able to move the robber off your land anyway. And, you’d have to move the Robber again, onto your “second choice” of where you want it. For this reason, you might consider to wait until you roll. 

Don’t underestimate the Bulldog Effect – If you have an unplayed development card, don’t be afraid to point it out. “If you put the Robber on my land, I will be moving it right back on you in just 2 turns.”  This is more effective if you truly have a knight card and can even show it. However, if your Development Card is something else, bluffing is perfectly acceptable. Oftentimes, your opponent’s would rather not risk it.

*This effect is more powerful early in the game, before multiple players have Development Cards to dilute your Bulldog effect. It is also more useful early in the game due to the “diminishing returns” of resources (A resource earlier in the game is more valuable than a resource later in the game. Tangent: this is because a settlement earlier in the game is more valuable than a settlement later in the game, since it’s lifetime production will be higher). I have played many games where I snagged a Development Card early on, and used the Bulldog Effect to keep my land clear of the Robber during the crucial expansion stage. For this reason I recommend trying to purchase one development card in the first couple of turns, even if the Largest Army is not your primary strategy.

See tips on Robber Placement above

Year of Plenty Card:

How useful is it? This may be the least valuable card, considering that you spent 3 cards to get it, and it only allows you to take two. However, at the right moment, this card can help you make the final push toward a goal. It’s especially helpful if you don’t have access to a very limited resource, and no one is trading it to you.

Do not play this card “just cause” – play it when it will allow you to instantly build something (it can be particularly helpful in erecting a city, which costs 5 cards). There is no reason to leave two very desirable resource cards in your hand for someone to potentially steal. Development cards cannot be stolen.

Road Building Card:

How useful is it? This card can be incredibly helpful earlier in the game, particularly if you don’t have great access to lumber and brick. However, there is nothing more annoying that drawing a Road Building card toward the end of the game when you have nowhere to expand geographically (or no reason to). Then again, if you are trying to steal Longest Road card (or protect it) near the end of the game, this card can be the perfect ingredient for a surprise victory.

Tip: If you want to build a road and purchase a development card in the same turn, buy the development card first. You might draw a Road Building card. (While you can’t use a Development card on the same turn that you bought it, the knowledge of having one may alter how you spend your resources – maybe you save that brick and lumber for a settlement next turn)

Be smart with the timing of this card. If you need three roads to cut someone off and reach a valuable intersection, wait until you can also purchase a third road in the same turn. Heading in that direction without cutting them off alerts them to your plans, and if they are capable of reacting, the two roads you just built may become useless.

Monopoly Card:

Timing: A lot of internet wisdom suggests that you should only play this card near the end of the game, but I don’t believe you should dogmatically adhere to that. Sometimes this card is your key to claiming a valuable intersection in the crucial expansion phase. It’s not necessarily about the number of cards you are harvesting with it, but the value of what you will be able to do with it. Claiming a valuable 11-pip intersection for your third or fourth placement (and keeping other’s from having it) can have a lot of payoff for the rest of the game.

Benefits to biding your time: There is also a lot of wisdom in waiting. Later in the game when people have more placements and more cities, resource production is much higher. By then you are also more likely to have a port, which can sometimes make the Monopoly card more versatile. If you time it right, the Monopoly card can launch you ahead multiple points in one turn, getting you to 10.

Psychological effect. In addition, some argue, if you play the Monopoly card too early, all the players will harbor ill will toward you for the entire rest of the game. Keep in mind who you are playing with and how they will react. Most of the people I play with are too smart to let their emotions control their judgment. The Monopoly Card is simply part of the game, just like the Robber, and won’t make me hold a grudge.

Pay attention to what’s been rolled and what’s been spent. It is always awkward to watch someone play the Monopoly card and get ZERO resources out of it. Counting cards is one of the more difficult skills of Catan to master, but it is perhaps the most valuable to develop. You should at least have a good idea of the last four numbers that have been rolled, allowing you to estimate which cards are in people’s hands.

Dirty tricks: If you ask around pretending you are looking to do a trade, then play the Monopoly card, you probably will earn ill will from even the more rational people. It’s just best to pay attention, then you don’t need to use this technique.

