FAQ/Strategy Guide by CaspianX2

Version: 1.02 | Updated: 06/01/07 | Printable Version

Catan Strategy Guide
Some helpful pointers so you can build, develop and trade your way to success
in the XBLA version of the popular board game

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       Strategy Guide v1.02
       Submitted on 6/01/07
       By CaspianX2 (AKA Jake McNeill)
       Digital Entertainment News (http://www.dignews.com)

1. Introduction
2. Controls
3. Basic Gameplay Rules
4. Getting Started
5. Placing Your Settlements Part I: General Strategy
      5A. Revenue Dots
      5B. Location
      5C. Type of Resource
6. Placing Your Starting Settlements Part II: Order-Specific Strategy
      6A. Going First
      6B. Going Last
      6C. Going Second or Third
7. Early Game Strategy
8. Development Cards
      8A. Soldier Cards
      8B. Monopoly Cards
      8C. Year of Plenty Cards
      8D. Road Building Cards
      8E. Victory Point Cards (and "soft" victory point totals)
9. Trading
      9A. Easy AI Opponents
      9B. Moderate and Hard AI Opponents
      9C. Human Opponents
10. FAQ
11. Thanks and Credits
12. Legal Information


1. Introduction

Before we even get started here, I want to be sure to clarify a few things.
First and foremost, I never played the board game Settlers of Catan, and my
first experience with the game is on Xbox Live Arcade. Also, I lay no claim to
being some super-expert at the game - Iíd like to think Iím pretty good, but
there are certainly folks out there that are better than me. Still, these
suggestions and observations of mine should serve to help those who are just
starting out, or trying to improve their game.

Because this has been a popular board game for some time, you will probably be
able to find strategy guides for it all over the internet. However, this guide
is a bit different in that it is specifically meant for the Xbox Live Arcade
version of the game, and not only includes advice on strategy, but how to play
the game effectively on the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, as well.

As such, it deserves mention that some of the advice on offer here isnít
directly about how to play the game, but how to interact with others while
playing it. It might seem silly for an article like this to give pointers on
courtesy and etiquette, but Catan is a game of diplomacy, and many players on
Xbox Live donít seem to realize that for a game like this, the way you act
around other players will have a great impact on how well you can play. In
this guide, Iíll also be sure to address ways to improve your interactions
with not only human opponents, but AI opponents as well, as they have their
own quirks to watch for and make use of.

If you have any suggestions for changes or improvements to this article, I
would love to hear them, and I ask that you post them on the Xbox section of
the message boards of my game website, Digital Entertainment News
(http://www.dignews.com). By the same token, if you have comments, questions
or complaints, please direct them to the boards as well.

Right, so here we go!

2. Controls

A - Select or confirm an option

B - Cancel an option

X - Play soldier (before your turn), end your turn (on main menu), skip to your
turn (on other playersí turns), select a specific player to trade with (on
trade menu)

Y - Switch between trade screen and port trade screen, reject offer (in trade

Left Analog Stick - make selections

Right Analog Stick - zoom in and out and rotate the board. Press in stick and
hold to change the position of the board

D-Pad - Mostly the same as left analog stick

Start - Enter/Exit pause menu

Back - See control layout

Left Trigger - Hold to see a list of build prices and scoring (you should
memorize these)

Right Trigger - Hold to check playersí point score, road length, number of
cards and number of Soldier Cards played

Left Bumper - Hold to check resources in play, see how many revenue dots each
player has, how many development cards (and more specifically, soldiers) are
left in the deck, and how many roads, settlements and cities you can still
build before you run out of peices

Right Bumper - Hold to use emote menu

Right Bumper + D-Pad - cycle through the pages of the emote menu

Right Bumper + left analog stick - change recipient of emote

Right Bumper + A, B, X or Y - Use the corresponding emote

Left Trigger + Right Trigger - Show tally of revenue dots for all open
locations on the board / show available revenue for every tile on the board
(when using the robber)

Left Bumper + Right Bumper - Show available resources, as well as some other,
less important stats

Left Trigger + Left Bumper - See a game log (for those that find that sort of
thing useful)

Right Trigger + Right Bumper - Show dice roll statistics

3. Basic Gameplay Rules

The board is set up with hexagonal tiles arranged randomly (in a 3x3x3x3x3x3
hexagon-shaped arrangement), with four wool tiles, four wheat tiles, four wood
tiles, three brick tiles, three ore tiles, and one blank "desert" tile with no
value where the robber begins play. Then, the numbers 2-6 and 8-12 are assigned
to the tiles. When this is done, players begin choosing the starting locations
for their first two settlements on corners of the tiles (this is done
automatically in a game with "easy setup").

The first player chooses a spot to place their settlement, and then branching
out from that settlement, they choose a spot to place a road. Then the second
player does this, and then the third, and then the fourth (in a four player
game). Settlements cannot be placed closer together than two spaces apart.
When this is done, payers repeat the process a second time in the opposite
order, with the last player choosing first and the first player choosing last.
Each player gets one resource for each tile surrounding their second
settlement to start with.

Every turn, the dice are rolled (or a dice card is drawn if playing with dice
cards). If the number rolled is not a seven, all tiles matching the number
rolled produce resources for players who have a settlement or city on that
tileís edge - one resource for every settlement and two for every city. If a
seven is rolled, all players with eight cards or more must discard half of
their cards. Then, the player who rolled the seven moves the robber to any
tile on the map and steals one resource card at random from one player with a
settlement on the edge of that tile. Until the robber is moved again, this
tile no longer produces resources.

On a playerís turn, they may at any time attempt to trade their resource cards
with other players, make any number of port trades, buy things with their
resources, play a development card (one per turn) or declare the end of their

Players can buy road pieces at a cost of one brick card and one wood card, a
settlement for one brick, one wood, one wheat and one wool, a development card
for one wool, one wheat and one ore, or they can upgrade a settlement to a
city for two wheat and three ore.

