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Subject: Australian Championships 2014 - six games plus commentary rss

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John Clark
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*** Warning: this report is VERY long. I have written similar reports for the first six Australian Championships of Settlers, which can be found here on BGG. The report will cover my games and includes a lot of detail and commentary on strategy ***

This is a report of the ninth Australian Championships of Settlers of Catan, each time held at the Australian Games Expo (AGE). The location of the Expo has varied over the years. In the first few years it was held in Albury (a small city half way between Sydney and Melbourne) in June. It then moved to Canberra (the capital of Australia and where I live), in conjunction with a long-running games convention called CanCon. For the past three years the Expo has been in Sydney, at Olympic Park. Its now called the “Toy and Game Expo”, and the ‘toy’ part seems to be really taking off.

There are several tournaments run at the Expo, including Settlers, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and Dominion, but Settlers is by far the most popular.

First prize was, as usual, entry and airfare to the Settlers World Championship. There were prizes for the minor placings as well, but I don’t know what they are.

The first few tournaments were held over two days, but since moving to Sydney, it has been held on one very long day: four preliminary rounds, followed by the top 16 playing in four semi finals and then the winner of each of those playing the final. The first game begins at 10:30am and the final finishes at around 9pm.

In previous years, I had finished runner up in 2006. In 2007 I won three of my four round games (with a 9 in the fourth) to go into the semi finals as top seed, but failed to make the final on a development card draw. In 2008 I completely bombed out, winning one game and failing to make the semis. In 2009 I again made the final but Jeff Davies took it out. In 2010 I was again top seed going into the semi finals but failed to make the final. 2011 was another semi final, but in 2012 and 2013 I did nothing and had decided that if that happened again I would have to accept that perhaps I was a Settlers has-been.

I drove to Sydney from Canberra that morning and arrived (just) in time for the start.

Game 1.

There was a little drama for the first game. As usual, all the games use the same board, set out randomly. Although we play the games with the fourth edition set, the board was constructed with a fifth edition set, which has the water pieces on six long strips. Unfortunately, the board was set out incorrectly, such that two ports were next to each other.

It took a little while to realise this, and some games had actually started placing their starting settlements. The board was corrected, and we started again. This delayed things by about 15 minutes.

The board was pretty horrible. How long the game will take can be roughly judged by the numbers on the ore hexes. If the numbers are good then it will usually be a fast game, and if the numbers are bad then it will usually be a slow game. Here, the ore hexes had the numbers 2, 4 and 12. Great.

Resource rarity was as follows (number of pips):

5 ore
9 brick
14 wood
14 sheep
16 wheat

In other reports I have suggested a rough guide for picking the best spots, which was to add up the pips surrounding the spot, and add one for each of the rarest resources and subtract one for each of the most common resource. The best spots were therefore:

11 wheat(8)-wood(10)-brick(5)
11 wheat(8)-ore(4)-sheep(3)
11 wood(6)-wood(9)-wood(3)
11 wood(6)-wood(9)-ore(2)
10 wheat(8)-brick(4)-sheep(10)
10 wheat(5)-sheep(9)-sheep(10)
10 sheep(6)-wheat(5)-wheat(11)

Looking back at my last report, there were no games where there was not at least one spot worth 12, and usually there were two or three.

Of the ports, the wheat port was clearly most attractive, with a wheat(8) next to it. Tempting also was the wood-wood-wood spot with the wood port, but the wood port numbers were pretty dud (11 and 12).

This was a very tough board – lots of mediocre spots and no really good spots. I felt that the first two spots in the list were a bit better than the rest, but it was marginal.

I’m afraid I can’t remember the names of the other players in this game, so I’ll have to just use the colours. I was third, which I was not very happy about . Blue (first) and Red (second) took the first two spots listed.

The biggest problem was, of course, ore. Once Red took the ore(4) spot, then the other ore options were very poor and I was not willing to take a 2 or 12 as a starting hex.

I agonised over the triple wood spot, but was uncomfortable with having to make my second placement on a dud spot to guarantee the port.

In the end I figured that if I was missing out on Ore then I could not afford to also miss out on brick, and that maximising production was as good a guide as any, so I took the wheat(8)-brick(4)-sheep(10).

