Today, we’re going to look at my favorite topic in Settlers of Catan.
Initial Settlement Placements.
This post is created by 12 expert catan players from the King of Catan Community and we’ll give you our best advice on settlement placements.
More specifically, we’ll look at the power of production and what is important for each of the different positions.
Let’s dive right in.
What are initial settlement placements in Settlers of Catan?
Initial settlement placements are the two settlements you place at the start of the game.
The first two settlements are going to determine what options you will have during the game.
They’re often considered the most important decisions in the game, because the initial settlement placements will impact your whole game.
In this chapter we’re going to look at how you can win from all four positions in Settlers of Catan.
There are many aspects that determine which spot on the board is better than other:
What is OWS in Settlers of Catan?
OWS is short for Ore-Wheat-Sheep, and considered by many to be an ideal to strive for.
This strategy involves prioritizing ore, wheat, and sheep heavily (especially ore and wheat), with a minimal need for wood/brick and therefore not many roads. Instead, the focus is increasing production with cities, and using that increased production to buy development cards.
The knights that are bought help keep the robber off of an OWS player’s territory (and help the player get the largest army bonus in the process).
What is Road-Strategy in Settlers of Catan?
Road Builder / Road Strategy, sometimes simply called “road,” is a popular alternative to OWS, which focuses on strong wood-brick production to get the longest road point bonus.
The main resources involved are wood, brick, wheat, and sheep, with especially heavy wood and brick.
The idea when playing this strategy is to expand rapidly to good open spots on the board, making the “road” player so spread out that they are nearly impossible to effectively block. In this process, the road player should get the longest road.
Let’s look at each position and figure out what everyone should keep in mind. When there are four players, this is how the order works:
How to determine the best starting spot?
Placing first allows you to pick one of the highest producing spots on the board.
You can count how many resources each spot produces on average with the image below.
Every star means one point/pip of production. More production points means, the numbers rolls more on average. On average, a six is rolled 5 times in 36 dice rolls. Each star indicates how often a certain number rolls with 36 dice rolls, on average.
It’s a good idea to place on good wheat/ore-spot, because they are the most valuable resources.
And here’s why:
The most powerful plays in the game are building Cities and combination turns with resources and development cards.
For both you need a lot of ore and wheat, as you can see in this image.
Another very good idea is to take the complementary resource to what resources are in the game a lot.
Ore gets used a lot with wheat (Cities and Development Cards), so they complement each other well. The same counts for wood and brick.
For example, if there is a lot of ore on the board, it is often great if you can take a strong wheat-sheep spot, because you can get some of the ore that would be left open with your second settlement.
Or you can trade wheat and/or sheep for (multiple) ores.
P.S: Always look for spots that you are sure you will be able to get, which would complement your first pick.
On this board, I’m playing as blue and I decided to take 6/9/3 as it is the best wheat-spot.
(Also, I get great ore with it)
I have looked for what my second pick would be and it is either the 8/4 (which I took in the game) or the 8/10 (ore and sheep) depending on which would be open.
It gives me a very good Ore-Wheat-Sheep set-up.
More often than not, there will be at least two high-production spots on a catan board that are superior to others.
Because first position will take one of them, second player would try to apply the same rules as stated above: look for ore/wheat, a high producing spot and occasionally taking a rare resource.
What are rare resources?
Rare resources are resources that are expected to be in the game less than other resources. Because there is a lower supply of these rare resources, there’s more demand for them. This demand creates the opportunity to get effective trades.
In the image below you can see what variables impact how rare a certain resource is.
The seventh settlement should complement your second pick by making it easier to achieve either Longest Road or Largest Army.
Let’s have a look at this board.
Blue has taken the best spot on the board with the 5/6/9 and green decided to place on the
This spot not only has the best wheat-tile (the other 5 wheat not being as valuable because it will get blocked a lot), but it also offers the two best ports on the board. The 3:1 which is always very helpful, and the sheep port because there is a lot of sheep on the board.
Also, we can be fairly sure that there will be ore left open, when you place the seventh settlement.
For example, the 9/4/11 (which is the ideal set-up, if it is still open) or 6/3/11 which also offers great ore and more sheep for the sheep-port.
So far, we learned that wheat and ore are the most valuable resources and while first and second position are busy collecting most of the wheat and the ore, third position often has to be more creative to win.
If all players go for ore and wheat…
Third position has a couple interesting strategy choices.
An obvious answer is going for high wood-brick and a Longest Road-strategy. But if there’s no good spots for that, you need to have alternatives.
