Catan is a great game to play to relax after a long day and spend time with your friends.
Through my years of being part of a local board game meet-up, I’ve taught others the ins and outs of playing and winning different games. You’ll want to keep various strategies in your back pocket to make it to the top and win. So, if you’re curious about how to play—and how to win—I’m here to help.
But how will you know what you should try during the game and what strategies are useless? Read this ultimate Catan strategy guide to have a better shot of setting yourself up for success next time you play!
Bottom Line Up Front
Keep in mind that playing with two players is a very different game feel than playing with four players.
What is Catan?
Catan, formally known as Settlers of Catan, is a multiplayer game where you’ll play against other players. Each player is a settler and wants to develop and build their holdings while acquiring and trading different resources.
During gameplay, you gain victory points when your settlements grow. The first person to reach a certain number of victory points wins.
This award-winning strategy game is quite popular across various game meet-ups. I’ve played it with my friends before, and it was much different than I first thought.
- Four building costs cards
- One robber
- Sixty roads
- Twenty settlements
- Sixteen cities
- 25 development cards
- 18 number tokens
- Nine harbor pieces
- Nineteen terrain hexes
- Two special cards
- Two dice
- One booklet to learn how to play
- 95 resource cards
Where to Buy Catan?
You can buy Catan from:
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
And, of course, you could also check out different retailers in your area.
The Ability to Expand
Are you playing with more people? Consider buying one of the extensions or expansions. Then you’ll be able to play with up to six players.
There are multiple expansions to choose from. To play with five or six, it’ll require an expansion.
There are various expansions to choose from! One of the most popular options is the Catan Seafarers expansion.
Other options include:
- Catan Traders and Barbarians
- Catan Cities and Knights
- Catan Explorers and Pirates
First, you’ll need to set up the board. Then, you’ll need to connect the six sea tiles to create a hexagon.
Within this, you’ll need to place nineteen terrain tiles so that they fit inside. They’ll represent one of the game’s five resources (wool, grain, ore, brick, and lumber).
While you can place the tiles however you’d like, it’s a good idea to follow the rules if you’re a beginner to Catan. It’ll also ensure that no one has an unfair advantage over another.
After you set up the board, each person will pick a color and take the pieces that go with it. For beginners, it states to take two roads and two settlements. You can also take turns placing a city with an adjacent road.
When everyone has their first settlement, it’s time for a second one. Place the robber on the blank desert hex. Have the resources cards in separate piles.
Each person will receive one resource from each terrain tile next to their second settlement. For beginners, you’ll use the process for the settlements with a white star.
Important Rules to Remember
As you’re strategizing and determining what you’ll do next, your settlement can’t be less than two edges away from another city or settlement. This means that settlements can’t be next to each other!
You roll both dice to begin your turn. This will decide which terrain hexes will provide resources.
When a player has a settlement that borders a terrain hex with the number you rolled, they receive one resource card. This can include if you have two or three settlements, then you’ll receive one resource card for each, respectively.
When it’s your turn, you can build cities, settlements, or roads. You could also buy development cards.
Development cards can be played during this time. Maritime trade or trading resource cards with other players can occur during your turn. All players have to roll for resource production.
What if There isn’t Enough of a Certain Resource?
If there aren’t enough resources for everyone’s production, no one receives a resource during that turn! So be mindful of the different rules and how many resources are left for the taking to avoid surprises.
While luck will be involved, you’ll want to take some risks. Therefore, it’s essential to make safe bets during play to balance out any risky moves that you try.
Pay attention to who is trading what and when. To trade successfully, use high ratios such as 3:1 or 2:1. For example, maybe you give them one resource to receive a few of theirs. While this might seem strict, remember that the object of the game is to win.
When a neighbor (another player) is desperate for a specific resource, they’ll be more willing to give more up. But, of course, if you don’t want to give the other players resources, you could always trade with the bank.
Keep in mind that the bank is expensive, though. But it’s a great way to keep resources away from other players.
Be Careful with Development Cards
The development cards in Catan are variable. Therefore, you’ll want to keep the development cards hidden and away from other players as you play.
Other players will wonder what you have hidden in your hand. As you organize your resources sufficiently, you’ll be more likely to access more development cards.
Don’t wait until the end of the game to have ports. If you choose coastal options with ports, your best bet has two adjacent hexes. Of course, you’ll want settlements that coincide with your resources.
Roads should go toward where you’d like your subsequent settlement to be. This is generally around the outside of the board.
You also want to place your roads depending on where you think the other players will establish their settlements. The more placements are made, the easier this gets. Remember that you want your roads to block other players as much as possible.
You’ll be able to see what you’ll need to build cities, settlements, etc. Try to balance the different resources as you play.
Try to avoid having an over-abundance of one type of resource. The resources aren’t the same amount in play either!
There are actually more wood resources in the game than brick. Yet, you usually need the same amount.
There are a lot of sheep in the basic game, so that’s an easy option to trade for. Wheat is another powerful resource to have since it’s pretty much necessary for whatever you want to build.
