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When playing in a Catan game (basic edition) last week, I got a couple of good starting spots, with dice rolls 5,4, and 6 and 10, 5, and 8. Except that there was no ore in those settlements, and none that was obtainable on the map. I was able to quickly get 7 points (5 settlements + longest road) before any of my opponents had 5, but I couldn't get any more quickly enough because of my lack of ore, and ultimately ended the game with 9 points in second place. In the future, I feel like this is possibly a good starting strategy, but how can I plan my endgame for this strategy so that I can get the cities or points necessary to win?

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Yes, those are good numbers and might be worth not having access to ore. It's hard to tell without seeing the rest of the board.

  • Convince other players to trade ore with you; even though they'll probably notice you don't have access to ore, you might hold other resources that they absolutely need.
  • Use a harbor to trade with the bank in better ratios than 4:1.
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    Yes, this could potentially work, but wouldn't other players be wary of trading with me if I am ahead of them? (And not so far ahead that I can afford to do 3:1 or 4:1 trades with them) – Joe Kerr Jan 26 at 17:30
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    If they're smart players, yes. That's why you need something that's vital to them; if e.g. wool is scarce and you have plenty, you can use that as leverage. – Glorfindel Jan 26 at 17:32
  • We like to play the fishermen extension; fish tokens can be a valuable resource too to bridge the time to reaching an ore location! Or, add in the harbourmaster option and just focus on gaining harbours, and you can win without cities if you play it well. Those fish tokens earned from being adjacent to water make road building easier too so I’ve won more than once with HM + LR, and no access to ore.. – Martijn Pieters Feb 2 at 0:33
  • @JoeKerr The standard for trading is 4:1, so unless they're willing to act on a 2:1 deal, they're going to lose out on those resources. If they'll only go for a 3:1, I'd rather just starve them out and do a neutral trade to keep them hungry for later. Additionally, by having the resources needed to build roads and settlements, you can quickly isolate your opponents into a starving position, forcing them to trade with you. – Man_Over_Game Feb 11 at 20:09
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Using the strategy that you did, you can start off with no ore in the first two settlements, and get off to a "quick" start (many settlements). But you have to use that "quick start" to remedy your deficiency.

The first thing to do is to use your third (or subsequent) settlement to build next to an ore hex. Even a 4 or 3, 10 or 11 may do.(You probably won't get a good ore hex). The second is to build on a 2 to 1 port and trade the other good for ore at that ratio. Note that building new settlements (as opposed to cities) does not require ore.

When you roll sevens, move the robber onto the hex of a player that has a lot of ore and hope to steal some from him or her.

When you do get your first ore, buy development cards and hope to get a year of plenty or monopoly card that allow you get more ore. Even a knight will allow you to move the robber and possibly steal ore.

Just about every Catan player has a deficiency somewhere. The ones who win are those that remedy their deficiency the fastest. You have identified ore as your deficiency, so concentrate your early game efforts on the remedies described above.

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