Another strong strategy is a port-strategy, getting a lot of a certain resource and the matching 2:1-port.
Also, you can always monopolise one rare resource that others won’t be able to have, so they will be forced to give you 2:1 deals just so they can have one specific resource.
In this case, it is important to get access to some ore.
Hopefully, you would be able to trade your resources for wheat, until you get to a 3:1 port or a specific 2:1, that would make up for the lack of wheat.
P.S: Always try to predict what fourth position would do, so you can have an idea of where your sixth placement will be.
Let’s have a look at the following example.
Red had the first to pick and Red chose the 8/4/10, while Gray took the other great ore-spot: the 8/3/10.
It makes it so there are no 3-Hex Spots with strong left on the board.
I decided to place on the 5/9/10 (wood double sheep), because it takes most of the sheep from the board.
My second settlement would be either the 5/9/10 (wheat brick wood) which would be amazing, or the 6/3/4 placing towards the 8/4, which would solve my ore-problem.
In the game I went with the other 5/9/10 which gave me the sheep port, and a pretty big portion of the sheep on the board.
Whenever I’m playing as fourth position, especially against great players, I realize I have to get a little lucky to win the game.
I like to see playing fourth position as a challenge, because any mistake can cost you the game.
So, why is the fourth player at a slight disadvantage?
Most of the time, fourth position doesn’t have the luxury to place on ore or wheat, which forces a more creative approach.
In my opinion the only good way to play as fourth position is by trying to trade as much as possible, staying under the radar and trying to make the other players spots significantly worse by blocking the majority of the good spots on the board.
A combination of trading, not getting robbed and playing defensive with your settlements can yield unexpectedly good results, and the other players should be surprised if you manage to win the game.
Let’s have a look at the board below.
In order to get good trades going, we need some rare resources. On this board, it’s both ore and brick.
We also want production. The highest producing spots are the 5/9/10 and the 6/5/11.
So, we could place on one of these two spots and in combination with the sheep-port, but the sheep-port is placed on the 6/2, which is not enough production to justify taking it.
We could also try placing towards it, by placing on the 9/10/2 with our fourth and fifth settlement.
(But it’s super risky…)
You might be able to get the longest road by placing on the 6/4/3 and the 9/10/11.
This way, you’ll have a direct way to connect your settlements and a way to eventually build on the 11-ore.
You could also point your road on the 6/4/3 upwards to the 8/3, but it’s a bit risky if we’re looking where orange (third position) is going to place.
I think it’s not a great set-up, but it’s the best I can make from it and it could win the game.
While we look at a host of other possibilities to set yourself up as well as possible with your initial placements, one should never underestimate the brutal power of production.
Production, when taken smartly, can be as lethal as anything in the Settlers of Catan.
It is important to cite a win-condition in the game, but when one may not have one due to the nature of the board, the alternative should be production.
A win-condition is the method by which a player will get to 10 points. In about 70% of catan games, this includes either getting the largest army or getting the longest road.
No wheat doesn’t equal defeat.
The first thing that would appear in anyone’s mind when they see this board is: low wheat.
What does that mean?
Blue had a certain advantage of starting and occupying the only good wheat spot. I (Orange) placed fourth, so decided to pursue the longest road as my win-condition.
Due to the production from 8-brick, 6-sheep and overall seven points of wood, I managed to build roads without trading.
Afterwards, I got to the sheep port and then claimed the important 5-wheat. By the end of my expansion, I had every single number on the board barring 11 and 12.
As Blue was bound to be blocked a lot due to the rare resource, I managed to scoop both the largest army as well as the longest road.
No strong bricks? No good wheat?
Above is another classic example of production. Red won the game through smart strategies and quick cities but most importantly, the pips of production.
It’s important to note that neither was there enough brick to play road, nor was there wheat on the way back for orange, who placed first.
He chose the double ore, gaining 11 pips of resource supply and then doubled up on the 6 by going 6/5/11. He was able to trade with blue, meaning cities were not a problem.
Once he doubled his supply, courtesy of a couple of 3s and 11s on the dice, Red acquired the 3:1 port, took the largest army and won the game.
In games like these where it’s not plausible to secure all resources or play a specific strategy, it’s important to emphasize production and double up on your best spots with early cities.
This blog post is the first of a series of posts about initial settlement placements, written by the players listed in the image above.
But now, I’d like to hear from you:
Which advice will you implement first in your Settlement Placements?
The difference in the placement order
How production wins games
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment, right now.
If you enjoyed reading this article, we totally recommend the following article as well.