Home > Economics, Settlers of Catan, Strategy > Manipulating Market Price

Manipulating Market Price

As of now, I’ve looked at a trend in development strategy that I’ve seen, and now I’m looking at pricing. There’s not much strategy here (or at least anything past a beginner/intermediate level), and you might be a little annoyed – isn’t this supposed to be a blog outlining the best strategy for Settlers? We’re getting there. Don’t worry.

As I said last time, value is determined by the market. For some, this is a flashback to any introductory economics class taken previously. For the rest of you, here’s the rundown: when you graph the supply curve of a product and the demand curve of that same product on the same axes, we can find the market price (or equilibrium) by where they cross. If the demand goes up (by a shift of the demand curve to the right), the equilibrium price will move up. If the supply goes up (by a shift of the supply curve to the right) the equilibrium price will go down.

So what does this mean for Settlers? Well, understanding the basics of supply/demand is extremely helpful. There’s a couple different categories where this falls into the basic strategy:

Placing Strategy
The dreaded beginning of the game placing cycle. What placing position is best? What resources should I focus on? I’ll answer these questions later. For now, I think laying out a scenario would be helpful: if there is a shortage of brick on the board (say the brick tiles have nothing better than a 4 on the table), I would look at getting the best brick spot before looking at the roll probability. I can look at the rolls that brick will give and realize that throughout the game, the supply of brick will be down (the curve will be farther to the left). This is going to drive price of brick up. I want a piece of that. If I could even get on the two highest numbers, monopolizing it in a way, I’ll do that. That way, every time I trade a brick to one of my fellow players, I’m going to be sure of getting a pretty good deal.

Robber Strategy
When moving the robber, there are a lot of strategies, many of them dealing with the psychology of it all, trying to keep peace with certain people when you need it. I think about things in terms of supply and demand. If there are two main places of receiving a resource (let’s consider wheat), and I am on only one of them, I should block the other. This seems intuitive, but what are we doing? We’re cutting down supply to drive up the price. I can also do this on a per-player basis. If Player 1 only has one hex of wheat that he picks from, I’ll block that, making his supply fall to zero, and suddenly the price of MY wheat goes up for him. I like to use this strategy to level a price-field. Say we all need wood, and Player 1 is the only one that has it. He’s going to be “charging” a lot in his trades for wood. If he suddenly finds himself in desperate need of wheat, his wood will decrease in relative value. Trading with him for a wood might be a little easier now.

Miscellaneous Strategy
This is something I’ve been working on implementing, because theoretically it makes sense. This is a strategy I’ve used when competing for longest road and/or largest army. Consider a competition between Player 1 and I for longest road: demand for brick and wood goes up. I’ll engage myself in competition for longest road if I have brick and/or wood to sell. Price is going to go up if Player 1 needs it to hold onto the longest road. Even if I don’t plan on using the 2 points for holding the title to win, I’ve successfully manipulated the market to drive price up. This also means that if I do plan on using the longest road to win, I’ll keep my lead on the road small. I want Player 1 to still try to overtake my road so that his demand of brick and/or wood is still high, keeping the price high. If I let him stay close to it, maybe even steal it back and forth for a bit, I can most likely get some pretty deals out of him. It’s risky, but if you can do it well, you’ll be holding the reins to the market.

There are obviously other ways that supply/demand plays into Settlers strategy. Try these out, and why not leave any other observations you make in the comments.

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  1. Greg Meyer
    21/10/2010 at 10:04 pm

    Peter!
    Wow, this is a really cool analysis. I never thought of looking at settlers through the idea of supply and demand, but (like you said)it is kind of intuitively there. Analyzing it really shows it to be true. I’m interested to see what other things you can learn…

    • 21/10/2010 at 11:26 pm

      Thanks Greg! I’m looking forward to really delving into it all as I keep more stats. Right now there’s only small pictures being formed, I’m looking forward to seeing something more conclusive.

  2. Ben Gresik
    21/10/2010 at 11:39 pm

    This is really interesting stuff. Is there any way that you can write a post on what kind of stats your collecting so other people can feed you data?

    • 21/10/2010 at 11:42 pm

      Great idea Ben! I’d love to grow my “Games Played” quickly. I’ll look into it, and maybe even put a copy of my spreadsheet up for download or something. Thanks!

  1. 21/10/2010 at 6:34 pm
  2. 22/10/2010 at 1:21 pm
  3. 04/11/2010 at 11:00 am

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