White (fourth) may have had the same thoughts, taking the wood(9)-brick(4)-wheat(11) spot, which meant a powerful starting road. White’s other starting settlement was more dubious: the sheep(6)-brick(11)-ore(12) spot, building to the wood port.

The spot was problematic for a few reasons. First, the number range was bad: 4,6,9,11,11,12. Two 11s is poor. Second, and more importantly for the game in general, was that by ignoring one of the high pip spots, it guaranteed a good spot for the first player’s second settlement.

This will often happen if one player picks a port spot. Port spots should be taken only if there is a really obvious advantage – usually taking a port spot will simply leave other very good spots for the other players. In this case White did not build on the port spot but it had the same effect.

White probably wanted access to each resource on the starting settlements, and that spot was the only option. It is clearly best to have access to each resource, but not at any cost. Here, the numbers were just not good enough.

I think that White should have either take one of the big pip spots – there were a few options – or the sheep(6)-sheep(3)-brick(11) spot and used the starting road to build to the ore(4) spot.

My second placement was very difficult. I was really worried about who was going to get the triple wood spot, but I did not really want to take it myself. In retrospect I should have taken it, leaving me with numbers 3,4,6,8,9,10.

In the end I decided to the sheep(6)-wheat(5)-wheat(11) spot, figuring that the other two players would take other spots leaving the wood(10)-sheep(3)-wheat(11) spot open for me to build to. That is, the starting numbers were a little worse, but the potential was better. If I could road-settlement early, then I would have 3-4-5-6-8-10-11. But without wood it was a risky plan.

Red, with the only good Ore, took the 10 wheat(5)-sheep(9)-sheep(10) spot. Fair enough. If Red could control the development cards, then this provided a viable path to victory. Red’s starting road was wrong - it should have been to the 3:1 port rather than to the sheep port. Red was never going to get much brick and wood to get to the sheep port and the sheep production from 9 and 10 is not good enough. Rather, grab the 3:1, which is closer and more flexible. Red had starting numbers of 3-4-5-8-9-10.

This left Blue, the first player, with the triple wood spot, and that was a bad result. Blue’s road choice was tricky – between going for the 3:1 spot and the wood(10) spot. The problem was that Blue’s top priority was to secure the wheat port before Red got there. Of course, Red had no road production, but (as I have learned the hard way) an early Road Building from Red would be catastrophic for Blue.

Obviously for White and me, we needed to do our best to make it difficult for either player to get that wheat port. I had a small preference for Blue to (eventually) get it, since Blue had worse wheat production, and we could always minimise the damage with the robber. If Red got the port, then it would be more difficult to stop with Red buying Soldiers and controlling the robber.

The game began. I am not sure of the exact order of events, but it all went as expected. Red bought development cards. White built to the ore(2) spot but struggled for production. I got the wood(10)-sheep(3)-wheat(11) spot I wanted so I felt reasonably well placed.

The key question was if anyone could muster the resources for a city. Red was the obvious one, but needed to keep the development cards going as well.

The crucial wheat port was got by Blue, after a lot of effort and competition by Red. Blue had got the necessary road down so that when Red got a Road Building it was ineffective there. Instead, Red used it to build to the sheep port and got a settlement there on the desert.

I got to the brick port, which I don’t think I ever used, but the extra production was ok.

One problem was that even those awful numbers on Ore did not ever get rolled. This nullified Red’s advantage but it generally meant the game went very slowly.

Surprisingly, it was me who got the first city. I must have simply saved up for it the hard way – some trades with the bank over several turns. I put it on my first settlement, and my wheat(8) spot became a target for the robber.

During this time, Red got an Ore, and there were a string of sevens rolled. I think everyone had a go at stealing that Ore, often with a only two cards to choose from and we never got it! It became known as the ‘magic ore’.

I realised during the game that Longest Road was going to be crucial. Red would obviously get Largest Army. Blue should have had the advantage on Longest Road, but White upset that plan by building down to the coast, blocking Blue’s path and limiting the possible length of the road.

I felt that I had a good chance of taking Longest Road but needed to get the timing right.

Having got those spots on the wood hexes, White also had the wood port, started the 2:1 trades and became a real threat, while the robber flipped between the two wheat(8) hexes.

I started building roads, and it became clear that it would come down to that. I was sure I would win it in the end since White’s road could not go longer that nine lengths and mine could go to eleven.

