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Subject: Settlers: Harrowsmith Wild Woollen Ride rss

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Richard Cox
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After a phenomenal meal (chicken and vegetable dish over rice, with an excellent brew-your-own red wine) prepared by our hosts Don and Wanda, the group opted for a 5 player game of settlers, using the regular 4 player game with additional pieces, playing with the 4 player rules.

John and Adam had not played Settlers before. Richard (me) provided the game instruction.

Dice were tossed and Wanda rolled to go first. Play order (and placement order for 1st settlements) was Wanda, Don, Adam, Richard, and John.

The board layout was unusual. Two normally scarce resources, bricks and ore, had a 6 and an 8, respectively, with not "ugly" numbers on the two other tiles. As I scanned the board, it looked like all the resources would be plentiful, so I expected a rapid expansion-and-win game. The wheat was well distributed, as was ore, wood and brick. No one was going to have a monopoly. Not apparent at first was that all the 3:1 ports seemed to be on one side of the island, and that all the pasture was on the other side. As I write this, I wonder if I committed a board setup boo-boo with the ports. There were all spaced with a non-port tile in between, but can't remember if I was supposed to force the 3:1 ports to alternate with the resource ports.

Wanda took control of the best Brick spot (6 with a 10 wheat), Don chose a wood (8) and ore port location on the far side of the island. Adam grabbed the ore (6) production (with wood and sheep). I chose a spot between Adam and Wanda, on a wood/ore spot with a short route to wheat and the bricks. John took two settlement spots on the far side of the island, near Don. He captured the pasture land securing contact with all four, but only with intermediate/poor numbers (3,9,10,11) My next settlement was a 3:1 port near Wanda. Adam took another spot close to me. Don stayed on the less conjested side of the island and setup a spot close to his first settlement onthe side toward Wanda. Wanda chose another brick (10) location near her first, closer to the coast.

Looking at the settlements, I thought that it would be a race to control the coast on the Wanda/Richard/Adam side of the board and everyone would expand into the centre.

As is normal in any game of settlers, the dice seemed to have a mind of their own, and "normal distribution " be damned.

John capitalized on the seemingly endless supply of 10's and 9's to expand and tighten his control on the pastures. Wanda's brick supply was constantly hampered by a "no holds barred" attitude of the other players, as she was never able to keep the robber off of her clay mine. Don was able to pinch off John's development on one side, but John expanded quickly to the open lands to the other side. Adam was able to obtain the longest road. Don stole this, and held on to it briefly before John stole it. Adam was able to win it back later, but couldn't hold against John's wool-powered expansion. With John able to suck sheep in with double settlements on 9's and 10's, the robber couldn't slow him down. Everytime (it seemed) that Wanda got the robber back on her bricks, the 10 or 6 came up and either Adam and I got wood or John got multiple sheep.

John was able to use development cards to get hold of an early road builder card and horn of plenty (he had two horns of plenty during the game) to expand. Around the mid point of the game he also got control of the largest army. No one else could match his development card buying power.

The midgame/endgame boundary saw the warmed raspberry pie taken from the oven and divvied up.

Towards the end of the game, only the roll of a 7 or 12 would deny me a resource, but it was never enough, as wheat and ore never became plentiful. Wanda was able to get several big deliveries of bricks, as her multiple settlement brick mines got busy. However, John's great wollen machine continued to roll with his final tally of 5 settlements, both longest road and largest army, and finally a victory point development card to win.

Don only got a third settlement (as I recall, I may be wrong) I had 5 settlements and a victory card for 6 points. Wanda had 5 settlements. Adam had either 4 or 5 (I think 5) settlements.

Not one settlement was upgraded to a City.

Generally, the 5-6 expansion rule about being able to build when not on your turn would have been useful to me, as I lost 5 cards at a critical junction of the game. I have to appologize for the tremendous hand thump on the table at that point (but the table being heavy oak, the game board barely trembled) when Adam rolled the 7. Also, the additional real estate from the island expansion would perhaps have made some of the resource scarcities (due to those damned 9's and 10's and lack of 4's, 5', 6's and 8's) less severe. Also, it may not have prevented three of us from being unable to expand road-wise. As a note, the numbers 2,4, and 12 were not rolled the entire game, despite that 4 is "supposed" to come up as often as 10. Yes, I did control a number 4 tile.

The game took more than 2 hours to play, primarily due to agonizing decisions and watching John collect endless sheep, while the rest of us looked down at our poor hands.

I never regretted more saying (during the teaching phase) that sheep just aren't generally respected as an important resource . . . good thing John ignored that and rode his sheep to victory!

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