The Settlers of Catan has been the flagship for German Style Designer Games for many reasons, some of the main ones being its elegant simplicity and its depth of strategy. Your choice of strategies will influence your initial setup and overall game play. The separation of strategies that are outlined in this series is a bit artificial, but it is useful to understand the concepts behind them. In practice, players will use a combination of these strategies during gameplay. This article, the third in this series, will discuss the Rare Resource Strategy.
In the Rare Resource Strategy, examine the board to see which commodity will be the hardest to get, and consider putting one of your settlements on the best tile for that commodity. A supply of a rare commodity may be more important than an extra 2/36 chance of a sheep.
Basically, this strategy is about identifying the rarest resources, and making sure you have access to them. There are two types of rare: rare in overall production (due to bad numbers being on them), and rare in position availability (fewer number of hexes have the resource, like ore and brick in the basic game, which only has three hexes each instead of four hexes like wool, grain, and wood). In many cases both will happen, such as when ore and brick have bad numbers on them in the basic game.
This strategy is not a monopoly: you don’t necessarily want to be the only person on these hexes (as seen in the Monopoly strategy in Part 4, this may not be such a good idea). You just want to make sure you have them. This could be taken to the extreme, for example a player who goes for ore and brick, because they are the two rarest, but is more commonly used along with another strategy. This strategy can work well with a Cartel strategy, described in Part 4.
The crux of this strategy is realizing that you will pay dearly for rare resources later on in the game, and so you should plan ahead by getting them early. A reduced overall production value early in the game to get those rare resources is usually more than offset by not making 3:1 or 4:1 trades later in the game to get them.
For more information about the game, please visit the author’s Settlers of Catan fansite. This series is based upon the Settlers of Catan Strategy and Tactics Guide, which is located at http://settlersofcatan.blogspot.com