KB Multicatan Strategy guide

MultiCatan Strategy and Tactics Guide V2,0

waterboy, with additional notes by Friendly

PLEASE READ TO THE END OF THIS GUIDE! Especially the Etiquette rules.

** NOTE: Needs to be updated to emphasize importance of trading and efficient building **

1 Overview

1,1 Foreword

This strategy guide assumes that the reader knows how to play MultiCatan and wants to learn how to improve his/her score.

1.2 My Motivation

I love playing multicatan and I often hear players say they like the game but are frustrated because they rarely get more than 15 points. I decided to write down and share the tactics and strategies I use. My hope is that this will encourage more people to play and make the experience more fun.

If I’ve done this properly, games will be more competitive and fun, and after all, fun is what it’s all about .

1.3 But … there’s no silver bullet

I’ve tried to provide here some of the guiding principles I use (most of the time) when I play. This is NOT a series of instructions that you simply follow and automatically win. There are many judgment calls to make and exceptions to the rules. Use this as a starting point to develop your own style.

There are MANY better players than me, so I’m probably missing many useful suggestions. If anyone has additions they’d like to contribute please mail me. Or if you have a completely different way of looking at things, I’d love to hear about it.

1.4 If you take away one thing … take away this

Multicatan is a race: a race off the island, a race to the high producing spots on the main island, a race to other islands for bonus points, a race to get longest road, largest army, a race to create the largest empire. When in doubt on what to do, repeat this mantra and the right answer will appear:

… MultiCatan is a race … MultiCatan is a race… MultiCatan is a race

The above was what I thought originally, but looking at better players than me play has caused me to rethink things and take a more balanced view. If you were playing by yourself, there wouldn't be any race, you would just build as quickly and efficiently as possible, because growth is exponential, the more you have the faster you grow. With exponential growth a small difference at the beginning makes a very big interest at the end (thiink about compound interest) So the focus initially is not necessarily to go to the main island as fast as possible but to grow as fast as possible, especially if there are a number of good spot on your own island.

Doing this you may get there later, but have better road factory to move

1.5 Summary

This document is divided into 6 sections
• section 2 goes over the high level strategy we are trying to follow
• sections 3 – 6 describe the tactics to use in the 4 phases of the game: the placement, the opening, middle game, end game
• section 7 is a miscellaneous section to cover everything else, including a section on suggested etiquette.

2 Overall Strategy

2 1 Objective

The objective of our strategy is to maximize the number of points we have at the end of the game. There are a number of ways to get points:

Settlement city Island settled Victory Point card Longest Road Largest Army
1 1 2 1 2 2

After going over general strategies we shall summarize the strategies for each of these phases.

2.2 Factories

To grow your empire you will need to create a number of factories. A factory is a combination of cities and settlements that produce a specific object:

e.g. a city factory: city and settlement on 8 ore, city on 8 wheat. This factory produces a city every time you roll an 8.

e.g. a road factory: settlement on 11 wood, settlement on 12 brick. This factory produces a road every time you roll an 11 and a 12.

Obviously the production of factories can vary greatly, In the examples above, the city factory is very productive, the road factory is not.

One of your main challengees is to make sure that the production of your factories is balanced. A low producing factory willl become your bottleneck and slow your growth.

2.3 Example

The example below is a “typical” game I won recently with 38 points:

Settlement city Island settled Victory Point card Longest Road TOTAL
16 12 6 2 2 38

The remaining players had scores ranging from 12 to 31. We can come to a number of conclusions analyzing this example:

2.4 You MUST have a great city factory

This is the single most important factor for winning, because you can not build more than 5 settlements. You MUST have a powerful city factory (a factory is a combination of settlement/cities that produce the items) AT THE LATEST by the time you have produced your 5th city. In the example below I established a city (1) and settlement (2) on the 9 ore on my island very quickly and then a city (3) on the 9 wheat on the main island soon after. This allowed me to produce a city every time I rolled a 9.


