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Subject: Opening moves: placement rss

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Shandy B

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Laying those first two settlements and roads is key. I’ve seen players mess this up to the extent that I know before the dice even rattle that they will come in last. I want to write a short piece of strategy advice here that should help novices come up to speed.

The way I see it, there are two competing rules of thumb for laying your pieces that you should be able to remember: The Numbers Gambit and The Resources Gambit.

The Resources Gambit basically boils down to: place your settlement on resources that you will need to build your first point. It requires you to decide what you want your first point to be, a settlement (so lay down next to some Bricks and Wood, maybe with a splash of Sheep as well), or a city (Ore and Wheat). With this gambit, you are committing to that path to your first point, so try to think about how others can block you from it. It’s especially good to be the 4th player when using this gambit, due to less interference.

The Numbers Gambit is better suited to the long game. It’s also the easiest to remember. It’s probably the simplest tactic to learn to be competitive in Catan. Catan is one of those games where the dice decide the winner. To win you need to adapt to changing luck and also to maximize your chances of getting resources. Many players don’t know this when I point it out, but the little dots on the pips (in the Mayfair 4th edition) represent how many ways two dice can be rolled to result in the printed number. A “6″ pip has 5 little dots on it — there are 5 ways to roll a “6″ with the dice. The next thing to realize is that you can simply add up the little dots to determine how well a settlement will perform at getting resources.



Imagine a white settlement on a 6(.....), 9(....), and 3(..) versus an orange settlement on a 9(....), 10(...), and 2(.). When you add up the little dots, the white settlement scores an 11, whereas the orage scores an 8. For any dice roll, the white settlement has 11/36 odds of generating a resource, versus 8/36 odds for the orange settlement.

I tend to use the Numbers Gambit exclusively, even to the extent of ignoring the types of resources my big numbers will generate. I figure if I have too much of one thing, I can always trade it away.
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Ben Bateson
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Don't forget the Numbers Gambit Corollary for advanced Catan Players:

"It is impossible to roll an 8 with two dice"
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Rich Uncle Pennybags
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Huh?
 
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Matthew Cordeiro
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sjbrown wrote:
Imagine a white settlement on a 6(.....), 9(....), and 3(..) versus an orange settlement on a 9(....), 10(...), and 2(.). When you add up the little dots, the white settlement scores an 11, whereas the orage scores an 8. For any dice roll, the white settlement has 11/36 odds of generating a resource, versus 8/36 odds for the orange settlement.


Yeah, this is a great, easy strategy to help you make those opening placements. Taking it one step further, though, it's also important to diversify your numbers. If you're on two 8's for example, you're going to live and die by those 8's. Sometimes you'll have a wealth of resources, possibly even too many. Other times, you'll go through a spell of little or no resource production. I'd rather have a 6 and an 8 than two 8's. In fact, I'd rather have a 5 and an 8 than two 8's.
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Jack Dietz
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It is true that settlements with several average numbers (meaning 4/5/9/10) are better than settlements with a 6/8 and other lower numbers (meaning 2/3/11/12), all else being equal? This is something to keep in mind if you have a choice, which you often will.
 
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Matthew Cordeiro
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jcdietz03 wrote:
It is true that settlements with several average numbers (meaning 4/5/9/10) are better than settlements with a 6/8 and other lower numbers (meaning 2/3/11/12), all else being equal? This is something to keep in mind if you have a choice, which you often will.

All other things being equal, I'd rather have, for example, a 5/4 spot over a 6/3 spot, simply because the 6 and 8 tend to get shut down by the robber more often.
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Tom Crowe
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All of the above is helpful, but I would add a consideration / sub-strategy to the resource gambit. First, depending upon the board configuration, rather than focusing your resource-based placement on the mix you need to build your first point, you might focus on monopolizing a single resource. This can force other players to trade with you on favorable terms. If coupled with a synergistic 2 for 1 port this arrangement can be unstoppable. The caveat for this strategy is that you have to make sure you are dealing with a virtual lock on the resource.
 
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Shandy B

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I've never played on a board where I could effectively monopolize a resource. It's just too hard in the initial placement to surround a hex. I'd be interested to hear about the details where this scenario is possible. I imagine a stone/brick monopoly might be possible if eg, two brick tiles happened to be on both the 2 and the 12...
 
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