Sunday, January 4, 2009

Expansion Strategy in Settlers of Catan

The concept of the Expansion Strategy is to seek a balance of resources and try to expand rapidly early in the game.

In order to win, you’ll need to:

  • Get most of your points from settlements and cities. However, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to build 5 cities. The additional points, obviously, need to come from longest road, bonus points, or largest army.
  • Since you’re likely to have a good supply of brick and wood, the most likely source of additional points is the longest road. Of the 13 games that I won, I had longest road in 7.
  • Development cards almost always perform a useful function, so, though this strategy doesn’t call for you to focus on buying them, you will occasionally make a purchase or two. In 9 out of my 13 victories, I had at least one bonus point.
  • In most cases, you’re not going to be buying huge quantities of development cards. However, since soldiers make up a large number of the cards, it’s not inconceivable that you find yourself with largest army (4/13 for me).

I played 25 games against the computer using this strategy. Please see this post for details on the setup. My observations and tips are below:

  • I won only 13 of 25 games (52%). When I first started playing Settlers, it appeared to me that this strategy of balancing and maximizing resources would be the way to go. It has not lived up to my expectations. In order to win, you simply need too many resources.
  • Once again, I won well over 50% of my games in which I started in the 3rd or 4th position versus much less than half for those where I started 1st or 2nd.
  • For this series of games, greater chances of getting resources did not translate into greater chances of winning. Granted that 25 games is an extremely limited sample size, but, for this strategy, it appears that quality trumps quantity every time. You need to get bricks, wood, wheat, and ore in decent quantities in order to win. Lack of any of these resources makes it extremely difficult to win.
  • Pick your resources carefully. If you ignore the chances of getting a resource based on its number, it is easier to get wood (4 hexes) than brick (3 hexes). Since both are required in equal quantities, you want to focus on brick over wood. Likewise, wheat is more valuable than sheep. They both appear with equal frequency on the board (4 hexes), but wheat is more useful in that it is used in the production of cities while sheep is not.
  • It’s tempting when using this strategy to disregard ore – a huge mistake. Without cities, it is impossible to win. 5 settlements give 5 points, and longest road gives an additional 2. Without ore, it’s almost impossible to get the additional 3 points.
  • If you’re a good trader, you could try foregoing sheep. In the course of the game, you’ll need one sheep for each of your settlements and each of your development cards. At most you’ll build 5-7 settlements and a few development cards. Meanwhile, your opponents should have sheep in huge quantities for the four hexes and could be willing to trade. It’s risky but workable.

Summary of 25 games using the Expansion Strategy:

