The 3 things you should plan for when you place your settlements in the initial set up of the game.
1. Plan to corner the market.
This is where you place settlements to include the rarest of resources. These can be rare because of two reasons in Catan.
The first is they are rare because there is less land of that type. Hills producing (Bricks) and Mountains producing (Ore) have only 3 hexes. The other land types have 4.
Bricks are important in the first half of the game for building roads and settlements. Ore becomes more important later to build cities.
The second reason is the numbers on a type of land tile will not come up often. If the numbers 2, 3, 11 & 12 are on the same land tile type, the resource that tile produces will be rare in the game.
This is particularly true of Hills and Mountains. If you have access to these rare resources, this is great for your ability to trade.
2. Plan a root to the sea.
Ports can play an important part in a winning strategy for Catan. There are two types of ports.
The first is a general 3:1 port where you can trade in three resource cards of the same type for one of another of your choice. If you have a settlement on this type of port, you could trade in three Wool for one Brick or any combination of 3:1.
The second is a specific 2:1 port where you can only trade in two resource cards of the depicted type for one of any other. So, if you have a settlement on the wool port, you could trade in two Wool for 1 Brick, Wheat, Ore etc.
2:1 Ports can be especially useful if you have a settlement on the same land type with a good number like 6 or 8.
So, at the beginning of a game, place a settlement near a port, not on it. It is always better to have both of your early settlements touching three resource hexes if possible.
When placing a settlement, to gain access to a port. Place it within two roads lengths, as this will give you easy access to it in the future.
It can also often discourage other players from moving towards that port. They know it is too easy for you to get there first.
Ports have another advantage too. Your trading ability with them is never stopped by the robber being placed their hex.
But because you can only use ports in your turn. You may want to try to hold onto a lot of cards to trade using your port. This temptation can put you at higher risk for being robbed.
3.Plan to buy development cards.
Development cards can play a part in any winning strategy for Catan. Either as an extra way of gaining Victory points or to support resource development.
There are five types of development card. These are Knights, Victory Points, Monopoly, Road Building and Year of Plenty.
To buy a development card you need to trade in 1 Wool, 1 Ore and 1 Wheat card. When you initially place settlements include a Pastures, a Mountain, and a Fields land hex.
Development cards are a good investment when:
1. You have more than 7 cards in your hand but cannot build anything.
2. You need knights to keep the robber off your hexes.
3. You see a lot of knights development cards played.
Knights make up about majority of the development card deck. So, when you see a lot already played there is a better chance that the remaining cards are non-knight cards.
Whatever development cards you get, bluff! If other players think you have a knight card in front of you. They will likely decide to place the robber on someone else.
I hope you will find these Top 3 Tips helpful and Catan will give you as much enjoyment playing as it has given me.
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If you like Catan board game you may also like to add to your collection and play the expansions games:
Or add more players with Catan 5 & 6 Player Expansion
Or alternatively why not try out different themes based upon the Catan game like.
Or you would like to play on the move with Catan Traveller Edition