Having a set strategy after you place your first two settlements to begin a game of Settlers of Catan is crucial to giving yourself the best chance at winning the game. Winning in the standard version of Settlers of Catan usually comes when a player reaches 10 victory points unless you change that amount. The first step is to learn the basics of Settlers of Catan and going through the new player guide for the standard version of Settlers of Catan on here will help immensely.
Placing The First Two Settlements & The Most Important Resources
The placement of your first two settlements to begin a game will be the most important factor of deciding your strategy and also with giving you a strong start to the game. In the standard Settlers of Catan version the most important resources in the early game(2-4 victory points) are wood and brick. Wood and brick are important because without them you cannot build roads to expand to your third settlement and wood/brick are also required to build a settlement. In order of importance resources usually follow, wood/brick -> wheat/ore -> sheep. Sheep are used to purchase development cards and aside from that you only need one to build a settlement. Mid-game(5-7 victory points) wheat and ore become more important if you are looking to build cities while wood/brick remain very important. Late-game(8-10 victory points) wheat and ore become the more sought after resources for building cities and also for purchasing development cards. Sheep does become more valuable at this stage if you are focusing on the largest army or grabbing a victory point development card but it still is the least important resource.
Going off of this information you will want to guarantee yourself at least one source of wood and brick on decent numbers(anything except 2,12,3,11). It is suggested that you have at least one of each resource to prevent yourself from being locked out of a certain one. If the opportunity presents itself of having two great settlement locations to start and you will have no access to ore or sheep it is up to you whether or not you want to gamble with going this route. It is easier to start the game without ore compared to sheep, since you need one sheep for a settlement, but you will want to make sure that with your third settlement you will be able to expand to the resource you do not have.
Lastly, the placement of your settlements is important since the center of the map is usually very crowded. Placing at least one settlement outside of the center of the board will lower your chances of being surrounded early on. It is also a good idea to place your roads pointing towards or parallel to the outer edges of the board. If you are starting first then it is best to lock up the best wood/brick location since you will usually not have a good option after everyone else settles. If you are going last then you have an easier decision since you are able to decide your fate with back to back settlement placements.
Playing the standard Settlers of Catan version you do not have many different options as how you will get to 10 victory points. You are limited to settlements, cities, longest road, largest army, and victory point development cards. Settlements and longest road are centered around expansion early on to allow you to cut other players with roads and to secure additional settlements to bring in a large amount of resources. Wood and brick are the more important resources for these two victory point options. Going for the largest army and victory point development cards is not smart at the beginning of the game since you will often be left behind when other players expand to more settlements/cities than you. It is better to go this route after first using settlements and roads to create a large empire to support buying development cards. And lastly, cities are capable of reassuring your settlements to bring in more resources and to get the final few victory points to reach 10 total.
I find that starting with expansion(roads and settlements) to grab a large section of the board to cut any competitors off is the best early game strategy. After you settle your first 2 settlements and have enough roads built to protect future expansions spots you can look towards going to phase two. Whether you focus on cities or on largest army/victory point cards is up to you, but focusing on cities will be a safer option since development cards are a random element. If no other player has many knights and has the largest army knocked up then focusing on development cards is a more viable option.
Things to Avoid
While Settlers of Catan doesn’t have many “wrong moves” there are certain actions you can do that can hurt your chances at winning. I like to refer to these actions at being “inefficient” and usually it is easy to avoid them if you plan ahead and take a good look at the map each turn. First off is avoiding building roads that do not allow you to expand to a good settlement spot, block an opponent, and/or setup for a longest road. Placing your roads at the start of the game to allow you to build a continuous road without to many branches will allow you to easily lock up the longest road. Most players will branch in more two different directions and their first two settlements will not join up in the end which puts a limit on the maximum amount of roads they can have to count for the longest road. It is also wise to not build a road, “simply to build a road”, unless you fear that the robber will be rolled before your next turn and you have a lot of cards. To put it simply you should only build roads if there is a purpose to them.
Weighing risk and reward for your settlement locations is also a very important component in Settler of Catan. Ports are very tempting to expand to but make sure you will actually have a good use for that specific port since you give up a third resource hex being adjacent to your settlement. Another thing to keep in mind is that while a settlement location has a 6,8, or another good number if the other numbers around it are 2’s and 12’s it most likely isn’t your best option to expand to. Placing your settlements largely comes down to your initial placements and also where other players place around you but you can influence where they expand by placing roads to limit their options as to where they can expand.
With no expansions Settlers of Catan has limited options to win the game but that necessarily isn’t a bad thing. The game still requires players to have a strategy and to think ahead a few turns to plan out where they will expand and what mid to late game options they want to pursue. The best Settlers of Catan strategy is to choose the best settlements spots at the start of the game and then to efficiently expand to your third and fourth settlements. This allows you to have a lot of resources at all times that will give you a leg up on the competition to easily get the last few victory points you need to win.
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