Blue was boxed in, but also chose not to build to the 3:1 port, which was a mistake.

With the game moving towards an interesting conclusion, there was suddenly an announcement that the games would go for only another ten minutes and whoever was in front at that point would be the winner. The time limit had nearly been reached, even with an allowance for the re-start. This was disappointing – I had never been in a game which did not finish due to time – but unsurprising given the lack of Ore. At this point the majority of games were still going.

This made things tricky: although I would get Longest Road in the end, I was unsure if I could secure it that quickly.

I built enough roads to ensure that Red could not cut me off with another Road Building card, but White extended to the full nine lengths.

Now here is the problem. Although an announcement was made that there were ten minutes left (and none of use were keeping time), there was never a follow-up announcement that the ten minutes were up. In addition, there was no guidance as to what should happen when the ten minutes were up: did we finish immediately or finish the round?

During Red’s turn, we figured that the ten minutes had been up, so someone went to the organisers to enquire what should happen. The instruction was that the game should finish immediately. My turn would have been next and I had enough resources to build a road and therefore win the game on 8 points. Instead, I finished on 6 and came last, with Red, who had Largest Army, a point card and three settlements. Blue finished on seven and White on eight with Longest Road.

That was all very unsatisfactory. I should make it clear that we had definitely gone beyond the specified end time and had the game actually finished after the ten minutes then I would not have won anyway, but to be that close was torturous! It was a pity because in some ways this was the most interesting game I played at the tournament.

Had it been played out, the winner would have been between me and Blue. White had not been close to building a city all game and after losing Longest Road had no clear path to four more points. Red, on six, was too far behind with just the three settlements. Blue, getting three wheat on an eight roll, may have been able to get three more points before I got two more (having taken Longest Road), but I feel like the game was mine to win. We will never know.

Game 2.

This report will be much shorter, simply because I did not take many photos and can’t remember what happened well, which is surprising because I won. I seem to remember my losses more than my wins …

This board was not as tough as the first, but it still had some challenges, particularly in the lack of wheat. Here are the pip counts:

8 wheat
9 ore
10 brick
15 wood
15 sheep

With wheat and ore the worst resources, it looked like it could be a repeat of the first game!

I was player two. Player one (White) was the same person who was Red in the first game – we both finished on six points, and so we were likely to be playing together again.

The ore hexes were on 6, 4 and 12. The 6 was a corner hex, so getting on that was pretty important. White, as player one, had a tough choice and took the brick(8)-wheat(4)-wheat(10) spot, securing good wheat production and the best brick hex (the others were on 10 and 3).

I took the ore(6)-wood(9)-brick(3) spot, which was the obvious choice. I was only worried about not having any wheat production, but the ore was too good to refuse.

The sheep port was a long way from the sheep hexes, and was eliminated as a viable idea by White’s placement. The wood port was more interesting.

Red, as third player, took the sheep(9)-wood(5)-wheat(10) spot, also worried about wheat. This left Blue, as fourth player, with an enormous range of ok-but-not-great options, of which one was the wood port strategy. The idea here would be to take the triple wood spot and then the sheep(8)-sheep(5)-brick(10) spot, building to the wood port. Blue’s numbers would have been 5-5-6-8-10-11. Not bad but not great. On balance, Blue was probably right to reject the option. Just too risky. Instead, Blue picked that sheep(8)-sheep(5)-brick(10) but paired it with the wood(6)-sheep(3)-wheat(11) spot, building towards the ore(4) hex and starting with 3-5-6-8-10-11.

I thought that Red made a mistake in not taking the sheep(8)-sheep(3)-ore(4) spot, giving numbers of 3-4-5-8-9-10. Instead, Red took the wood(9)-brick(10)-wood(11) spot, presumably to get brick. The massive problem was number range: 5-9-9-10-10-11 is just not going to deliver consistent production.

I could have taken the wheat(4)-wood(5)-wood(11) spot, giving me numbers 3-4-5-6-9-11, which would have been ok. Instead, I chose the sheep(8)-sheep(3)-ore(4) spot which Red should have taken. This left me with no wheat production but with total control of the ore. I also like the port options (wood port and 3:1) for the late game.