Road pieces are placed along the edges of tiles, and can only be placed next
to your own road pieces, settlements and cities. Settlements are placed at the
corners of tiles, and must be at least two spaces (road lengths) away from any
other settlements. Cities can only be placed in a spot where you already have
a settlement. Also, players can only have 15 road pieces, 5 settlements and
4 cities at any given time.

When buying a development card, players randomly draw from a deck that
includes Soldier cards, Monopoly cards, Year of Plenty cards, Road Building
cards and Victory Point cards. Soldier cards allow players to move the robber
and steal from a player with a settlement bordering the tile it is moved to,
Monopoly cards let a player steal all of one type of resource from every
player, Year of Plenty cards let a player get two resource cards of their
choice, Road Building cards let a player build two lengths of road at no cost,
and Victory Point cards cannot be used but give a player a point that brings
them closer to winning the game. Players may only use development cards on
their own turn, they may only use one development card per turn, and they may
not use development cards on the same turn they were purchased.

In a trading session, players may trade any number of their resource cards for
any number of resource cards another player has. Any player may offer an
exchange, but only the player whose turn it is may make trades. A player may
make any number of these trades in a turn.

You may also opt to make a port trade, discarding four of any one type of
resource card in exchange for another resource card of your choice. If you
have built a settlement or city on one of the border of "?" ports located on
the edge of the board, you may discard three of any one type of resource card
in exchange for another resource card of your choice. If you have a settlement
or city on one of the resource ports located on the edge of the board, you may
trade two of that specific resource for any one resource of your choice.

The Longest Road bonus is awarded to the player who has a road that is at
least five lengths long from one end to another, and is longer than any other
playerís road from one end to another. Another player may take this bonus if
they build a road that is one length longer than this road.

The Biggest Army bonus is awarded to the player who has played the most
Soldier cards (at least three). Another player may take this bonus if they
play one more Soldier card than the one who currently has the bonus.

The game is over when one player wins by earning ten victory points. Players
earn points for settlements (one point each), cities (two points each),
Victory Point cards (one point each), and also for being awarded the Longest
Road bonus (two points) and Biggest Army bonus (two points).

4. Getting Started

If youíre just now learning how to play the game, I highly recommend you make
use of the tutorials and instructional guides present within the game. Also,
play a few sample games against the computer before you challenge live
opponents (who may be a bit less patient with you). In fact, I recommend that
before you challenge live opponents you win a few games against computer
opponents set to Moderate difficulty first (easy computer opponents are
pushovers, and hard computer opponents are unrealistically stingy in their

I also suggest you get used to single-player games with standard ranked play
rules before you dive into ranked play - 4-player games with normal dice,
normal robber, normal board setup and so on. You might even want to play with
the red/green colorblind scheme just so youíll be familiar and comfortable
with everything before you take on serious, live players. Excessive? Perhaps,
but it couldnít hurt.

5. Placing Your Starting Settlements Part I: General Strategy

Where you place your first settlements is extremely important, and poor
placement can lose you the game before you even begin. Itís not always easy to
avoid these pratfalls, either - the random turn order and random maps make the
gameís opening somewhat unpredictable, and adding the human element of what
the other players choose to do can make it sometimes impossible to predict. 

Generally, when placing your first settlements, it helps to follow a few
guidelines. The following are the criteria you should follow to determine
placement, in the order of importance:

--- 5A: Revenue Dots ---
The number of revenue dots around a placement is more important than anything
else, because regardless of what resources youíll be getting, it will be of
utmost importance that you get them as frequently as possible (and as you
should probably know if you read through the gameís instructions, the revenue
dots indicate how often a location will receive resources). Revenue dots can
be determined by counting the "dots" on the land surrounding the location the
settlement will be placed, however, the easiest way to do this is by holding
down the left and right triggers, which at any given time will show you the
value of every spot on the board.

The highest number of revenue dots any location can have is 13 (anything
greater would require two tiles with five dots to border each other, and the
game prevents this from happening, most likely for balance reasons). As such,
a location with a value of 13 is a must-have location that should be pounced
on without hesitation. 12 is also extremely good, 11 is great, 10 is average,
and anything less should be avoided when placing your first two settlements,
unless there are no better alternatives.

Unless there are multiple reasons to pick another spot, you should always go
for a location with the highest possible revenue dots, and even IF there are
multiple reasons, you should never pick a spot with a value of 9 or less
unless there are no better alternatives. If the total of the revenue dots of
your two opening settlement locations isnít at least around 20 or so, you can
expect to have constrained resources.

No, I donít have any statistical analysis to back up these numbers. These just
seem to be about right for a good setup.

--- 5B: Location ---
Unless thereís some great opportunity you just canít pass up (or you just
donít have a better option), never place one of your opening two settlements
on the outer rim of the board. Not only because locations on the outer rim
NEVER have revenue dots greater than 9, but also because youíre pretty much
restricting your options for expansion - generally, from any given spot on the
board you can expand in one of three directions, but because spots on the rim
are so resource-poor, your only reasonable direction to go when you start
there is inward. This is too restrictive, and usually isnít worth it even if
you get a port out of the deal.

Itís also usually a good idea to stay away from the very center of the board,
both because itís harder to work your way to the ports, and because other
playersí settlements are more likely to lock you in. The exception here is if
youíre placing your second settlement and it happens to be a stoneís throw
away from the first one (again, thinking about that Longest Road bonus).

