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Subject: The famous WELFARE variant rss

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Douglas S
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Torrance
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THE WELFARE VARIANT of SETTLERS OF CATAN

original post by Alf Seegart-

Reasoning-
Posted by Many criticisms of Settlers of Catan stem from the fact that falling behind early in the game--which can easily result from unlucky die rolls--will keep you from being able to compete in later stages. This is all too true, and has been the source of much annoyance for members of my game group. In fact, we stopped playing Settlers for a long time because of this. Recently I was introduced to a simple variant that makes gameplay MUCH more balanced.

The RULE-
1. Each time that the dice are rolled and you receive no resources (and the roll was not a '7'), you receive a small welfare token.

2.During your turn you can cash in these welfare tokens at the rate of one per [open non-hidden] victory point you presently have, to receive one resource (or commodity in Knights and Cities) of your choice.


For example, if you have 4 victory points, you can cash in 4 of these tokens for a single resource or commodity of your choosing.

This really helps those falling behind, but does not lead to inflation because as you become more powerful with more victory points, cashing these tokens in becomes harder and harder.

Ever since we have employed this variant, games have become much more close, tense, and engaging. Now I won't play Settlers any other way.


- Alf Seegert- Jan 25, 2001- www.funagain.com
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Brian Hamilton
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I'm guessing you only use the open information, and not extra vps from domestic cards??
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Everett Scheer
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Madison
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As I would agree that this would fix the problem in a casual gaming group, serious gamers could use this to their advantage.

1) This varient makes it better for a player to "bunch" their production, and gives them more incentive to take the disadvantagous spots on the board, knowing that they will get compensation.

2) Because of the trade rate, it benifits people to stunt their initial growth in order to fully use the varient. It would be advantagous to build roads to every place you want to build (making sure you dont get longest road) and save up welfare, then trade the welfare 2:1 resource and build 2-3 settlements and or cities at once.

3) Another degenerate strategy would be to build 2 cities (preferably with overlapping numbers), and hordes of development cards, making sure that longest road is within building distance. Since you dont have to reveal VP dev cards, they dont count towards your welfare exchange rate. In one turn you can go from a visable 4 VP to 10, if you have 2 hidden VP dev cards, + flip the 3rd soldier for largest army, and take longest road.

As such, I would never play this varient. I honestly believe it can a) reward poor play, and b) cause a negative play experience if one player abuses the welfare system.
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Douglas S
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bdean152 wrote:
I'm guessing you only use the open information, and not extra vps from domestic cards??


right
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Douglas S
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Elgar wrote:
As I would agree that this would fix the problem in a casual gaming group, serious gamers could use this to their advantage.

1) This varient makes it better for a player to "bunch" their production, and gives them more incentive to take the disadvantagous spots on the board, knowing that they will get compensation.

2) Because of the trade rate, it benifits people to stunt their initial growth in order to fully use the varient. It would be advantagous to build roads to every place you want to build (making sure you dont get longest road) and save up welfare, then trade the welfare 2:1 resource and build 2-3 settlements and or cities at once.

3) Another degenerate strategy would be to build 2 cities (preferably with overlapping numbers), and hordes of development cards, making sure that longest road is within building distance. Since you dont have to reveal VP dev cards, they dont count towards your welfare exchange rate. In one turn you can go from a visable 4 VP to 10, if you have 2 hidden VP dev cards, + flip the 3rd soldier for largest army, and take longest road.

As such, I would never play this varient. I honestly believe it can a) reward poor play, and b) cause a negative play experience if one player abuses the welfare system.


I haven't seen "B" occur when we've played this. Maybe we aren't shrewd enough

As for A- It doesn't REWARD poor play, rather it doesn't PUNISH some under average play. It's mostly to keep the game exciting and prevent runaway leaders and even out dice rolls.

MAYBE YOU CAN LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF RESOURCES YOU CAN TRADE IN TO OBTAIN TO TWO PER TURN.

Perhaps try it once before you decide. But either way, if that's your opinion, then that's what it is!

-Doug
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Brett Ritter
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Richmond
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Duglis wrote:
THE WELFARE VARIANT of SETTLERS OF CATAN
original post by Alf Seegart-

1. Each time that the dice are rolled and you receive no resources (and the roll was not a '7'), you receive a small welfare token.


I see people doubling up on 6s and 8s based on this - They'll either get welfare goods (of choice!) more quickly then they'd get regular goods, or they'll be cashing out when their number does come up.

If a welfare version is desired, why not take a card (hah!) from Starfarers and create a welfare deck from a mix of resources, and give out a random resource to each player who doesn't get one on a non-7 roll, so long as they have, say, fewer than 4 VP. Once someone is at 4 VP, they shouldn't need the welfare, and the random nature means that people are less likely to try and rely upon it. (Though I suppose they still will)

It's also a rule that is more simple to explain (IMHO).



