Settlers of Catan Strategies

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Intro

There are many different components, big and small, to Settlers of Catan that can vastly affect your game. These components will be present in every game. Understanding them and executing them effectively is key to succeeding. Once you have them down pat, then start to play around with strategies when you are feeling confident. 

Things Everyone Needs to Keep in Mind


1. Initial Placement

Where you place your initial 2 settlements and roads can vastly affect your chances of winning. Receiving a lot of resources will help your game immensely,  so try and place on one of each resource (depending on strategy). The benefit is as the game changes you can change your game play slightly. It is more difficult though to get the largest army or longest road. At some point in the game, you may need to choose which of the two to go after in order to win. Place settlements on different numbers, and numbers that have a high probability to be rolled (the more dots the better) to maximize your chance of getting resources. Leave yourself room to expand, and be sure to place your roads in this direction. If you are hoping to expand towards a prime stop, keep in mind the order of placements, and how many placements are left. It is unlikely that a really good spot will be left open, especially with more players. Watch other players to see if you can pick up on what Catan strategies they are thinking of doing. Ports can be very helpful. Keep these in mind when doing your placement. Especially if there is a high odds number near its resource port (8 brick by the 2:1 brick port). Lastly, placing very last (so going first) can be a huge advantage. You can block other players, inhibiting them to expand. 

2. Resources Value

Typically wood and brick are very valuable early in the game but lose value later on in the game. This is because people get their settlements built early, then proceed to build cities. Brick overall is the most valuable as there are only 3 brick hexes and is used for roads and settlements. Ore is a close second as there are also only 3 hexes. Ore is used for development cards and cities. Ore and wheat become more valuable as the game progresses. Sheep value tends to remain constant. They are used to build settlements, which is early on in the game. But sheep are also used to buy development cards which are purchased throughout the whole game. If your Settlers of Catan strategy doesn't involve much ore, don't wait too long to get it. Particularly if you start to pull ahead. Other players may gang up on you and not trade with you to avoid you getting even more ahead. Try to get ore when you are at the 4 point mark. If you wait till 5 or more, people may see you as too big of a threat to trade. Without ore you wont be able to build cities or buy development cards. It is hard to get past the 5 point mark if you have no ore.

3. Complimentary Resources

If you have resources that compliment each other (wood and brick or ore and wheat), it may be a benefit if they are on the same number (both wood and brick are a 9). You can overload these hexes and then you get a large number of resources in one roll. Then you can spend them as soon as you get them. But you will look like a good target for the robber, so keep a knight card ready.

4. Development Cards

If you have a strategy that does not include buying development cards, consider buying them periodically. If a lot of other players are buying them and playing a lot of knights, you may get lucky and get a victory point card or a monopoly card. Here is a monopoly card trick, trade all of one resource away to the other players for whatever, then play the monopoly card and get it all back. But beware others may not want to trade with you after that. Play a knight card before you roll, especially if the robber is on one of your hexes. Keep a knight card on hand if you are getting targeted by the robber of if you plan to build a few cities on the same hex. 

5. Cities

Don’t place a lot of cities on the same hex tile. This leaves you looking very tempting by the robber. If you find yourself with two cities on one hex or planned this deliberately, keep a knight card on hand to move the robber. 

6. Ports

If you plan to collect a lot of one resource, or end up having a few settlements on the same resource, try to get that resources port. This will help you keep your card number in your hand down and allow you to get resources that are harder for you to get.

7. Robber

When you roll a 7 or use the knight card you activate the robber. Try to have less then 7 cards in your hand at all times. You can use it on the strongest player to slow them down. Block what they are currently needing or their highest producing tile. Keep in mind if they have a surplus of one resource and a port. If they get a lot of one resource and/or port, they can just trade for the resource they need. In this case, it would be better to block the surplus hex. Besides the strongest player, if you place on the player to the right, this increases the chances that the robber will stay on that tile longer. The player to the right will have to wait to move it till their turn. So you could possibly only miss out on one roll if they move the robber to your tile. To only miss one roll, you would have to have a knight card, or be lucky enough to roll a 7. If you play the robber on the person that is going next, do they have an unused development card? Could it be a knight? If so they could move the robber before they make a roll and place it on one of your spots. If you need a resource, you may not want to place the robber on that particular resource. That is if the other players are willing to trade if or when they receive it. Keep an eye on if another player has the resource you need in hand. If so, aim to place the robber on one of their hexes to steal it. If you are competing for a spot with another player, place the robber on their hex. Especially if it has become obvious what resource they need before building. Other then targeting specific players, you can just place the robber on a tile that is commonly rolled. Try to place it on a tile that has the most players on it. Block a rare resource as long as it does not effect you too much. In general, block cities over settlements.

