My husband and I played this tonight and we were discussing why it hasn't been real good as a gateway game and/or when we introduce it to someone who hasn't played it before. We think one of the problems is in explaining the scoring. The farms in particular are hard to explain to a new player (let's be honest, as an experienced player, I still have problems with the farm scoring. )
We thought if we just dropped the farm scoring for beginners, using the scoring for roads and cities only, it might make it easier to learn. You can add the farm scoring later giving the game a new twist for the beginner with a couple of games under his belt. Maybe someone has already suggested this, but let me know what you think.
Yes, folks have suggested this before. I've tried it and it works okay but takes out what I think is the most interesting strategy-- and for us, usually ends up in more castle-sharing. Also, I think it means that those who pull more castles are more likely to win, so takes the luck factor up further.
Unless I don't know the person very well (and thus don't know if they can handle it), I'll go ahead and teach them the farmers. Better to learn the game correctly the first time.