White took the triple wood spot. It was the best option, leaving White with 3-4-5-6-8-11. White was the biggest threat in this game. White’s road placement was very strange, towards the first settlement but with no viable settlement place. Never put your road with the aim of joining up your settlements for Longest Road! It is always a waste of resources. White should have built the other way, towards the ore(12) spot, and perhaps eventually to the wheat port.

I got an early city – traded for the wheat – on my ore(6) hex, which was helpful, and built a road towards the wood port.

Red built to the 3:1 port on the sheep(9) hex. I was not worried so much about Red. Although Red would probably hold Longest Road, city production was going to be very difficult.

White built a settlement on the brick(8)-brick(3) spot, but had a significant problem of where to go then.

I bought some development cards and citied my other starting settlement and felt well in control, with no other cities on the board.

As far as I can remember, the game was pretty straightforward from there. The other players could not get ore. I had the wood port with a city on the wood(9) spot, and also a 3:1 port with good sheep production. I think I got Largest Army, three cities, a settlement and a point card. Something like that.

Game 3.

I was second again in the third game, which also featured limited ore and wheat and surprisingly few wood. Pip counts:

9 ore
11 wheat
11 wood
12 brick
17 sheep

Best spots:

12 brick(8)-sheep(5)-ore(10)
11 sheep(6)-brick(9)-wood(4)
11 wheat(8)-wheat(5)-sheep(10)
11 sheep(6)-sheep(5)-wood(9)
11 wheat(8)-sheep(10)-ore(3)
11 wheat(8)-brick(4)-ore(3)
11 wood(9)-sheep(5)-ore(10)

As you can see, there were quite a few options – nothing super though.

White went first and took the second spot in the list, which I thought was weird, with the road built towards the wheat port. Perhaps White thought that the wheat spots would be still available for the second settlement. If so, that was very optimistic! White’s failure to secure wheat or ore on the first placement was a big problem.

I took the third listed spot. I was confident that I could pick up some ore on my second spot – the ore hexes were well spread – but very much not confident that I could get wheat for my second spot.

The nice thing about the spot I chose was the extent to which it wrecked everyone else’s wheat options. I could really dominate the wheat production, which is the most powerful resource in the game.

Blue also did not take the top spot, choosing instead the wood(9)-sheep(5)-ore(10) next door. The reason for this became apparent.

Red, as last, ended up with a good range of options, with one serious problem: the spots shared the same numbers. Red picked the wheat(8)-brick(4)-ore(3) spot and the brick(8)-sheep(5)-wood(4) spot, with the numbers 3-4-4-5-8-8. This means Red had access to all resources but not many numbers, so Red’s production would always be stop-start. The two 4s were wood and brick. This is a good combo. Not so good was the 8s on wheat and brick.

What should Red have picked? Getting the wheat(8) hex was a no-brainer. After taking that spot, I think Red’s better option was the sheep(6)-sheep(5)-wood(11) spot, which was one pip less but a much better range of numbers: 3-4-5-6-8-11 with the 9 and 10 within range. The big downside is not starting with a road in hand. Another option would have been to take the sheep port with wheat(8)-brick(4) and the sheep(6)-sheep(5)-wood(11), giving up the ore(3) for the port – that seems a pretty good option as well.

As it was, Red was either going to get off to a rapid start if lots of 8s and 4s were rolled (and therefore attract the robber) and then probably stall badly, or get off to an awful start if those numbers were not rolled. I would never sacrifice a good range of numbers for getting all the resources covered, with the occasional exception of the same number on ‘complementary’ resources (wood and brick or wheat and ore).

Blue pulled a shock with the second settlement placed on the sheep port, with only the wheat(8) hex next to it. Blue clearly intended to build to the sheep(6) hex, ramping up sheet production. The plan was super risky, however, since there were still two players to place and the sheep(6) hex was attractive.

I really wanted some access to Ore, which meant one of the two spots on that sheep(6) hex bordering the ore(3) hex – the other Ore options were much less attractive. Both those spots also had a wood(11) hex. I decided on the spot where I could most easily build to a brick hex. My starting numbers were 3-5-6-8-10-11, with easy access to a 4 and (perhaps) a 9 without an early Road Building.