So what do you look for? Well, a spot thatís one or two spaces inland from a
port is nice because it gives you a solid chance at getting the port without
restricting your ability to expand. Also look for spots that are amongst other
good spots to build to (although you should be careful when you do this - if
theyíre TOO good, other players are likely to put their opening settlements

As for your second settlement, naturally you want to build relatively close to
your first one if you can (again, strengthening your chance to get Longest
Road). Even better, if thereís a way you can place it so your two settlements
block off a reasonably-sized chunk of land, youíll not only be giving yourself
an opportunity, but denying the other players that opportunity as well.
Finally, you can look for spots that mess up other players - such as a
location between their two settlements, or between their settlement and a
port. Keep in mind that doing this is a good way to ruin your ability to be
diplomatic with said player, so if you do it this location should be
worthwhile even if it didnít block off an opponent.

--- 5C: Type of Resource ---
If youíre looking at multiple spots with relatively close revenue dots in
locations that offer similarly lucrative opportunities, pay attention to the
type of resource they produce. Each resource has its advantages and
disadvantages, and hereís an idea of what they are:

Wood: Wood is extremely important early on in the game, and becomes less
important later. The board will have four wood tiles, meaning it will
generally be a fairly abundant resource, although players will often fight
tooth and nail for it early on.

Brick: Like wood, brick is extremely important early on, and becomes less
important later. However, unlike wood, brick has only three tiles on the
board, generally making it scarcer (and thus, more valuable). Early in the
game, this is frequently the most-desired resource.

Wool: Wool is moderately important throughout the entire game. Youíll always
be able to use it for something - either a settlement or a development card.
However, unlike every other resource in the game, you will never need it in
any great quantity unless youíre using it for port trades. Wool has four tiles
on the board, and the fact that players never need a lot of it means itís
almost always very abundant.

Wheat: Wheat is the most versatile resource in the game, and the only one
necessary for three of the four things you can build (as opposed to just two,
like everything else). It is very important throughout the entire game,
although the fact that it has four tiles on the board mediates its value

Ore: Ore is relatively unimportant early on in the game, but becomes extremely
important later. The fact that settlements require three ore, and that ore
only has three tiles on the board means that later in the game, players will
often be in a race to get ore.

If I had to venture an opinion, I would generally recommend valuing the
resources (at least at the beginning of the game) in the order Brick, Wheat,
Wood, Wool, and Ore, although this is highly subjective, and it depends a lot
on how rare the resources are. Count the number of dots each resource has
across the whole board - this can be quickly checked by holding the left and
right bumper and looking at the tallies in the upper-left corner of the
screen. Any resource with a total number of 9 or fewer revenue dots is going
to be somewhat rare, but also important is disparate values.

What I mean by this is that if, hypothetically, brick had three tiles each
with 3 revenue dots spread across the board, it would be somewhat uncommon,
but if it was a 5 and two 2s, it would be a bit more uneven, especially if
these tiles were near the edge of the board, where one or two players could
partition them away from the other players. This uneven distribution has the
effect of making this resource even more rare - and more valuable for those
who have it in greater abundance.

It is also worth mention that itís usually best to make sure your two
settlements have access to a healthy variety of resources. While you can
always port trade away excessive numbers of a single resource, this is very
inefficient (even if you have access to the matching port), and itís better to
ensure that you wonít have to do it too often (although there is an upside -
other players wonít be getting anything when you port trade). Most of the time
players have to port trade to get their ore, and sometimes a player may do it
for the appropriate resource they need at the moment. Thatís understandable,
but if youíre constantly lacking three or more resources because your choice
of placement gives you little or no access to these resources, then your
choice of placement is probably hurting you.

6. Placing Your Starting Settlements Part II: Order-Specific Strategy

Your choices will not only depend on the board and your opponents, but also
when in the turn order youíre going. The first person to place settlements
will have a completely different approach than the last person, as will the
people in between. Hereís my advice for each slot in the turn order:

--- 6A. Going First ---
Going first is probably the most precarious situation to be in - even though
youíre getting first dibs on the board with your first settlement, your second
settlement will be the last one to get placed, and will almost undoubtedly be
the most poorly-placed in the game opening. This causes a few major problems
right off the bat - because your opening resources depend on the placement of
your second settlement, itís likely your opening hand wonít be what you want.
In addition, the fact that six settlements are being placed between your first
and second settlements means that even if your second settlement is in a decent
spot, it will most likely be cut off from the first, not only making it less
likely youíll be able to secure the Longest Road bonus, but also weakening
your ability to inhibit other playersí expansion with your own.

Because you have no clue what other players will do with their settlement
placement, your best option with the placement of your first settlement is to
stick with whatís safe. First and foremost, if there is a spot with a revenue
dots of 13 or 12, pounce on it. This is one of the few perks of being first,
so youíd sure as hell better take it. Conversely, if there are no places on
the board with more than 11 revenue dots, you can expect to have a tough time
early into the game.

If there are multiple spaces with an equal number of the highest amount of
revenue dots, youíre usually best off picking the one with the highest amount
of Brick, Wheat and Wood - youíll need all three of these more than anything
else early on in the game, and you may not have the freedom to pick a spot
that has them with your second choice.

If your spot is relatively close to a port, build your road in the direction
of the port, because odds are good that other players will be taking the spots
in the other directions (because, after all, your placement should put you in
one of the best areas of the board, being right in the middle of the
highest-value tiles), and this is your best way of assuring youíll build your
next settlement as soon as possible. Otherwise, try to place your road in the
direction where the revenue dots are evenly distributed (an area with multiple
locations that have 6-8 dots is ideal), which makes it a good place to build
that isnít so lucrative that the other players will swoop in and take it.

With your second placement, youíll be at the mercy of the other players. On
the last one or two turns before you choose your second settlement, size up
the board and look for two or three locations with the highest point values,
so youíre ready to make your second placement when it comes back to you. If
the other players left multiple locations with comparable point values, try to
pick one thatís either close to your first settlement, or near a port that
meshes with the resources you have available. Again, build your road either
towards the other settlement you want to build, or towards the port.

