Catan Strategies: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Learn strategies to improve you game! Useful tips for beginners, intermediates, and advanced players.
Whether you are a beginner or a pro at Colonist, this article will teach you some core strategies of online Catan!
The article is divided in 3 sections according to your skill level:
Let's dive in!
1. Production, Production, Production!
How Can you get more production? Place your settlements on tiles with the best numbers.
Tiles produce resources based on the numbers rolled. To have great production, you need to have numbers that will roll frequently.
You don't need to be a wizard to know which numbers roll more. It's easy math.
There could be games where 2s and 12s roll more often than 5s and 9s (what bad luck... or good?). But in the long run, the dice will follow approach theoretical averages. The more games you play, the more normal the roll distribution will be.
Here is a challenge:
Can you find the spots with the most production in the image below?
The best-producing spot is the 5/6/9. It has the best numbers, meaning this combination of numbers is likely to roll more often than any other combination on the board.
Tip: To find the best spots you can count the dots under each number. Each dot is 1 point of production (PIP.) The 5/6/9 is the only spot on the board with 13 PIPs.
Remember: Colonist is a game of production. More is better.
2. Block the player with the most victory points
Rob the rich and feed yourself!
If you are playing Colonist and one player is far ahead you should almost always place the robber on their most important tile. By doing this, you can delay that players victory, giving you more time and opportunities to overcome them.
That's all for beginners! If you pay close attention to these concepts, you will definitely improve your game. When you feel ready for more advanced concepts proceed to the next section!
1. Place so that you have access to every resource
Having access to all five resources is extremely important and can be a game changer in the mid and late game.
It makes your strategy more flexible, meaning that you can adapt to unique circumstances. Let's take a look into one example:
Analyze blue’s setup. He is going for dev cards + city strategy. He probably will not get to the ore port before red because red has access to wood and brick while blue doesn’t.
He will struggle to get wood and brick, especially if the other players don’t trade him.
Don't assume you will be able to trade for any one resource
2. Evaluate which player is in the best position and block them
Blocking the player that is ahead is a strategy even beginners know.
But sometimes it is not clear who is ahead.
There is a way to help you find that answer.
Try to follow these steps and answer the questions:
- Count their points
- Check their production amount (PIPs, remember to count cities as 2x!)
- Count their unused dev cards
- Check for longest road potential (current road length, access to brick and wood)
- Check for largest army potential (# of played knights, # of dev cards)
- Check for ports
- Winning potential (is there a roll that could guarantee the player a win next turn?)
Identifying the player in the best position will be much easier after answering these questions
3. Trading Strategically
Trading is EXTREMELY important in Colonist.
What many people don’t know is how to make strategic trades. Below you will find some principles to help you with that!
Remember this word: WHEAT
W - War. If there are other players at “war” you can get good trades from them. You can profit from wars, as long as you are not directly involved
H - Hold on to important resources. Don’t trade away a resource that you are going to use soon, especially if you can’t get it easily. Unless the trade gives you something better than what you would get by using the resource.
E - Enemy. Try not to trade players that have a direct dispute with you (either racing for a spot or disputing longest road or army).
Furthermore you should almost never trade the player who is leading. However, there are some situations where this would be acceptable, such as:
- If they make you an irrefutable offer that will significantly benefit you
- If you are far behind in victory points (vps) and you just want to get some more before the game is over
- If the battle for the first position is fierce (i.e. 1st player has 8 vps, 2nd player has 7 vps)
A - Abundance and scarcity. Try to use the supply and demand balance of resources to your favor when trading. If you have a scarce resource, ask a lot for it. If you want an abundant one don’t offer much for it
T - Turn trade. During your turn try to trade for resources you will be able to use instantaneously (remember, a resource in your hand is not worth any points). Other players will also try to do this in their turns. In this case ask for more than what they are offering. Remember: Money is worth more today than tomorrow.
Things are getting serious… You are considering joining Colonist tournaments.
Let’s look at strategies that will help you beat the best!
1. Have at least 1 port
Trading is tougher in a top tier game. So it is very important to have access to ports.
When placing your 2 initial settlements try to think about which 2:1 ports you will have access to and if they will have synergy with your resources. Also consider if you will have easy access to a 3:1 port.
Players who don’t have access to a good 2:1 port or to a 3:1 most often don’t win games in top tier level.
2. Track what cards are in each players hand
Knowing the resources each player has in hand is useful for many situations, such as:
- Using effective monopoly cards and knowing what resources you can steal from which players
- Making trade bargains by knowing which resources players need and which they have spare
- Knowing what players can build during their turns
3. Exchanging cards for non-blocks
It is never good to get blocked in Colonist.
One way to prevent that is convincing players not to block you. You can do that by giving good reasons that your spots are not worth blocking. If that doesn’t work, you can offer a card in return if they don’t block you.
Almost always it is worth giving a card away than having your production blocked because:
- If someone blocks you they might steal a card from you anyway
- Your production will not be blocked whilst the production of your adversaries will
- This sometimes can make your adversaries “mad” at the blocker (and it is always good for you if other players are fighting amongst themselves)
Tip: If you are the one blocking you can try to ask the players to trade a card for a non-block. Just keep in mind not to extort too hard nor to do it too many times, otherwise you can make new enemies…
4. Think emotionally and empathize with your adversaries
Colonist is a strategy game, everybody knows that. What many don’t realize is that it is also a psychological and emotional game!
Knowing how not to make enemies is extremely important. There are several ways to accomplish this.
First try not to steal cards from the same player twice in a row (if there is no one clearly ahead.) Furthermore, you can also discuss your plays with other players, for example: if you roll a 7, you can ask the other players “who should I block?” and listen to their opinion.
Second, there are situations where it is better to concede a spot for another player instead of turning him into a new enemy. This is not obvious from the logical perspective but it makes sense when you think about it emotionally. For example, imagine the following setup:
Red has a very good setup here with good expansion options. He could go to the wheat port (6,2); to the 3:1 port (9,12) or to the 8,3 and brick port. Green’s setup on the other hand is not good. His strategy depends on getting to the wheat port.
A good “emotional” strategy for red would be discussing this with green and conceding him the wheat port.
By doing that red is still very well in the game and he makes a new friend instead of an enemy. This has many advantages such as getting better trades and not getting blocked so often.
Tip: If someone is doing bad in a game, try to help them out!
There are many other ways to empathize and be nice! You can find your own methods. (Let me know when you do)
Emotion is harder to understand than reason. If you improve your emotional game you will see that even subconsciously your adversaries will help you out and everyone will have a better game.
That is it my fellow Colonist players! I hope some of this advice will help you to bring your online Catan game up!
Remember that there is no fool-proof recipe to win a game of Colonist.
I have tried to summarize good general strategies but every game is different and will require you to analyze each situation uniquely.
If you have any suggestions, ideas, other strategies and advice, please let me know at [email protected]