Thomas Melinsky
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What I love most about Settlers of Catan the Dice Game is that non-gamers love playing it. It really is a "gateway" game. It's a lot of fun to play, it's quick, and it's fun to watch other people's turn to see what they get. So, I need to find a way to fix the way it's unbalanced.

Here is how it's unbalanced. I started out with a theory - is there a way to make it to that 30 point city? I later refined my theory to a goal "Find the best way to make it to the 30 point city." Ultimately, if you go for broke and throw away settlement rolls just to build roads, the first two knights, and every city - you will win the game UNLESS someone else is using this very strategy.

Skipping the trial and error phase of testing (I played with my wife and son as play testers)... here are the details for what is needed to accomplish the goal.

1. Always make sure there is a path to a city. Building roads is a #2 priority ONLY to building cities.

2. The only two Knights that matter are the first two as they can help build cities. The last Knight is good, but it takes too much to get there which loses track of the goal. The first two are easy pickings.

3. Throw away ALL settlement ROLLS. The only thing that is needed is the road segement in the settlement. If your first roll is a settlement and a road, keep the two brick and two wood - reroll the other two to try for a third road. People look at you like you're insane, but those settlements are worthless compared to the 50 points at the bottom of the board. Unless you built your 30 point city already, if your last roll is a settlement and road, that's two road segments to you. Seriously, only roads.

4. Always try to roll for a city when there is a road to one. Use the first two rolls to do this. If the first or second roll reveals two or more road segments, keep them and try for a third. Otherwise, roll for the city!!!

5. Here is one of the best rolling strategies for a city. Get the two Knights early. USE them after three roll attempts ONLY if they get you a city. Always know what Knights you have and roll accordingly - don't be afraid to use them early. Remember, if you rolled two wheat and 1 stone, you can re-roll ONE of the wheat IF you have the wheat Knight already. This gives you better odds at getting the two stone (or one of the two if you have the stone Knight).

5. On your last roll, take whatever you get so as not to go -2 points if it's not a city, road, or build the first two knights. It's okay to get X's or -2 pts for a turn. Once you get the thirty point city, you will win the game unless someone else is using this strategy as well.

6. Once you get the 30 point city, finish out the game with whatever gives you the most points. The Knights are usually worth more than the settlements at this point - a Knight and a road is a great roll at the end.

7. When trying for the city, you probably should re-roll any gold. However, look at your Knights to determine this. If you have two gold, one wheat, one stone with both Knights, you might keep the gold as it gives you options. If you need a wheat and a stone on your last roll but have one gold on the die - it may be best at that time to keep the one gold. Experiment with this - I haven't figured out what is best when using gold.

Even during play testing my theory and tweaking it, I won every single game, and I had the thirty point city with one to three turns left to spare. The games were never even close. It hasn't been good rolling on my part, either. I have since tested this my regular gamer group, and I won every time.

So, if anyone else can verify this, it'd help (that will give you something different to do - you can even test it alone to see how many times you make it to the 30 point city - I did and it's almost every time). I'd like to fix this - perhaps decreasing the value of the last two cities OR increasing the value of the settlements would help. I don't like being forced to play a game one way - there should be a good balance between building settlements and cities.

The Plus variant of the game that uses "Longest Road" and "Largest Army" is much more balanced. That's the version we play now until the original version can be fixed...
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Lawrence K
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I agree - an earlier poster had an abbreviated description of this technique (build all cities/ignore all settlements), and once you try it you see it's the sole optimum strategy. For this reason my wife and I only play the Plus variant now (which we enjoy quite a bit).

I think you're probably right - the point discrepancy between settlements and cities is what causes the problem. Maybe a 3-5-8-12-16-20 progression for the settlements might help.

Another thought I had was that perhaps the 20-point and 30-point cities should not be linked; instead, the 30-point city should be branched off from the 9-point settlement. This could make it a bigger gamble to go for the "cities only" strategy as you would need 2 more roads (probably a full turn) before you could try for the 30-point city. I have not playtested this though.
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Thomas Melinsky
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That's a banner idea, Lawrence, about changing the road placement. It's likely that some point changes may be in order, too. I don't think it would take too much to fix the issue, and it would allow for either strategy or a mixture to work equally well.


Here is what I obeserved from playing.

It seems like playing the game normally, building that last settlement is tricky. I've need really good rolls during the game to get there and build it. I haven't tried the go-for-broke settlement building. I will try that and see how that goes.

It seems to me that going for broke Settlement and going for broke City should have similar results. Also, building both along the way should work out similarly.

I think that moving roads is a good idea. However, moving the road between the 20 and 30 point city to the end of the 11 point Settlement would likely make the 30 point city unreachable. However, connecting the 12 point city to the 7 point city via the upper portion of the hex and removing its single road to the main connection would help from getting a quick turnaround on those two cities. That might be enough to slow down that strategy for a turn or two.

Also, re-ordering the Knights so that iron and wheat are not the first two would really change that strategy.

It's not like I am trying to kill the go for broke strategy - it's a part of gaming. It's just that go for broke strategies should be just that - you get the good rolls and you win else you crash and burn. Even mediocre rolls gets the win using the city method.

