Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Settlers of Catan - Initial Phase Observations

I've been playing Settlers of Catan often lately. Here are some of my thoughts on strategy.

It seems to me that the game can easily be won or lost in the set up phase. Here are some of my observations:

  • The first thing that jumped out at me, obviously, was the probability of each number being rolled. Fortunately, the game board does a lot of the work for you on this one. Each hex has dots representing the number of times out of the 36 possible combinations that that number will come up. For example, a 6 will occur 5 times out of 36 (1 and 5, 5 and 1, 2 and 4, 4 and 2, and 3 and 3). Thus 5 dots appear on the hexes with the number 6. The higher the combined number of dots at the intersection, the better. 10, 11, and 12 are all high totals.

  • The second consideration regarding where to place your settlement is what resources you'll be getting. Do you want to make sure that, with your two settlements, you have access to each of the 5 resources or do you want to load up on some and trade? I've tried each of these strategies, and they both seem to work.

  • How many different numbers pay you resources? I find that I like to try to get as many different numbers as possible on my initial setup rather than duplicating. Ideally, if you don't count the rarely seen 2 and 12, I'd like to get 6 our of the remaining 8 numbers. This strategy minimizes the luck component because you're collecting resources on almost every turn. Also, be wary about starting with multiple settlements grouped around the same hex. This situation tends to attract the robber, which can seriously hamper your production early.

  • Don't forget that you get starting resources based on the last settlement that you place. Since wood and brick are so valuable early, if you place the second one next to these two resources, it helps.

  • Is it better to go for a port or an intersection that gives you three resources? You're giving up a lot for that port. To begin with, it's usually the second settlement that you place, meaning that you're only getting only two resources instead of three to start. More importantly, though, you're giving up a lot of opportunities to get extra resources. That's one less number that you have available than your opponents. I find that it's only really worth it if you can max out on that particular resource by having at least 3 chances to get it.

  • Once you've placed your settlements, you have the equally important choice of which direction to lay out the road. For this decision, you need to think about where your opponents are likely to play and try to give yourself multiple options. If your foes cut off both your roads from the start, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to recover.

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