I am a very competitive person by nature. Whenever I get into a game, I strive to win. But how to win at Catan? There are many strategy guides online, but most of them are way too long and in-depth theoretical for a casual player to read. Ain’t nobody got time for that, right? 🙂
Introduction to A Brief Guide of How to Win at Catan
Luckily for you, I do have that time. So, I studied the guides from all over the internet, threw some personal experience in it, and here it is: my winning guide for Settlers of Catan.
My guide is designed to make you a better Catan player in just 10 minutes. It contains all the vital parts you need, without the unnecessary ballast. The guide is focused on whats and hows and not on the analysis of whys.
Disclaimer: This guide assumes that you are familiar with basic gameplay mechanics and have some gameplay experience. Game mechanics and rules will not be discussed here. But since you probably already played a game of two of Catan, that shouldn’t be a problem and the guide should be easily understood even for novice players.
Initial Settlement Placement
The house stands tall if its foundations are firm. The same is true for Catan. I cannot emphasize the importance of initial settlement enough. Place them wisely and the rest of the game will go naturally from there. Place them poorly and you’re in for an uphill struggle with very bad odds to come out on top. Here’s how to approach this stage.
- Analyze the board. Every game of Catan is different and not all the resources will have the same value every game. Examine the numbers on the tiles. What resources will be abundant and which will be scarce? What are the best settlement locations?
- Have a basic game strategy ready at the beginning but be flexible if the situation (someone else goes for the tile you wanted) changes. That means already roughly know how you aim to win, which way to expand, which resources you’ll likely have more or a shortage off and how will you cope with it.
- Two main strategies are the ore+grain strategy that focuses on cities and development cards and brick+wood that focuses on many settlements and the longest road. Going for a certain strategy does not mean you neglect everything else – it only means you focus a bit more on one aspect. You are still gonna need all the resources one way or the other.
- Ore and grain are the most valuable late-game resources. Have a plan on how to obtain them, if you don’t go for the ore/grain strategy. Ports are a good way of doing this and are super powerful, especially in the late game. Having an open route towards a port is never a bad thing.
- Consider the order of action of initial placing. If you know there are players to settle behind you, there is no point in building a road towards a premium spot (you just waste a road). Contemplate expanding towards a less-than-premium spot (that you expect to remain open) or a port instead.
- Diversify your numbers. 8’s and 6’s are great tiles, but if that’s all you got, you are going to struggle. Other numbers will be thrown a lot, too. You’re better off covering as many numbers as possible (except the very rarest), so you get resources all the time.
- Don’t place your settlements too close to others or yourself’s (unless you are the one to place the last village) or you face the danger of being boxed in – having no place to expand. Placing your two settlements far away from each other is fine – but it will be harder to achieve the longest road this way.
Beginning of the Game
- Expand as soon as possible. Extend that road you have and build a village or upgrade to a city if possible. In the beginning, every resource card is worth more – having three villages is a 50% improvement over having just two.
- Trade a lot. In a good trade deal, both sides benefit and you can boost your progress. Be kind to other players and accept their trades (as far as they are good for you, of course) and they too will be more inclined to trade with you when you need them to.
- Don’t buy development cards, unless you plan to go for the largest army (56% of development cards are knights).
- Be flexible with your strategy. You might have initially decided on one thing, but the game has developed differently now and other opportunities presented themselves. A different spot is available, maybe a port is up for grabs or you are competing with another player for a spot.
Read about playing Catan online on Colonist.io here and Asobrain here
Mid to End-game
- Be careful who you trade with. Don’t trade with the leader. Trade with others only when you get a really good deal.
- You should have a port or two by now to be self-sufficient. Use those instead of trading to get the resources you need. With the increased production (more villages + a city or two) 3:1 trades should not be a problem.
- Keep track of other players. You should at all times know:
- their victory points (including how many hidden development cards they have and how far from the largest army/longest road they are) and
- a rough estimate of their resource cards.
- By now, you should also have a pretty good idea of their strategy: where do they plan to expand, what resources they need and what they have in abundance.
Use this knowledge when placing roads and settlements (try to block others), trading, and when moving the robber.
- Use the robber wisely. Attack the tiles of the most dangerous player. Target tiles with the resources they need, will need in the future, or are in general shortage in that game.
- Do not hold more than 5 or 6 cards. You’ll be getting resources steadily now and will get over the limit of 7 cards often. Buy a development card, swap in a port, or build something instead of ending your turn with too many cards.
- Do not forget you can move the robber before your roll! Your turns should go in order:
- move robber (if it’s in a tile, you want resources from and you have a knight available),
- throw dice,
- Protect your valuable ore/grain tiles from the robber by having a knight available. These will be prime targets in the late game. Keep buying development cards and keep a knight ready to go.
