Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Settlers Strategy

I compiled this from reading a couple Settlers websites:
This probably the best strategy guide that I found out there, put together by Scott McPherson. Anyone know if he’s on boardgamegeek?

I also read this strategy guide, which was very useful:

I also put in some of my own thoughts from playing Catan.

Anyone know of more valuable strategy guides to read out there?

Overall strategies:

Wood/brick (leads to longest road)
Build lots of settlements.
Build your future settlements on grain/ore hexes in order to build cities.
Build roads to cut off other players expansion, very useful in cutting off grain/ore players who might not be able to expand as fast as you can.

Grain/ore (leads to largest army)
Robber is a threat – huge target if you are building cities.
Buy development cards to try to get a knight in case robber is sitting on your city.
Only use the knight if the robber is sitting on 1 of your cities, try to save them for this situation to occur.
Focus more on ore than grain since you need 3 ores and 2 grain to build each city.

Try not to put your city on 1 good number and 2 bad numbers, or else the robber can come and make your city worthless.

The grain/ore strategy is generally my favorite strategy to play all things being equal, because it leads to guaranteed cities at the beginning. As long as you have development cards to protect them from the robber, I think it’s a very good strategy to pursue. You can always either expand towards wood/brick by either using the grain/ore to trade to other players since they will likely need it to build cities – which can result in favorable trades for your grain/ore.

Generally you either need the longest road or largest army to win the game, it’s very hard to win without either of them.

Initial settlement placement
Try to get your initial settlements on a total dot count of 11-13, this generally leads to strong resource production. Always put the first 2 settlements on 3 resource hex possibilities (not at the water where there are only 2 possibilities). You don’t want to constrict your resource growth at the start, you can always expand later to the water to grab a port.

Try to spread out your settlements on as many different numbers as possible so that your resource cards don’t come in huge batches – which may lead to robber losses down the road. This is an extremely key point, by doing this you are able to get resources no matter what number is rolled, which leads to steady and consistent building. I saw this approach work first hand last game, my friend had his settlements spread out among basically every number from 4-9 and he thus got resources seemingly every roll of the dice. And his cards came slowly, instead of in big batches.

Review the board at first and try to put a settlement on the rarest resource that you see (either by sheer number of tiles in the game or that the numbers on the tiles are not good), this will become extremely valuable for trading purposes later. Generally it will result in you getting 2 resource cards for your 1 resource card in trading, which can be really valuable for future building.

Build settlements early, since growth is exponential once you get settlements and cities going. This is the most important strategy point – build settlements and cities first, to generate more production later – exponential growth rate.

Also try to go for settlement spots where your opponents are also going for, if you are sure you can get there first, otherwise don’t go for them because it’s just a waste of resources.

Break the longest road if at all possible with a settlement.

Try to get settlements on 3 different types of resources, though if you can’t, put your settlements on:
Wood/brick - settlements
Grain/ore – cities
Sheep are valuable, but generally it seems like sheep are always in high supply, so I generally don’t try to worry too much about getting sheep. It is nice to have at least 1 hex on a sheep, but I don’t worry too much about them.

Generally wood/brick is really valuable early on in the game for building roads and settlements, but then loses some of its value as the game goes along. This is because a lot of people start to build cities using grain/ore. Sheep generally hold the same value throughout the game (or its value goes slightly down), because they are only used in settlements (mainly done early in the game) and development cards (throughout the game).

Expansion opportunity priorities:
1. Go for the spot with the most dots
2. Increase diversity of resources you produce
3. Try to get to a nearby port

Make sure you are not cut off from future expansion opportunities, use roads to make sure of this, watch where your opponents are building towards.

Don’t place settlements just to try to screw others players, only think about yourself first and foremost. If in the process of getting a solid settlement placement you screw another player in the process, then that is great because you accomplished 2 missions in 1 shot.

In terms of settlements/cities, try to put your settlements/cities on hexes that have other players on them as well so that the hex is shared. This can help with keeping the robber off your hexes, since other players are also involved in the hex too.

