Where’s The Best Place To Start In Catan?
Settlers of Catan is a modern classic. Launched in 1995, and designed by Klaus Teuber, Catan (better known by its former name: “Settlers of Catan”) now graces the shelves of board game lovers all over the world. It is widely regarded as the resource trading game, and has won more awards than Kanye West has diamonds in his teeth.
The problem is, it can be so difficult to figure out where to start in order to have the best opportunity to score points early in Settlers of Catan. We’ve all been there, with one player taking three days to pick a position that they believe will be the most optimal place to start. In the meantime we all slowly die of boredom and stare longingly at empty Pringles packets, wishing they were full again.
Obviously, the tiles are random each game, so it’s impossible to give definite rulings as to where to place; however, we can use a little bit of mathematics and psychology to come up with a few guidelines as to where is best to place your starting settlements and roads.
Since publishing this article, I have written a second article going into more detail about specific starting strategies. You can find that article here: Catan Strategy: 8 Different Ways To Start.
So Where Is The Best Place To Start In Catan?
Okay, so the easiest way to explore this is probably through bullet points, so let the bullet points commence!
- Go For Wheat/Grain. Wheat/Grain (whatever you want to call it) is the most valuable resource in Settlers of Catan. Believe it or not, Catan is not a balanced game when it comes down the resources. Instead, grain has the best resource to point ratio. Let me explain.In order to guarantee two points with roads, you have to build 15 roads to ensure you get the longest road. This is a 15/1 ratio (well, 30/2, but we’re simplifying) of resource to points since you need both a wood and a brick to build said road. You start off with two roads, which brings this down to 13/1, but this is still not a great investment.
For Development cards, there is 15/1 ratio – namely, there are 5 victory point cards in the deck of 25 cards. So, you have a 1/5 chance to pick a victory point card. This means you need 5 cards on average to get a victory point. At three resources a piece (sheep, grain, and ore) this means you will need 15 resources to get a potential one victory point. Yes, you could get largest army in this as well, which would be 15/3 points which is better, but the odds are against you. It’s possible but unlikely.
It’s not 100% as simple as that with development cards, but it is close enough to make no odds when talking about the initial placement.
For settlements and cities, you need 4/1 and 5/1 resources to points. Cities are the only way of getting points in the game with more than one resource of a specific type.
The way this works out is like the table above. As you can see, although ore and grain are both needed about the same, grain (or wheat, whatever you want to call it) is useful for the most.
What this means is that if there is a 6 or 8 on a grain, you should definitely go for that grain. Place a settlement there and you shouldn’t regret it.
If the law of averages was completely fair at low numbers, we would expect is for 7 to come up most often, when in reality 6 did. We would also expect 2 to only be rolled twice, but in reality it came out a whopping 7 times. I mean, talk about snake-eyes!
So, where I am not saying disregard the law of averages, I am saying that it shouldn’t be taken as a hard and fast rule. The dice will not be rolled enough times for the averages to really be taken into account.
So…Where Is The Best Place To Start In Catan???
To be blunt, it entirely depends on the board. Yes, there are six concepts above that make it easier to know where the best place to start in Catan is; however, there is no hard and fast rule. Instead, it comes down to intuition…and a little bit of maths. Don’t start on a 12 if you can avoid it and if there is nothing good around it. Don’t box yourself in by the desert. Don’t get trapped in a corner. Otherwise, you should have a good game if the dice allow. It’s that simple really.
What do you think? What advice would you give someone as to where to place their first settlements in Catan? Post it in the comments below!