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 second in this series, will discuss the Wood-Brick Strategy.
The Wood-Brick Strategy is a strategy to get a lot of wood and brick early in the game, in order to build settlements and roads fast.
A wood/brick port is very useful in this strategy, as finding a way to get ore/grain will be important to build cities for the middle to end game.
Lots of people think this strategy is less effective on a small or congested board, as you need room to grow. Actually, it can be more effective, as your increased road building capability gives you the advantage in reaching those limited number of expansion spots first. An ore-grain player's worst nightmare is playing on a congested board with one or two wood-brick players.
This strategy naturally lends itself to getting the longest road.
For this strategy, it is very important that you build new settlements around open grain and ore hexes, or you will have a very difficult time trying to build cities later on in the game (which can be crucial for a win).
Optionally, with your increased settlement production, you can build on a number of ports to get ore and wheat.
With your increased road building capability, you should build your roads to cut off other player's expansion. This can help in denying Ore/Grain players from acquiring enough building sites they need to win the game. This leads into the next variant, which takes this to more of an extreme:
The "Road Boy" variant works to build roads fast in order to block off other players' expansion. This strategy concentrates on building roads first, rather than on production. Only when you are done blocking people off do you work on getting enough victory points to win the game. This requires a lot of wood and brick, so your first cities should be on these, rather than ore. Trade aggressively for wood and brick, before it's obvious you might be a threat. This is an interesting variant in that it violates my general philosophy of building up production first. It could work better on smaller boards with less people, so you don't miss blocking anyone. In addition, it might not work well in many Seafarers scenarios, as people could just build to islands.
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/.
Short note about the author
Dan Kozarchuk is a self admitted board game junkie who has an obsession with designer board games, particularly the Settlers of Catan.