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Tom Hancock
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Charleston
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More ideas:

1. You don't get welfare if you have 4 resources or more in your hand.

2. You don't get welfare if you have an unplayed card in your hand (like a knight or similar)

3. You don't get welfare unless you have the least number of victory points

There are a lot of ways to make a variation like this work...
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Michel Fortin
Canada
Montréal
Québec
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We also play with this variant all the time and I agree that it doesn't reward poor play. I've seen bad initial placements resulting in lots of welfare (we call it cheese, ourselves) but it was nowhere near enough to catch up with the other players. One resource card, even sheep, is much more valuable than a few pieces of cheese.

Another way to prevent cheese pile-up would be to make it vulnerable to the robber. Like cards, if you have more than 7 pieces of cheese you would loose half when a seven is rolled.

I doubt I would ever used any of these tweaks myself. We never had any player trying to break this variant. We're all honest players here!
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Mark McEvoy
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Ontario
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Like many others, I also feel this is too strong and needs counterbalancing to prevent it from being used as a key to victory and potentially dominating the game.

Why make the cashing-in of welfare tokens an option at all? Why not simply make it "Whenever a roll is made that you do not gather one or more resource cards, take a welfare token. If your number of welfare tokens equals or exceeds your number of visible victory points, forfeit all welfare tokens and take one resource card of your choice." That way there's no 'stockpiling' of these tokens at all; the resource you gain from it adds to your hand (for robber purposes)...

I also don't like that you can get *any* resource... I'd far prefer it be only any resource that you have a settlement or city adjacent to (after all, it's supposed to compensate for unlucky rolls, not errors in placement). In some strategies, one only needs 2 Brick and 2 Wood for the entire game (1 road, 1 settlement, upgrade all 3 to cities, then play the development deck the rest of the game, getting your last 4 points by VP Dev cards and Largest Army), but the tradeoff usually is that a player who sets himself without a source of Brick or Wood finds it very difficult/costly to acquire them soon enough to keep up in the critical earlygame. I fear allowing welfare tokens to be traded for ANY resource type would just feed this strategy and make it a dominant one. Set yourself up for good late-game-resource production because the resources that are only critical in earlygame you can get via welfare.

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Danny Frahm
Australia
Brisbane
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I agree that the system could be exploited, but honestly even base rule systems are exploited. Everyone would merely need to change their strategy. I have an idea though.

Welfare:
Only players with 5 (visable) VPs or less are eligable for welfare.

Everytime a seven is rolled. The player with the least amount of VPs takes one resource card of his choice. If two or more players all have the smallest amount of VPs the person who rolled seven chooses who gets this (even if it is himself. Double bonus!).

This would make small impact on the game, but often I've seen the weakest player is going 3 turns around the group lacking one vital card he needs to develop.

I would be incline to allow the weakest player to take resource cards equal to the difference between his VPs and the next highest VP points, at a minimum of one.

Player 1 - 8 VP (not eligable)
P2 - 5 VP (eligable)
P3 - 4 VP (not the lowest)
P4 - 2 VP (gets 2 resource cards because the difference in VP points between him and the next player is 2)
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Jon Ivar T.
Norway
Ålesund
Møre og Romsdal
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Elgar wrote:
As I would agree that this would fix the problem in a casual gaming group, serious gamers could use this to their advantage.

I am not sure if I am best described as a casual or serious gamer, but I love to play. Because I love to play I have to teach other people to play (so that I have someone to play with). They may then be described as casual players.

I have come up with this house-rule, witch is my version of the Welfare variant, and I have called it development aid :
Each player can collect up to 5 development aid tokens, and may exchange 3 development aid tokens into any resource (not commodity) on their turn.
(declared to be the "best house-rule ever" by a friend of mine)
The whole rule (all details) is found in this document:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/fileinfo.php?fileid=21406
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Bret Smith
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Vancouver
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We play the welfare variant always (we call it food stamps). To discourage the stockpiling of tokens, we say that each potential card worth of value in your tokens is equal to one card for Robber purposes. Further, if you are ever "dinged" by the robber, you must lose your tokens before removing cards from the hand, at the same rate.

Ex.: I have 2 VPs, 6 cards in my hand, and 8 tokens. This counts as 10 cards. The robber is rolled so I have to lose 5 cards. So, I lose all of my tokens (8/2=4 cards worth of value) and 1 of the cards from my hand.