--- 6B. Going Last ---
Good news, bad news, good news. The good news is, your second pick will be the
best second placement of the game. The bad news is that your first pick will
never be the better than everyone elseís (unless one of them picks poorly).
However, the good news is that your first pick may still very likely be on par
with most of the other settlements already chosen.

Going last means that both of your settlement choices will be made in tandem,
one after the other. As such, youíll generally have a good opportunity to set
yourself up for Longest Road, and youíll also be able to actually have a hand
in choosing what resources you start out with.

Because these choices will be made together, you have to look at the board a
bit differently - rather than just trying to determine the single best spot on
the board, you should look for three or four of the best spots on the board
(because of this, it helps if you start looking while the one or two players
before you are placing their settlements). Determine not what the best single
spot is, but the best combination of two. So, for example, if spot A is a
little better than B and C, but spot B puts you close to spot C where you
have a good opportunity to go for Longest Road, you might actually want to go
B and C instead of, say, A and B.

If your two choices are within two or even three spaces of each other, donít
bother building your roads in between them - other players are unlikely to
risk running between them only to get blocked off for their troubles, and you
should make use of these roads to give yourself more of an opportunity to
expand outwards early on. Whether or not you build your road to your port,
however, depends on whether you think youíll be fighting someone else to get
it, and just how important it is to you early in the game. For example, if you
expect a healthy supply of wheat, have little or no access to brick and youíre
near a wheat port, youíll want to build towards the wheat port so you can
improve your early brick supply.

When you have decided your two settlement spots, you need to determine the
order youíll place them. Remember - the second settlement you place determines
what resources will be in your opening hand. Brick and wood are the most
important here, however, if your only initial access to brick, wood, wheat or
wool is via tiles with a low combined revenue dots, you may want to make your
settlement near these low-yield resources your second one, because you have
no idea when youíll ever get more again. Conversely, if one of your location
choices happens to be amongst wool, wheat and ore, you may want to make that
one your second simply so you can buy a development card right off the bat.

--- 6C. Going Second or Third ---
The best strategy for players who donít pick first and donít pick last isnít
as straightforward, as players going second or third have a mesh of the
problems and benefits of those faced by players going first and those going
last. Going second or third means that both your first and second choices will
be pretty good, but before, after and in between them youíll need to worry
about the choices other players make. My best recommendation is to combine my
general strategy with your own best judgment.

When making your first selection, itís best to choose a prime location (like
the player going first) above all else, but keep in mind how many turns it
will be before your second selection (four if youíre going second, two if
youíre going third), and keep an eye out for other opportunities. Basically,
make your first choice so that you have the possibility to make a second
selection that compliments it well, but make sure itís strong enough that you
wonít be screwed if someone else takes that second spot youíre eyeing.

Oh, and on that note, itís important that players going second or third look
at the board without moving the cursor around to spots youíre considering when
you pick your first settlement. This tends to be a habit players fall into,
and while it doesnít matter much to players going first and last, when players
in the middle do this, they are projecting their thoughts to other players,
who may very well see the position and decide you had the right idea, taking
that spot for themselves. While they may very well take the spot you want
anyways, thereís no reason you should help them to see it.

7. Early Game Strategy

Once all the game-opening settlements are placed, you need to decide some of
the basics of what your strategy will be. First and foremost, get a feel for
the kind of resources youíll be getting. If youíre fortunate, youíve got a
healthy amount of brick and/or wood to work with, in which case youíll want to
spread outward as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you may be in a better
position to buy development cards and possibly upgrade to cities.

Also at this point, you should decide if you even want to bother trying to get
Longest Road. I know a lot of players view it as an important goal, but you
have to weigh how realistic it is - if you donít have good access to both wood
and brick, if another player has severely cut off your ability to expand, or
if another player has placed a settlement between your two, you may want to
shelve your long-term road-building ambition in favor of short-term resource
gathering. If things change later, you may always be able to go back to it,
but itís a waste of time for players to focus their efforts on collecting
brick and wood for extensive roads if itís unlikely theyíll be able to beat a
player whoís simply in a better position to do it.

Regardless, at this point in the game, 80% of the time your goal should be
working a road towards an intersection close to one of your settlements
(within two spaces, and preferably within one space of a road youíve already
laid down) that has the highest number of revenue dots. 15% of the time (if
youíre not close to any particularly great intersections and/or you have a
resource with a high revenue dots that matches a nearby port) youíll want to
work a road towards a port. 5% of the time (if your settlement selections are
low on lumber and brick but high on wheat and ore) youíll want to work towards
buying development cards and upgrading to cities.

If you and another player are both close to the same spot, you should watch
his actions to decide how to proceed - if heís focusing on another part of the
board, you may want to hold on to your resources and risk a roll of seven so
you donít alarm him by building your road towards the prime spot. On the other
hand, if you know heís interested, you may want to hold off on committing a
road to that spot anyways until you know you can beat him to it - otherwise
youíre wasting your road unless you can split it off towards a "plan B" that
youíd find satisfactory.

Often this happens when two players are vying for the same port. In these
situations, if you canít be sure whether youíll win that race, you may want to
refrain from branching towards the port in contention until youíre sure you
can secure it, and you can always make use of your road in the opposite
direction, towards another port.

8. Development Cards

Here are some helpful things to keep in mind when using development cards:

--- 8A. Soldier Cards ---
Generally, you donít want to use soldiers unless someone has placed the robber
on your property - itís a waste of a card you may need later to get the robber
off your back. If someone already sicced the robber on you, be sure to use the
soldier before your turn, when it gives you the option to roll or use a
soldier card. If youíre wondering why itís important that you use it before
and not during your turn, the reason is because, on the off-chance you roll
the number the robber is blocking, you will have kept yourself from getting
its resource.

As for using the Soldier Cards for the "Biggest Army" bonus, it shouldnít even
enter your mind until youíve already gotten two of them. Any deliberate effort
to try to buy development cards specifically for this purpose is just as
likely to get you some other card, and itís a goal thatís only worth pursuing
if youíre already close to achieving it (or if youíre absolutely desperate to
get your last two points and donít have any better way to do it).

