This is a guide for people familiar with the game. The advice is offered in random order. A lot goes on in the Settlers of Catan and there is a lot of randomness, but you can try to maximize your control over the situation. This guide only covers the base game.
1. Cities at good numbers (5, 6, 8, 9) are more important than several villages at worse locations.
2. Development cards are very useful, no matter what you draw.
3. Because cities and development cards are so crucial grain, iron ore and sheep are more important than brick and wood, even at the beginning of the game.
4. You should always start out with one village at an 8 and one at a 6.
5. Don’t trade with an active player if you have more than 7 cards on your hands. The active player will benefit immediately from the trade and you can lose half of your cards before it’s your turn if someone rolls a 7.
6. Use knight cards to drive away the robber from your tiles. If the robber is on one of your tiles use it BEFORE you roll. Don’t steal a card from someone with 8 cards, because if you roll a 7 you have just done them a huge favor.
7. It’s very hard to win the game without either the longest road or having the most knight cards (three is a minimum to get the two points). Most players will be tempted to go for the longest road as it seems easier and seems cheaper. It’s also more of a visible feature. This again makes Iron, sheep and grain more important, because you will have less competition going for the most knights. You should know at the start of the game if you want the longest road or the most knights.
8. A good harbor makes things a whole lot easier. You should always be going for a great harbor. It’s usually not a good idea to put one of your starting villages on a harbor though. Only do that if the harbor and the two numbers and tiles next to it are especially promising.
9. When blocking a tile try to block two opponents. The number matters more than the resource. Block a six or an eight. Exception: if a player can get four cards from a 5 or 9 and only one card from his 6 or 8 then block the 5 or 9. Although 6 and 8 are the most likely rolls the damage done in this case for a 5 and 9 is worth it.
10. Some strategy guides will urge you to monopolize a resource. This is almost always a very hard thing to do. Don’t focus on it. Keep in mind that regularly getting a combination of grain, iron ore and sheep is more important than trying to monopolize bricks. There are too many variables to really control a resource. Players can trade with each other, can trade with the bank (with a harbor this gets easy) and they can steal the limited resource from you. If you get enough of the knights cards stealing from you becomes riskier because they know you can retaliate.
11. Try to have a little bit of everything at the start of the game. It’s ok to miss one resource at the start, but not two. Especially missing two out of the three crucial ones (grain, iron ore, sheep) is a bit like suicide.
12. I have played this game hundreds of times and I can say that if I deprive myself of a steady income of grain, sheep and iron ore I will likely lose.
13. What I dislike about other strategy guides I have read is that they give ok advice, but tell you to do things that are in opposition of each other. Like they will tell you to invest in cities and development cards and to build many roads to isolate and cut off your opponents. YOU CANNOT DO EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE. You cannot focus on building many roads AND gettings lots of action cards and cities. Also: if you have a steady supply of knight cards it doesn’t matter so much if an opponent can build villages. You just raid them constantly.
14. There is also a psychological effect to constantly block your opponent. Pick your strongest opponent and always block that one. It’s better than to anger all players. And this player is almost certainly going to get frustrated and will start making mistakes.
15. Stealing a resource is even more painful at the start of the game. So the earlier you can get knight cards the better.
16. Some players will put their second village on a crossroads that gives them at least one brick and one wood so they can immediately build a road. This is an ok tactic, but it should never trump your priority: getting a steady supply of iron ore, grain and sheep, no matter how.
17. In case you roll a 7 on the first turn steal a card for the player who has the resources to build a road immediately. You may ruin their plan and cause them to be frustrated the entire game.
18. Keep your calm and your focus. It can be maddening to get no resources for five turns even though you have the best numbers but a three you don’t have gets rolled five times in a row. This kind of shit definitely happens in this game. And sometimes you do have villages or a city at 3 location and 3 doesn’t get rolled even once during the entire game.
19. Luck is a very important factor in this game. You can try to put yourself in the most comfortable position possible, but it can always happen that a bad number like a 4 gets rolled a lot during a game and you don’t have a four and your opponents do. It happens… And sometimes you badly need to see 4 rolled and it never happens… All advice when it comes to Catan is about trying to limit the luck factor, but no matter what you do the dice can go entirely against you.
20. If Lady Fortuna goes against you try to keep the game going for as long as possible by sabotaging the player most likely to win. The odds may turn in your favor.
21. It’s unlikely you will often get the monopoly card, but if you do get it try to use it to take away the iron ore cards of your opponents. Iron ore becomes even more important late in the game. If nobody has iron ore just make sure you get A LOT of cards when you play the monopoly card. ONLY play it when you are SURE you will get a lot of cards.
22. The game is different every time you play it. If the starting map shows all the iron ore and grain to be on the worst numbers then you should obviously focus more on other resources and a harbor. Though the end goal will still be to get a steady supply of iron ore, sheep and grain. By the way, if you buy a lot of development cards you will likely end up with some cards you can use for building roads or a village. Again making bricks and wood less important.
23. Spend your cards. Don’t end your round with 6 cards on your hand and definitely don’t end it with 7 on your hand. The chance that you will lose half of your cards if you get more than 7 cards is very high. And it’s very painful. Always avoid having to do this.
24. The most comfortable position and arguably the most fun position to be in is to be able to buy lots of development cards and to use them to target your strongest opponent.
25. Habors are most crucial for getting iron and grain when the grain and iron tiles all have bad numbers or are occupied by your opponents.
26. Be very tough when it comes to trade negotiations. Unless a resource is absolutely vital for you (it allows you to buy something immediately) do not agree to 1:1 trades. Get at least two or three cards, especially when trading with the active player because that one will use the resource you are trading away immediately for something good.
27. If you have a monopoly card you can first offer to trade and when you know your opponents have the desired resource you play the monopoly card instead of trading them for it. It won’t increase your popularity, but who cares. The point is to win the game.
28. During set-up the best starting situation is to be the last one to put a village on the map. Because you can immediately put your second one there as well. You may wish to obstruct other players’s path to expand. Also if you are the last one to put a village on the map you can put in a way where it blocks an opponent.
29. If you trade with the bank try to do it at a time you can immediately spend the resource you get. It’s painful to trade four cards for one only to have it stolen by an opponent.
30. Never show you are winning. Don’t even ask for the two points for the longest road or the largest army. Let the other players discover that on their own. Don’t play a development card that gives you a point as long as you don’t have to. Let them think you’re behind. Prevent your strongest opponent from making trades by explaining to other players that he or she will win of they trade with him or her. At least make the weaker players push for advantageous trades with your strongest competitor.
31. If you have lots of unplayed knight cards you can also coerce people into trading with you. You just tell them that if they don’t trade with you they can expect to be raided. This will anger people so only do this if you have a lot of unplayed knight cards.
Yes, I have lost friends playing this game. Some of my more mellow family members refuse to play this game with me.
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