Settlers of Catan: Tricks and Tactics

Settlers of Catan is a multiplayer board game designed by Klaus Teuber.
It was first published in 1995 in Germany by Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-Gmb H & Co. (Kosmos), under the name Die Siedler von Catan.

Tricks and Tactics

Placing Your First Settlement and City
Place your first settlements with access to brick and wood.  This will help you get your first roads and settlement out faster.

Next try to monopolize locations at the intersection of wheat and ore hexes, these are useful for building cities, which double production and speed up the game significantly.

Placing settlements and cities
Make sure that you don’t place your cities at an intersection with one good number and two bad numbers or the robber can make your very expensive city worthless.

If there are two different players already on a hex, and a third position is open, seriously consider building there.  It is very hard for the robber to stay on a hex with three players who all want him off.  And fewer players will place a robber there in the first place.  Also, with three players on one hex, the chance of getting production from that hex improve greatly.

Ranking intersection
So, if you have a settlement on a 3/5/10 intersection the chance that it will produce something that turn will be 2/36 (the chance that a three will be rolled) +4/36 (the chance for a  five to be rolled) +3/36 (the chance for the ten), or 9 out of 36 in total.  The ranking for this intersection, then, is 9.  Any intersection can be ranked on just production value from zero (the edge of a desert on the water) to 15 (the intersection of three hexes having an 8 or a 6).  Note that an intersection ranked 14 or 15 is not supposed to occure in the basic game (as an 8 or 6 hex should not occur next to each other), so the effective range is zero to 13.  The intersection with the highest rank should get you more resources.  If two intersections both have the same ranking (for example a 6/10/4 intersection and a 5/9/4 intersection, both ranked at 11), consider the one without the six or eight (less chance of the robber).

Longest Road.
When playing for the Longest Road, don’t settle for simply having a tie in length, or even one extra segment.  If the game is on the line, make sure to add two or even three extra segments to your road, to prevent an opponent from playing a road-building card and stealing your two-point advantage in one move.

It’s rare, but be aware of the 13-segment limit; if you are in a race with an opponent, make sure you get to 13 first so he or she doesn’t steal it from you.

If an opponent builds a settlement in the middle of your road network, your routes are split in two for purposes of determining longest trade route, so remember that ‘k.

Your ships do count for the longest road and an opponent can not split up your shipping lanes by intersecting them with another ship.

Play by the numbers
For example, consider the player who wants to go to a single-hex island early in the game to get the extra victory points.  In one Seafarers scenario it costs three ships to get to a single-hex island, and then you need to build a settlement that only borders on that one hex.  That is a total cost of ten cards (six for the three ships, and four for the settlement).  Let’s see, say the hex produces on a ten, that is once every 12 turns.  This means you might get back your investment in 120 turns,  not a good idea early in the game.  The moral is keep your eye on production the first few turns.

Ports
You will probably need a port to win the game, or a lotta luck.  Don’t stress too much over ports early on, they are usually more important in the mid- and endgame (unless a resource is particularly rare).  But don’t get blocked from reaching one, either.

If you are in danger of getting cut off from any one resource type completely, you must pursue a harbor strategy.  This means both securing a 2:1 harbor and developing very high production of that resource type.  Failing that,  a 3:1 harbor will have to do.  Examine the board to see which commodity will be the hardest to get and consider putting one of your settlements on the best tile for that commodity.  A supply of a rare commodity may be more important than an extra 2/36 chance of a sheep.

Since a port will always have at most 2 land hexes, it’s generally a good idea to put a settlement only on the port.  Save your other resources to build the city at an  intersection with thee land hexes.

Monopoly
Some players will adopt a monopoly strategy, to gain more or less exclusive control. It is usually attempted by trying to control all of the good hexes (usually just one) of a resource by yourself.  It seldom works.  The major problem with this strategy is that the robber almost always sits on the monopolized hex.  As you are the only person on that particular hex, the robber will stay there until YOU move him (or a seven is rolled), unlike shared hexes.  Also unlike shared hexes, every player EXCEPT YOU considers that hex to be fair robber placement territory, especially since they want a chance to grab that monopolized resource from your hand.

Basically, this strategy is about identifying the rarest resources, and making sure you have access to them.  There are two types of rare: rare in overall production (due to bad numbers being on them), and rare in position availability (fewer number of hexes have the resource, like ore and brick in the basic game, which only has three hexes each instead of four hexes like wool, grain, and wood). In many cases both will happen, such as when ore and brick have bad numbers on them in the basic game.