The Settlers of Catan is a game about resources. You roll dice to see who gathers what resources, and try to make the best use of your resources.
While the dice may leave plenty of luck in the game, you can increase your chances of winning if you know how to use your resources. These tips will help you win your next game of Settlers of Catan.
Your absolute first priority in any game of Settlers should be building new settlements. Since each settlement has to be at least two spaces apart, this means you'll generally need to build two new roads whenever you want to build a settlement.
Spend your wood and brick on roads early on, and create a new settlement as soon as you can. The extra resources you get from having 50 percent more settlements than before make your first settlement a great jump forward.
Move to a port early, if possible. The 2:1 ports are great if you have high production of the associated resource, as it means you won't have to rely on other players to get what you need.
You'll want lots of room to play new settlements and possibly reach for longest road, so try to expand by building roads towards underpopulated areas. If you're competing with someone else for the same area, move to block them if you can, but don't sink roads into going towards somewhere you can be blocked out of too easily.
Upgrade to Cities
Aside from building new settlements, upgrading your settlements to cities is the only way to increase your resource production. Generally speaking, the best spots available on the board are chosen during the initial settlement placement, so your starting settlements will probably be the ones you want to upgrade into cities first. But if you can afford to upgrade a settlement, it's almost always worth it.
If you started with some ore and wheat production, but not enough to upgrade a settlement, get a few sheep and buy some development cards. At worst, these are a soldier, sometimes a victory point, and sometimes a special card that will allow you to swing the game in your favor later. Holding lots of soldiers leaves you in a good position to keep the robber off of your property, and sets you up to gain the largest army bonus later in the game.
Although not as reliable as using the ports, a large part of Settlers is trading with other players. Most people won't trade with you unless they gain a boost to their position, so be sure that any time you trade, you are also gaining a boost to your position as well.
Trade on your turn to get resources you can use immediately. This not only lets you improve your board position faster, with extra roads or increased resource production, but also lets you avoid...
The robber will strike whenever anyone rolls a seven. This is the most common number to roll on two six-sided dice, and will happen on average every six turns. For this reason, sitting around with more than seven cards in your hand is a bad idea.
Generally speaking, you want to spend resources whenever possible. Obviously, this means building new cities and settlements whenever you can, or even building extra roads and buying extra development cards. And don't be afraid to use the ports if you have a large hand of cards; shipping three sheep for a brick may seem like a bad deal, but it can help keep your hand under the robber limit while simultaneously giving you the resources you need.