Star Trek Catan Strategy Primer

This game is vicious compared to the original Catan as there is way more stealing and everyone is fighting over the use of the same support cards. There is also a steeper learning curve because players must constantly choose from that pile of support cards by reading all of them, understanding them, and then deciding which is best for their current situation. This leads to some longer play times and some newbie frustration. Still, the Star Trek theme adds some spice to the original Catan and the support cards relieve players from some of the reliance on luck since each of them fixes a scenario where a player may have felt like they were “screwed by the game.” Continue reading for the text version, or if you prefer, there is also a video version:

Please see my analysis on the original Catan for more details on each strategy as I will focus more on the differences between Star Trek Catan and the original in this analysis. Even though the resource colors are almost the same, they do not match up exactly to the original. For example, green Dilithium matches up to Brick in the original and white Oxygen matches up to Wheat/Grain. Here is the full mapping:

  • Dilithium (green) = Brick/Clay
  • Food (yellow) = Sheep/Wool
  • Oxygen (white) = Wheat/Grain
  • Tritanium (red) = Lumber
  • Water (blue) = Ore/Rock
  • Asteroid Field = Desert

Strategies

Longest Supply Route

As in the original Catan, this is an acceptable strategy for newbies: Just use Montgomery Scott to build a bunch of starships and solidify the Longest Supply Route bonus while getting outposts and starbases as resources allow. This is not an advisable strategy for moderate to advanced players because it is not flexible and will leave you without a very good resource base to get you from 7 points up to 10. It’s nice for new players because they can focus on a subset of the game and not worry too much about the rest of the complexity. Sulu can also be useful to re-direct misplaced starships every now and then, plus Uhura can force trades for your needed dilithium and tritanium while keeping it out of the hands of any opponents who may be challenging you for the Longest Supply Route.

If you use it, be careful not to become entrenched in a battle for the Longest Supply Route that sucks up all of your resources while your opponents build cheaper, more sustainable sources of victory points. You should only go for this if you are commanding the Dilithium and Tritanium markets and can build roads far easier than others. This strategy also requires that you keep at least a 3 starship advantage over opponents so they cannot use Utopia Planitia to build and an additional starship to steal the bonus out from under you.

Largest Starfleet

Here, you are trying to gain the Largest Starfleet bonus by buying up a bunch of development cards, which help you control the game by playing each one when it will benefit your endeavors. This strategy is a bit easier in this version of Catan because of the almighty Leonard McCoy. Any time he is available, you will want to grab him, which means your alternate support card should be one that allows you to quickly get rid of it when he is available, like Uhura, Chekov, or Janice Rand. This is the most flexible strategy in the game and the one I highly recommend as long as your opponents do not realize the godliness of McCoy and he is frequently available.

Trading Post

In this strategy, you usually commit to it during initial outpost placement. You realize you can gain access to an immense supply of a particular resource while also grabbing its corresponding trading post as your first expansion outpost. This strategy is more advanced because you need to be able to see the opportunity during initial placement, place wisely while hoping others do not interfere with your placement, and then have access to enough dilithium and tritanium (and/or Scott) to make your way over to your resource’s trading post before someone else beats you to it.

Oxygen Monopoly

This is comparable to the Wheat Monopoly strategy in the original Catan. The popular slogan is “No Wheat Means Defeat” since you need it to buy development cards, settlements, and cities. Oxygen is the comparable resource in Catan so if there is very little of it in the game or a single hex that has a high-rolled number, you can cut your opponents off from it as long as you never trade it to them. This strategy is rendered pretty much unusable in Star Trek Catan because most of the support cards provide ways to get resources that you would otherwise be unable to produce. You can still use this strategy secondarily to force your opponents to use support card abilities for Oxygen instead of something else, but you need a primary strategy to get yourself to 10 points.

Support Cards

The support cards offer tools, protection, and weapons to avoid some of the annoyances of original Catan or attack your opponents. I will describe each one in terms of how they protect you against certain random, or self-imposed, hindrances from the original.

Spock

Spock protects from you from being “screwed by the dice rolls” as was common in the original. This is the best (on par with McCoy) support card early in the game to make sure you can get to your first expansion outpost. He gets worse mid-game, pretty much after you build your first expansion outpost, and is unusable in the late game because you will frequently be stuck with him for multiple rounds as the frequency of resource production increases for you. Also, if you fail to put an outpost on every type of resource to start the game, Spock lets you get those resources you otherwise have no chance of producing.

James T. Kirk

Kirk protects you from losing half your resource hand to the robber. He is not very useful early in the game because you only have a 16.66% chance of rolling a 7 on each dice roll, and you won’t have over 7 cards early in the game, so you will likely go around at least once without using him, which means you would be better off with one of the other support cards. His value increases when your chance of losing half your hand to the Klingon Battlecruiser increases, and is a great pick-up whenever you have 8-9 points and are just trying to grab your last point or two because you know your resource hand is safe from the Klingons.