White’s second placement looked bad but it was probably the best of a bad lot of options, choosing the brick(9)-sheep(10)-wheat(2) spot, with the road towards the ore(3) hex. White had both starting settlements bordering the brick(9) hex with numbers 2-4-6-9-9-10. The problem was that the other options were worse. White could start on the ore(3) hex, with a better range of starting numbers, but then would need to beat either me to the brick(9) hex or Red to the sheep(6) hex. Both were dicey. White’s choice was much safer in terms of picking up the ore(3) hex, resulting in a good range of numbers of 2-3-4-6-9-9-10-11 but crucially no wheat or ore. Really, White’s problems stemmed from the first placement, not the second.

When the game began, there were a string of sixes and tens rolled. Blue got off to a rocket start, building to the sheep(6) hex and getting cities on his sheep farms really fast! Blue was the enormous danger. Red predicably picked up the other side of the sheep(6) hex and built a ton of roads, taking Longest Road. White quickly went to five settlements but had no way to get cities. As for me, I built two roads and two settlements, as well as three development cards, of which two were soldiers, which I played, hoping to get a good lead on Largest Army and discourage anyone from competing for it.

I was actually pretty happy with my progress, but Blue was just going like a steam train and we were all worried.

Blue built another city and was on seven points on the board with Longest Road a real possibility. I built two roads to block that, ensuring that Red held it for the remainder of the game. We all bashed Blue with the robber.

I got my city, and (eventually) Largest Army. With a couple of victory points cards also, I was on 9 points with a settlement in hand.

On Red’s turn before mine, however, he built a city and revealed a point card to win the game.

It did come as a surprise, but it should not have. The problem was that both Red and I were trying to deflect attention onto Blue, and we were both happy for Blue to remain as the biggest threat. The other players realised I was close to winning towards the end, but no-one was watching Red too closely. Red always had a good trickle of production, but nothing spectacular like Blue, so we just did not pay much attention.

I don’t think White ever built a city and finished on five points. Blue ended up being the punching bag and finished on seven or eight.

Game 4.

The board here was a lot kinder. Brick was a problem but the rest were ok:

8 brick
11 wood
12 ore
13 wheat
14 sheep

With the desert in the inner ring of hexes, there were not many good combos:

12 ore(6)-ore(9)-wood(10)
11 ore(6)-sheep(5)-wood(10)
11 wheat(5)-wheat(9)-wheat(10)
11 ore(6)-ore(9)-brick(12)

I was the first player and took the second spot on the list, building towards the ore port, which I thought I was only a 50-50 chance to get.

I can’t tell from my photos if Red or White went second, and its not obvious from their choices either since they were both odd.

One of them went on the wood(8)-wood(3)-wheat(10) spot and the other on the ore(4)-sheep(5)-wheat(11) spot. I think the ore(6)-ore(9)-brick(12) spot was better, or even the triple wheat spot.

Blue ended up with BOTH of those two spots, which was fantastic, resulting in numbers 5-6-9-9-10-12. Getting an ore and wheat on a 9 is powerful, but lack of any wood or sheep (and brick on only a 12) was the weakness.

My second settlement was the wheat(9)-wheat(11)-wood(3) spot, leaving me with numbers 3-5-6-9-10-11, so I was pretty happy, especially given the ore port was left wide open to me.

White went for the wood port and Red the sheep port.

As the game started I was pretty confident.

Blue and I got early cities and Blue got a second, which was expected. Blue was going to struggle to do much else.

I built towards the ore port. Red built to the sheep port and White, with numbers 4-4-5-8-11 did almost nothing.

I beat White to the ore(6)-wheat(11) spot, which was worrying for the other players and pretty much put White out of the game. I also got the ore port settlement and bought a few cards, playing two soldiers.

I can’t remember how this game finished. I remember buying a ton of cards trying to hold Largest Army, which I did, plus I got some point cards. I think I won this game reasonably comfortably. Once I picked up the sheep(8) hex, I had numbers 3-5-6-8-9-10-11 and a good range of resources except for brick, but the ore port helped that.

So that meant I had won two games. In another game I would have won one of them on my next turn, and the other game was the one that was called off due to time.

I figured I was in the semi-finals, but I discovered then that the scoring system had been changed. In previous years, the ranking of players was simply based on the number of wins in the four preliminary games. For players tied with wins, they were split by their scores in the other games they did not win.

This year, the order was determined by the sum of the placings in each game: 4 points for first, 3 for second, 2 for third and 1 for fourth. This means that two wins and two lasts (for 10 points) is as good as two seconds and two thirds.