8. Trading

Trade smart. Make sure you are benefiting more then what your trade could benefit the other person. Try to be involved in most of the trades. If two other players trade and you are not involved, that is two people that are getting a benefit while you don’t get anything. Even if there is little benefit to trade, at least there is only one other player getting an advantage rather then two. Be sure to study the board and see which resources are harder to get. Treat these resources as more valuable and be sure to get more for them when trading. Perhaps ask for 2 or 3 resources for a valuable one. Trade before doing any building. Other opponents may be less likely to trade with you after you build because they fear you will build more. Trading has a bit of a learning curve.

Initial Placement

Where you place your initial 2 settlements and roads can vastly affect your chances of winning. Receiving a lot of resources will help your game immensely,  so try and place on one of each resource (depending on strategy). The benefit is as the game changes you can change your game play slightly. It is more difficult though to get the largest army or longest road. At some point in the game you may need to choose which of the two to go after in order to win. Place settlements on different numbers, and numbers that have a high probability to be rolled (the more dots the better) to maximize your chance of getting resources. Leave yourself room to expand, and be sure to place your roads in this direction. If you are hoping to expand towards a prime stop, keep in mind the order of placements, and how many placements are left. It is unlikely that a really good spot will be left open, especially with more players. Watch other players to see if you can pick up on what Catan strategies they are thinking of doing. Ports can be very helpful. Keep these in mind when doing your placement. Especially if there is a high odds number near its resource port (8 brick by the 2:1 brick port). Lastly, placing very last (so going first) can be a huge advantage. You can block other players, inhibiting them to expand. 

Resources Value

Typically wood and brick are very valuable early in the game but lose value later on in the game. This is because people get their settlements built early, then proceed to build cities. Brick overall is the most valuable as there are only 3 brick hexes and is used for roads and settlements. Ore is a close second as there are also only 3 hexes. Ore is used for development cards and cities. Ore and wheat become more valuable as the game progresses. Sheep value tends to remain constant. They are used to build settlements, which is early on in the game. But sheep are also used to buy development cards which are purchased throughout the whole game. If your Settlers of Catan strategy doesn't involve much ore, don't wait too long to get it. Particularly if you start to pull ahead. Other players may gang up on you and not trade with you to avoid you getting further ahead. Try to get ore when you are at the 4 point mark. If you wait till the 5 or more, people will see you as too big of a threat to trade. Without ore you wont be able to build cities or buy development cards. It is hard to get past the 5 point mark if you have no ore.

Complimentary Resources

If you have resources that compliment each other (wood and brick or ore and wheat), it may be a benefit if they are on the same number (both wood and brick are a 9). You can overload these hexes and then you get a large number of resources one roll. Then you can spend them as soon as you get them. But you will look like a good target for the robber, so keep a knight card ready.

Cities

Don’t place a lot of cities on the same hex tile. This leaves you looking very tempting by the robber. If you find yourself with two cities on one hex, keep a knight card on hand to move the robber. 

Ports

If you plan to collect a lot of one resource, or end up having a few settlements on the same resource, try to get that resources port. This will help you keep your card number in your hand down and allow you to get resources that are harder for you to get.

Robber

When you roll a 7 or use the knight card you activate the robber. Try to have less then 7 cards in your hand at all times. You can use it on the strongest player to slow them down. Block what they are currently needing or their highest producing tile. Keep in mind if they have a surplus of one resource and a port. If they get a lot of one resource and/or port, they can just trade for the resource they need. In this case it would be better to block the surplus hex. Besides the strongest player, if you place on the player to the right, this increases the chances that the robber will stay on that tile longer. The player to the right will have to wait to move it till right before your turn. So you could possibly only miss out on one roll if they move the robber to your tile. To only miss one roll, you would have to have a knight card, or be lucky enough to roll a 7. If you play the robber on the person that is going next, do they have an unused development card? Could it be a knight? If so they could move the robber before they make a roll and place it on one of your spots. Then you have to wait till your turn to move it. If you need a resource, you may not want to place the robber on it. That is if the player or players that have that resource are willing to trade with you. If you are missing a resource, keep an eye on who has the most of it. Aim to place the robber on one of their hexes to steal it. Other then targeting specific players, you can just place the robber on a tile that is commonly rolled. On the tile of an opponent that you are competing for a spot, especially if it has become obvious what resource they need before building, place the robber on that spot. Try to place it on a tile that has the most players on it. Block a rare resource as long as it does not effect you too much. In general, block cities over settlements.

