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Subject: Disappointed newbie rss

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AndyJ Baddice
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Just played my first game of Catan, and I was rather unpleasantly surprised.
It was a four player game. The robber was moved early on to a hex adjacent to one of my two settlements and stayed there for a considerable time. The result, obviously intended by the designers, was that one player (in this case me) received significantly fewer resources than other players. At one point I went eight player turns without getting any resources. By the time I'd placed one road, White had placed three roads and a new settlement. Other players had also expanded and when the robber finally moved I had nowhere to go. I never did acquire a source of brick or stone. I did some trading via my port but at 3:1 - by this time all other players had at least three settlements and one or more cities and had no need for such unfavourable trading. I was behind and each turn getting further behind.
I'm wary of being critical of a game that has clearly survived the test of time but for me there was no game here at all - I'd lost in the first ten minutes through plain bad luck and then just had to wait out the inevitable result.
A comparison of the winning and losing final scores reflect just how one-sided this was. White: ten (having nine roads, one settlement, three cities and a development card). Orange: three (three roads, two settlements, no cities, one development card).
What really bothers me is that I don't imagine that this is a one-off. If the robber is moved early enough in any game and then does not move for some time afterwards, it's bound to be game-over for the afflicted player.
Might also add that the cheap flimsy card used for the map is also a disappointment.
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Ben Goulding
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Sorry to here that you had a bad experience with a classic game.

Not to doubt your story, but I find it hard to believe that across the whole game a 7 (the number that activates the robber) was only rolled once. Does your gaming group know that the robber must be moved when a 7 is rolled, it can't be left on the same spot?

If the robber was always placed on your tiles and no-one else's then I would say your friends are morons for being unnecessarily hard on you and ruining your first experience of what is a very good game.
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David Estall
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Hi Andy. Sounds like you had a horrible experience, but I'd encourage you to try the game again because it's not usually that bad. I also think you may have struggled due to the placement of your initial settlements. Everyone has different tactics but personally I would avoid starting the game with a settlement on the coast because it limits your road-building and resource-collecting abilities. If you'd like, we could always play it at the club so you can see if it plays any better.
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David Estall
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You also mentioned 'cheap flimsy card used for the map' - I'm a bit confused, do you mean the terrain tiles (which I think are usually quite thick and sturdy) or do you mean the frame that surrounds the tiles? If it's the latter then I'd agree, it's a bit rubbish, and we don't use it.
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AndyJ Baddice
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Thanks both for the replies.
We used the starting map for beginners, in which Orange and Blue both begin with one port.
Yes, do realise that the robber is moved each time a 7 is rolled, it was just a long time after the first 7 that another came up, that's why I was left so far behind.
Will give it another go, maybe this was just unusually bad luck.
 
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Fraser
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
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Good advice is also usually to start with a three player game.
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Mark L
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It's certainly true that poor placement can lead to this sort of thing. Ideally, you want to start on as many different numbers as possible so as to maximise the chance of getting something. Put your two starting settlements adjacent to five or six different numbers, if you can. But I thought the beginners' setup is supposed to minimise that sort of problem. You may just have been unlucky.

Or perhaps you made a mistake: you do realise that the robber only blocks the hex he's on, right? Settlements adjacent to the robber still get resources if one of the other numbers adjacent to them is rolled.

And I'd have thought some of the players would be buying resource cards, many of which are soldiers, which move the robber. It would be in everyone's interest to move the robber, because obvously you want rid of him, and the other players should be trying to use him to attack their rivals. Inexperience may have caused them to leave the robber there far longer than they should have.
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Mark L
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It's also worth mentioning that this is sometimes just how Settlers goes; horrible luck on the dice can scupper you. Clever play can mitigate that, but (as you found) you can end up trapped and unable to do much about it.

It's rare enough that some people don't mind, but if it bothers you I recommend the Welfare Variant which I found on here somewhere:

Every time the dice are rolled and you gain no resources and the roll is not a 7, you gain one welfare token.

In your turn, you can trade in welfare tokens for one resource card of your choice from the bank.

The cost is a number of welfare tokens equal to your current visible points. (Hidden victory points from face-down cards don't count for this.)

e.g. if you have 2 settlements, 2 welfare tokens will buy you a resource. If you have 3 settlements and the Longest Road, you'll need to pay 5 welfare tokens for a resource.
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Karlsen wrote:
Good advice is also usually to start with a three player game.
I only ever play this 3p, if at all. Some folks have made the argument that 4p games go quicker since there's an extra player to trade with. I'd counter argue that 4p games get more crowded, that it's possible a player or 2 ends up being blocked out of resources, and that the whole process of trading (while can be fun) does add a nontrivial amount of playtime to the game.