The riskiest play in my opinion is to completely monopolize a hex (3 cities on 1 hex), this makes you a huge target for the robber, and you better have knights handy to get the robber off that hex in case the robber lands on that hex. I generally wouldn’t recommend monopolizing hexes, because it results in huge swings in terms of the number of cards in your hand, and the robber threat mentioned above. I did this in my last game, and while it did pay off okay (because another player was clearly in the lead the whole game and thus the robber was always on them), I don’t like to do it unless things just work out that way.

Robber/knight tips
If the robber is on your settlement/city before you roll the dice and you have a knight card, play the knight card before you roll so that if you roll the number that the robber was on before, you will get that resource.

Don’t buy too many development cards early on, it constricts your growth rate of resource production. It is much more worthwhile to build roads/settlements/cities because of the exponential growth rate of production if you get things setup early on. Save the development card buying for later once you get your resource production machine running and actually need some knight cards to keep the robber off your cities.

Make sure that you always have less than 7 cards before someone rolls the dice, even if it hurts your trading chances later, in case a 7 is rolled - I have been hit with the robber probably more than anyone else in my gaming group, I know the pain of having a 7 rolled with more than 7 cards in your hand =)

Buy a development card or something else if necessary to avoid having more than 7 cards in your hand before the dice are rolled.

If a 7 is rolled, put the robber on the rare resource hex
Also target cities if possible
Preferably target the current game leader, put it on his rarest resource hex that has a city on it – or try to hurt as many players as possible with the placement. By hurting as many people as possible with the placement, it also helps for later when a 7 is rolled again, so that 1 player doesn’t just target you with the robber if you singled out them the last time.

Count VP points as the game goes along to see who is in first place, and generally target them with the robber.

Don’t trade with someone if they are about to win the game (ie 7 or 8 VPs) – only trade with people who are behind you or slightly even with you. During the early to middle part of the game it’s generally fine to trade with anyone.

Try to be a part of every trade possible, as long as it helps you as much as your opponent. Don’t just make a trade simply for the fact that you wanted to make a trade – be sure that it helps you as much or more than your opponent.

Ports are useful – 2:1 ports can be really useful if you can get another settlement on that resource type with a really good number like 6 or 8.

3:1 ports are also useful, they may actually be more useful than 2:1 ports because there is no risk of the robber affecting your port trading ability by someone putting the robber on the hex that is producing the 2:1 port resource (since with a 3:1 port you can trade any resource, but with a 2:1 port it takes one specific resource). And since ports can only be used on your turn, you may want to try to hold out to trade all your resources using your port, putting you at higher risk for the robber.

Placing a settlement near a port at the beginning of the game (but not directly on the port) can be a good idea, because it can give you access in the future to it.

Though try to avoid placing settlements directly on ports early on, as it really constricts your resource production. It is much better early on to have both of your settlements on 3 resource hex possibilities. Later on in the game once your resource production machine is more established you can build a settlement on a port.

Development cards
% deck of development cards is as follows: (this may vary slightly depending on what deck and edition you are using)
Soldier – 48%
Monopoly – 12%
Road building – 12%
Year of plenty – 12%
Victory point – 16%

So generally unless you are going for largest army or just wanted to buy a development card to avoid having more than 7 cards in your had due to the robber – it is likely a better investment to build roads/settlements/cities since they result in guaranteed VPs, whereas it is more of an unknown with development cards. If you are going with the grain/ore strategy I would recommend investing in at least 1 development card to try to get a knight to help keep the robber off your city if at all possible.

Generally, development cards are only a good investment when:
1. You have more than 7 cards in your hand but have no other options to build anything else
2. If you are trying to win with the grain/ore (city) strategy and need knights to keep the robber off your hexes
3. If a lot of development cards have been bought already (and they were soldiers), so there is a better chance that the remaining cards are non-soldier cards

Monopoly card trick
One sneaky trick involves the monopoly card – trading away all of one resource to the rest of the players in exchange for whatever they have, then using the monopoly card to get it all back. So you then have all the resources that you traded for, in addition to the resource that you just traded to the rest of the players. I pulled it off once, and it did work, but my friends weren’t too happy about it =)