What better way to start a series of strategy articles than to boil down all of my basic strategy advice into 10 commandments, and do a series of articles detailing each one. Okay there’s probably a better way, but I like this way. Consider it an introduction to how I think about the game. Here is a preview of the articles to come:
The 10 Catanments
1. Produce all 5 resources
Get on all resources with your starting settlements with those resources on the best possible numbers. This often requires planning ahead and predicting where other individuals are going to place before you get to place again. I you can’t place so that you can build toward the fifth resource — or on a useful port — by your 3rd settlement.
2. Balance your compatible resources
Try to balance your resources well in terms of probabilities. Wood is only useful if you have the brick to pair with it, so it may not be worth trying to build to a lot more wood unless you have a port or another way of getting to brick. If you’re unbalanced in some way to start (ie way more ore than wheat, or way more brick than wood, etc), use your subsequent settlements to become more balanced. You will ‘7 out’ less often because you will be able to build more often.
3. Plan your expansions carefully
Be efficient. Don’t build more roads than you have to. Is it worth building three more roads to get to a spot that is just marginally better than the spot that I can get to in one road? Sometimes, maybe, but usually not. Build to the spot that is going to help you fulfill the first 3 commandments, and allow you to get to the next spot you want to get quicker.
4. Bet high on Wheat and Ore
If you have to make a choice, go with the better Ore and Wheat spots, and make sure you do not get locked out of either of these. Wheat is the universal donor — it’s key to doing nearly everything in the game, and being left without it will make it more difficult to amass points and will cause you to ‘7-out’ more often.
You can explore the first 3 Catanments here.
5. Get maximum value out of your Development Cards
Cards can be as important as what is on the board when it comes to winning at Catan. Which means knowing how to use Knights, Monopolies, Road Builders, and Year of Plenty as effectively as possible is as important as anything.
6. Know your opponents’ resource needs and use the robber well
Block the number your opponents need to come up most. If you’re battling for Army, block your opponent’s ore or wheat (whichever one they do not have in their hand).
7. Use ports methodically
Trading 2:1, 3:1, and 4:1 each has its place, but all must be executed carefully. Don’t trade away something that you can’t expect to be coming back in anytime soon, and be patient about trading for things you should be pulling in easily.
You can explore the middle 3 Catanments here.
8. Deflect attention
Convince others to put the robber on your opponents. Make it seem like you can’t win, even when you know you can. Persuade others not to go through with trades. Your tongue can be your own catch-up (or lead keeping) mechanic.
9. Know your opponent’s routes to victory
Pay attention to the other players, and know what they need to do to win. Then do whatever you need to prevent that. If you’re behind, anything that makes the game go on is good for you.
10. Plan ahead to time your victory
Always think about what you have to do to win, create plan to win and then execute it. Alter this plan if necessary, but always do exactly what you think you need to do to win — and plan ahead for it.
You can explore the final 3 Catanments here.
I’ll end with the ‘Golden Rule’ – Be unblockable. Either with development cards, effective placement and expansion, a great use of ports, make it so players cannot limit your ability to accumulate points with the robber.