Largest Army and Longest Road Cards:

It can be difficult to win a game without owning one of these two cards (though it certainly still happens). If you don’t have any of them, it usually means your competitors do, and you have that much more catching up to do with regular points.

Detailed advice on incorporating these cards into a larger game strategy is offered below (“The Big 3” Strategies). Some additional information can be found here:

Which one to pursue? When picking which one of these cards to pursue, keep in mind other players’ capabilities to compete with you, as well as their current progress. Don’t pour resources into a battle you will never win.  Sometimes you need to face reality and change your plan based off of another’s clear momentum.

Distinguish between solid points and flexible points. When you are counting victory points on the board and sizing up the competition’s progress, don’t limit your analysis to strict VP numbers. Keep in mind that the Longest Road card can usually switch hands fairly quickly. The Largest Army card gives you a little more time to see it coming, but it too is vulnerable to be taken.

When I am sizing up my opponents, their “solid points” – how many VP strictly from settlements and cities is what I look for first. This also indicates their momentum, because the more solid points they have, the greater their resource production is. Don’t be afraid to vocalize these observations when it benefits you.

Largest Army Card:

– Between the two cards, the Largest Army card is more “secure” – because it takes longer to be stolen from you. Since each player can only play one Knight Card per turn, you can usually see them coming up behind you, and stay on top.

– Pursuing the Largest Army also gives you the added benefit of power over where the Robber spends his time. Longest Road has less of a “side-effect” benefit.

Longest Road Card:

– It’s said here multiple times, and I’ll say it again: Do not become obsessed with the Longest Road card above all else. Roads do not produce resources, and by pouring valuable resources early in the game into a vulnerable 2 points card, you are sacrificing all of the benefits of constructing settlements or cities early in the game. Without momentum, this card will just be stolen from you by wiser, more patient, players. 

– Always keep an eye on the number of roads still in your stock, as well as the number of eligible placements left on the board for your road. One or the other may cap you off, and allow another player to surpass you.

– On that note, later in the game, if you are building a road simply to extend your road length towards its full potential, place it on the more vulnerable spot among your options. (Which location is more likely to be cut off or taken by another player soon?)

The “Big 3” Strategies

In the Catanian tradition, you will hear about three main “strategies” that players may choose to set themselves up for victory. Oftentimes, a player may be known to favor one of these over another. But in many cases, the board setup and the Initial Placement phase may choose one for you.

1. Lumber-Brick Strategy (Outward Expansion):

In this strategy, you decide from the outset that you want to get the Longest Road Card. You place high on lumber and brick (also making sure you have access to sheep and wheat), and your primary method of expansion is “outward expansion” – spreading across the board to get on new numbers and resource types.

Pros:

– This sets you up well for the initial expansion phase, which is an incredibly important part of the game. You will be more likely than other players to nab those valuable 3rd or 4th placement picks. It gives you more power in cutting people off from their expansion goals.

– The more geographically spread out you are, the less vulnerable you are to the robber

Cons:

– Betting on getting Longest Road card before the placements have even finished is a very risky business. You don’t know where the other players are going to start; it could foil you from connecting your two placements, if that was your plan. (You obviously don’t need to do so to connect to get Longest Road, but it can help). They may even incidentally block you in on both fronts, severely limiting your road-length potential.

– In some ways you may still be more vulnerable to the Robber, if you are unable to purchase Knight cards to keep him off your land.

Tips:

– If you are going to play this strategy, don’t be too over eager in getting the Longest Road card right away (see Longest Road Card). Expanding to your 3rd/4th placements is more important at first.

– Always be mindful of how many settlements you have left to build. It’s always awkward to watch someone pay for a settlement, then realize they have none to buy. Since there are only 5 settlements in your stock, plan accordingly for a city at some point.

2. The Ore-Wheat-Sheep Strategy (Upward Expansion):

In this strategy, you decide from the outset that you want to pursue Largest Army. Your primary method of expansion is “upward” expansion” – upgrading those settlements into cities. And who knows, in all those development cards, maybe you’ll get lucky and find some free Victory Points…

Pros:

– The Knights give you more power over the Robber’s location, which is sometimes crucial to ensuring your resource production. You can even use unplayed knight cards as a “bulldog” to scare people from even placing the Robber on you in the first place.

