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Subject: Intimate Settlers - An Excellent 2-Player Variant rss

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Just call me Erik
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Author's note: This Review is written assuming you have played or know the rules to the standard game "The Settlers Of Catan."

Introduction

The Settlers of Catan is arguably one of the most popular games out there. It is widely credited with starting what we call the "Eurogame" movement. However, it's main drawback has always been a lack of 2-player support. Short of playing with "dummy" players, it's nearly impossible to play Settlers with 2.

However, here on the Geek variants abound, and there is a particularly good one for Settlers of Catan called "Intimate Settlers." Intimate Settlers is in the files section here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/fileinfo.php?fileid=17154

Intimate Settlers does not use a static board. Instead, it is a game of dynamic exploration among the 2 players. In my opinion, this is the best use of the modular board i've seen yet.

Setup

Setting up is rather easy, and doesn't require any expansions. Each player gets 5 land tiles and 2 sea tiles, which are set up in 2 rows. There is a 4-tile row of 2 sea and 2 land tiles, and a 3-tile row of just land tiles. The land tiles are one of each type of resource, set up however the players want. The sea tiles are a blank water hex and a 3:1 harbor. Players choose how they want their harbor oriented. 2 settlements are placed at the intersections of the land tiles (where 3 meet..there are only 2 such intersections in the setup) and the 2 starting bases are set up 4 hexes apart. Players then are each given tokens 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 for their land tiles. They roll for initiative then take turns placing these tokens anywhere on their land hexes. Then they take any 3 resource cards they like. Each player then takes all the pieces of a color, and all the roads of a color not in play. These roads will be that player's "ships."

Playing The Damn Game Already

Intimate Settlers is played much like regular Settlers, except you discover the board as you go. Each time you build a road to an intersection that doesn't have 3 hexes adjoining it, you randomly draw one of the remaining hexes from the bag. If it's a land hex, randomly draw a token to go on it. Dice rolls work as normal.

The robber wasn't discussed in the rules. We played so that 7s still move the robber, but he can go anywhere on the map he likes, even through portions not yet discovered. He is not introduced until a desert tile is played for him to emerge from. Ships are like roads, but cost a wood and a wool, and can only be laid on coastlines and through water. They do not connect to road systems unless there's a settlement where they intersect. The last "ship" in a line of ships can be moved without any resources. The Longest Road card includes both roads and ships as a whole.

Victory points are the same. Cities are 2, settlements are 1, development cards are the same, longest route is 2, largest army is 2. Being the first to place a settlement on "discovered" land or on your opponent's home base is worth an extra VP. First player to 18 VP wins.

Impressions

This variant is a lot of fun. The game progresses quickly and the luck of the tile draw combined with the luck of the roll is a blast. Those with very strategic minds who don't like luck may not like it though. The extra luck, however, is mitigated by being able to choose which tokens go on what resources, and being adjacent to all 5 types at the beginning of the game. Long droughts of a particular resource happen very rarely. The addition of ships to cross water is also fun, as it's easy to become sealocked.

Conclusions

Intimate Settlers is an extremely innovative and fun 2-player variant for Settlers of Catan. I'd actually like to try the regular 3-4 player game this way. There is only one problem:

18 Victory Points? Are you crazy?

18 is a LOT of victory points. After about 14 the game starts to drag big time. I didn't even reach 18 Victory points after I built using every piece in my inventory. Therefore I would amend this to perhaps 14 VP, or until one player is completely out of building bits.

Other than the dragging finish, this variant is loads of fun. The clever use of the modular board and the addition of the ships rules (Reportedly from Seafarers, though i've never played that expansion) make this game well worth the 8 or 10 minutes it takes to read through the rules.

Breakdown:

Thumbs up for:

thumbsup Originality
thumbsup Use of Components
thumbsup Replayability
thumbsup Fun!

Thumbs down for:

thumbsdown Endgame Conditions

An excellent variant. If you like Settlers you have to give this a try.
 
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Throknor
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Am I the only one who saw "Intimate" and "2-Player" in the title and expected something a little more... adult?
 
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Just call me Erik
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Throknor wrote:
Am I the only one who saw "Intimate" and "2-Player" in the title and expected something a little more... adult?


I agree this is what i thought when i first saw the variant's name
 
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Alexandre Leblanc
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Hey, I just read the rules (didn't play the game). Are you aware that:

wood Building the first ship along the edge of one of a land hex of the opponents gains 1 Victory Point.

wheat Building the first settlement on the opponents Home Base gains 5 Victory Points.

sheep Upgrading the first settlement on the opponents Home Base to a city is 7 Victory Points

Note: These are mutually exclusive. If a player is claiming the 5 VP, he/she cannot claim the 1 VP for the ship along the edge of the Home
Base. Similarly if the settlement is upgraded they get 7 VP for the city and do not claim 5 VP for the settlement or 1 VP for the ship along
the edge.

If a player has claimed +1 VP for building a ship along the edge of a land tile of the opponents Home Base, and subsequently displaces this
ship - the VP is lost.
 
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Just call me Erik
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Actually i did miss that part. However, my opponent played to block rather than to cross, and none of these things actually happened. So it wouldn't have really changed the outcome of the game we played all that much.

We really like the variant so we'll be playing it again as soon. I'll post what i thought of it when we do.
 
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Mark Blanco
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I would add as a variant-variant to allow player trading. I don't see any reason why trading couldn't be allowed if the players wanted to.
 
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Just call me Erik
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I'm not sure why they don't allow trading between players either. We seemed to do OK witout but I wouldn't mind trying it both ways.
 
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Wot!
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Strangely, Settlers is one game I have never played with live players.
My gaming partner(s) consist mainly of my wife, and occasionally also one of our daughters.

