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November 03, 2011


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This just reinforces why I love FMF postings better than anyone else :')

This is an awesome game. My friends and I love playing it, and have become quite competitive at it. It is amazing the life lessons you can learn from a good board game!

I didn't like this post even though I do like The Settlers of Catan- I thought there was far too much of the article on the game itself and that the analogy was stretched.

Yes initial mistakes will hurt you in life, but it is possible to change. Moving, switching careers, ending relationships etc. are all possibilities. Also, there is no one simplified goal in life. You can't analyze life and come up with a winning strategy because your goals in life are likely to change, and strategies that work in life change too.

-Rick Francis

My husband and I love this game and often teach high school students in our church. I am convinced it makes them smarter and am so proud when one of them legitimately wins over us!

Anyway, the writer fails to to mention the power of suggestion. We often find in our games that people can be swayed to make certain decisions based on opinions stated by other players. This too has real life application as I see others my age swayed by peer or parental opinions to make both good and bad decisions. Interesting article and i find we might use similar tactics.

I think the best of this game! Genius.

When it comes to resource choice in Catan, you also have to pay attention to what resources are going to be scarce -- as having those resources will give you a trade advantage over others.

For example, I once had a board where the wood hexes were on 2, 3, 12, and 6. 2, 3, and 12 are all unlikely rolls, while 6 is very likely. I put my settlements on opposite corners of the 6, which meant nobody else could settle there. Since I had a near-monopoly on wood, I could get other players to trade me anything I wanted 1-to-1 or even 2-to-1 in my favor.

Similarly, back in 2007-8, I was saving money to buy a house, but houses were ridiculously overpriced. The stock market also looked a bit overpriced. So I just held on to my cash -- and in early 2009, when people were desperate for cash, I was able to get great deals on stocks. By thinking ahead and accumulating a resource that other people were short on, I was able to make some big gains.

I've never heard of or played this game before but this article makes it sound like fun and I liked the analogy to successful investing.

Great article.


Settlers is a great game for lessons in personal finance: decision making, optimization, scarcity, planning, resource allocation. Once you've mastered the basic game try exploring Cities and Knights. Once you have grown tired of Settlers look to other games with similar personal finance foundations: Chinatown, Puerto Rico, and Agricola to name a few.

PS I don't work for a gamemaker

I have worn out 3 physical board copies of this game and I play the iPhone application of it very often! Definitely one of my favorite games. I have long moved on to all of the different expansions to make the traditional game less stale. Love the post!

I must lead a sheltered life, because I've never heard of this game. I've now put it on my Amazon wish list.

The strategy you outlined in your article is what I like to refer to as the "advanced beginner" strategy. It seems like everyone I've ever taught the game to flocks towards this strategy after only a few plays, and it can be easily countered by other players.

If you really want to become a good strategist at Settlers of Catan, you need to understand that there are 3 major strategies to the game.

1. Road Warrior - This player places to wood/brick primarily with wheat/sheep secondary. The goal of this player is to build the longest road while developing additional settlements faster than other players. This is a fast-start strategy that slows to a crawl once you've built your 5th settlement. Points 8-10 become much harder to achieve unless you can successfully switch strategies halfway through the game through new settlement placement.

2. Development King - As your article describes. Primary is rock/wheat with a secondary of sheep. Goal is to build into cities and development cards. This is a slow-starting strategy that relies on trading to be successful. In tournament environments or against strategic players, your trading will be shut down and you will have a very difficult time getting off the ground. If you can successfully build out to a 3rd or 4th settlement early enough, this becomes a solid strategy to reach the end.

3. Resource Controller - With this strategy you focus on controlling 1 or 2 resources in the game that nobody else has or it is exceptionally scarce amongst the other players. This strategy also focuses on occupying the accompanying harbor to trade at 2:1 for all your building needs. This strategy often falls prey to the robber, as you will make lots of enemies quickly in the game and everyone will want to steal from your hand.

The most successful players I've seen are ones that understand all three of these strategies and do not get tunnel-visioned into a single niche. It is a game dependent on the players you are playing against, and as such you need to change and adapt. Successfully moving from one strategy to another strategy is key.

Also, initial placement is important as well. You want number diversity, number strength (I often find 5's and 9's are better than 6's and 8's due to the robber draw the latter numbers get), and resource diversity whenever possible.

Good luck players!

Catan is a great game, and a great series. I play all the expansions and variations of Catan and some of our own design. It's nice to read an article proclaiming the lessons of investment and risk management learned from games. I would venture to say most games are about risk management. In Catan it's easier to see the value of initial investment versus distribution than in other games like Monopoly or Cash Flow, because the market does not change and the statistics of dice rolls are visualized on the board. The most important thing that is not seen is the availability of resources which do not always match the statistical normals. So to "fix" this you can use what is called a "dice deck" which is a deck of cards of all possible rolls of 2 six sided dice, So it becomes a game of WHEN something is rolled instead of IF it is rolled, further helping you manage your risk.

Bret --

Thanks for the tips! I'll use them to ambush my family. ;-)

Although some players like the "dice deck" mechanic that Brian discusses, please remember that this fundamentally changes the game. I don't think one version is better than another necessarily, but not all players like to play this way or think that the random element to the game that the dice provides is something that needs to be fixed. I always encourage people to try both ways of playing and see which way they prefer.

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