– In being the first to upgrade to cities, you are more likely to be getting more cards quicker. More cards is more power.

– The Largest Army card is harder to steal than Longest Road. If Largest Army is your “initial foundation” to secure 2 bonus points, sometimes you can sweep in at the end of the game and unexpectedly steal Longest Road as well. Usually doesn’t work as easily in reverse, since acquiring and playing knights is a slow process.

Cons:

– If you are less spread out geographically, and get a lot of your income from just a few tiles, you are more vulnerable to the Robber in that sense. To be honest though, the knights usually compensate for this.

– Getting more resources all at once also makes you more vulnerable to a 7 roll, since it’s harder not to hoard.

Tips:

– Make sure that while you are busy expanding upward, the expansion around you does not block you in from ever building more settlements. You can win with 4 cities and the Largest Army card, but you need to have a place for those 4 cities to go.

3. The Middle of the Road strategy:

The idea behind Option 3 is that sometimes it’s too hard to tell early in the game which strategy is going to be a better pick. Some board setups are not quite conducive to one or the other. The Middle of the Road strategy tries to initially walk the line between those two, and takes into account the changing winds of the game.

Pros:

– Having this mindset (even if not this strategy) will keep you flexible.

– Sometimes it’s best to see what the gods give you in the First Act of the game before electing a course.

– If you play it just right – and with a little bit of luck – you may actually get both Longest Road and Largest Army (though it’s best not to rely on that).

Cons:

– Most often, you will need either the Longest Road or Largest Army card to win. If you wait too long, you will get neither.

– If you are not careful, you will divert your resources into two separate strategies, and fail at both.

Tips:

– Once you have 4-5 points, you should have an idea of your most efficient path to victory. At that stage, pick it and stick with it.

Social Strategies:

The great thing about Catan is that it’s also a social game, and unless you are playing with 100% left-brain analytical nerds, you can use this social element to your advantage. Below is a listing of various social tips:

Tips to Deflect Attention:

Keeping the spotlight off of yourself can be an incredibly important piece of winning, though it does become more difficult the more skillful your opponents are. Brilliant and attentive players are going to be aware of everything regardless of what social tricks you pull. Fortunately for you, not everyone is brilliant and attentive.

Don’t broadcast your accomplishments.  If you just built a city and people were busy in conversation so they didn’t even notice… awesome. The quieter your turn is, the better. Similarly, try not to get too excited when an 8 is rolled and you get to pick up four Ore cards.

Don’t take too long on your turn. Not only does this keep everyone’s eyes on your activity and plans, it will also drive the other players crazy.

Complement other players on their accomplishments. Not only does this cast you as an amiable and kind settler, it also brings everyone’s attention to the fact that this player just advanced one step closer to victory. What’s great is that I can genuinely say these things, because I am happy on some level that they’re doing well. A game is more fun if your friends are having fun.

Sound the alarm. Don’t be afraid to point out that another player is dangerously close to winning, especially if people seem unaware of the fact. Using discretion, it can also be helpful to drop tongue-in-cheek comments throughout the game like “Kyle has 4 points, don’t trade with him.” You are just joking, but you are still drawing attention to his advancement. Be careful though, and don’t overdo it. Talk too much this way, and you’ll actually draw more attention back onto yourself.

Poker Face:

When you are being robbed. If someone is stealing a card from your hand, first, quickly shuffle your cards. If you had just picked up that precious wheat and placed it on the edge of your hand… they may have noticed. Then, quickly memorize what’s in your hand. Only then, extend your cards to him facedown, so that there is zero possibility they will get a subtle facial reaction from you.

If someone is deciding where to put the Robber, don’t look at your most valuable tile, where you think they will put it. Look at another great option on the board that would be smart for them, but harmless to you. This is a long shot, but I swear this has worked for me on rare occasions.