  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 3 wood, 6 brick, 12 brick, 11 wheat, 10 sheep, 9 ore. Won. Surprisingly, the low chances of getting wood and wheat didn’t hurt me too much. I finished with 8 points from cities/settlements and 2 bonus.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 8 wood, 2 wood, 6 brick, 4 brick, 4 wheat. Won. This one was tight. I got a total of 6 points off buildings, 2 for largest army, and 2 for longest road.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 4 wood, 6 wood, 12 wood, 6 brick, 9 wheat, 11 ore. Lost. I got crushed. I was too dependent on the number 6, which didn’t come up as often as I needed. Struggled to get wheat.
  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 8 wood, 11 wood, 3 brick, 6 wheat, 4 ore x2. Won. Easy game. 8 points from cities/settlements and 2 bonus.
  • 1st Player. Initial placement 8 wood, 5 wood, 10 brick, 12 sheep, 3 sheep, 6 ore. Lost. Lack of wheat hurt early development.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 6 wood, 4 wood, 3 wheat, 11 wheat, 6 sheep, 5 sheep. Lost. Lack of brick and ore killed me.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 9 wood, 5 brick, 9 brick, 10 brick, 2 sheep, 10 sheep. Won. My numbers hit a lot early, allowing me to run away with the game. Finished with 8 points from buildings and longest road.
  • 1st Player. Initial placement 8 wood, 11 brick, 5 wheat, 3 wheat, 10 sheep x2. Lost. I wasn’t able to expand quickly enough. The lack of brick and ore hurt.
  • 4th Player. Initial placement 3 wood, 5 wood, 4 brick, 6 wheat x2, 11 sheep. Lost. This one was close. I would have won on my next turn. My six drew the robber often and lack of ore didn’t allow me to draw development cards to move it.
  • 4th Player. Initial placement 6 wood, 4 wood, 2 brick, 6 wheat, 4 wheat, 3 sheep. Won. This one was surprisingly easy considering that I didn’t start with ore, and I was light on brick. I finished with 9 points from buildings and longest road.
  • 1st Player. Initial placement 11 wood, 10 brick, 8 sheep, 3 sheep x2, 6 ore. Won. Close game. I finished with 6 points from buildings, largest army, longest road, and 1 bonus.
  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 11 wood, 5 brick, 8 wheat, 6 sheep, 3 sheep, 4 ore. Won. Easy game. I finished with largest army, longest road, 1 bonus, 4 settlements, and 1 city.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 5 wood, 10 wood, 11 brick, 6 sheep, 8 sheep, 3 ore. Lost. This one was miserable. 11 never hit, so I never got brick. I also was poorly situated for expansion.
  • 4th Player. Initial placement 3 wood, 11 wood, 9 brick, 10 brick, 12 wheat, 6 ore. Won. Easy victory by building 1 settlement and 4 cities and getting 1 bonus point.
  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 9 wood, 5 brick, 10 brick x2, 8 sheep, 11 sheep. Lost. Even though I had a brick monopoly, there was no way to win without the wheat and ore to make cities.
  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 3 wood, 4 wood, 3 brick, 8 brick, 4 wheat, 8 wheat. Won. Extremely close game. Built 2 cities and 3 settlements to go with 3 bonus.
  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 3 wood, 6 wood, 12 brick, 4 wheat, 11 wheat, 6 ore. Lost. Not nearly enough brick. I was also too heavily invested in the number 6, which didn’t come up often enough in this one.
  • 1st Player. Initial placement 3 wood, 9 wood, 6 brick, 11 wheat, 6 sheep, 4 sheep. Lost. Close but no cigar. Once again, lack of ore hurt.
  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 4 wood, 9 wood, 2 brick, 11 wheat, 4 sheep, 8 ore. Won. Tight game. Won with largest army, 3 cities, 1 settlement, and 1 bonus.
  • 1st Player. Initial placement 9 wood, 5 brick, 6 brick, 2 wheat, 10 sheep, 11 ore. Lost. Wasn’t able to expand fast enough and got cut off by opponent roads. Usually try to concentrate on outside hexes, but the best intersections were in the middle of the board.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 3 wood, 11 wood, 6 brick, 3 brick, 4 sheep, 8 ore. Lost. 3’s and 11’s didn’t come up, so I was starved for wood.
  • 1st Player. Initial placement 5 wood, 9 wood, 4 brick, 10 brick, 6 wheat, 2 sheep. Won. Very close game. Won with longest road, 3 settlements, and 3 cities.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 10 wood, 2 brick, 9 brick, 10 brick, 5 wheat, 9 sheep. Lost. The opponent who concentrated on the 8’s jumped out to an insurmountable lead.
  • 2nd Player. Initial placement 5 wood, 6 wood, 9 brick, 10 wheat, 11 sheep, 12 ore. Won. Easy victory. I finished with 3 settlements, 2 cities, longest road, and 1 bonus.
  • 3rd Player. Initial placement 4 wood, 8 brick, 6 wheat, 3 sheep, 11 sheep, 12 ore. Won. Close one. I finished with 1 settlement, 4 cities, and 2 bonus.

2 comments:

Jeremy said...

Just stumbled upon your blog, good info. bookmarked!

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