I will play test this today. It sounds like fun to me.
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Thomas Melinsky
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I did some play testing with different options, and here is what I discovered.

1. Changing the road arrangement for the upper left or lower right city did not work. This was not a big enough change to prevent the city building go-for-broke from inevitably winning, sadly.

2. Switching places with the stone and the brick Knights DID make an impact. However, with just a few lucky rolls, I was still able to get that 90+ point score. It did take away how easy it was to roll cities - it wasn't practically automatic as before. Having that stone so far down the list really was a good idea. That's likely a good idea change.

3. The settlements aren't worth enough points, and the cities are worth too much. I understand that a city is a slightly more difficult roll. However, there are only five to build (quicker) and substantially more points (cost effective).

4. Here are the changes that I play tested with:

A: Cities: 5 - 7 - 12 - 20.
B. Settlements: 5 - 6 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 15.
C Knights: Brick(1), Wheat(2), Sheep(3), Wood(4), Stone(5), ?(6).
D. Added - a 2:1 Sheep trader at the bottom left Settlement (was 7 pt, now a 9 pt Settlement). The settlement MUST be built to use this.
E. Added - a 2:1 Wheat trader at the bottm left City (was 20 pt, now a 12 point City). The city MUST be built to use this.

Here is what I discovered while playing this: it's possible to win using the city go-for-broke, the settlement go-for-broke, or the balanced take what you get. The added 2:1 traders aren't necessary, but it gets annoying to roll a bunch of sheep or wheat at times. This gives them a little more use (a little more fun to roll). The City builder gets a quick advantage as does the Settlement builder. However, the balanced player can get them both - it is very possible! The last two or three turns when rolling to get those final big points, it's nice to have extra advantages. I'll have to see what works out better.

The point values may need some tweaking, and I need to check the 2:1 trader placements.
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Lawrence K
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Switching the Knights sounds like a great idea. I'm considering this order:
(1) Wood - (2) Brick - (3) Ore - (4) Wheat - (5) Sheep

You're right that the early ore and wheat directly contribute to the already optimum city-only strategy. I'm wondering if putting wood and brick first would encourage more options (better chance for settlement+road turns), or would just make it more efficient to build to all the cities. I totally agree that always throwing away settlements for just the road should not be the best play. I threw sheep last because it seems this only time I use it is to pull out a knight when I miss on a city. If the ore knight is still too easy at (3) then I may put the sheep back there.

I'm also thinking that cities should be lowered vice settlements being raised - otherwise points for knights/roads become insignificant.

Here's the map I've been trying out - cities-only is still the best but it is a little more risky with the road change. I'm thinking the road change costs a extra turn to get to the lower-right city - I'll try adding your knight-switching idea to see if that tips the balance just right.

Edit: I'm onboard with the knight-switch and actually think the best order is starting with brick on the lower right and working around clockwise [brick - wood - sheep - wheat - ore - wild]. I made a simple mod to the map rather than moving all the tiles - just have to remember to start in the bottom-right. I'm finding the changes so far make the game a lot more fun as the knights are more valuable as resources and are more likely to be picked up/used.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/42798055@N06/3944589939/
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Thomas Melinsky
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I like the brick - wood - sheep - wheat - ore - wild order that you used. Ore definitely needs to be last, and brick and wood up front make the first two knights good for everyone regardless of strategy. I am thinking that wheat and wood/sheep should be switched, but I'll have to play test that more.

How are the points working out for you that way?

I do realize that raising the settlement values does make the roads/knights value lesser. Road points are really just tie breakers. The last two knights are worth 11 points combined, and that's pretty big. It's possible to do that with one roll/turn, so they still do have some weight. A knight roll is a very easy roll, too. Hmm, some thinking to do.
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Thomas Melinsky
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Thinking about it, I do like the way you've re-ordered the board so that a fix means starting at the brick and moving backwards from there. It makes it really easy to implement.
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Lawrence K
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I've only tried the new map 4 times so far, and I reached the 4th city twice (scores of 92 and 88 I believe). The two times I didn't make it were around 70. The decreased values of the cities are countered by having to build more knights. I haven't tried focusing on settlements yet, but am hoping scores go up some with the increased efficiency of brick and wood knights early on (that 11-point settlement should be a little easier to reach). I'm going to get some more time with the game later this week and will try out different strategies.

One thing I've noticed is I now go for knight+road much more frequently. Previously if there was no shot at a city I would always try for road+road+road and just take knights when I missed on city rolls (since only 2 knights were really desired). Now knight+road seems much more valuable, as the first two knights pretty much guarantee two more roads later on, and the wheat/ore knights are still worth the effort if you are going for more than 1 city.
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Thomas Melinsky
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Here is proof of concept for the my original balanced variant (Attempt 1). It has the optional wheat and sheep 2:1 traders built in there.


http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/7466/balanceddicecatan.jpg

(this image host is friendlier)
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Yee Keat Phuah
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I know I am 4 years late, but this thread intrigues me enough that I am going to write an app to prove the theory that going for cities is the optimum strategy, hopefully can use the same app to find a good variant as well.
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