I therefore tend to go for games that are good with 2 but can play more - hence I have never bought Settlers as this is always shown as a 3+.

Would this variant make this a viable purchase do you think??

 
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Just call me Erik
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dwrigley wrote:
Strangely, Settlers is one game I have never played with live players.
My gaming partner(s) consist mainly of my wife, and occasionally also one of our daughters.

I therefore tend to go for games that are good with 2 but can play more - hence I have never bought Settlers as this is always shown as a 3+.

Would this variant make this a viable purchase do you think??



I'm told even the standard rules work OK for two players, though i've never tried it. This variant i believe tips it so that buying Settlers to play with 2 instead of 3 or 4 is a viable option. Also, it's probably easy enough that you could teach your daughters to play, if they're over the age of say, 7 or 8 (and if they're not they'll grow into it), so you'll be able to play it with them too at some point.

To be concise, if you're buying it just to play 2 player, i think this variant makes it worth it.
 
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Alexandre Leblanc
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I definitely don't think that the "original" 2-player Settler variant is good. I find it boring and utterly random, and it's definitely don't worth buying the game just for that. But I did not try "Intimate Settlers" yet.
 
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Joe Grundy
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The missus and I have played 2P Settlers with vanilla rules, and enjoyed it. Trading happens.

I've played 2P with a couple of people and each have subsequently asked for further plays.
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Roberta Taylor
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Quote:

18 Victory Points? Are you crazy?

18 is a LOT of victory points. After about 14 the game starts to drag big time. I didn't even reach 18 Victory points after I built using every piece in my inventory. Therefore I would amend this to perhaps 14 VP, or until one player is completely out of building bits.


My daughter and I tried this variant out last week and I could see 18 points being hard to reach. I think that it is set so high to encourage you to build the trade route to the other player's 'home lands', which we did both manage to do.

Our thought was that it would be fairly easy to prevent your opponent from reaching your 'home lands', which would definitely make 18 points frustrating. I think that we might add a rule that one player running out of settlements and cities would trigger the other player's final turn, just in case.

Our favourite part of this variant was indeed the exploration, and we found it much more balanced that the 2 player usually is (we were tied for 17 points near the end of the game).

Thanks for the great review (and I know it's been several years, but it's still relevant).
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Colin Fahrion
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Thanks for the review!

Just played this tonight. I've also played a different two player variant before, which basically just used a smaller island. The "intimate settlers" is pretty good though it does drag out some. We played to 18 which does require you to get to the other player's home island. We never had a situation where one player blocked the other so this was possible.

We also added variant pier rules: use two wood to build a pier which allows you to build ships off of a road without building a settlement there. To mark a pier turn a ship on it's side and place it on a corner hex. Pier's can later be replaced with a settlement as long as it obeys the 2 away from each other rule.

One of the things two player always suffers from—besides the lack of trading—is the resource role issue. In a 3+ player game, there is always at least 2 turns to collect resources until it's your turn again; thus, you are more likely to be able to do something on your turn. This issue makes two players feel longer as you have more turns with nothing to do. This variant does nothing to alleviate this issue.

We will likely play this again but add either a welfare rule or some sort of trading variant so as to make the start of the game less tedious. One two player trading variant I've read is roll 1d6 every turn for what's cheap on the market. Whatever is rolled can be traded 1 of anything for.
1 - nothing
2 - sheep
3 - wood
4 - wheat
5 - brick
6 - ore
 
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Stephen Rogers
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My wife and I discovered this variant over this last Christmas holiday and we've been playing it a fair amount since. It's by far the best two player variant we've tried out. We've played the last couple of games with the following changes to the rules:

1. The basic setup of the home bases is still the same, four hexes in a row ahead of three hexes in the back. However, instead of allowing a player to set out their tiles as they wish, all seven tiles are shuffled together by the player's opponent, and are the set out from left to right along the four-tile row, then right to left along the three-tile row. The player's opponent also shuffles up their number tokens, which are placed on the land tiles in the opposite manner (right-to-left and then left-to-right).

2. If as a result of the initial disposition of a player's tiles they only have access to three resources initially, they are allowed to replace one of their initial settlements with a city.

3. Play is as otherwise described in the rules; we typically play with the "trade pack" and also with some restrictions on the robber.


We've got access to a Seafarers set; we usually go ahead and add in the tiles from that set as well (It doesn't really affect the distribution of land-versus-sea tiles) and we go ahead and add in the pirate. We've also got access to the Fishermen of Catan and have played one game with that set as well:

a. The Fishery chevrons are shuffled at the game's onset.
b. Both players get a Fishery in their home base. First player selects their fishery first. Players may orient their Fisheries as they wish.
c. Anytime a new ocean tile is drawn that must be placed adjacent to any land hex, the player that drew it rolls one die. On an even result, the new hex will contain a Fishery. This happens until all fisheries have been deployed.
d. New fisheries must be placed such that they do not share an intersection with any previously existing fishery. Fisheries may, however, share an intersection with a port (as per the normal rules ). A new fishery may otherwise be oriented in any manner the player wishes.
e. A player does not collect a fish token for new fisheries on the board.

The only other change we make to the rules is to extend the gap between the home bases from four to five hexes, placing a desert tile directly in the center of the "board" (i.e. two blank rows, desert, and two more blank rows between the two home bases).

Just a couple of additional suggestions for those who may want to try them out. Adding the trade pack and mixing up the initial tile placement probably makes the game most like normal Catan; in most of the games of normal Catan I've played, it's very rare to have access to all five resources at the game's onset, particularly when they all have good numbers. The trade pack adds some form of dynamic trade back into the game (which is missing in most two-player variants).
 
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