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? 🙂
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. Guide is focues 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 to novice players.
Initial Settlement Placement
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 your options?
Have a basic game strategy ready at the beginning but be flexible if situation (someone else goes for the tile you wanted) changes.
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 ore another.
Ore and grain are the most valuable late game resources. Have a plan how to obtain them, if you don’t go for ore/grain strategy. Ports are a good way of doing this and are super powerful, especially in the late game.
Consider 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 number will be thrown a lot, too. You’re better off covering as many numbers 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.
Trade a lot. In a good trade deal, both sides benefit and you can really 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 your plan is to go for the largest army (56% of development cards are knights).
Be flexible with your strategy. You might have initially decided for 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.
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.
Keep track on 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
- 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.
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 or build something instead of ending your turn with too many cards.
Your turns should go in order:
- move robber (if in a tile, you want resources from and you have a knight),
- throw dice,
Protect your valuable ore/grain tiles from the robber. 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.
If you found these tips interesting and would like to learn more, I will leave you with two links of the guides I found to be the most informative (there are hundreds of guides online):
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.
We’re just over a thousand words, so I’ve kept my promised 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.
If you like Catan, but you’re also looking for something a bit deeper, why don’t you take a look at Scythe?