2.5 You MUST settle other islands

The 6 points I obtained here were for the main island and the island on each side. This is probably the minimum you need to win. I have won very few games with 4 bonus points or less. More typical is 8 – 10. To do this you need to cross the main island and settle 1 or 2 islands on the other side. I tried to get across at (4) and (5) but was blocked.

Fortunately I had very little competition on the main island, so being blocked was not a problem. Which brings us to the next point.

2.6 You MUST win race to high producing sites on main island

The key settlement of the game for me was the 8 9 10 wheat /ore (3). Without it I had no city factory. I would never have gotten it if I had not beaten orange to the main island. While we will see that there are some reasons to build first on your own island, in general you are better of expanding first to the main island.

A second key race was to the 3 5 9 (6). Without it I would not have established my road engine and ship engine, which allowed me to expand left and eventually get longest road.

2.7 A Development card factory is VERY nice to have

Development Card factory = City Factory + Wool factory.

There are 3 types of development cards: knights, road builder, victory point:

  • Knights chase away the robber on your island and if there is no robber, gives you 2 resources. This is a 3:2 exchange that is actually more efficient than a 2:1 port !
  • Road builder gives you 2 roads/ships. This means that with a great Development Card factory you can nearly get by with no wood.
  • The Victory Point card is the most efficient way of converting resources into points: 3:1.

And if this weren’t enough if you have the most knights at the end of the game you get 2 bonus points.

A great Development card factory can be a key strategy in winning a game.

2.8 Efficiency

I've added this section after getting feedback from wolfram, one of those better players I wanted to hear from. He says he doesn't think of things as I describe here and after seeing him play, I think his focus is efficiency: efficiently converting resources into points. I agree that this is core to any successful strategy

2.8.1 Roads/ships don't generate points.

In the game I played with him, he created 2 offset rows of 6 cities on the main island. using an average of 1.5 roads between cities. The point is roads don't generate points (unless your are going for longest) so why build extra ? If you can make a point, make it. Earlier in the game I usually build an extra road to build on a more productive spot.

And even if you are going for longest, is it the best use of your resources ? Could you make more points other ways instead of building 34 ships. IF you go for longest anything more than winning it by1 is a waste.

2.8.2 Trading

A 2:1 port is inefficient if you can make a 1:1 trade with another player.

I think that effective trading is one of the key differentiating factors between a good player and a great player

Identifying trading opportunities is key. If an opponent receives 6 ore and you get 6 wheat when 8s are rolled … there is opportunity for a win win trade :) … many times, I've won games because of this.

Only tradr with an opponent who is close to your score when it clearly benefits you. An even then, he could remain blocked for several turns if you don't trade. If two players offer the trade accept the person with the lesser score.

Be leery when someone is offering a lot for a trade.

2.8.3 Matching numbers

This comes down to making your factories efficient. Identify wood-brick, wood-sheep and ore-wheat tiles with the same number.

2.9 Lady Luck

So I'm sure you're all wondering how my game with wolfram ended. Well he crushed me 46 - 36, I think everyone else was below 30. (which explains why he is rated so much higher than me lol) … BUT … he had just about a perfect starting island (5689 wood, sheep, wheat ore) a 12 away from the main island and a a 3 brick. His opponent also did not challenge him for the main island whereas i had active opposition on both sides squeezing me in.

No, I'm not giving excuses, just pointing out that there are a number of factors that are not in your control that greatly affect the outcome of your game.

What you can control is your strategy and one of the nice things about starting on the coast at either end of the island is that you can switch sides easily if yuo get blocked on one side.

3 Placement

3.1 Objectives

Your initial placement of settlement and city on your island creates the foundation on which your empire is built. Similar to a building, if your foundation is not solid, your empire will crumble.

The goal of placement is to facilitate rapid expansion of your empire and achieving your strategic objectives. You are creating the foundations of your transportation, settlement, city and development card factories.

Your objective for placement are:

  • have a strategy for getting off the island
  • Chose right trade off between maximizing resource generation with getting off island fast.
  • Identify treasure
  • provide the right mix of resources to avoid depending on a low probability tile

There are 2 phases in placement.
1) Find out which way you are going
2) Place your settlement and city

3.2 Find out which way you are going

The overall map has a long main island going from left to right and 6 islands from which the players start:, 3 above and 3 below.