Uhura

Uhura protects you from your opponents refusing to trade resources that you need. She makes the Wheat Monopoly strategy from the original almost unusable in this version. She is very good because, as some cards give you discounts or advantages for yourself, she gives you an advantage and two of your opponents a disadvantage. She is always a support card to have in front of you.

Hikaru Sulu

Sulu protects you from misplacing starships and opponents cutting you off. He is useful for the first round or two, but then is only useful in very specific situations where one of your starships will be unusable in its current location. In general, there are usually better support cards to acquire than poor, Mr. Sulu. The main reason you get him is to explain, “Oh, My!” when you use his ability.

Pavel Chekov

Chekov protects you from the Klingon embargo. If your play steers you away from picking up development cards or you just do not get Starfleet Intervenes, Chekov can be a good play to send the Battlecruiser back to the asteroid field. Not only do you free up your resource location for future dice rolls, but you also get a free resource out of it. He is a particularly good pick if you see that the Klingon is on a resource that you will likely need on your next turn.

Christine Chapel

Chapel protects other players from pulling out to an insurmountable lead and allows everyone to be relevant in the final rounds. She makes having lots of points early worse than in Catan, not that it was very good in that game either, but it’s way worse here if your opponents like using her ability. It helps in mitigation to avoid grabbing the 2 point bonus tiles until you’re about to win. Obviously you should use this support card when someone is getting near winning and you need to stall them. Having someone steal any resource from your hand can make it very difficult to get your final point or two. Also encourage your opponents to team up against the winning player(s) by using Chapel to suck up their valuable resources.

Montgomery Scott

Scott is very useful early in the game, especially if you are having trouble getting Dilithium and Tritanium to expand to new outposts. Later in the game as expansion slows, you will have better options for your support cards unless you find yourself squandering your resources in a battle for the Longest Supply Route for some reason.

Leonard McCoy

This is the overall best support card in the game. The ability to replace 1 resource with another in the cost of a dev card is good enough, but then to look at the top 3 cards and choose the one you want is unbelievably good. If you find a victory point card when using him, you usually want to grab it because having hidden victory points is even more valuable in this game than others because Christine Chapel can really hurt the players in the lead.

Sarek

This support card will not be used by most people, especially newbies. You pretty much need to go for almost strictly development cards using Leonard McCoy to get enough Starfleet Intervenes cards to make use of his 2 resource discount on a starbase or outpost. Even so, you’re trading something that was 3 resources to buy and only gives a 2 resource discount, so you’re really paying for the flexibility he provides. The biggest drawback of Sarek is it’s easy, especially for a new player, to get stuck with him when his owner plays his/her last Starfleet Intervenes to move the Klingon Battlecruiser, leaving a worthless support card taking up space that could be occupied by one that will give you an advantage in the game.

Janice Rand

If you have a lot of similar resource production locations, this card can be a huge benefit by giving you a 2:1 trading ratio and helping get you some resources you would otherwise not be able to produce. Hopefully you do not get yourself into a position where you do not have access to specific resources in the first place and you can ignore her for the entire game.

General Tactics

Keep your cards a secret because there is a lot more stealing.  When someone asks you, “Do you have any tritanium?”  You respond, “I have none for trade,” no matter whether you do or do not have any.  In the same vein, it is MUCH more important to watch which resources each player produces so you can steal what you need.  Also, use social engineering to try to pull information out of you opponents about what they have.  When you ask if they have any tritanium, you are hoping they respond with information such as, “I have 1 but it’s not for trade.”  Of course, you can take your responses to the next level  if you are so inclined and start lying about what you have, so if someone who has Uhura is phishing for information, give them incorrect information like talking about all your water that you don’t possess.  It’s also more important to remember what your opponents have in their hand because you will have opportunities to steal from them.

When choosing your seat at the table, if you know someone is very development card happy, you want them on your right…  not on your left.  You can expect they will frequently play starfleet cards and move the Klingon battle cruiser, which will be annoying if you keep moving it off of your hexes and then they move it right back on there on the following turn.

As in the original Catan, Tritanium (red) and Dilithium (green) are the most important resources early in the game to build on space routes and claim territory before opponents move in on it.  Oxygen (white) and Water (blue) become more valuable later in the game to upgrade outposts to starbases.

Also as in the original, if you have 9 points, do NOT draw dev cards to get your final victory point. This is even more important in this version because those using McCoy throughout the game probably sucked the development deck dry of victory points.

Christine Chapel makes being in the lead early even worse than in the original so it is very important to stay under the radar in this version.

As in the original, and more importantly in this one, just be nice. Your opponents will have many opportunities to hurt you or help you, so make sure your meta game actions do not make you a target. Maybe compliment them on their shoes or their haircut. Give them a hug…. or a hamburger. You know what they would like more so than me.

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