Similarly, if someone is deciding where to place a new road or settlement, and one of their options is harmful to you… Don’t stare at that option!  Stare at the location when you want them to place it. It’s subtle, but it’s worth a shot. It seems absurd, but I also swear this has had an influence in some games, at least on newer players. Subconsciously, I think their mind wants to take cues from other players as to what is a wise decision.

Paying Attention:

Paying attention is another key ingredient to success.

Be constantly aware of other players’ status and plans. Put yourself in their shoes so that you can anticipate their next move, and also how you can harm them most effectively. What does your opponent want right now?

Counting Cards. This is probably the last skill a Catan player ever perfects, probably because it takes immense practice to develop. But it would give you an incredible edge if you were able to tell me exactly what cards are in anyone’s hand at any given moment. Just think of the possibilities:

– You could anticipate exactly what they’ll do with the card you trade them

– You would be very effective with the Robber, whether your goal is to hurt someone or steal a particular card. (Pay attention to where people place their new cards in their hand, particularly on the roll immediately before your turn, in case you roll a 7 or plan to play a knight card)

– You would be a boss at the Monopoly Card

– You would have a better gauge of how successful your opponent is about to be

Probability Pitfalls:

If you were paying attention in stats, you probably remember a question like: “If a penny is flipped ten times and comes up Heads ten times, then what is the probability that the 11th flip will be Heads?”  You know this one, right?  THE ANSWER IS 50%!!!!!!!!!!!

“But 3’s have been rolled so much this game, so I should definitely put the robber on his 3 hex!” FALSE.  There is no such thing as “hot numbers” with a pair of dice (unless they are weighted…). So as far as planning goes, the best you can go off is common probability, even if the actual rolls don’t end up matching that.

The Most Important Principles of Catan:

#1 – Be unstoppable. Nearly all of the advice in this strategy guide is oriented toward the singular goal of becoming unstoppable. You will need to reach a point of self-sufficiency around the 6-7 point mark, because that’s when you will find it much harder to score trades. Part of this is because other players are also becoming more self-sufficient, and thus need your trades less. You always want to be the one who is the least reliant on others for momentum.

Another element of this is of course to keep other players from becoming unstoppable. If another player has 7 points and incredible momentum, it’s really just a ticking clock until they win. You need to prevent that from happening.

As far as timing goes, it is an art to hit that sweet spot where you gain unstoppable momentum at the same moment (or earlier) that people stop trading with you. I discourage claiming Longest Road or Largest Army too early on. It attracts unwanted attention much too soon. This is also why you should be taking steps to deflect attention.

#2 – Be flexible. No game of Catan is the same, which is one of the beauties of it. The gameplay is dynamic and your tactics will need to evolve based on how the game unfolds. All of the strategy above is simply advice to give you a foundation; when it comes down to it you get to make a lot of fun judgement calls.

Did you enjoy this Strategy Guide? Awesome – don’t share it. Keep it to yourself.

COMING SOON: Additional strategies and advice for Catan Base Game 5-6 Player Extension

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3 thoughts on “Settlers of Catan Comprehensive Strategy Guide

  1. I have like a standard group of players that I’m playing with. One guy is always heading for the Chinese Wall – he wants to build roads so they split the land and expansion opportunities for others – wgile getting the Longest road with simuktaneously preventing others from stealing it. It works, and it’s freaking annoying too.
    I would say that a prefect counter for this is
    Buying the Seafarers expansion. And when playing make sure you expand to the sea, so he will have no chance of cutying you off.
    But when you play against such a player in the base game – good luck losing from him.

  2. Very nice comprehensive approach to strategy with Catan. Well thought out and explained.
    The “Tip” about the Road Building card isn’t quite logical, since you cannot use a development card the same turn that you buy it.
    Also, with regard to the previous comment, if a player extends his road to cut Catan in half, but doesn’t build Settlements along the way, you can cut across him, build your own settlement on his road, and cut his road into pieces (often causing him to lose the Longest Road card).
    I don’t usually play “competitively”… We have a couples game night from time to time and trading often comes down to pressure from one spouse to the other. In this situation, placing the Robber on the Desert during the game has been a necessity from time to time 😛 Still fun, but not as cut throat! I keep reminding them that “what happens in Catan, stays in Catan”. Maybe I’ll try a tournament some day…

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