Before even looking at your island go game administration (click on white square in menu) and see what position you are in:

  • positions 1-3-5: you are on top and need to go down
  • positions 2-4-6: you are on bottom and need to go up

See who is opposite you (1-2, 3-4, 5-6). Keep an eye on how much they are building

3.3 Placement

While some placements are better than others, there is no “right” answer, each choice involves trade-offs:

3.3.1 Inland vs. Coastal sites

You need to statt generating the right resources quickly. The natural tendency would be to take the highest producing spots which are inland, in the example below that would be (1) and (2). While this will maximize resource production, it requires building at least one coastal settlement to get off the island, probably at (6) or (7).

On the other hand if you place at (3) and (4) in that order, you can reach 5 on your first turn by moving and building a ship.


3.3.3 Recommended tactics

The following rules are often contradictory, experience will help you find the right balance:

  • ALWAYS place at least one settlement on the coast, preferably 2. and build 2 ships
  • Try not to leave a high return tile (e.g. 6 or 8) unsettled
  • ideally place settlements on either side of island: (8 and (9). This allows you to easily go to neighbouring islands, and find treasure. Another benefit is contacting other players early which give you someone to trade with..
  • Initially point ships away from main island to see if there is any treasure.
  • Ore wheat pair is usually a good place to put city
  • Wood-sheep pair gives you a ship immediately if placed second. This means 3 ships to get treasure if you place both city and settlement on coast .
  • For equal return put the city on the ore-wheat rather than wood-sheep. Get a city faster on the wood-sheep.
  • Place a settlement on 3:1 port only if resources warrant it.
  • Try to place settlements so you can build every two spaces. This is less important if the center tile is a bad one (2, 12, 3, 11).
  • If you’re going to miss a resource, chose brick. If you get a road builder to can nuild roads to that tile.

3.3.4 Exceptions

  • Low numbers on main island side: build on other side and look for treasure to get road builder to cross island quickly or build on side to be able to go to main island
  • (6 9 5) point that you can’t resist, though consider resisting and using first road builder you get to settle on other sidee.
  • Low wood: you need a knight factory
  • Low brick: you need a knight factory

4 Opening – Getting off your island

4.1 Objectives

Opening goes from the start of the game to getting your first settlement on the main island. Your objectives are to do this quickly and also have a reasonable road factory or your expansion will stall. Your objectives are:

  • Build another settlement on island if required
  • Use treasure effectively
  • Find optimal entry point

This phase is essential if you are to get those juicy high return spots on the main island

4.2 Example

In the example above, I would move a ship and build another to get the left treasure first and I would do it as fast as I could because the player next to you might be trying to do the same thing. First one there wins the first race of the game. If it’s a road builder that could be the difference between, getting to the main island and winning and losing.

If it is a road builder, you can use it to get the other treasure or build to (8) or (10).

4.2.1 Treasure

The problem with ignoring the treasure and going directly to shore is that you have no brick. You will have to wait to use a 3:1 port. You also don’t have a road factory.

Don't lose too much time getting treasure in the opposite direction. You can always get it later by moving ships.

4.3 Recommended Tactics

  • In general chose to get to the main island first before building more on your island. You may however need to build another settlement to get to the main island. If you're unsure, take into account the strength of your opponent across from you. A strong opponent willusually be on the main island fast and you need to hurry more.
  • In general do not settle first on adjacent player’s islands unless tile is highly desirable (e.g. 6 ore and you have no ore).
  • If your island is surrounded by treasure, don’t spend too much time getting it. Use a road builder to get more treasure first and then use on your own island.
  • once most treasure is taken, move ships to go to main island rather than using many turns to capture last treasure in opposite direction. You can always get it later.
  • Be selective where you land, but not too selective. If you have no brick, look around a bit, but if you don’t find any dive in, it may only be 1 tile away
  • As a general use avoid landing on the 2:1 port, you usually guess wrong what it should be. Exceptions: obvious what it should be, you’re missing a resource and don’t have a development card factory.
  • remember to take advantage of your ability to move a ship every 2 turns to explore
  • interesting nugget of information from wolfram: if you have no 6 on your island, there will be 3 6s on the main island below/above you. Same for 8s ?

