Tired of sitting down next to your friends, plotting settlements and gathering resources just to have the Longest Road swiped from under you so you can lose yet another game of Settlers? That’s why we came up with a list of helpful Settlers of Catan strategies to stack the odds in your favor and help you learn how to win at Catan.
Understanding the Win Condition of Catan
In the game of Settlers, the winner is the first player to reach at least 10 victory points. Points are awarded in a few ways, towns, cities, VP cards, the longest road, and the largest army. Choosing which combination of these you will be using to win the game is the key to success.
Usually the type of victory points you’ll be collecting depends on which resources you’re ending up with. Understanding the value of the resources, the dice rolls and the positioning can go a long way in winning a game of Catan.
How To Get Victory Points
In a typical game of Catan most of the points are awarded through building settlements and cities. There’s only a few other points that exist in the game. 2 for longest road, 2 for largest army, and a total of 5 victory points scattered among the development cards.
Everyone begins the game with 2 victory points for their 2 starting settlements. So really each player just needs to earn 8 points. The simplest way to do this is by expanding roads and building new settlements and building cities.
Trying to draw victory points from the development card deck can be unreliable. (only 5 of the 25 cards are VPs), but on the way you could get 2 points for largest army or one of the useful cards for gaining resources.
Relying on the longest road could also backfire as another player can steal it at any time, but we’ll touch more on this later.
Knowing Your Odds
Settlers of Catan strategy involves some luck, for sure, but knowing the probability allows you to harness that luck to make the best choices to ensure that you’re on the correct side of that luck more often than not.
Understanding the Dice Rolls
A key component of understanding which spaces are better in Catan is knowing which dice rolls come up more often. Understanding which numbers are more valuable can give you the edge over your opponent.
The most likely number to be rolled is 7, due to the fact that there’s 6 different combinations that total up to 7. In Catan this moves the thief, so you can expect that to happen a lot. The most common numbers to be rolled that are on the game board however are the 6 and the 8 (5 combinations each). So placing your towns and cities next to those numbers are valuable.
On the other end of the spectrum, both 2 and 12 are very rare. Each of those numbers only have one combination (double ones and double sixes, respectively). So placing your towns next to those spaces won’t yield much resources.
To determine which spaces on the board offer the best odds simply add together the number of dots underneath the numbers. The spaces with more dots are more common.
Things to note
- The 11 is twice as common as the 12, making it twice as valuable. (Also true for the 3 being twice as valuable as the 2).
- With the most common roll being 7, expect the thief to move a lot and try not to carry too many resources.
- Over a quarter of all rolls should be 6 or 8, typically a good spot for a city.
Choosing a Starting Placement
There’s generally two questions you should be asking yourself when choosing your opening positions on a Catan board. “Where are the best odds?” and “What do I need?”.
On one hand you want to make sure you’re near a lot of the high yielding spaces, and on the other you want to make sure you’re not neglecting any resources that you require. Relying on trading to build can be an advantage for your opponents.
Settlers of Catan Strategies
Settlers of Catan is typically a board game for 3 players, or a board game for 4 players, but with expansions you can add additional players, too. You’ll need to adjust your strategy depending on how many people are playing and how each person is doing, so it helps to keep tabs on your opponents along with your own plans for victory.
Expansion, Roads and Settlements
The most common route to winning a game of Settlers involves making long roads around the map with as many settlements on them as possible. If this is how you want to win the game you should make sure you have a good supply of Brick and Wood, which are used in both the roads and the settlements.
If you find that you’re lacking in certain resources, making your way to the shore line for one of the 2:1 spaces can be a good idea. A benefit of this strategy is that you’ll often end up with the Longest Road.
Make sure to be aware of which resources you are lacking. Try to ensure you have at least a decent supply of Brick, Wood, Wheat and Sheep.
Staying Put with Cities and Development Cards
This strategy involves placing only 3 or 4 settlements on the board, growing them into cities, and buy enough cards to make up the extra victory points needed to win. The strategy requires a lot of Wheat and Ore. So make sure you have a good access to those otherwise this isn’t really an option.
An advantage to this strategy is that you’ll end up with a lot of useful development cards along the way and likely the Largest Army (which is a hard card for others to steal). Some development cards will grant instant victory points, and some others like Monopoly or Year of Plenty will grant the resources needed to build the cities. This strategy also requires very little Brick or Wood.
Stealing the Longest Road
Countless games of Catan end with one player placing multiple roads on the same turn, stealing the longest road card for two points and winning the game. This is why I would suggest not going after the Longest Road early in the game, as you might end up wasting time and resources fending off the other players from taking it. A better strategy is to wait until you’re near 8 points and then start saving up the resources needed to steal it.
A common mistake is a player thinking they have the best chance of winning because they have most points, not realizing that 2 of those points could be stolen by anyone with enough brick or wood.
Knowing When to Trade
Novice players will often trade only to benefit themselves, without considering who they’re trading with. Sometimes getting that precious brick you need can be really tempting, but it’s not always worth it.
As a rule of thumb, trading with a player who’s near victory is not usually a good idea, especially if it’s on their turn. Chances are they will be using the card you gave them to win the game before your turn even comes around. Even if the player is offering you 3 cards for a single Sheep, what good are those cards if your opponent just won the game?
Mutually beneficial trading can be hard to come by, and more often than not it’s easier to trade with the bank to avoid giving your opponents the edge. However if you find yourself in a position where one or two cards can give you a huge boost than go for it. If you want a game where you have complete control of your fate, check out these escape room board games and save some room on your shelf for the best strategy board games, too.
At the end of the day, Catan is mostly a luck based game. Even if you stack the odds in your favor, suddenly your opponent makes a couple lucky draws or the thief blocks some crucial rolls and you end up losing regardless. Don’t expect to win every game, even with the best Settlers of Catan strategy.