How To Start Catan

Many people may think getting started in Catan will be difficult or daunting, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Once you have the game board set up and all terrain placed, starting in Catan requires you to decide on two locations to place your two settlements, which also determines which resources you will obtain at the start.

catan gameboard

In order to start playing the settlement building game of Catan, there are a few steps you must take first in order to get your board, terrain, settlements and starting resources in place for each player.

  • Set up the board. Link together the puzzle-ends of the ocean tiles to form a border. Each piece will be numbered and should be linked to the same number.
  • Place the terrain. While some game modes keep the desert hex in the centre, the other terrain tiles can be randomly placed on the board in any location you choose.
  • Place the robber token. This small piece will always go on the desert hex piece, wherever it is located. It will only move if a player rolls the dice and equals the number 7. And if you had nine cards in hand when a seven is rolled out, you need to discard four cards.
  • Place number tokens. Each terrain, except for the desert, will have a number token on it. This dice determines what roll is needed for that terrain resource.
  • Select your settlement locations. Each player can have 2 settlements and 2 roads on the board at the start. Place these randomly in any spot where three terrain tiles meet.
  • Take your resources. Depending on where you placed your starting settlements, you will be entitled to collecting resources. Take them at the start of the game.

Once all of the players have placed their two settlements on the board and obtained their starting resources, the game can officially start.

The blue player i.e the first person will usually start the game by rolling the dice. The number they land on will determine what resource is available.

catan competitive

If a blue player rolls a 5, and a yellow settlement is touching the terrain that has a 5, the yellow player will get one card of that resource.

If the yellow player happened to have a city in that spot instead of a settlement, which is possible in later gameplay, they would have received two resource cards for that tile, not just one.

Trade Phase

After each player has had their chance to roll the dice and determine which resources were passed out, the game enters the trade phase.

This is an extremely important part of early Settlers Of Catan starting gameplay and should not be taken lightly. Your resource type and amount will determine how well you can do in later gameplay.

During the trade phase, active players can choose to trade with other players. For example, if blue is the active player for that turn, the blue player can choose to ask the yellow player if they want to trade one of their wool cards for one of the blue player’s wood cards.

During the trade phase, no player is obligated to trade if they do not want to. And can also offer counter-offers.

For example, if blue offers wood for yellow’s wool, yellow can counter and ask for wheat instead of wood for their wool card.

Additionally, trades can be made in the ratio of 4:1 with the resource pool itself. For example, you can trade four of your wood cards for one of any other resource cards during the same turn if no fellow players want to or are able to trade that resource.

catan paintedcitiesroads

What To Start With In Catan

Each player will start their game of Catan with two more settlements and two roads. The player can place their settlements on any points of the hexes they choose. This can be where three terrain tiles meet, or can be along the edge near a harbour.

In addition to two settlements, each player will also have two roads. These roads must be placed connecting to a settlement and will be along the straight edge of the hexagon.

Victory Point Cards

You can either choose to place your roads connecting all four of your starting pieces, or can plan for longer gameplay and spread them out. Having the longest, unbroken road can help you win by providing more victory points.

Deciding on the best settlement locations can go a long way in helping you do well when starting your Catan game.

Each player will receive a build cost card that shows which resources and how many of each are needed to construct additional settlements, roads and cities.

Planning ahead right from the start can sometimes help you do well over the long run. For example, the cost to build a new settlement is one wood, one brick, one grain and one wool resource card.

A settlement will earn you one victory point, as well as help bring in additional resources depending on where it is placed.

In order to build a city, you will need to use two grain and three ore cards. Each city you have on the board will give you two victory point cards.

If you plan on constructing cities as early as possible, ensuring you have a potential source of income for ore might be a good game strategy to consider when placing your settlements.

What Direction Do You Go In Catan?

When first placing settlements at the start of a Catan game, the blue player will be the starting player.

After blue places one settlement and one road, the gameplay will shift clockwise to the next player. They will then place one settlement and one road.

This continues in a clockwise direction until all four fellow players have one settlement and one road on the board.

After that, the last player that placed a settlement and road will remain the active player. They will place their second settlement and road at this time.

It then continues counter-clockwise for each player to place their second settlement and road. This clockwise to counter-clockwise direction helps ensure that no one player gets preferential treatment when selecting their starting terrain.

catan floorsize

Where Do I Start In Catan Game Board?

Some players may choose to place their settlements randomly and not worry too much about which resources they are touching, while other players will focus more on specific resource locations in an attempt to stockpile many of them early on.

Both tactics are effective since the dice rolls are random, there is no way to really determine which terrain cards will be active and which resources will come your way.

With the placement of settlers of catan near the mountains or fields, you increase your chances of obtaining ore and grains.

Both ore and grains are used extensively during the build phase of Catan, and may also be valuable resources to have in your hand during the trade phase as well.

For example, if a player wants to build a city, they will need to pay two grain cards and three ore cards.

For new settlers of Catan, you will also need one grain card, but no ore cards, in addition to a wool card, a brick card, and a wood card.

And for development cards, you will need a grain card and an ore card, in addition to a wool card.

Depending on how the terrain tiles have been laid out on the board, placing your first settlements near fields and mountains can be effective in getting a decent amount of grain and ore early on.

This in turn can help you quickly advance to more existing settlements or even four cities which will effectively earn you more resources and more victory points.

catan gencon


  • When does the Robber come into play? The Robber becomes able to move from the desert hexagon and start stealing resources when any player rolls a 7 on the dice.
  • Is trading important? Trading and bartering, both with other players and when trading back to the resource pool, is a very important aspect of the whole game.

Settlers of Catan may seem like a difficult to learn game, but once you get started it quickly becomes apparent how the basic rules work and how you can quickly advance your gameplay with initial placement to increase your chance to earn victory points.

If you want to make your initial placement in areas near lucrative resource areas, it’s a good game idea to consider these top three terrains:

  • Mountains for ore resources
  • Fields for grain resources
  • Pastures for wool resources

Once you have a good stockpile of grain and ore, you can build a city in place of your settlement which ultimately increases your victory points and gets you one step closer to winning the game and being the best settler of Catan!

Image credit, license, No changes made.
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.