--- 8B. Monopoly Cards ---
Unless you get the chance to snag a large amount of resources you will use
(rather than trade or port trade), you probably shouldnít play the Monopoly
Mard early in the game. Players wonít have much to steal, and if you just port
trade the stuff away, you wonít get as much for your troubles as you would
later, when you have a good port to trade them at. Once you get a port, then
you should watch resource totals to see when they get high in number - Iíd say
at least six, especially if youíre port trading most of them. If you see any
resource jump to ten or more, you should probably pounce on it. Because you
wonít get an opportunity like that very often. Remember, you can see how many
of each resource is in play at any time by holding down the left bumper -
extremely useful when you have a Monopoly Card youíre thinking of using.

Also, before you use a Monopoly Card, try to trade away all resources of the
type youíre going to steal - even if it means offering two or three in
exchange for one of something else. Youíll just be getting them all right back
anyways. A few words of caution, though - donít offer more than three for one,
or people will probably guess what youíre doing. Also, because this kind of
pre-monopoly trading is kindaí rubbing salt in the wound, be aware that youíll
probably piss off the other players by doing this.

--- 8C. Year of Plenty Cards ---
If you get a Year of Plenty card, be sure not to use it until the resources
you get with it can be used to attain what you want this turn. For example, if
you want to block off another player from a path two spaces away and get there
first, but you have no wood and lumber, youíd better wait until you have at
least two wood, two lumber, or one of each. Not only will you have more
flexibility in filling your need, but you wonít have overcommitted yourself
and wasted a card only to be blocked off the following turn (or worse, have
the resources stolen from you).

Also, donít buy resources youíre likely to get anyways unless you absolutely
need them right now, and for heavenís sake, donít waste a year of plenty just
so you can buy another Development Card unless youíre desperately trying to
get one last Victory Point Card or Soldier Card.

--- 8D. Road Building Cards ---
I honestly canít think of much advice to give regarding the Road Building Card
that you couldnít figure out on your own. Donít use it when trying to beat out
another player to claim a road or settlement location until you can actually
do it - nothing sucks more than using a road building card only to have
someone beat you out to the spot you were building to before you could finish.
Remember, the robber can steal brick and wood from your hand, but no one can
ever steal Development Cards, so thereís absolutely no rush to use them until
the opportune moment.

--- 8E. Victory Point Cards (and "soft" victory point totals) ---
These cards seem fairly straightforward, but their existence changes the
gameís strategy considerably. First of all, anyone holding onto a Development
Card for any lengthy period of time can probably be assumed to be holding onto
a Victory Pont Card. However, regardless of how long a player has held a
development card, any of them could potentially be Victory Point Cards. As
such, itís probably wise for you to simply assume the worst when looking at
victory point totals (hold down right trigger), and include a playerís
development cards when trying to determine their overall score. For example,
you should act as if someone with five points and three cards actually has
three Victory Point Cards for a "soft" total of eight. In other words, even
though the point total you see (the "hard" point total) is five, they actually
have a possible eight points, and you should treat them accordingly.

Use this "soft" total to determine who to send the robber after, as well as a
measuring stick for when to brake off trade relations with a player (Iíd say
to break off all but the most critical trade relations when a player reaches
seven "hard" points, or seven or eight "soft" points). Also, if someone has
already played two Soldier Cards or is within two lengths of road of achieving
Longest Road, assume one of their cards is the final Road Building or Soldier
Card needed for Largest Army or Longest Road, adding yet another point to
their "soft" total. This strategy may seem overly cautious, but the thing is
that even if youíre wrong, youíre not very wrong - think how many points a
well-played Monopoly Card could snag, and a well-played Year of Plenty Card
could easily bring a player another point. By factoring these cards into a
playerís score, youíre getting a better feel for where they really stand, and
not just where they appear to be.

Conversely, you can expect both your human and AI opponents to assume that
your cards are victory points as well. And because AI opponents in particular
wonít trade with you (and will consistently send the robber your way) when
they believe youíre at least a few points ahead, you may opt to use other
Development Cards in your hand sooner rather than later so theyíre not
mistaken for Victory Point Cards. However, only do this after it has become
apparent that the other players are targeting you - itís entirely possible
they arenít factoring your development cards into your score, in which case
thereís no need to tip your hand too soon.

9. Trading

Trading is one of the most important parts of the game, and a good trader can
very often turn a bad situation into a good one. This is also one part of the
game where dealing with human and AI opponents differs tremendously. Because
of this, Iíve included hints and suggestions for playing against both.

--- 9A. Easy AI Opponents ---
As far as trading goes, an easy AI opponent is generally not really an
opponent at all - they are sheep to be fleeced. While they will occasionally
be stubborn to give up one or two resources they need, easy AI opponents are
eager to please, and will do some really stupid stuff just to deal with you.
If you have one wool and they have... letís say, three of everything, you
start by offering to trade one wool for two wood (or whatever). Unless theyíre
hurting for wood, theyíll generally accept. With easy AI opponents, always try
to make two-for-one trades instead of straight trades - generally theyíll let
you. Then offer one wood for one wool. Generally, theyíll still accept. Keep
doing this until you have all of their resources. Yeah, like I said, Easy AI
opponents are pushovers.

