Now that Ed had arrived, I delivered the early AM doses of caffeine I had promised all around, completing Ed's cappuccino as I had Ben's. Mine was already drained, and I made myself a second (a decaf), aiming at a Pavlovian alertness via the scent of espresso wafting through my nostrils during game play.
Ben had high roll, and immediately took the obviously great slot, next to some brick and some grain. With Ben to my lower right, I went lower left, near some grain, ore and brick. Ed placed his two, one of his placements giving him access to sheep. I took a chance by inserting my second one near the busy area where Ed and Ben were, trying to hem them in a bit on the right side of the board.
This may have been the closest came of Settlers we've ever played. Early on Ben, was the leader, collecting grain and ore and converting his settlements to cities.
My early game covered a fair amount of territory, from the middle to the left side of the board. Fairly early on I collected longest road, although by doing so, I only pulled into a tie with Ben.
Ed was at the top middle and bottom middle of the board from my perspective. At bottom, he was collecting sheep. At top, he had curiously good luck with the 12 hex, which kept repeatedly giving him grain. He eventually had two settlements on that lucky hex and it kept producing.
I was playing to control what I thought would be the scarce commodity -- grain. But it turned out not to be. Grain was plentiful in the game because Ed kept rolling 12s, and Ben didn't need much of it either. So my grain production gave me little trading advantage.
Nevertheless I did pull into the lead shortly after getting longest road. Ben was the victim of the robber more than anyone, enabling Ed and I to claw back.
What turned out to be scarce, surprisingly, was sheep. Ben and I were each short sheep the whole game, and Ed's intermittent production of sheep helped him immensely.
I'm not certain what order these two things happened, but well into the game, Ed took the lead, and Ben took longest road from me. He built longest road right after I traded him brick to build a road with, and he then played a road-bulding development card. I think Ed had the lead first, for I recall Ben's theft of longest road put me in a hugely disadvantageous position just as Ben was on the cusp of victory. I had myself to blame in large part, as I did at several points in the game. I made several foolish trades.
I pulled myself back into it soon after by getting largest army, but it was too late. Ben won in short order, with three cities, two settlements, and longest road.