As it turned out, I qualified comfortably anyway, but apparently someone with two wins did not make it to the top 16.

This new system is very problematic, with clear motivations for collusion or kingmaking. First, when players are not trying win but only trying to come ‘at least second’ then they play differently. For example, if I am in second place and am worried that I may drop to third or fourth place if the game goes longer, then I will do generous trades such that someone will win and I will come second.

Worse, this system opens up the possibility that two players will collude before the game, making generous trades with each other and generally making it easy for each other.

Under the system where the ordering is based on wins, every player will be trying to win the game, as it should be. I am not claiming that there will be no ‘metagame’ strategy (I have seen some in previous tournaments), but it will be minimal.

Here is the list of qualifiers:

C Horder
S Plummer
A Barilla
E Hu
A Lin
S Scander
P Evans
N Cooper
A The
J Clark
S Green
R Odhavji
B Leggans
T Johns
S Northe
N De Souza

Simon Plummer finished second. He really is the best player in Australia, with the most consistent results over all years the tournament has run.

Semi Final

My semi-final was players ranked 2, 7, 10, 15. This meant that I was against my old foes Simon Plummer and Samuel Northe. The other player was Peter Evans. It was hardly the semi-final I was looking for! The last time Simon and I met in a semi-final, we had a titanic struggle which only resulted in neither of us making it through to the final.

Sam is an excellent player as well. He has made it to the semi-finals many times but never to the final. If I was not in the semi-final then I would be hoping Sam made it.

There is a one in 17 chance that the desert is in the middle, and this board had it. For the semi-finals and final, the top ranked player chose what number he wanted. Then the next ranked player chose, then the next. The lowest ranked player just got the left over spot.

The problem with this system is that it is really difficult to work out from the board which position is best. I can’t do it. I just can’t. I’ve tried. If I had two hours to study the board, make notes, run simulations and perform psychology tests on my opponents then I might have a chance. But I can’t do it in 30 seconds.

Simon decided pretty quickly to go first. I have no idea how he decided this. Peter decided to go last. I decided to go third. I don’t know why. I guess third is kind of safe, but that could be totally wrong. Who knows?

OK, so the board had these resource rarity:

9 ore
9 wheat
10 brick
15 wood
15 sheep

best spots were:

12 wood(8)-brick(5)-ore(10)
12 brick(6)-ore(4)-wheat(3)
12 sheep(6)-brick(5)-ore(10)

Simon (White) took the first of these, which eliminated the third. Sam (Red) took the second.

I agonised for while and took the 11-score spot sheep(8)-ore(10)-wheat(11). I had a few other options, particularly the wood(9)-sheep(6)-ore(10) spot, but I figured that ore and wheat were going to be tougher to get than wood or sheep, and even though the wheat was on an 11 I wanted something rather than nothing.

Peter took the sheep(6)-wood(9)-ore(10) spot and the sheep(8)-wheat(4)-sheep port spot. This was a very nice combo, and a great example of taking a port with a starting settlement. Peter got the best wheat spot (the 4) AND an ore spot, plus sheep on a 6 and 8 and a good range of numbers in general – 4,6,8,9,10.

For my second settlement I had a problem. The other two ok spots were both unacceptable. One option was the ore(10)-sheep(9)-wood(5) spot, which meant doubling up on the ore(10) hex.

The other was the sheep(6)-wood(3)-brick(12). This would give me a starting road, perhaps to more wheat.

In the end I went for the brick(5)-ore(4) spot on the desert. Looking back on it now, it seems like a weird option. I ended up with numbers 4-5-8-10-11, which is ok. I just can’t think of a better option even now. The best conclusion is that I should have chosen to go second rather than third.

Sam’s second spot was fantastic for him – the spot I could not take, ore(10)-sheep(9)-wood(5). This gave him all resources on numbers 3-4-5-6-9-10. He was unlikely to get an 8 but he had decent building options and the brick port to go to.

Simon picked my other option, the sheep(6)-wood(3)-brick(12) spot with the starting road. The strange part was that Simon’s road was to the wood(9)-brick(12)-wheat port, which Peter was going for. I did not understand this and still don’t. Simon could have built towards the wheat(4)-wheat(11)-wood(3) spot, giving him numbers 3-4-5-6-8-10-11 but he instead went for the wood(9). Simon was never going to get enough wheat to do a lot of 2:1 trades, so why get the port? It did hamper Peter’s game, I guess, but he was not going to do much with the wheat port either.