--- 9B. Moderate and Hard AI Opponents ---
While, as previously stated, Hard AI opponents are unrealistically stingy in
their trades, theyíre still fairly similar to Moderate AI opponents. Your
trades with both should be handled one of two ways, depending on whose turn it
is. If itís your turn, youíll often have to submit your full offer for them to
respond, either by matching your request, giving you one of their own
(generally one they find to be similar), or refusing you outright. You might
want to add one "?" to your "want" pile to see if you can get more, but
generally Moderate and Hard AI players shy away from this. The same goes for
"two of what I have extra for anything" trades - computer AI players just
respond to this by asking for more of what they want in exchange for whatever
theyíre willing to give (regardless of what you have, want, or are asking

Most of your deals with AI opponents will likely be on their turn, as they
seem more willing to compromise what theyíre willing to give (if not take).
Generally, theyíll want one or two specific resources, and will generally
trade you virtually anything else in their possession to get them. By their
nature, computer players will wait to retract an offer until someone accepts
it, some time has passed, or all other players have refused it (by pressing
the Y button). Because of this, it benefits all of the human players involved
(and is just good courtesy) if everyone cancels unwanted offers from the AI as
soon as possible to expedite things.

The AI will cycle through multiple offers of resources in exchange for what it
wants, and if itís desperate enough, it will even offer two and later three of
something in exchange for what it wants. If you see it do this, remember that
it will likely do it again on its next turn unless it gets what it wants, even
if it refuses that same offer on your turn - like I said, AI opponents are
just more willing to deal with you on their turn.

If all players leave the trading session with the computer, it will assume no
one wishes to trade at the moment, cease trying to trade, and proceed with its
turn. Again, as a courtesy to other players, if you have no interest in
trading with the computer, exit the trading session to expedite the turn.

One more note - if a computer-controlled player uses the "Youíre too far
ahead!" emote, it will refuse to trade with you until either you start to fall
behind the point totals of other players, the AIís point total goes up, or (in
some cases) you use up your Development Cards (thus showing that they arenít
Victory Point Cards). So until this happens, you should just automatically
exit the trade screen whenever the AI pulls it up on their turn - youíre just
wasting time otherwise. Also, you should take this as a sign that the AI
players are gunning for you, and will be far more likely to send the robber
after you every chance they get (so take whatever precautions you can).

--- 9C. Human Opponents ---
Xbox Live is not exactly the perfect place to breed good manners, but if you
want to be effective at trading in games with real people, you need to start
trying, pronto. Whether you believe it or not, your success at trading will be
at least in part dependant on how courteous you are. If you offer clean
trades, donít consistently try to price gouge others, and offer signals to
indicate what youíre trying to do and why, youíll get a much better response
to your offers. Conversely, it will only hurt your efforts if you offer messy
trades (two for two, three for three), pull "bait and switch" crap, or make it
difficult for others to discern just what you want to do.

First and foremost, before you even open the trade screen, there are a few
things you need to do. One - know what resources are in play by holding the
left bumper and checking out the upper-left corner of the screen. If you see
there are ten wool in play, for example, youíll know that those in possession
of it are far more likely to part with it. Conversely, if you see that there
arenít any brick or ore, youíll just be wasting everyoneís time by asking for
it. In addition, it helps to have a good idea what building costs are so you
donít have to keep checking back with it to see what you need.

Second of all, play every game as if some of the players you play against are
wearing headsets and some arenít. Maybe all of them have headsets, maybe none
of them do (heck, Iíve even played games where everyone but myself was
speaking Spainish), but learning how to be clear and polite to both types of
players at all times by default is a good habit to make no matter how you cut

This means getting familiar with the emote system. There are four pages of
emotes you can switch between by holding the right bumper and tapping left and
right on the D-pad. While a lot of players seem to lean towards the "heart"
and "fireball" emotes, these are actually some of the least useful - youíre
not going to win anyone over with these, and if poorly used they can actually
make for a bit of animosity.

Mainly, the emotes youíll want to use will be on the second page. Use "got
nothing" if someone is trying to ask for you to trade something you donít
have, "sweeten the deal" if you want to haggle with another player a bit, and
"come back to trade" if the other players prematurely leave the trading screen
(which often happens, especially when you make an offer none of them like and
they leave before you make another one). Also, on the first page, you might
want to make subtle use of the "Youíre too far ahead" ("target winner") if
people have been targeting you with the robber a lot and you want to try and
throw them off onto another player thatís in the lead.

Proper use of these emotes smoothes over trading for players with and without
headsets, although you should be careful not to overuse them - if you are
constantly emoting, youíll annoy other players and you could even be briefly
silenced by the game for spamming.

On the trade screen, it pays to use a kind of shorthand to indicate what
trades youíre willing to make. While some players opt to push forward
everything theyíre offering and request everything they want, this can be
confusing and counter-productive - "Are you offering me one wood, one wheat
and one ore for one wool and one brick? Do you want a one-for-one deal, or
three-for-two? Sorry, I donít have brick so I canít help you..."

So hereís what you do. On your turn, always start with what you want (unless,
of course, you donít want anything in particular, and are simply trying to
trade away a resource you have in excess). If you were going to offer two
resources but thereís someone willing to give you what you want for just one,
you wonít ever know if you offer the two resources first. Ask for one thing at
a time, too. And, if you have multiple resources you could offer, show this
using what I dub the "flick" method or "flash card" method. Offer one
resource, then pull it back and offer the next, then pull that back and offer
the next, leaving each up long enough to show that your actions are
deliberate. If any of the other human players sees something they want,
theyíll undoubtedly match your offer, and you can select them and accept their

Itís also worth mention that I see few players making proper use of the
"?" card. If you have an excess of one resource and youíre willing to trade
it for anything, use the "?" to signify this (i.e. "Iíll trade one wool for
one Ď?í"). The same goes for anyone willing to trade anything to get a
specific card (i.e. "Iíll trade Ď?í for one wool"). And naturally, if you want
to sweeten your offer (or request it sweetened), you can always ask for or
offer two "?" or one "?" plus a specific resource.