Development Cards

If you have a strategy that does not include buying development cards, consider buying them periodically. If a lot of other players are buying them and playing a lot of knights, you may get lucky and get a victory point card or a monopoly card. Here is a monopoly card trick, trade away all of one resource to the other players for whatever, then play the monopoly card and get it all back. But beware others may not want to trade with you after that. Play a knight card before you roll, especially if the robber is on one of your hexes. Keep a knight card on hand if you are getting targeted by the robber of if you plan to build a few cities on the same hex. 

Trading

Trade smart. Make sure you are benefiting more then what your trade could benefit the other person. Try to be involved in most of the trades. If two other players trade and you are not involved, that is two people that are getting a benefit while you don’t get any benefit. Even if there is little benefit, there is only one other player getting an advantage rather then two. Be sure to study the board and see which resources are harder to get. Treat these resources as more valuable and be sure to get more for them when trading. Perhaps ask for 2 or 3 resources for a valuable one. Trade before doing any building. Other opponents may be less likely to trade with you when you are building a bunch of things. Resources that are hard to get, be sure to trade these as if they are worth more. If wood is hard to get, perhaps trade one wood for 2 wheat for example. Trading has a bit of a learning curve.



  1. Initial Placement

Where you place your initial 2 settlements and roads can vastly affect your chances of winning. Receiving a lot of resources will help your game immensely,  so try and place on one of each resource (depending on strategy). The benefit is as the game changes you can change your game play slightly. It is more difficult though to get the largest army or longest road. At some point in the game you may need to choose which of the two to go after in order to win. Place settlements on different numbers, and numbers that have a high probability to be rolled (the more dots the better) to maximize your chance of getting resources. Leave yourself room to expand, and be sure to place your roads in this direction. If you are hoping to expand towards a prime stop, keep in mind the order of placements, and how many placements are left. It is unlikely that a really good spot will be left open, especially with more players. Watch other players to see if you can pick up on what Catan strategies they are thinking of doing. Ports can be very helpful. Keep these in mind when doing your placement. Especially if there is a high odds number near its resource port (8 brick by the 2:1 brick port). Lastly, placing very last (so going first) can be a huge advantage. You can block other players, inhibiting them to expand. 

  1. Resources Value

Typically wood and brick are very valuable early in the game but lose value later on in the game. This is because people get their settlements built early, then proceed to build cities. Brick overall is the most valuable as there are only 3 brick hexes and is used for roads and settlements. Ore is a close second as there are also only 3 hexes. Ore is used for development cards and cities. Ore and wheat become more valuable as the game progresses. Sheep value tends to remain constant. They are used to build settlements, which is early on in the game. But sheep are also used to buy development cards which are purchased throughout the whole game. If your Settlers of Catan strategy doesn't involve much ore, don't wait too long to get it. Particularly if you start to pull ahead. Other players may gang up on you and not trade with you to avoid you getting further ahead. Try to get ore when you are at the 4 point mark. If you wait till the 5 or more, people will see you as too big of a threat to trade. Without ore you wont be able to build cities or buy development cards. It is hard to get past the 5 point mark if you have no ore.

  1. Complimentary Resources

If you have resources that compliment each other (wood and brick or ore and wheat), it may be a benefit if they are on the same number (both wood and brick are a 9). You can overload these hexes and then you get a large number of resources one roll. Then you can spend them as soon as you get them. But you will look like a good target for the robber, so keep a knight card ready.

  1. Cities

Don’t place a lot of cities on the same hex tile. This leaves you looking very tempting by the robber. If you find yourself with two cities on one hex, keep a knight card on hand to move the robber. 

  1. Ports

If you plan to collect a lot of one resource, or end up having a few settlements on the same resource, try to get that resources port. This will help you keep your card number in your hand down and allow you to get resources that are harder for you to get.