Zveroboy wrote:
Sorry to here that you had a bad experience with a classic game.

Not to doubt your story, but I find it hard to believe that across the whole game a 7 (the number that activates the robber) was only rolled once. Does your gaming group know that the robber must be moved when a 7 is rolled, it can't be left on the same spot?

If the robber was always placed on your tiles and no-one else's then I would say your friends are morons for being unnecessarily hard on you and ruining your first experience of what is a very good game.
You do get cases where you're in the middle of a robber war, so it won't help if someone else rolls a 7. You need to be the one to roll a 7, else, it stays on one of 2 hexes that's both shared by you.

It's one thing to do a beginner's game with a friendly robber, but I've gotten this feeling even in experienced games. It was one of many turnoffs for me.
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Dave Sands
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Took the words right out of my finger...
Also remember that the robber is not placed in the first round of play. All 7's are thus re-rolled. An easy variant is to increase this to 2 or 3 rounds without the robber so everyone can get up and running.
Still, probability is very much a part of this game. If you are are suffering early, just hang in there it will most likely come around to your favour.
Lastly, try and enjoy the game more for the experience and not just being successful. See what trades you can pull off, create sympathy amongst the other players for you and your situation and you might just get some favours from them and the dice.
Give it another shot!

D
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galad2003 wrote:
Don't forget to buy development cards - if you get stuck with the robber you can buy development cards to try for a knight so you can move the robber.

If you're not getting the resource, then you're not going to be able to buy dev cards

Thelegitsandman wrote:
Took the words right out of my finger...
Also remember that the robber is not placed in the first round of play. All 7's are thus re-rolled. An easy variant is to increase this to 2 or 3 rounds without the robber so everyone can get up and running.
Still, probability is very much a part of this game. If you are are suffering early, just hang in there it will most likely come around to your favour.
Lastly, try and enjoy the game more for the experience and not just being successful. See what trades you can pull off, create sympathy amongst the other players for you and your situation and you might just get some favours from them and the dice.
Give it another shot!
Hard to trade when you have nothing to trade, or nothing they want.
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Matthew Cordeiro
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You could use the "friendly robber", which is an official variant included in the Traders & Barbarians expansion, though it could be used in any game. Essentially, the robber can't block one of your numbers until you have 3 points. This prevents players in your situation from falling behind before they even get going..
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AndyJ Baddice
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ackmondual wrote:
galad2003 wrote:
Don't forget to buy development cards - if you get stuck with the robber you can buy development cards to try for a knight so you can move the robber.

If you're not getting the resource, then you're not going to be able to buy dev cards

Thelegitsandman wrote:
Took the words right out of my finger...
Also remember that the robber is not placed in the first round of play. All 7's are thus re-rolled. An easy variant is to increase this to 2 or 3 rounds without the robber so everyone can get up and running.
Still, probability is very much a part of this game. If you are are suffering early, just hang in there it will most likely come around to your favour.
Lastly, try and enjoy the game more for the experience and not just being successful. See what trades you can pull off, create sympathy amongst the other players for you and your situation and you might just get some favours from them and the dice.
Give it another shot!
Hard to trade when you have nothing to trade, or nothing they want.

You've precisely described my game, ackmondual
 
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Bill Eldard
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baddice wrote:
The result, obviously intended by the designers, was that one player (in this case me) received significantly fewer resources than other players.


I was never thrilled about the robber in Settlers, but it seems to me that the designer's purpose was likely twofold: (a) by making the more frequent numbers the obvious targets for the robber, it lessens the advantage over the less frequent numbers; and (b) it discourgages clustering of settlements/cities around the 6's and 8's (i.e. build three cities around a 6 hex where it delivers 6 resources on a single roll). In the latter case, it may leave some opportunities open for the others to bet in on the better numbered hexes.

baddice wrote:
. . . I'm wary of being critical of a game that has clearly survived the test of time but for me there was no game here at all - I'd lost in the first ten minutes through plain bad luck and then just had to wait out the inevitable result. . . .


I had a similar experience the first time I played and, convinced that the game was too luck-driven, almost didn't play it again.

But I did give it a try, and found that my first game was a bit of bad luck (the robber sat on my '8" for what seemed like an eternity, then ended up on my "6" for almost a dozen turns), and before long, I really enjoyed it.

If you play again, you might try playing with a dice-deck to get a better balance of the roll outcomes.