A few notes on headsets:

Strategically, it pays to wear a headset even if youíre not going to be
speaking into it, so you can hear other playersí comments. However, if you are
going to speak into it, again, being polite and considerate will translate
into greater success in the game. Turn the microphone off when not in use,
donít swear, donít use crude or offensive language, donít insult other
players, and try to keep the mood light - you are playing a game, after all.
This is important even if youíre playing cutthroat and serious. Hereís an
in-game conversation I had recently as an example:

Me: (Moving the robber to the other playerís location) Sorry.
Him: What? No youíre not!
Me: Well... (deadpan) Iím sorry I had to resort to such drastic measures...

He and I have a good laugh, and even though I kindaí screwed him over in the
game, he knows it wasnít anything personal, and doesnít take it personally,
either. Basically, a little friendly banter and diplomacy helped to maintain
good trade relations, and also subdue the possibility that this guy is gonnaí
get revenge on the brain and start sending the robber my way out of spite.

Also, even though youíll be using the non-verbal shorthand I mentioned above,
it still helps to use the headset to coerce players to trade. Saying things
like "Does anyone want some wool? Iíll trade two for anything" or "Come on, I
know there are ten wood in play - someoneís gottaí be willing to trade me a
few" are helpful in getting players to reevaluate their resources and decide
what youíre offering may be worth their while.

10. FAQ

Q: How should I decide where to place the robber?
A: When placing the robber, your aim should be three-fold. One, you want to do
as much damage as possible to whoever is in the lead. Two, you want to do as
much damage as possible to all other players. And three, you want to steal a
resource from someone likely to have what you want. To determine who is in the
lead, go back up and read "8E. Victory Point Cards (and "soft" victory point

To determine what spot would do the most damage, hold down the left and right
trigger to see what resource tile is providing the most resources (this
information only displays once you have started to place the robber), and also
keep in mind what resources others are most in need of. As for determining who
is likely to have a resource you need, your best bet is to just pay attention
to who gets what resources and who uses what resources.

Q: How does the game count the road length for the Longest Road bonus?
A: The bonus is awarded to the longest single continuous line. To give you an
idea, here are some examples of how it works:

\    /            This is measured as three spaces long, as the longest 
  --              distance from point A to point B is only three spaces long.
/    \

  --              This counts for seven lengths. You can measure this as if
/    \            the horizontal line in the middle doesnít exist, or you can
\    /            count it like one of the two "feet" donít exist, but it
  --              works out to be the same.
/    \

  --              Thirteen of the fourteen lines     --	
/    \            here count. It works like this:  /    \		
\    /                                            /     /		
  --         --                                      --       --
/    \ __ /                                        /      __ /
\    /                                             \    / 
  --                                                 --

                  Do you get the idea?

You should also keep in mind that many players are crafty and keep their road
peices disconnected until the last minute, in hopes that other players won't
notice they're one step away from getting Longest Road. Because of this, pay
attention not only to the game's count of longest road, but also the potential
players often have to make their road length leap in size by connecting two
stretches of roads.

Q: Whatís the best way to decide where I should place my next settlement?
A: Much like when you place your first settlements, you should look at
resource dots first, then location, then the type of resource. Continue to
use the L&R triggers to see the possible settlement locations and their value.
Pay attention to the location of other players, and be careful in deciding
when you need to hurry to snag a spot before the other guy does, and when a
spot is too far to reach in time. Finally, pay attention to the resources
youíll be getting - whatís most important for you to get right now?

Q: Someone else just got the Longest Road or Biggest Army bonus that I was
going for. Should I still try to get it?
A: You need to take a step back and determine whether or not you're really in
a position to do this. If you donít have any development cards and the other
player is holding on to two or three, you probably wonít be able to get your
army to catch up to his. At the same time, if the enemy is collecting
resources faster than you, or theyíre getting more wood and brick, itís
unlikely that theyíll give up the Longest Road bonus easily. You should also
press the left bumper to see how many army cards are left unplayed, and
compare how many road peices you and the other player have remaining to plunk
down. In the end, if itís a close race, it might be worth trying for, but you
should always remember that if you fail to catch up, you will have wasted
valuable time and resources that could have been better spent on settlements
and cities.

Q: How do I know if a trade is worth making?
A: Generally speaking, as long as you get what you want out of a trade, itís a
good trade. However, there are a few intricacies and exceptions that bear
paying attention to. First off, remember that you shouldnít trade with someone
whoís too far ahead (read "8E. Victory Point Cards (and "soft" victory point
totals)" for more on this), because no matter how good a deal they give you,
youíre still bringing them one step closer to winning the game.

You should also keep in mind the goals other players may have - if you're
trading an opponent a card they could use to get a road or settlement to block
you off, you're just helping them to defeat you. If they just need one more
Soldier Card to get the Biggest Army bonus, maybe you should hold off on
trading them ore. Sometimes, it's just more important to deny resources to
your opponents, even if it restricts your trade as well.

Also, while occasionally youíll want to trade two or three resources for one
you really want, never trade four for one - at that price, you might as well
make a port trade and deny the other player a chance to get more cards (and
naturally, the same goes for three-for-one or two-for-one deals if you have a
port that allows for better port trades). Aside from this, just try to keep an
eye on supply and demand.

Q: Supply and demand? What is this, an economics class? What the heck do you
A: Basically, the more rare something is, the more valuable it becomes. Keep
an eye on both the available resources (hold both left and right bumper) and
the resources in play (hold the left bumper) to get a feel for what resources
are scarce at the moment and whatís going to be scarce in the long-term -
these resources are ones you should be more stingy with, only trading for
multiple resource cards. In fact, if youíre the only one with a steady supply
of a resource, you may want to consider refusing to trade it at all - youíll
be sacrificing trade opportunities, but youíll also be constraining the supply
of every other player in the game. Also keep in mind that demand will change
as the game goes on, and while people will often fight tooth and nail for
brick and wood early on, later the focus will generally be on wheat and ore.

