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Subject: Is it just me, or is this a really brutal and unforgiving game? rss

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Ben Collins
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Am I crazy if I were to say that Settlers of Catan is a really brutal and unforgiving game?

In every game I've played it really does feel like the initial settlement placements tend to dictate 90% of the game that follows, even if you don't realise until a few turns in that you've placed poorly.

The robber as a catch-up mechanic doesn't seem to do much than occasionally send back a player doing well a couple of turns, or absolutely decimate a player doing less well that's got lots of stuff they don't need.

Yet Settlers of Catan is held up as a great gateway game. I'm just not seeing it. Am I missing something?
 
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Moshe Callen
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It can be, yes.
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Ron
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I don't think that the initial placement is that crucial - you are still rolling the dice every turn, but there's not enough dice rolling to ensure a balanced bell curve. Especially the first few turns are crucial: if you can put more settlements out than your opponents (or even a city) you have a clear advantage.

So you must not necessarily settle on the 6s and 8s, but on the numbers that are rolled in the first few turns - use a crystal ball meeple

But the robber does balance things out a little bit. I'm far away from a gateway gamer nowadays, but I still play Settlers. IMHO it's still a very good game.
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Aaron Edwards
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I think it's definitely possible for a player to get totally demolished in a game. Especially when using random setup, opponents can get better starting positions and/or you can get a bad streak of dice rolls from which you can't recover for the rest of the game. On the whole, i.e. over the course of several games, I think it's pretty balanced, but you can certainly have games where you get beaten into the dirt through no fault of your own. I think that's why a lot of people who initially love Catan end up leaving it for Euros that are less luck-driven.
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BenDTU wrote:
Am I crazy if I were to say that Settlers of Catan is a really brutal and unforgiving game?

In every game I've played it really does feel like the initial settlement placements tend to dictate 90% of the game that follows, even if you don't realise until a few turns in that you've placed poorly.
It can be very important. My first game, me and another newbie was advised by an opponent who played before why some of our placements were bad.
When I taught this to newbies, I often used the suggested setup in the rulebook (Mayfair 3e), or was it in the Almanac?

PzVIE wrote:
I don't think that the initial placement is that crucial - you are still rolling the dice every turn, but there's not enough dice rolling to ensure a balanced bell curve. Especially the first few turns are crucial: if you can put more settlements out than your opponents (or even a city) you have a clear advantage.
Every now and then, you do see some fairly awful placements, like for the sake of getting variety, the ore and sheep are only 1 or 2 pips, placing on the coastline, or connecting your roads from the get-go between 2 settlements only 2 away. However, one can assume that a non-noob won't be THAT callus.


BenDTU wrote:
The robber as a catch-up mechanic doesn't seem to do much than occasionally send back a player doing well a couple of turns, or absolutely decimate a player doing less well that's got lots of stuff they don't need.
The problem with this catchup mechanic is it requires resources... you need to be able to buy a dev card to be able to play the Soldier cards. Sometimes, a 7 doesn't come up when you need to move the robber. Or you do roll a 7, but the other players have enough to counter that.

BenDTU wrote:
Yet Settlers of Catan is held up as a great gateway game. I'm just not seeing it. Am I missing something?
It introduces people to the hobby. That's what makes it great to me. I stopped playing it long ago. There are just too many other great games, that I'd rather go with those instead. Some folks like myself like building, but hate negotiating, so that was part of the "unappeal" of Settlers.

As better alternatives, I would've gone with Ticket To Ride instead, as it takes on average 30 minutes less, and can be explained in 5 to 10 minutes. Some noobs just don't have the patience for a 1.5 to 2 hour game. No, not all games last that long, but it's quite conceivable when you add in explanation time, and sometimes you need to prolong the game to ensure you'll win.

Alternative to Ticket To Ride... Aquadukt. Only takes 20 to 50 minutes, and somewhat more straightforward than TtR (which is saying a lot there since TtR isn't that complicated to begin with). I'm glad I bought my copy long ago, as Uberplay is no longer in the boardgame business.
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Matthew Cordeiro
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BenDTU wrote:
Am I crazy if I were to say that Settlers of Catan is a really brutal and unforgiving game?