  1. Robber

When you roll a 7 or use the knight card you activate the robber. Try to have less then 7 cards in your hand at all times. You can use it on the strongest player to slow them down. Block what they are currently needing or their highest producing tile. Keep in mind if they have a surplus of one resource and a port. If they get a lot of one resource and/or port, they can just trade for the resource they need. In this case it would be better to block the surplus hex. Besides the strongest player, if you place on the player to the right, this increases the chances that the robber will stay on that tile longer. The player to the right will have to wait to move it till right before your turn. So you could possibly only miss out on one roll if they move the robber to your tile. To only miss one roll, you would have to have a knight card, or be lucky enough to roll a 7. If you play the robber on the person that is going next, do they have an unused development card? Could it be a knight? If so they could move the robber before they make a roll and place it on one of your spots. Then you have to wait till your turn to move it. If you need a resource, you may not want to place the robber on it. That is if the player or players that have that resource are willing to trade with you. If you are missing a resource, keep an eye on who has the most of it. Aim to place the robber on one of their hexes to steal it. Other then targeting specific players, you can just place the robber on a tile that is commonly rolled. On the tile of an opponent that you are competing for a spot, especially if it has become obvious what resource they need before building, place the robber on that spot. Try to place it on a tile that has the most players on it. Block a rare resource as long as it does not effect you too much. In general, block cities over settlements.

  1. Development Cards

If you have a strategy that does not include buying development cards, consider buying them periodically. If a lot of other players are buying them and playing a lot of knights, you may get lucky and get a victory point card or a monopoly card. Here is a monopoly card trick, trade away all of one resource to the other players for whatever, then play the monopoly card and get it all back. But beware others may not want to trade with you after that. Play a knight card before you roll, especially if the robber is on one of your hexes. Keep a knight card on hand if you are getting targeted by the robber of if you plan to build a few cities on the same hex. 

  1. Trading

Trade smart. Make sure you are benefiting more then what your trade could benefit the other person. Try to be involved in most of the trades. If two other players trade and you are not involved, that is two people that are getting a benefit while you don’t get any benefit. Even if there is little benefit, there is only one other player getting an advantage rather then two. Be sure to study the board and see which resources are harder to get. Treat these resources as more valuable and be sure to get more for them when trading. Perhaps ask for 2 or 3 resources for a valuable one. Trade before doing any building. Other opponents may be less likely to trade with you when you are building a bunch of things. Resources that are hard to get, be sure to trade these as if they are worth more. If wood is hard to get, perhaps trade one wood for 2 wheat for example. Trading has a bit of a learning curve.

Catan Strategies

Now for some different strategies for Settlers of Catan.  If you are a beginner, check out our best gateway board games for beginners. They vary from beginner to more advanced. Be sure to choose one that you are confident in pulling off. Each strategy is more successful if no other player is doing that same method. Settlers of Catan is a game of strategy and paying attention to what your opponent is planning to do. There are multiple different methods you can try. So choose carefully at the beginning of each game.

1. Wood/Brick (Leads to Longest Road)

Get a hex of each resource, but with the focus on brick and wood. This is so you will have lots to build roads and settlements. You want to build all 5 of your settlements first and as fast as you can. Build a city on a brick or wood resource tile to further speed up the process. As the game progresses further expand your ore and wheat. Make sure you have a lot of space to build. With focusing on settlements and expanding, it is best to also go for the longest road. When building, try to build on hexes with other players on it  so it is less likely for the robber to be placed on it. Don’t necessarily build on ports right away as it limits you to being on only 1 or 2 hexes rather then 3. If you have the led in the longest road, try to block other opponents from taking it away from you. If strictly focus on blocking others from expanding and taking the longest road, this can be a risky. This is because you may have to build on a hex of a resource you don’t really need. This works best with more people as the board is usually crowded and you are closer to another opponents.

2. Ore/Wheat (Leads to Largest Army)

Initial 2 settlements need to be placed for a high supply of ore and wheat, ore being more important. Even try to monopolize ore if you can. First priority should be to make your current 2 settlements into cities. Then you will want to build by a port, ideally ore port or 3:1 port. This is so if you need another resource you can use your port to get it. Build more cities and buy development cards as much as you can. Robber can be a huge threat because you will have cities early on. It is best to keep a knight card handy, hence why it makes sense to go for the largest army. Since you can only play one solider per turn, start this as soon as possible. Try to build your cities on a variety of hexes so that you are not completely limited if the robber comes. This strategy will take longer for you to expand as you will not be getting much wood and brick. At the beginning of the game it is not likely that other players will want to trade their brick/wood and they won’t want your wheat/ore. Be patient.

