Ahhh Settlers of Catan. Yes we know 6's and 8's are great for settlement placement. And I believe 40-50% of your chances of winning a game depend on your initial placement. And yes we know the game has lots of luck involved, after all its a different board everytime. So what makes one player better than another? If its mostly luck why do certain people seem to win more often? Do they buy lots of development cards? Do they go for the brick/wood to expand faster than others? Do they "corner" the market for ore/wheat to gain an edge at the end game? All these theories are very sound, but I believe there is more. I think the trade phase is quite important for success at SoC, and it's often overlooked. This purpose of the article is to entertain and hopefully expose the more skill-based side of this game.
Game groups- Everyone is different. Some have fun with the trade phase, some are quiet and wont initiate trades. Know who you are playing with and adapt accordingly.
The "Spiteful House" trade. This one is reserved for the person who is making a card you need difficult to get. Its happened to everyone, one player has a corner on the market for 1 resource, and they what 3 for 1, etc. After going back and forth a few times trade with the house 4 for 1. The stunned, baffled look will usually follow with the line-"Why did you do that I was gonna give you that card for only 3 wool!" The reply, if any, is up to you. But the table may rethink any future card muscling.
The "Surprise Me" trade. Example- Sally says she needs a wheat. The rest of the players are silent. You know sometimes a 2 for 1 scares Sally away. Try to make it easy. "Sure Sally I can trade you a wheat just give me a 'need card' and one of a...well surprise me whatever you can give up". Yes the second card will usually be wool but those extra cards will add up. And yes sometimes the second card will surprise you.
The "Confuse and Conquer" trade. Dont reveal your true need first. Trade for the sole purpose of using the house/port first. This may keep people from figuring out what you are trying to build. Example- you need ore. Based on past turns you know people are not trading it. So ask for 2 wood instead with the intention of trading 4 for 1 with the house. If you have a port its harder to hide this strategy but it still works.
The "Mercy" trade. Trade with the person with the fewest points when no one else will. Only do this if it has no effect for your chances of winning. The player you helped may remember that trade for future robber/soldier placement. And at end game when youre in a race with another player for the win, this player could come to your aid.
Card management. I believe in trying to empty my hand when its my turn. This serves three purposes. First it makes you less of a "7" victim. Second if you empty your hand, on subsequent turns you may not be a robber/soldier victim if you have no cards to take. And third it gives you trade leverage when you dont have many cards in hand. You can justify geting 2 for 1's more often. And I understand the number of cards in your hand will be constanting changing (hopefully going up) but overall it is better to have less than more. I use the trade phase to maximize my build phase. I enter it with a goal like "I need one wheat to buy that settlement" but based on what i can get for trades I could end up buying a dc or building 3 roads.
The early game trading. Mostly people will be clamoring for wood and brick. Dont trade with the "neighbors" who are tring to branch where you are going. If you have wood or brick dont give it up until you determine who has the greatest need. This could mean watching everyone take a turn or two to determine who will "pay" the most. The best trades usually happen when It's not your turn.
Mid game trading. By now you know what people are doing to win. And if you dont most people dont hide what they need during their trade phase so you should be able to figure it out. Example Andy has 8 cards in hand and he needs ore. Development card? Maybe. But based on the previous rolls you know he has more than one ore in his hand already. Hes going for a city. Before you trade crunch how this city would put Andy point wise and how the trade could effect you. This trade could be a 3 for 1.
Late game trading. If you are in the lead people will not trade with you. So a good thing to do is to try to hang back as long as you can and win by grabbing the longest road/largest army to end the game. The only time I hold cards would be end game (about 8 points), so I can try to win the game in one frantic turn of building/buying dc's)
I hope you enjoyed the article and just remember when its your turn spend that extra second on the trade phase. Really look at those cards and ask "How can I get more from what I have in my hand without getting lucky dice rolls?"
- Last edited Fri Aug 5, 2005 12:49 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Aug 4, 2005 11:32 pm
I totally agree.
The trade phase is where the game is really played. Been playing the settlers series every weekend for the past 3 months, and trading is where all the strategy is.
Somebody is looking for a ressource, you don't really need it, but you make believe you need it. Telling your trader, remember that i helped you.
They will usually help you back in case of need.
But with the cities and knights expansion, i think having knights is part of the victory strategy. they're easy VPs.