Players: Grim, Lou and Tim
Playing Time: 3½ hours
Both Lou and Tim had only played this once before, shortly after I'd got it as a birthday present last summer, so I went over the basics of the additional rules, mechanics etc.
We shook dice to see who started and Tim got the dubious honor. This meant he placed his settlement first, but his city last. I was placing last with my settlement and first with my city, so I took the opportunity to go for my prefered option of earning lots of a single commodity (in this case paper) by placing the city on two wood hexes and a 3:1 port. Lou had a nice location for her city being on brick, ore and sheep hexes, whilst Tim was a bit unlcuky with his placement having two wheat hexes and a sheep hex for his city.
As the game got underway we all managed to make a start on buying city improvements, whilst recruiting plenty of knights to keep us safe from the advancing barbarians.
Before the barbarians first attack I had drawn a Road Builder card from the science progress deck and used that to make a start on my longest road and even to build a settlement.
When the barbarians attacked the first time, we were easily able to defend, however it was Tim that earned the first Defender of Catan victory point. Determined not to let Tim continue to earn Defender points I consolodated my knight position with a Smith card from the science progress deck, so when the barbarians attacked for the second Tim and I shared the defence of Catan, so nobody got a victory point.
Somewhere along the line I extended my road sufficiently to earn the Longest Road and nudge ahead of the field, a place that it's not always wise to be!
The next two times the barbarians attacked neither Lou nor I could contribute enough active knight power to prevent Tim earning Defender victory points, however by this time I had built up to the 3rd level of scientific progress and before the barbarians attacked for a 5th time, thanks to some heavy trading in the many ports I had settled along my coast road, I was able to build a library and earn the scientific metropolis. Lou and I were also working hard to keep ahead of Tim in the knight stakes again, so when the barbarians attacked the 5th time, the two of us shared the defence and did not earn any Defender victory points...
Tim was back on track again for the 6th barbarian attack and earned yet another Defender victory point. By this point Tim was looking like he was close to building one of the other metropolises, whilst Lou seemed to be keeping fairly quiet and low key... this I'm sure was just to lull us into a false sense of security. She had however engaged in a little road sabotage and used a knight to break my really long road (10) down to a much more meagre size (7), however I still retained the Longest Road since no-one had a road that was longer. Unfortunately for her, Lou had recruited only a basic knight to do this and I was able to displace him with one of my strong knights and repair my road. This would not be the end of the battle for the longest road however!!
Meanwhile Tim had indeed managed to build the trade metrolpolis and was getting rather too close to me for comfort. Then blow me, when I was just 1 point away from victory, Lou went into overdrive on roadbuilding and notched up a massive road (11) to take the Longest Road from me, thus leapfrogging Tim and passing me as I dropped 2 victory points! I was so gutted, however she was still one point away from victory and since she had run out of city pieces, she was not able to close the deal in her turn.
Then it came to my turn and now that I was in last place I was able to use BOTH the Master Merchant progress cards I'd been holding onto all game. I took 2 resources of my choice from Lou and 2 from Tim and along with what I already had in my hand, this gave me enuogh for 2 sections of road and a settlement and VICTORY!!!
I won with 13 victory points from 1 metropolis, 2 cities, 3 settlements and the Longest Road.
Tim was second with 12 victory points from 1 metropolis, 1 city, 2 settlements and 4 Defender's of Catan.
Lou was third with 10 victory points from 4 cities, 1 settlement and 1 victory point progress card.
This was an incredibly close and intense game, and whilst I had been in the lead for a fair portion of the time, both Lou and Tim stayed with me all the way, and both could have snatched victory from me at the death.