Two extra points: We also play that VP development cards must be played at the soonest possible point, and more importantly, the exchanging of tokens for cards occurs _after_ the building phase. Thus you have to risk keeping those cards in your hand through one more round of possible robber rolls, and your opponents stealing your cards though game effects...
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Eggy Toast
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Yeah, I would imagine that a gamer who sees this system as ripe for abuse would be playing with people who would otherwise need a boost. If you're familiar with the game and understand basic placement strategy, then you understand that dice rolls are a part of the game and just because you placed on 8 but it never shows up doesn't mean that you should get a boost. You just got unlucky that game.

Compared to relatively new players who don't really understand placement or have a very basic grasp of strategy, a system like this as a handicap can work very well, and encourage more even play across skill levels. I could see it eventually getting phased out if a player who receives a large amount of "welfare" and is able to turn it into a win starts getting better.

It's sort of a natural progression -- if you're able to do more in the game, you start to see and evaluate strategy better. But if you see the problem with abusing it, you're probably an advanced enough player that you wouldn't need the handicap anyway.
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Eric Raabe
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Green Bay
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For one more, why not a replace the Robber with "Robin Hood"? Whenever a 7 is rolled, after cards are discarded and the Robber moves and strikes, if any one player (if there are no ties for last place) has the lowest visible score, that player gets one free resource.
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Another variation may be something like...

...whenever the dice is thrown (not a 7) where you collect no resources and the YELLOW DIE (as opposed to the red die which is possibly being used for progress cards if you are playing Cities & Knights) is greater than your known VPs, you simply recieve one free resource. So, in the beginning, the yellow die would have to be 3 or more. Once you reach 6 VPs, you can receive no more welfare. Of course, this means you would never receive welfare on a 2, 12, 3 or 11.
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And yet another possiblity...

...the welfare choice could be restricted to whatever the number thrown would produce in resources. For instance, an "8" is thrown. You don't get any resource this turn. However, there are "8" tokens on ore and sheep tiles. So you only get to choose between either an ore or a sheep for welfare.

If using welfare tokens, when you cash in, whatever number was thrown on the turn you cash in, you are restricted to the resources accessed by that number.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
Germany
Hanover
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The OP variant is already part of the inofficial C&K expansions "Hexen, Zauberer und Drachen" (witches, sorcerers and dragons) and "Kirche, Glaube und Reformation" (church, faith and reformation). The welfare tokens are called "beer chits" there and have the same function.
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I take it you don't get welfare if your resource is blocked by the robber.
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Matt Blackburn
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This suggestion seems bad at first glance.

Why? It's a catchup mechanic that fundamentally changes the ideal strategy. Catchup mechanics should be implemented to keep players in 4th (or potentially 5th or 6th if you're playing with more players) in the game, but in such a way that you wouldn't intentionally change your strategy.


The best catchup mechanic that we've invented is to keep score through multiple games, and then play for second, third, fourth, etc.

If you mess up (or, rarely, get unlucky... although normally people just complain about luck and they actually made decisions that left themselves open to bad luck), there's still going to be a vicious fight for second and third place, even if you're unlikely to get first place, virtually no matter how far behind you are, one of the three other players is likely to stumble (or you can trade up) and get into a more winning position.
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William Baldwin
United Kingdom
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How about using the fishermen expansion and either taking a fish token instead of a welfare token or using the fish exchange rates? Has anyone tried that?

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/19343
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Shane Loader
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Ft. Collins
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We play this differently.
We found this a few years ago & have not played a game without it since.

You get welfare chips the same way.
But you spend them (based on VPs) to set the dice instead of rolling.

This works GREAT.

Especially if a couple people are seriously behind they can prevent the leader from getting their needed resources by setting the dice.
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Our group has come up with a simple variant on this.

Whenever the dice is thrown in which NO ONE receives any resources, the player whose turn it is receives one free resource of his choice.
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Chris Long
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State College
Pennsylvania
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You know, like, for realsies.
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Elgar wrote:
Since you dont have to reveal VP dev cards, they dont count towards your welfare exchange rate. In one turn you can go from a visable 4 VP to 10, if you have 2 hidden VP dev cards, + flip the 3rd soldier for largest army, and take longest road.


Not really. You can only play one Development card per turn, and you're trying to play 3 all at once.
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Travis Hall
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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radynski wrote:
Elgar wrote:
Since you dont have to reveal VP dev cards, they dont count towards your welfare exchange rate. In one turn you can go from a visable 4 VP to 10, if you have 2 hidden VP dev cards, + flip the 3rd soldier for largest army, and take longest road.


Not really. You can only play one Development card per turn, and you're trying to play 3 all at once.

Yes, really. Revealing a victory point card to claim the win does not count as playing it.
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Timothy Young
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Ogden
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Elgar wrote:
...it can... ...cause a negative play experience if one player abuses the welfare system.


So true, so true.

Oh wait, we were talking about Settlers?
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