Players: Rob, Sean, TJ, Fenwick
I love this game. I was dying to play it, and as I was involved in a game of Dicey, people began to unpack it. Through a series of veiled threats, I managed to convince them to wait until I got done before beginning the game.
A funky shaped island was created (part of the beauty of settlers is the ability to change the game board every time!), and the settlement of the island of Catan began!
Sean managed to start the game with Settlements in semi-bad places (referring to his placements as "The Ethiopia of Catan"), Rob started the game with Settlements in REALLY bad places (his best number was a "9"), and TJ started the game with a Settlement in a completely ILLEGAL location (immediately adjact to Femwick. We noticed it about 2 turns in, and moved the settlement one space away. We made a small sacrifice to the Gods of the Rules of Settlers, and continued to play as if nothing had happened...).
So the game began ugly.
And continued that way for pretty much the whole time.
Rob immediately became recognized as the Whipping Boy of Catan. The Robber managed to step on areas adjacent to both of his starting Settlements quite often. And as soon as the Robber was there, the next roll was the number the Robber was on (that ALWAYS happens!). He was pretty much relegated to a little peninsula, and in a fit of frustration declared "This could very well be the last game of Settlers of Catan I ever play." I hope he was kidding. He sure sounded serious. And the way his game was going, I wouldn't be surprised if he meant it.
Fenwick and TJ battled for the Longest Road bonus for a while, but TJ managed to connect both of his starting Settlements to form a continuous path across basically the entire island. One of Fenwick's starting Settlements got isolated, and that one length of road sat unconnected on the opposite side of Catan. Since TJ had one long road connecting all of his Settlements, he had clinched the Long Road Bonus.
AND, TJ had 5 Soldiers played before anyone else had played even 3. TJ's side of the table was getting crowded with cards... the 2 bonus tiles, and soldier cards abounding.
Sean had one corner of the board pretty well saturated, and, by building a couple Cities, was getting some large hauls of goods. Eventually, a roll of "9" provided him 4 Woods, all from the same hex.
Rob started to spread out from his peninsular Alcatraz, but everyone else had spread out a bit towards him, making it hard for him to go much farther.
Let's check in near the end of the game...
Even though TJ had BOTH of the 2-Victory-Point bonuses, he only had 3 Settlements -- 7 points.
Fenwick had quite a few ports, and a few cities in convenient places (a roll of "6" gave him 2 Brick AND 2 Wood -- which is ostensibly 2 Roads. Also, he had a Wood trading port, so he could trade the 2 Wood for anything!). With 9 points, productive locations, and ports making it possibly for him to trade things cheaply, it looked as if he was doing quite well...
And he was not terribly concerned with Sean's 8 points. That is, until Sean proudly built up one of his Settlements to a City and revealed he had the Library Development card -- giving him the last point he needed to win!
This game just has a ton of personality. It has a little more luck than I usually enjoy in a game. But you feel like you have a chance at coming back (unless you are Rob in this game). You have to be lucky, but you also have to be shrewd -- building when you can, dealing intelligently, and politically placing the robber to be beneficially to you, but not completely alienating everyone else. The game play is basic, but with a depth and attitude unseen in many games.