Best Strategy For Settlers Of Catan

Settlers Of Catan (1995) by Klaus Teuber can be a difficult game to win consistently.

There are so many different ways to win, that it’s difficult to decide what to do on your turn. But there ARE ways to improve your strategy for Catan.



The best strategy for Catan is to:

  • Plan opening settlement and road placements based on map resources
  • Trade with weak opponents, and obstruct strong opponents
  • Listen to what cards your opponents have
  • Build roads, settlements, and cities, consistently, to avoid being caught by the robber
  • Adjust to dice rolls by increasing or decreasing trading frequency

Starting Roads & Settlements Strategy

Where you place your initial two settlements and roads is important, because it determines the resources you receive for the rest of the game.

The pips on the counters tell you which numbers are most likely to be rolled, from ‘6’ and ‘8’ to ‘2’ and ‘12’.

The most likely dice roll is ‘7’, which moves the robber.

Start with Catan strategies for beginners. Then, more advanced strategies include:

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  • Having all five types of Catan resources, as much as possible
  • Understanding the most likely dice roll results.

So if two settlements give you wood, sheep, wheat, ore and brick and are each on numbers 5, 6 and 9 then you have a great pair of placements.

The roads out of your initial settlements should point to where you want to build next.

If you want to win Longest Road, the roads out of your initial settlements should face toward each other.

Key Catan Strategy - Establish The Most Common Resource Production

Change what you build, from game to game, based on which resources are most common.

e.g. If ‘6’ and ‘8’ hexes both produce ore and wheat resources, build cities.

Or, if ‘6’ and ‘8’ hexes produce resources of wood and brick, build roads.

Harbour Port Strategy To Increase Trading Opportunities

Consider building a harbour straight away to provide more trading opportunities.

If a harbour port allows trading sheep at 2:1 and your main settlement is on two (or even three!) sheep hexes, other resource types are not needed, since the harbour can be used to trade for necessary resources.

For the best chance of winning Catan, understand the board layout in advance.

Understand which resources have the greatest probability of being produced, even before the game begins.

Start by obtaining a plentiful supply of as many different resources as possible.

Strategy For Initial Placement In Settlers Of Catan

Watch this video by DyLighted for an in depth discussion of the thought processes behind initial placement in Catan.

Trading Commodities Strategy

Accept a slightly less favourable trade, occasionally, if it means that your strongest opponent doesn’t benefit.

e.g. Would you rather:

  • trade ore for one brick and give your opponent what they need?
  • OR
  • trade an extra resource for one brick with the weak player in last place?

If your main opponent also benefits from your trading, then your net gain is zero.


Bank And Ports Strategy

If a port allows you to trade any resource at 3:1, consider trading using the port instead of trading with another player.

Trading with a port is expensive but it ensures that no opponents benefit.

Trading with ports works well if you have access to a large amount of one specific resource.

Trade with the bank at 4:1 is expensive, but may be necessary to prevent an opponent from winning.

A port that allows trading a resource at 2:1 ratio should always be used.

Trading at 2:1 is a good investment because it provides a good exchange rate on your resources as well as reducing resources for other players.

Good Catan Strategy Means Listening To Other Players

Listen to everything that is going on at the table.

When people are talking about trades, they are telling you the cards they are playing with!

It may well tell you what they are thinking of building, and what they are hoarding.

Robber Strategy

Some players accumulate cards to spend resources on expensive cities or settlements.

But, each time the robber lands on one of your resource hexes, if you are over the hand limit, you lose cards. Always spend resources and build consistently, if you can.

However, if you roll a 7 to activate the Robber, place the Robber in hexes which affect the player in the lead, to help the rest of the playing group, the most.

Development Cards Strategy

The development deck contains Knights and Victory Points.

Knights allow building towards winning the Largest Army card, and they can also fend off the robber and take a resource from another player.

Victory Points are less frequent in the card deck, but can mean you win or lose the game.

Other development cards are Monopoly and Year Of Plenty.


Longest Road Or Largest Army Strategy Tips

Gaining the Longest Road or the Largest Army scores 2 victory points, and it also gives you an advantage over the player from whom you took it.

If you have 5 points and the holder of Longest Road has 9 and is in the lead - if you take it from them you will both have 7 points, so their lead over you has gone from 4 points to nothing.

Catan starts with 2 points on the board, and players need another 8 to win, so gaining the Longest Road or Largest Army can improve chances of winning substantially.

Cities Strategy

Cities multiply the resources returned from a hex.

A city produces two resources when its hex is rolled. If there is more than one city on a hex then it produces multiples of that resource.

Cities also generate one point when built.

Be aware of other players building cities to take advantage of the victory points they generate.

Settlements Strategy

Since settlements cannot be built next to each other, a player can deliberately block certain spaces on the board by building roads into the path of opponents settlements.

Dice Roll Strategy

While 6, 7, and 8 are the most likely dice roll results, in some games, dice rolls are more random.

When dice rolls do not benefit you, have confidence that results will return to average.

If dice rolls are not beneficial for you, you may be unable to do much on your which case you should trade with other players as much as possible.

Settlers Of Catan - 4th vs 5th Edition

The essence of Catan strategy is in the box art change between Settlers of Catan 4th .v. 5th edition.

In the 5th edition, the words "trade", "build," "settle," are seen for the first time, making the objectives of Catan clear to new players.

The Settlers Of Catan Expansion Packs

Expansion Packs like Seafarers (1997) or Cities & Knights (1998) increase the variety and replayability of Catan strategy you can use in one game, as expansions change key rules and interactions in the game.

Using The Settlers Of Catan Expansion Packs, rules of the base game change.

Resources are produced in different amounts, therefore strategies for winning change too.

Catan Strategy Recap

In Catan there are multiple ways to grab victory points. No single strategy will guarantee you win the game.

This strategy video by Legendary Tactics mentions many of the things I have talked about here, and is definitely worth watching to increase your chances of winning.

Plan from the beginning of the game, trade well, attack leading players, avoid the robber, and always adjust to dice rolls by trading with other players.

These guidelines will maximise your chances of winning Settlers of Catan:

  • Plan strategy according to the board layout
  • Get access to all five resources on productive hexes, whenever possible
  • Establish a harbour port if you can connect it to a required resource
  • Trade with weaker players
  • Consider trading with the bank and harbours to avoid helping other players
  • Build settlements, roads, and cities consistently, to avoid the robber
  • Steal Longest Road or Largest Army to reduce the leading player’s chance of winning
  • Cities can provide multiple points and resources
  • You can build to reduce opponents’ chances of gaining points
  • Trade often to offset unlucky dice rolls

Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.

About the author

James Declan discovered board gaming via a one hour sesh trying to escape Forbidden Island with his daughter and has never looked back.