I figured Peter was pretty well placed, with great port options. Sam’s position also looked very strong.

A lot of ore came into the game early. Peter built two cities (with the help of a Monopoly) and a bunch of cards. Simon bought cards – and played two soldiers. I built a city and enough roads for settlements on the wheat(4) hex as well as the wood(8)-wheat(3) spot. I felt well placed (now with numbers 3-4-5-8-10-11), and with the robber sitting on Peter’s sheep hexes it was ok.

Sam built two settlements – one on the ore port – but only added a 2 to his starting numbers.

Peter built another settlement around the sheep(8) hex and citied it quickly, but seemed to stall. Simon joined his roads and took Longest Road. Once he had Largest Army as well he was a poised to win. We helped Sam take Longest Road off him.

I built settlements and cities – I built two cities on one turn! – and with four cities I had great production but no clear way to get the last two points.

Then Sam quickly built two cities and won the game with three settlements, two cities, Longest Road and a point card.

Peter had a point card and finished on seven. I had eight and Simon also on seven.

As is often the case, the winner was the player whose situation attracted the least attention, and who took the opportunities. Simon, Peter and I all drew attention to ourselves: Peter with his ports, me with my cities and Simon because he is Simon. The robber certainly spent less time on Sam than on the rest of us.

There was a point in the game where Simon very nearly won it, but once he lost Longest Road it was tough for him.

I was glad Sam won a hard-fought game. I thought I had probably done a bit better in this game than my starting positions deserved – the numbers went with me a bit, but it was not enough.


The other finalists with Sam were Nathan, Rajiv and Tracy. Of he semi-finalists, Nathan was the highest ranked at eighth! Rajiv was 12th, Tracy 14th and Sam 15th. This is fairly consistent with previous years.

The board for the final was pretty standard, for a change. Resource rarity was:

7 brick
10 ore
10 wood
15 wheat
16 sheep

Wood and brick were a little rare, which meant two things. First, there would be a lot of development cards bought and second, it would not take many roads to secure Longest Road and it would be taken fairly late in the game, probably for the win.

Nathan, as top qualifier, chose to go first. Rajiv chose to go second, Tracy third, leaving Sam as last. Of course, I was hoping Sam would win.

Best spots were:

13 wheat(8)-ore(5)brick(10)
12 sheep(6)-ore(5)-wheat(9)
12 ore(8)-sheep(5)-brick(10)

The ports were not great, but the sheep port (on a sheep(5) hex) was worth looking out for.

Nathan took the second spot listed. He could have taken the first spot, but I guess he wanted to secure a development card factory.

Rajiv took the third spot listed, and then Tracy took the first spot listed.

Sam was left with a limited choice. He had an option of taking the spots with an ore(8) and a wheat(8). Trouble is that the other spots around them were both 3s and 4s, and starting the game on only three different numbers is dumb.

Sam took two solid spots: the ore(8)-wood(4)-wood(3) spot and the sheep(6)-wheat(9)-wood(4) spot. This left him with numbers 3-4-6-8-9, which was fine. His problem was good expansion options. He was unlikely to be able to add a 5 or a 10 to his numbers, or brick to his resources.

This was unlucky. There were only three good spots on the board and the first three players took them.

Tracy put her second settlement in the wrong place, on the sheep(6)-wood(11)-ore(12) spot. She should have gone one spot over, to the sheep(6)-wood(11)-wood(3) spot. This had two advantages. First, she secured another number (3). Second, and very importantly, it eliminated the sheep(6)-sheep (11)-wood(3) spot. No-one was going to compete with Tracy around the ore(12) hex. I also don’t understand her road placement, which surely should have gone towards the wheat(9) hex rather than to the 3:1 ports.

Under my suggestion, Tracy would have started with numbers 3-5-6-8-10-11, with the 9 easy to pick up. That’s really solid.

Rajiv took the wheat(8)-wood(4)-wheat(3) spot, which was very powerful. He had numbers 3-4-5-8-8-10. The doubling up on the 8 was ok since it was ore and wheat – there’s a city factory!