- Brick-High value
- Grain-High value
- Ore-Medium value
- Wool-Low value
- Lumber-Medium value
It’s Robber Time
The robber shows up once every six rolls. It’s also moved when you play a knight.
It’s best to use the robber on the person who is winning. Try to avoid other players; since then, they’ll be more likely to go after you next time.
With the robber, you can block what another player needs. Then, for games where it’s a level playing field, have the robber go after the person to your right.
Don’t place the robber where you need a resource. To succeed in this game, you need resources to build!
The Two Card Strategy
Since you want to build cities as quickly as possible, you’ll want to receive two cards for each turn. Wool, grain, and ore will help you toward development cards much quicker.
My Top Picks at a Glance
- Betrayal at House on the Hill-It’s great for those looking for a unique game since it changes each time you play it!
- Ticket to Ride-This is a super popular game that’s all about being a railroad tycoon. You’ll play and collect matching train cards to connect cities across North America.
- Pandemic-This is one of my absolute favorite games ever! It’s actually a co-op which means you’ll work together to stop the world from a virus.
- Gloomhaven-It’s rated one of the best games ever created! It’s a co-op for one-four players.
The Best Alternatives to Catan
While you may love Catan, it’s still fun to switch it up and try out other games similar to Catan. There are various games to choose from, from Ticket to Ride to Betrayal at House on the Hill!
Betrayal at House on the Hill
In Betrayal at House on the Hill, you and the other players explore a haunted mansion. You might come across different scenes that could change the game entirely.
The story changes each game which keeps this game a fresh take! For example, you may or may not have a betrayer amongst you, oh, and the betrayer doesn’t find out that they are until later on in the game. Sometimes, the house will attack the players, and it’ll be all about survival.
- Plastic figures
- Character cards
- Game pieces
- Special tokens
It’s three-six players and takes about an hour to play. Of course, this will depend on what occurs in the middle of the game. The game is a good option for those who are twelve or older.
- It stays fresh since the game can change each time
- It feels like Clue and a few other games combined, which makes it exciting
- A great game to play with friends and keep game night exciting
- It’s not an excellent choice for family game nights
- It can be frustrating to get so far, and then the middle of the game can make it difficult to win.
Ticket to Ride
Go on an adventure back in time where you’re a railroad tycoon in North America. You’ll play and collect matching train cards to build railways across North America.
There are expansions available too. Multiple ways are available to score points as well.
When you have longer routes, you’ll receive more points. In addition, whoever can reach their destination tickets first will receive extra points.
Ticket to Ride is an easy game to learn! Plus, if you’re short on time, it takes about thirty-sixty minutes to play it.
- It’s great for a family game night since it’s for those ages eight and up
- Various ways to score points which keeps it at a level playing field
- A fun game that’ll have you reliving the excitement of building railways!
- Check the game because there are; unfortunately, some counterfeit games floating around
- The cards are small
This is one of my favorite games ever! I love how it’s a co-op. It takes some of the stress and pressure from competing with each other.
At the beginning of the game, you are randomly assigned a person. This person will have different abilities; some are more effective than others.
Depending on your ability, this might determine what you do during your turn. For example, you’re trying to stop a virus from taking over the world.
First, your team of experts needs to contain the virus, and then you can eliminate it. The object of the game is to have all of the viruses.
It’s kept fun since you can choose what level of difficulty you want to play it at. I would highly suggest avoiding hard or even medium when you start!
There are multiple ways for the game to end, including when you run out of cards. Each turn, a certain amount of cards are given to the person who just went and then is flipped to see what cities get infected first.
If more than three of the same color is in one city, that means that it’ll spread to the connecting towns, which makes it difficult. As we play, we try to stop this from happening! There’s an expansion pack as well if you’re looking to make it a five-player game.
- It’s a co-op
- Forces you all to socialize with each other and figure out what actions you’ll take
- Gameplay changes each game since there are different characters
- It can be frustrating that once the cards run out, the game ends, especially when you’re close to winning
- You need to have a strategy from the beginning, which can be too complex for some.
Question: How Long does it Take to Play a Game of Catan?
Answer: Most games take about ninety minutes.
Question: What is the Original Catan Game?
Answer: It was initially called The Settlers of Catan.
Question: How Many Players Can Play Settlers of Catan?
Answer: The expansion allows you to play up to six players. Without the expansion, it’s about three-four players.
Question: Can You Play The Settlers of Catan with Two Players?
Answer: Yes! The play will be different for two players compared to four players.
Exploring the Ultimate Catan Strategy Guide
I hope that you found this ultimate Catan strategy guide helpful! Make sure to use some of these tips and tricks for the next time you play.
It’s a good idea to track what works and what doesn’t for you. Although, each game will have a different outcome. Remember that if you’re playing with only two players, the gameplay will feel much different than playing with four players.
If you enjoyed this guide, be sure to check out our other articles today!