Q: Is there ever any situation where I would WANT to make a bad trade?
A: If one player is farther ahead than the others, it is in the interests of
the other players to cooperate. If another player can block off the wining
player's attempt to get the longest road, for example, you may want to provide
him with the wood and brick he needs to do so, even if this means an act of
charity on your behalf. At the same time, you and the other players that are
behind may want to cooperate to try and buy as many development cards between
yourselves as you can, so you have the best opportunity to plague the winer
with countless Soldier Cards. Remember - even though trading is one of the
most important elements of the game, the most important goal is to win,
naturally. And if one player shoots ahead of the others, there are times when
cooperating and making a few bad trades can give you a better chance to win.

Q: Okay, just tell me, whatís the easiest way to win? Settlements and cities?
Biggest Army? Longest Road? Victory Point Cards? What?
A: Actually, itís nearly impossible to win with just one of these goals as
your focus. Usually, you need to combine two or three. There arenít enough
Victory Point cards to get you to ten points, and you wouldnít be able to do
it with Biggest Army and Longest Road combined. As for settlements and cities,
you would need a full five settlements upgraded to cities (or four cities and
two settlements, or three cities and four settlements) to win the game
without any other help - doable, but not easy. As a result, you need to be
sure not to narrow your focus too much. If you obsess over just one goal
instead of trying to make progress on numerous ones, youíre losing sight of
the big picture.

Q: Okay, okay, I canít just do one of those things. But answer the question -
what should I do? A: First of all, you absolutely need as many resources as
possible, so youíll want to try to build as many settlements and cities as you
can (usually youíll go for settlements, but sometimes cities are easier to
build depending on the resources you have access to). However, both
settlements and cities are expensive, and it canít hurt to space them out a
little with development card purchases. If you get two or more soldier cards,
you can aim for Biggest Army, but donít even bother with anything less. As
time goes on and youíve expanded your territory, you can compare your length
of roads to your opponentsí (hold right trigger), and use that to decide
whether you have a chance at snagging Longest Road. Basically, keep building
settlements and/or cities until you see an opportunity to get points

Really, your best shot at winning is to adapt to the situation as it changes -
sometimes you have to change your strategy if what you were aiming for
previously isn't panning out, and it pays to be flexible enough to allow for a
few contingency plans in case your current strategy fails.

Q: If you had to name one important fact about the game players don't seem to
realize, what would it be?
A: I am constantly running into people who don't realize that they can see how
many of each resource is in play by holding down the left bumper. Seriously,
it makes your trading go a lot smoother, and it is outright essential when
you're using a Monopoly Card.

Q: Anything else people don't seem to know that they should?
A: I can't stress enough how important it is to use Left Trigger + Right
Trigger to check revenue dots. This is incredibly important to so many
aspects of the game and cannot be stressed enough.

Q: Just what the heck is Red/Green Colorblind?
A: This has no bearing on the gameplay, but itís something thatís considerate
for people with Red/Green colorblindness. Basically, it ensures that the
colors of the four players are always white, red, blue and teal, which are
easy for colorblind people to distinguish from each other (as the name
implies, colorblind people often have trouble distinguishing red from green).

Q: Why canít I play ranked matches with dice cards?
A: Dice cards solve one problem inherent to the game and add another. On the
one hand, they ensure that the dice will be "rolled" exactly proportionate to
what the odds dictate they should be (hold right bumper and right trigger to
see what has been rolled compared to what the odds show). On the other hand,
they leave a door open for people who can count cards (or people who know to
check the dice odds screen) to know what dice rolls are coming up, which would
make ranked games a bit less fair because of this predictability - people
will see that sixes are due to come up soon, for example, so they start
moving the robber to the sixes. Or theyíll see that seven has reached its
limit, so theyíll know they donít need to worry about their hand getting too
big until the dice deck is shuffled, because thereís no risk of a seven
coming up to make them discard. Suffice it to say, it throws off the balance
of the game, and while the randomness of dice rolls can often make for a
series of rolls thatís unfair, at least itís not unfair in a way that
players can take unfair advantage of, if that makes sense.

Q: Is there any advantage to playing the "Living World" style over the
"Classic" style or "Mayfair Games" style?
A: Technically no, but the information is in my opinion more accessible and
easier to see in the Classic style (the color-coordination gives it a slight
edge over "Mayfair Games" style, I think), so Iíd recommend serious players
to use that one.

Q: Why canít I play this version of this game with multiple local players?
A: Part of the gameís strategy comes from the fact that each playerís cards
are hidden from each other, and it would be hard to do this with everyone
staring at the same TV screen. If you want to play a game locally, youíre
gonnaí have to actually buy a copy of the Settlers of Catan board game

Q: I see characters like Lenin and Ceasar in the gameís artwork - why arenít
they in the game?
A: Supposedly thereís going to be downloadable content in the future that
will add these characters. When it will be released and how much it will
cost, I donít know.

Q: How does the game decide your rank?
A: To be honest, I donít know.

11. Thanks and Credits

I know that there are undoubtedly many strategy guides out there on how to
effectively play the board game Settlers of Catan, but I did not reference
any of these when creating this guide. As I said earlier, this guide was
created specifically for the XBLA version of the game. This is the first
released version of this guide, and all of the writing and information
presented here is my own, although any comments or suggestions are welcome.

If you would like to comment on this guide, please go to my website, Digital
Entertainment News (http://www.dignews.com) and post a comment in the Xbox
section of the message boards. If I use your suggestion in a future revision
of this article, I will be sure to mention your name here.

In any case, I would like to give my advance thanks to the staff and community
of GameFAQs, not only for making the publication of this guide possible, but
also for being understanding if I've made a mistake somewhere here - this is
my first submitted FAQ, and I'm sure I'll make some mistakes here and there,
so I apologize in advance!

12. Legal Information
This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal,
private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed
publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other
web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a
violation of copyright.

Copyright 2006 Jake McNeill