In Catan, one can observe which cards opponents draw with their second settlement, and then observe what die rolls and trading do to their hands. Thus it is possible, though difficult, to follow opponents' hands.

In blackjack, the ability to "count the deck" represents the difference between being a winning and losing player. In bridge, players see 26 out of 52 cards, and through bidding and early play, can largely [reconstruct the two hands that they can't see.] There are probably no world class players that aren't reasonably good at this task.

Is the ability to reconstruct the opponents' hands of similar value in Catan for tournament players? Are there world class players or experts who weren't at least competent at this one aspect of the game?

Edit: My question was about the value of card counting in establishing one's rank in tournament play. The other question was about the mechanics of doing this in casual or "home" play. They have overlapping subject matter but their directions could not be more opposite. An answer that was suitable for one question could be wildly wrong for the other.

  • 5
    Does this answer your question? Counting cards in Catan? Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 13:17
  • No. See my edit.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 16:28
  • The number of resources in the bank is not private information. There are 19 of each of the 5 resources. You can count the resources in the bank freely (though doing so frequently would be poor etiquette) which makes counting the cards fairly moot unless you want to do so without other players knowing your doing so.
    – aslum
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 21:05

2 Answers 2


Yes, card counting is a key skill for expert Catan players. First, most expert Catan players will be counting your cards and your opponents' as they pick them, with the only random variable being any possible development cards that you draw from the deck, or cards which you steal from another player when you role a seven. But as they will be counting your cards, this would immediately put you at a disadvantage if you are not counting theirs.

Once you can reconstruct an opponent's hand, you will know who you can trade with, what people need, and whether people are a threat to steal your spots for settlements and roads.

Although there are probably a very few world class players who are not that great at tracking cards, the vast majority of those who play competitively or in sanctioned tournaments are. And if they are not great in tracking cards, then they would have to be exceptional in another aspect of the game, like strategy, or be extremely lucky.


Card counting is not easy. That makes it unsuitable for casual or "home" players. There are other more important skills that will improve their game with less effort.

On the other hand, a tournament player will have an (almost) complete mastery of the game. That would include card counting. It might be one of the later skills acquired but for a serious player (one who plays for money or reputation), any extra edge helps.

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