In every game I've played it really does feel like the initial settlement placements tend to dictate 90% of the game that follows, even if you don't realise until a few turns in that you've placed poorly.

The robber as a catch-up mechanic doesn't seem to do much than occasionally send back a player doing well a couple of turns, or absolutely decimate a player doing less well that's got lots of stuff they don't need.

Yet Settlers of Catan is held up as a great gateway game. I'm just not seeing it. Am I missing something?

This is probably an oversimplification, but I would argue that the game is roughly 50% player skill during the game (trading, building, using the robber, etc.), 25% initial placement, and 25% dice results.

If your group is new to the game, use the recommended initial placement. If you have an experienced player, ask them for suggestions and also why or why not they would choose certain spots. Beware the 6s and 8s. They have the highest production but also tend to be robber targets.

Also, the Traders & Barbarians expansion includes a variant that can really be used in any game called "Friendly Robber". Essentially, the robber can't shut down any of your settlements until you have 3+ points. Everyone has a chance to at least get a 3rd settlement or a city on the board before they get shut down.
 
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Aaron Edwards
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ackmondual wrote:

As better alternatives, I would've gone with Ticket To Ride instead, as it takes on average 30 minutes less, and can be explained in 5 to 10 minutes
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I agree with this. Ticket to Ride is everything I like about Catan and nothing I hate about it. Luck is still an undeniable factor (looking at you, ticket cards), but you at least feel much more in control of your own destiny in TtR.
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Tomello Visello
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Oph1d1an wrote:
ackmondual wrote:

As better alternatives, I would've gone with Ticket To Ride instead, as it takes on average 30 minutes less, and can be explained in 5 to 10 minutes
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I agree with this. Ticket to Ride is everything I like about Catan and nothing I hate about it. Luck is still an undeniable factor (looking at you, ticket cards), but you at least feel much more in control of your own destiny in TtR.
I make this disctinction between the two: In TtR I can be cut short of something that I'm trying to accomplish and that feels bad; in Settlers something I have worked for and earned can be taken away from me and that feels worse. I hate losing stuff I've worked for.

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Four player can be much more brutal than three player. How many players are you playing with?
 
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John Clark
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BenDTU wrote:

In every game I've played it really does feel like the initial settlement placements tend to dictate 90% of the game that follows, even if you don't realise until a few turns in that you've placed poorly.


I would reword that a bit. Not putting your settlements in dumb places is 99% of the game. If you put your settlements in silly places then you won't win (unless you have some really freak rolls of the dice).

Provided all the players have placed in basically sensible spots (rather than outright silly spots) then I think initial placement dictates around 25-40% of the game.

Here are some tips for placement:

1. A good range of numbers is better than a good range of resources. For example, starting with numbers 4,5,6,8,9,10 with only four of the five resource types covered is better than getting all five resource types but having to take a 3 or 11 (or 2 or 12) to do it.

2. Doubling up on numbers is horrible. For example, if your first settlement is placed on 8,9,10, then don't place your second settlement on the same numbers. Get a range of numbers. If your starting spots are missing a number 9, for example, then make it a priority to build to a 9 early. Sometimes it is not possible, of course, but often it is. Remember that numbers are just as important as resources.

3. The first thing to look for is which resource is likely to be rarest in the game. If brick is on numbers 2,3,6 then grab that 6 spot as a high priority. You won't always be able to get it. If you can't then you need to think through where your brick is going to come from. For example, does the person on the 6 brick hex have no access to a different resource? Then place there and make sure you have trades available for brick.

4. Except in rare cases, you cannot win the game without access to ore and wheat. You can win the game without access to the other resources.

5. Never ever place your starting roads with the sole aim of joining them up later to help with Longest Road.

6. Think VERY carefully about placing a starting settlement on a port. There are situations where it is a good idea, but these are a lot rarer than you think.

7. Having a road in your starting hand is very useful.

8. Most important is to judge from the board what kind of game it is going to be - will there be roads galore? Will cities be easy or difficult to get? Will there be a race for Largest Army?
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William Eaglesham
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I would agree with all of these tips. It's like Catan 101. After playing this game a few times I have developed much the same strategy. I wish someone had told me these tips when I started.
 
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