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Subject: Add two more converts to the Cult of Gaming rss

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10 / 05 / 2007

Let me preface this by saying my parents play very few games, and the style of games that they do play are of the Scrabble, Taboo, and Monopoly ilk. Throw in the occasional card game, and that's the comfort zone my folks are in.

My fiancee on the other hand is quickly attaining a respectable gamer status. By easing her in with games of Life and Scrabble, I've gotten her to play Settlers of Catan, among other games like Lost Cities, Carcassonne, Fury of Dracula. even Arkham Horror. Games like World of Warcraft and Tide of Iron elicit the "rolling of the eyes" response from her, but I'm holding out hope.

Cue my parents' visit a couple of days ago to the house. When I asked them if they'd be interested in a little game, Mom's eyes darted to the Scrabble board boxed in the living room. When I explained Settlers to them, Dad was intrigued and ready to go.

Explaining the rules took only 15 minutes, which I did while setting up a random board. My fiancee chimed in when she felt I was lacking in detail, but she did take on the role of the bank for all resources. Notable features on the board were two stones on 8, while the bricks were located on 10, 10, and 12. Fiancee rolled high to go first, followed by Dad, Mom, then me. Fiancee and Mom set up on the 6's (one wheat, one sheep), while Dad and I cornered the 8's on the stones.

The shortage of brick was painful, severely limiting road building and settlements, but Mom was able to quickly move to building the longest road and a harbor on the 2:1 sheep. In the process of building her roads and because she was able to trade for brick as she needed, Mom successfully cut off Fiancee's and my two settlements (mine had only been separated by 3 segments, but I wasn't getting any brick).

Not to be outdone, Dad began to compete for longest road, aided by a fortuitous road-building card. He really loved the trading aspect of the game, driving hard bargains whenever he could. (Also, Dad's a big craps player, so after I explained what the numbers on the tiles meant, I got the feeling he would have thrown chips on the table to make his bets on 6 and 8.)

Fiancee built a 3:1 harbor by making trades for brick and also amassed the largest army, holding that card until the end of the game. She was also instrumental at focusing all robber effects at me - not just her efforts, but also helping Mom and Dad decide on the best ways to torment me.

I built the first city, since I had a 6 on wheat and an 8 on stone, and then was able to expand to a 3:1 harbor which also was on an 8 stone. I quickly upgraded that to a city shortly thereafter. This is when it goes to hell in a handbasket...

Points at this point:
Fiancee has 7 -- 4 settlements, largest army, and a victory point.
Dad has 6 -- 3 settlements, longest road, and a victory point.
Mom has 5 -- 5 settlements (she made a rookie mistake thinking she could just keep building those).
I have 9 -- 3 cities and 3 victory point cards. Victory was in sight!

Up until now, the robber had been alternating between the 6 on wheat (Mom, Dad and I shared that one), the 6 on sheep (Mom and Fiancee shared that one) or my 8 on stone. But now with my two cities on it, it was now the primary target. Fiancee made sure to point that out at the end of her turn.

In short order:
1) Dad rolls. An 8. Everyone watches as Dad gets 1 stone, and I get 4.
2) Mom rolls. A 7. Her hand shoots out, snatches the robber from the 6 on wheat, and then with a sly grin, puts it right on my 8 on stone.
3) I roll, begging for a 7. I'm all out of resource cards and no soldiers. An 8 - I groan and pass to the left. Mom giggles.
4) Fiancee rolls - another 8. Dad smirks this time as he collects another stone. Giggling from Mom continues.
5) Dad rolls - ANOTHER 8. Dad's smirking has elevated to laughing, as has Mom's giggling. Fiancee nods knowingly, having been the victim of a persistent robber, but adds a snicker.
6) Mom rolls - you guessed it, 8 again. By this time, I'm not even looking at the results, and everyone else is howling.
7) My turn. No resources. I'm desperate - I've missed out on 20 stone already and could have ended the game. I roll... a 7!!! I don't remember where I put it, but it really didn't matter because...
8) Fiancee's turn is to play another soldier, and yep, right back on my 8 on stone. Peals of laughter erupt again. I harumph.

After a couple of rounds, my luck finally turned, but by then, Fiancee had accumulated/traded for the resources she needed for another settlement, a city, and the win.

Final tally:
Fiancee -- 10
Dad -- 7
Mom -- 7
Me -- 9

But the best parts of the evening were Dad asking to play again and Mom wanting to know where to get a copy.

My fiancee and I looked at each other grinning - we knew we had two more converts for the Cult of Gaming. My painful defeat was in fact my glorious victory.

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I call it the Catan Virus, and I have a picture of it here

I have yet to introduce my parents to Catan, but I am getting there. I am amazed at how perfect it is as a gateway. I have huge video game parties, and have only recently started incorporated boardgames. I sucker people into games of the Catan Card game over lunch, and by the time I have the next Bunker Party, there are 2 or 3 more people boardgaming.

My favorite conversion moment was playing Settlers on a Plane. I consider this cooler than mile-high club status.
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