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I'm new to Settlers of Catan, and I quickly learned the importance of having a source of Brick and Lumber at the start of the game. And some googling showed that others agree ... and others disagree.

Whatever you value most at the start ... brick, wood, grain, ore, (ok, not wool so much), diversity of resources, diversity of numbers, access to ports, etc., you can find a blog post confirming your belief.

What is much harder to find is actual data. Has there been any significant study of competitive games and/or computer simulations that give substantial support to a particular initial placement strategy?

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    Experience mostly. I'm more of a fan of good numbers at the beginning, then expanding into number diversity. It really depends on the board setup and your starting position. Not just having a source of brick and lumber, but GOOD sources. If you value particular resources but can't get good numbers for them, take a number diversity strategy into the game. – Brian Robbins Feb 5 '15 at 20:09
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    And there is also this post:boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/2877/… – Brian Robbins Feb 5 '15 at 20:10
  • Just saw that one. Pretty much guarantees that there will be no good answer to this one. (No data => No opening data) – Eric Wilson Feb 5 '15 at 20:11
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    Another potential issue is that people often take pity on those who get a bad initial position, offering them favorable trades, or taking action (such as Robber) against players with better initial setup. This would likely skew the data some, if it even existed. If you are in first place, it's better to "hurt" the player in 2nd then the player in 4th. – aslum Feb 6 '15 at 14:44
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    Flagging as duplicate, this question is hopeless. Catan isn't chess after all (with an easy standard way to record games) or poker (with significant study via simulation and probability). If a source of Catan data emerges, it can be supplied to the other question. – Eric Wilson Feb 6 '15 at 14:51
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Although I wouldn't call it a "significant study" as far as initial placement strategies, there is a blog that I found a while ago which gets into an analysis of playing (and winning) SoC from a mathematical perspective.

The blog is called "Developing Catan", and includes the application of several types of mathematical analysis to the game based on the writer's personal experience playing SoC on a frequent basis, both in person and online. In particular, some of the analysis in this pdf discusses probabilities of winning without starting on any particular resource, which answers at least part of your question.

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In my experience as a board game enthusiast/collector I find that many players of varying experience levels will first access the board from a statistical standpoint. The tiles that hold numbers 5 to 9 are the most likely to generate the greatest amount of resources over the course of the game and therefore are the most desirable. Ergo a good starting position would be on the intersection of as many of these numbers as possible such as 8-5-9. If you prefer the "port" strategy look for these numbers (especially 6 and 8) that are adjacent to a port and attempt to work around that. Remember you also gain resources from your second placement. Even if the most desirable spaces have been taken, you may be able to get a quintessential resource from a starting village. Looking at resources, wood and brick are typically essential to winning, however wheat is the most diverse because it is used for 3 of 4 developments. With that said, through observation, I have found that a port strategy works the best, when there is a title adjacent to a resource of its type along with another one of those tiles holding a "desirable" number. Other than that I would say a solid placement regardless of strategy would be to place adjacent to as many desirable numbers (worst case scenario, you have allot of goods you don't need) and if needed using your second placement to gain resources you deem "hard to get".

  • You have failed to answer the question. The OP wants actual data, not opinion on strategy. – AndyT Feb 24 '15 at 22:51

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