How Settlers of Catan Works

Settlers of Catan Strategy

Catan cake
As this cake illustrates, Catan fans are pretty obsessive.
Naotake Murayama/Creative Commons

Like a lot of games, Settlers of Catan is relatively easy to learn, but its varied game play and dependence on trade makes it ripe for inventive strategy. Expansion sets alter the complexity of the game and what happens changes greatly depending on whom you're playing against, but here are just a few basic strategy suggestions:

Know your costs. Familiarize yourself with building costs so you'll know which resource investments benefit which building projects. For instance, lumber and brick are vital to building both roads and settlements. Cities and development cards, however, incur ore costs.


Trade smart. Trade is vital to success in Settlers of Catan, so make sure every one you make furthers your path to victory. Early in the game you can safely swap with everyone, but later on you'll want to limit those interactions. Never trade with a player who is about to win the game.

Know where to build. Location, location, location! You want to kick off the fun by starting settlements on high-pip terrains. Also try to make sure your first settlements border three different terrain types to diversify your returns. Don't settle near the ocean until later in the game.

Don't bait the robber. Like it or not, someone is going to roll a 7 so take proactive measures. Make sure you always have fewer than seven resource cards before another player rolls in order to avoid losing half your hand to the robber. Spend the resources on building early and buy up development cards later on to further your growth and protect what you've built.

Know how to win. The only way to win is to amass 10 victory points, but there are different strategies to achieve this goal. The three main ways consist of 1) building lots of settlements and the longest road 2) building lots of cities and amassing the largest army or 3) achieving a balance between the two.

Think you have what it takes to rule the island? Explore the links below to learn even more about Settlers of Catan and other popular brain games.

Settlers of Catan FAQ

Can you play Settlers of Catan with two players?
Because Settlers of Catan is designed for three to four players, you can run into problems trying to play with just two people. However, if you opt not to follow standard rules, two-player gameplay can be possible.
Why is Settlers of Catan so popular?
It's thought that the worldwide popularity of Catan happened due to the German game mechanics that favor nonviolence, cooperation and invigorative thinking.
Is Catan easy to play?
At first, Catan seems like a very complicated game because it has many rules. But after you play a few rounds, it becomes quite easy.
How long does it take to play a game of Catan?
A game takes approximately one hour.
What is the best Settlers of Catan expansion?
It depends on the type of game experience you're looking for. If you're interested in more intense competition, Oil Springs is a great expansion choice. If you want to go beyond the basics, Cities and Knights is the perfect pick. Other expansions add new dimensions to the game.

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More Great Links


  • Board Game Geek. "Settlers of Catan." (Aug. 19, 2011)
  • Curry, Andrew. "Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre." Wired Magazine. March 23, 2009. (Aug. 19, 2011)
  • The Economist. "An affinity for rules?" Aug. 28, 2008. (Aug. 12, 2011)
  • Keyes, Scott. "Settlers of Catan: How a German Board Game Went Mainstream." The Atlantic. June 7, 2011. (Aug. 25, 2011)
  • Settlers of Catan Fansite. (Aug. 19, 2011)