Of all the Settlers family of games, my favorite is Die Siedler von Nürnberg, which was published in a limited number and never reprinted to my knowledge. It doesn't use a Development deck (hence, no Soldiers), but it does utilize it's own special dice deck, which has ample "Robber Goes Home" effects on some of the numbered cards. In this game, the robber (known as the Margraf) is in his castle (out of game play) about as often as he is occupying a terrain hex.

You could have a similar effect in regular Settlers by declaring before the game that on a dice roll of, say, 3 or 11, the robber is removed from the board until the next 7 is rolled.
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Dan C
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What the OP describes is a problem with base Settlers game - a lot of folks call it "Roll and Pass." It doesn't happen every game, but can happen often.

It's a problem that can crop up in any game of SoC, but not always because of the robber. Sometimes it's because the rarer hex resources (brick and ore IIRC) can get low-probability numbers on them during setup making them low production during the game. Other times, it can just be dumb luck that makes someone roll, get no resources... then pass the dice. Roll and Pass. Sometimes several turns in a row - which results in frustrated players that are basically just losing their turn. Not fun.

This aspect of the game is what I think shows its age. Several expansions/variants (Event Card decks, Explorers and Pirates expansion,Settlers of America, et.al) have fixed this somewhat primarily through use of the gold variant. If you get no resources on a roll, you get a coin. then later, you can trade in multiple gold to get resources from bank. So you never completely stall out (although gold still isn't quite as good as getting a full resource).

It's the reason I can't play the original base game anymore. Too frustrating - if not for me than some other unfortunate soul(s) at the table.
 
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Mark Papenfuss
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"Your results are back: it's negative"......um, is that a bad thing?
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baddice wrote:
At one point I went eight player turns without getting any resources.


The designers of the iOS version allow one to choose a resource of their choice if the rolls of the dice don't produce a single resource after an entire round. True, it would be a variant of the table top version, but it has precedence. I don't play that way, but it might help avoid a similar irk-some situation in the future.

Also, next time you play, you should strongly consider getting a development card early on. There's a good chance it will be a knight, and it will protect you from this happening again...
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T. Dauphin
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Thelegitsandman wrote:
Took the words right out of my finger...
Also remember that the robber is not placed in the first round of play. All 7's are thus re-rolled. An easy variant is to increase this to 2 or 3 rounds without the robber so everyone can get up and running.
Still, probability is very much a part of this game. If you are are suffering early, just hang in there it will most likely come around to your favour.
Lastly, try and enjoy the game more for the experience and not just being successful. See what trades you can pull off, create sympathy amongst the other players for you and your situation and you might just get some favours from them and the dice.
Give it another shot!

D


I recommend some variant such as this, which my group uses.

 
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Ender Wiggins
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xipuloxx wrote:
It's rare enough that some people don't mind, but if it bothers you I recommend the Welfare Variant which I found on here somewhere:

Every time the dice are rolled and you gain no resources and the roll is not a 7, you gain one welfare token.

In your turn, you can trade in welfare tokens for one resource card of your choice from the bank.

The cost is a number of welfare tokens equal to your current visible points. (Hidden victory points from face-down cards don't count for this.)

e.g. if you have 2 settlements, 2 welfare tokens will buy you a resource. If you have 3 settlements and the Longest Road, you'll need to pay 5 welfare tokens for a resource.

I also recommend this variant. It helps speeds up the game, reduces the potential frustration due to poor rolling, and has an inbuilt balancing mechanism that assists players who are behind more than players who are ahead. For further details and discussion, see this thread:

The famous WELFARE variant
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Will

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The first time I played was a 4 player game. I didn't know what I was doing & got blocked by the robber & by someone determined to monopolize a hex. I did not really enjoy it very much that time, but I have played 2, 3 & 4 player games since and found it to be a lot of fun.

I played a 2 player game in which my opponent placed both of his initial settlements next to the same hex presumably to take advantage of the 8. It was one of the few games we have played in which I had more control over the robber. He was basically shut down for the entire game as the other hexes around him had numbers further from the midrange, making them less likely & then I got to take a card from him every time I rolled a 7. He was unable to build any other settlements or upgrade either of those 2 for the entire game. In several other plays, he has had a statistically inordinate amount of control over the robber & has really made it difficult for me to acquire what I needed. Even when I had a lot of cards, I often couldn't get the combinations I needed, kept getting knocked down & lost cards to him. Somehow, I have managed to reach at least 8 & once even got to 12, but 1 sided control over the robber can really mess up game balance. Focus on trying to get a third settlement, either surrounded by 3 good resources with midrange numbers, or 2 resources & a 2:1 port matching your best production. You may want to build 3 road sections away so that it does not border the same hex as the settlement you built out from.
 
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Hendu the Dude
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Highly recommend welfare variant when introducing new players to the game.
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