Rajiv also had good port options, with a close 3:1 on the ore(8) hex and also the ore port on the wheat(8) hex, but here he was competing with Tracy.

Nathan took a nice spot in the middle – wheat(9)-brick(10)-sheep(11) – giving him starting numbers of 5-6-9-9-10-11. Not great, but not bad, and he had a good building option with the sheep(6)-sheep (11)-wood(3) spot (the one that should have been eliminated by Tracy) and the ore(5)-wood(4)-sheep(11) spot. Nathan also could build to the brick port, serviced by two brick(10) hexes.

From the start I felt that Rajiv had the best starting spots, particularly if he could beat Tracy to the ore port – that would be the big race.

The game began very slowly. I expected lots of cards to be bought, but there were LOTS of cards bought. In one of the early photos, Tracy (Red) has a city, Nathan and Sam have each built a road and Rajiv has built nothing. However, Nathan had two cards, Rajiv four, Tracy one and Sam one – that’s extraordinary. Clearly, there were several eights and fives rolled early on.

A bit later not much had changed. Tracy won the race to the ore port, which was crucial for her (and Rajiv). Rajiv had built his first road, and there were a total of ten cards already bought. Rajiv had two soldiers played.

Rajiv built a city, as did Sam, thanks to more eights. Sam also built to the wood(11) spot with the 3:1 port. I thought Rajiv was still ahead, with Sam close behind. Tracy had begun well, but her expansion options were limited. If there were a lot of fives rolled then she would benefit, but there weren’t.

Sam built a second city, as did Tracy. Nathan had still built just one road, and bought a few cards.

Rajiv took Largest Army and soon after got a second city. This was the key point for Rajiv. With his starting spots he was always going to get cities and probably Largest Army. The question was where he would get the other four points from.

Nathan finally built a settlement – on the brick port – but roads were very hard to come by. There were probably no tens being rolled.

While Rajiv did very little (except have a lengthy bathroom break), the others gradually built roads. Nathan built towards the ore(5) hex, thanks to a Road Building card, which was also towards his other settlement, and once he got to the wood(4) hex he would have the best road production and probably hold Longest Road, which was very important.

Sam had a nice hand of unplayed development cards, plus one played soldier. I felt that he should have been playing soldiers if he had them. It looked unlikely that he would take Largest Army off Rajiv, who had five soldiers, he would at least get some resource cards. Nathan still had two face down cards and Rajiv one.

Nathan built a city and Rajiv a settlement, leaving Rajiv on seven points (plus a face down card) and Nathan on five points (plus two face down cards and an almost certain Longest Road later on). Sam was on six points, plus a bunch of face down cards.

Tracy, on six points, seemed to be falling behind.

Nathan got a second city.

Sam’s problem was that although he had great production, it was all wheat, wood and sheep, and you can’t do much with that, especially with no-one trading with you because of all your face down cards.

Sam built another two roads and a settlement, as did Tracy. Nathan joined his roads and took Longest Road. The spectators expected the game to finish, but it didn’t. No-one could quite get what they needed (wood and brick) to do it.

Rajiv got another settlement, but it was very tough work, and he went to eight points (plus a face down card), which Nathan built to that sheep(6)-sheep (11)-wood(3) spot.

Tracy built her third city and another settlement to move to eight points. But it was an ‘open’ eight points. The others had face down cards and chances are at least one of them was on nine.

Finally Nathan played a Monopoly card, took the required ore, built the city and won the game, with the Market as his point card.

In fact, he never got to the much discussed sheep(6)-sheep (11)-wood(3) spot.

Rajiv was on nine, as was Sam, who had bought so many cards, mostly soldiers but a point card near the end. Tracy finished on eight.

It was a good final, with plenty of intrigue and it tested the skill and patience of the players. As expected, the Longest Road decided the winner, with Nathan having the best road production (though that is not saying much) and the Road Building helped as well. Nathan’s win should be a lesson to those who think that you need to have a good start to win Settlers. Nathan started worst in this game.

So that was the end of the Settlers tournament. Nathan was a deserving winner, and I hope he does well in the World Championships!

For me, I did enough in this tournament to figure that there is some life in the old dog yet and I would (probably) try again next year.

As always, thanks to the organisers!

Finally, why do I keep playing Settlers when there are (apparently) so many other better games out there? You can read my answer here:

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