Oof, that was definately one of the longest Settlers we have ever played. In all honesty, we have never played more than 4. I recently purchased the expansion in anticipation of playing with 5 other friends.
There were three newbies in the group. Though the rules weren't hard to teach, there was a learning curve for some of the the players as far as placements of settlements go.
in addition, I decided to try out the Volcano and Jungle tile
Play started off with placing our settlements. Initially, Louis decided to go for the lumber monopoly because the lumbers were on the high probability chits. He also decided to go for the lumber ports. All other players scattered their cities accordingly on the island. I decided to go for high probability chits.......without even realizing that I had placed two of my cities on the same hex.
Play progressed normally with the robber rarely showing up. I was immediately penalized for not having pastures and also for not being very diverse with my city placement. I had thought I would come out last after a couple of early mistakes I made. It was Louis who took the lead early in the game by capitalizing on the lumber and ports.
In the middle of the game, after the initial land grab was over, all the settlements began to pop up across the board and it got increasingly harder to build settlements. The volcano and jungle tile rarely if ever showed up and were pretty much a non-factor throughout the game. I decided that I could not get enough resources to but development cards, so I went for the five cities route and perhaps also the longest road route. I ended the game without a single development card.
At game end, it was surprising to find that Louis faltered even though he had such a great start. Alla managed to sneak in the win by controlling both the largest army and longest road route. Surprisingly, I had 8 points and was rather close to winning if I had given the chance to put down my road segments to grab the longest road route. Unfortunately, with such a crowded board, my roads were blocked. It was a close game
I learnt that even if your city placements are less than desirable, negotiation was key. If you do not negotiate, you will lose. The game certainly has more than meets the eye.
I could not judge the effectiveness of the volcano or the jungle since we hardly ever saw any action from those dice rolls.
My only concern was that the game took way too long - 3.5 hours. Too long.