5 Middle Game – getting position and those juicy spots

5.1 Objectives

The middle game lasts from getting your first settlement on the main island until about 20-25 turns from the end Your objectives are

  • completing your factories so that production is balanced
  • settle high production sites before opponents to maximize production
  • Block opponents from main island
  • Position yourself to be able to settle neighboring islands
  • Place roads appropriately if you decide you are going for longest
  • Maybe take the 2:1 port

5.2 Recommended Tactics

  • Move diagonally to other side of main island, between two of the opposing islands.
  • Create if possible at least 4 – 6 high return spots (e.g. 6 – 5 - 3). Make sure you have a ship engine.

Protecting territory

  • Block your opponents and don't let them block you, is probably the most important thing to do. Once you're blocked off from expanding left and right, you stop expanding, You have to leave yourself a path for expansion, unless you already have the 4-6 high producing spots and your factories are reasonably balanced.

6 End Game – settling other islands and maxing points

6.1 Objectives

The end game is approximately the last 20 turns when the high producing sites have been settled. Your objectives are:

  • be clear who you are competing against
  • settle additional islands
  • where appropriate defend your island
  • if appropriate get longest road and / or largest army

6.2 Recommended Tactics

6.2.1 Settling other islands

  • Watch your opponents. You may need to do this earlier if hey start expanding.
  • Critical but be selective. Make sure you have a good chance of settling there before end of game
  • Think of longest road. If you have a choice of islands and have longest, chose the one that willl maintain it.
  • If playing against an aggressive blocker, consider building up knights and roar builders to make the invasion and settlement in one turn, after your opponent has completed his.

6.2.2 Defending your island

  • Only do it if the player has a chance of just beating you. If hes way ahead or behind, forget it, focus on getting points.

6.2.3 Largest Army

  • determine if you are going for it based on current knight count and relative productivity of your dev card factory vs. his.
  • particularly important if opponent is close in score to you.
  • with 10 turns left, forget about cities and get knights.
  • use knights to produce2 of wheat, sheep or ore.
  • delay using your knights as much as possible
  • try not to use to chase robber and get only 1 resource
  • only produce 1 more knight than the opponent.

6.2.4 Longest Road

  • similar to largest army
  • think of closing loops. I connected (8) and (9) in first example.

6.2.5 Tie Breakers

In the event of a tie, the number of resources in your hand breaks the tie. Do not build anything uncessarily.

7 Miscellaneous Tips and tricks

Going over 7 cards

  • I firmly believe that a 7 is more likely to be rolled whewn I have more than 7 cardcs in my hand :).
  • In general I try to finsh each turm with 7 or less.
  • exception: e.g. 4 brick 4 wheat and no port.


I've been told:

  • "You shouldn't take someone's 2:1 port in the first 15 turns of the game"
  • Sarcastically at end of game :"Thanks for messing up my longest road"

I've been put on numerous ignore lists (all Germans, is there a cultural thing I am missing ?), apparently for blocking access to my island.

I play to have fun. I also play to win. Winning is fun. In most cases if I don't block you, you will block me.

There are exceptions, win win scenarios. If I'm approaching a neighbor's island as he approaches mine, . I have often suggested "I'll go high and let you go low". So we both settle each other's island rather than wasting points blocking each other.

My basic rule is:"If I need to do it to win, it's ok. that's part of the game". This imples:

  • only block someone from your island if it may affect your final position. IF he's way behind or way ahead forget him. Focus on getting points,
  • I've won without a 2:1 port, and won because I was able to get the second port. If you need it take it, If not don't bother, we all know its no fun losing "your" port. WARNING: If you take a port near another player, it's a good guess that they feel that it's "THEIR" port and will complain, dress down, and/or block you. note: If you are a Katimavik Bay player, we sincerely hope you are polite and a good ambassador of the city if it happens to you!

Now if winning was everything, or even the most important thing, I wouldn't be writing this guide.

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