- It should be very clear to you by now what you are missing for victory (whether it’s that last city, one more knight, 2 more road segments). Focus on obtaining that and don’t get sidetracked.
- Don’t show your victory points cards until you are ready to claim victory. Let them be unsure and think you got a knight there.
The tips in this article should be well enough to make you a competent Catan player. However, would you like to learn more, I will leave you with two links to the guides I found to be the most informative. But the internet is full of Catan guides, so if even that doesn’t fulfill your needs, go explore.
The first one is an all-aspects of Catan in-depth guide, while the second focuses mainly on different playing strategies. We’ve discussed the ore+grain and brick+wood, but those are just the two most powerful. While these two will get you far against causal, against super-competitive players, you better have an additional ace or two up your sleeve.
We’re just over a thousand words, so I’ve kept my promise to keep this short. I hope you made it through in 10 minutes, just like I said. Did you? 🙂 Was the guide helpful for you? Please leave a comment below.
Did you know that after more than a quarter of a century, Catan is still among the Most popular board games?
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20 thoughts on “How to win at Catan? – ALL You Need to Know in 10 minutes”
Thank you. This was an engaging read.
To tell you the truth, I am not the biggest fan of strategic games, as they usually seem to be very time-consuming.
However, Catan appears to be a great balance of luck and strategy, which makes it much more amusing. Besides, I understand that it has very easy to learn rules and simple trading features that allow for great player interaction.
But above all these, it seems perfect gameplay fit for my family because it’s made for three to four people.
You are correct, it’s perfect for family play. It is easy to learn and offers plenty of strategy. Trading with others can lead to funny situations, so good times are guaranteed. 🙂
Hey Vasilij, Thanks for the info you gathered here, I am brand new to Catan game and I didnt got much of beginners luck, so I am looking into ways to improve myself.
For me the very best advices and ruined me when I played was mostly the trades not optmized in my favour, and in this way I will remember, never trade with leader, and also the proximity rule…
Hope I can beat them now! Read from you soon!
Good luck at your games! You should have a bit of an edge now. 🙂
For really thanks for this article about how to win at catan because it has been very interesting reading step per step through the guide you have provided about how one can win this game and by use of this guide, I think am gonna be a winner always. Thanks very much for this article admin keep sharing.
Thanks, I hope it helps with your game. 🙂
Hello Vasilij, playing board games have been one of my favourite activities during my leisure and playing with my family on weekends have created unity amongst us over the years. Catan seem so much like chess game where you’ll have to think well before making a move and that is the kind of game I want to engage my kids in so they can develop their brain and make swift decision within the limited time given.
Your comparison to chess makes sense, there is indeed a lot of strategy and decision making involved.
I haven’t played much Catan, but when I do, I usually lose. My best friend is very good (and much more experienced than I), so beating him is nearly impossible. I think the best advice in your post is about diversifying your numbers and really knowing which strategy you’re going for when you place your initial settlements. I’d never heard it broken down into the brick+wood approach versus the ore+grain approach. Do you think it’s important to stick with a strategy once you’ve chosen one?
You must be flexible. It all depends on the situation, sometimes you’ll be soing the same thing the whole game, other times you’ll have to adapt and change your approach every turn.
Let me know if you stand a better chance against your friend, now that you read my guide. 🙂
I have never really played Catan before and I have not heard of it as well but looking at this post, it makes me feel like it is a very good board game which involves building your own settlements and also expanding at the long run. I like the fact that you could give this vital information. I will bookmark this post and get the game. I will use your tips on playing. How many maximum players can one have in the game?
Base game is suitable for 3 or 4 players, but there is an extension available. With it, up to 6 players can play. You can read more in my review of Catan.
This is a very good game with very good instructions. It doesn’t look technical thoroughly and it looks almost like a few games that I play on my mobile phone except we can really see what’s going on and see our opponents too. It’s my first time knowing about Catan. Do you have any information on where I can get the game?
Check out my review of Settlers of Catan for more information.
I thought the article is very entertaining, I have never played Catan or any strategy board game for that matter, other than Monopoly. But I actually would like to give it a shot.
I really like strategic games and this seems like it can be fun playing with some family and friends. Where would a novice like me find these types of board games?
Catan is sold pretty much everywhere, even in general stores sometimes, it’s that popular.. You can check my review for more information.
In my opinion, board games have optimistic perspectives ahead, and they will continue with the growth. I witnessed a few board games among my own fellows at the workplace. Games are part of the entertainment side of life, and people will always be interested in entertainment!More and more people choose them as a form of entertainment
Yes, their popularity has grown a lot in the last couple of decades.
The Catan game’s a really nice one and one would need to understand the rules well enough to be very good at it.
I am more of a sportsperson and have problems with Catan and other board games, that require thinking. But thanks to your advice, I am beginning to see improvements in my game. I’ll bookmark this post, so I can come back to it again. Cheers.