3. Sheep and More Sheep

Sheep tend to be in supple supply for most games. Before using this strategy make sure there is a potential for a large sheep output. Of course, build on lots of sheep hexes but be sure to get the sheep 2:1 port. This way you can trade for any resource. Be careful with this strategy, if a 7 gets rolled it is very likely for you to have too many cards in your hand. But if a 7 is rolled, you will just lose sheep as thats all you have. Regardless, you will still have lots of sheep. It is unlikely you will get targeted to be robbed for the cards in your hand because you are loaded with sheep. You may be targeted though if you have a lot of cities. In that case, it is a good idea to have a knight card on hand. Trading can be tough  if others have the ability to get their own sheep. You will want to build cities to get a lot of sheep so be sure you can get wheat and ore either by having the resource hex or by getting the port right away. You can do this strategy with any resource but sheep tend to be most successful..

4. Development Cards (Leads to Largest Army)

This Catan strategy isn’t that popular. Build settlements and cities only on resources that get you development cards (wheat,shep, and ore).  Get a port for a resource you are getting an abundance of. Then buy development cards as fast as possible. Makes sense to go for largest army because a large percentage of development cards are knights. You will get to move the robber around like crazy which can be very satisfying, though other players won’t particularly like you.



  1. Wood/Brick (Leads to Longest Road)

Get a hex of each with the resources that are producing the most being brick and wood. This is so you will have lots to build roads and settlements. You want to build all 5 of your settlements first and as fast as you can. Build a city on a brick or wood resource tile to further speed up the process. As the game progresses further expand your ore and wheat. Make sure you have a lot of space to build. With focusing on settlements and expanding, it is best to also go for the longest road. When building, try to build on hexes with other players on it  so it is less likely for robber to be placed on it. Don’t necessarily build on ports right away as it limits you to being on only 1 or 2 hexes rather then 3. If you have the led in the longest road, try to block other opponents from taking it away from you. If you focus on blocking others from expanding and taking the longest road, this can be a risky. This is because you may have to build on a hex of a resource you don’t really need. This works best with more people as the board is usually crowded and you are closer to another opponents.

  1. Ore/Wheat (Leads to Largest Army)

Initial 2 settlements need to be placed for a high supply of ore and wheat, ore being more important. Even try to monopolize ore if you can. First priority should be to make your current 2 settlements into cities. Then you will want to build by a port for a resource you are getting a lot of. This is so if you need another resource you can use your port to get it. Build more cities and buy development cards as much as you can. Robber can be a huge threat because you will have cities early on. It is best to keep a knight card handy, hence why it makes sense to go for the largest army. Since you can only play one solider per turn, start this as soon as possible. Try to build your cities on a variety of hexes so that you are not completely limited if the robber comes. This strategy will take longer for you to expand as you will not be getting much wood and brick. At the beginning of the game it is not likely that other players will want to trade their brick/wood and they won’t want your wheat/ore. Be patient.

  1. Sheep and More Sheep

Sheep tend to be in supple supply for most games. Before using this strategy make sure there is a potential for a large sheep output. Of course, build on lots of sheep hexes but be sure to get the sheep 2:1 port. This way you can trade for any resource. Be careful with this strategy, if a 7 gets rolled it is very likely for you to have too many cards in your hand. But if a 7 is rolled, you will just lose sheep as thats all you have. Regardless, you will still have lots of sheep. It is unlikely you will get targeted to be robbed for the cards in your hand because you are loaded with sheep. You may be targeted though if you have a lot of cities. In that case, it is a good idea to have a knight card on hand. Trading can be tough, if others have the ability to get their own sheep. You will want to build cities to get a lot of sheep so be sure you can get wheat and ore either by having the resource hex or by getting the port right away. You can do this strategy with any resource though.

  1. Development Cards (Leads to Largest Army)

This Catan strategy isn’t the that popular. Build settlements and cities only on resources that get you a development cards (sheep/ore/wheat).  Get a port for a resource you are getting an abundance of. Then buy development cards as fast as possible. Makes sense to go for largest army because a large percentage of development cards are knights. You will get to move the robber around like crazy which can be very satisfying. Though other players won’t particularly like you.


Conclusion

Play around with the four Settler of Catan strategies listed above. For any method you chose, be sure to read the board and the other players. There are some great strategies out there and you may find there is one way that works really well for you. Give multiple strategies a try, you may be surprised which ones are successful for you. If you want to really wow other players when you invite them over for a game of Catan, check out the best custom (Settlers of) Catan game boards

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