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Subject: Why Settlers is Not my Favorite Game rss

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Jonathan C
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"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
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Aaah, the Settlers of Catan. I will apologize in advance for this review [rant]. This is not an overview of rules or gameplay, but my honest opinion of how this game [doesn't] work for me. I gravitate towards, with a few exceptions [e.g. Dutch Blitz and Spoons], games which reward planning, bluffing, and auctions. I enjoy a game which incorporates mechanics in such a way that one's decisions matter heavily in the outcome.

The basic "Settlers" game is not fun--not fun to win, not fun to lose. cry

From a sequence of lousy rolls, one or more of the players can effectively be out of the running quite early in the game, making it disinteresting. This happens quite often, and it just isn't acceptable for a game that can last 1.5+ hrs. By the same token, winning is most often a sequence of lucky die rolls, which is both unsatisfying and boring for those of us that like to think about our actions and decisions. The only mechanics that could possibly be considered "strategy" are
1] at the beginning, in the first 3 minutes, when players make their initial placements on the board, and
2] whether or not to trade resource cards

Some players in my group are terrible with AP. Why they suffer from it in this game is somewhat a mystery to me, as there aren't really that many interesting decisions to be made. The down time in Settlers is particularly unbearable. Why? Because it isn't the case as in other heavily-strategic brain-burners, where you can be planning while you wait. Nope, you just sit around waiting to roll your dice, while your opponents fret over where to build a road or attempt to make an impossible trade.

Finally, I've been in a Settlers/Cities & Knights game where one player due to some fortuitous rolling had a ridiculous VP lead--within one or two points of victory after 30 minutes. Feeling guilty about how quickly he had put the game out of reach for the rest of us, he started purposely withholding all his powerful development/progress cards which could have ended the game immediately, choosing instead to start "playing nice". All this did was drag out a boring game that was already over and extend the drudgery.

If you want an interactive card-trading game, Bohnanza rules the roost. If you like games with "screwage" then Glory to Rome, Innovation or El Grande are far better. If you want an area-control game, choose Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande, Samurai or even Carcassonne. If you want a dice game, consider the most excellent Troyes or Kingsburg. If you want cut-throat economic, Steam or Power Grid are awesome. Or for strategic brain-burner, Agricola is like a fine wine. Settlers can't hold a candle to any of these, which is why I won't spend time playing it if it is at all possible.

My rating improves to a "5" with the "Cities and Knights" expansion, because it introduces a minor piece of actual strategy into the game. Settlers and Carcassonne were the first "euro" games I had ever experienced. While I find that Carcassonne is still fun after several years, I take great pains to avoid even one more bland experience of Settlers of Catan.

Thanks for enduring my tirade, and I hope my comments aren't looked upon as condescending or angry. Settlers doesn't work for me. If it works for you, I'd like to understand what your gaming background is, and how you deal with my objections above [or if they aren't issues for you]?

Peace be with you!
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Jorge Sánchez
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Some people like this kind of games. I can understand they like Catan but no so much as some of my friends do. It´s hard to understand when they only trade 1 card for 1 card every time. I think it´s a game to play with children or for people who only want to pass time without thinking. An easy game with some routines. I think they like it because it´s a bit like to bet with some posibilities of changing your bets.
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Brian McCormick
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Catan is the Monopoly of 'hobby' boardgames.
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A Swinging Alligator
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looleypalooley wrote:
The basic "Settlers" game is not fun--not fun to win, not fun to lose. cry


Are you speaking for everyone? I ask, because I don't recall voting for you.
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Brian McCormick
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WallyGator wrote:
looleypalooley wrote:
The basic "Settlers" game is not fun--not fun to win, not fun to lose. cry


Are you speaking for everyone? I ask, because I don't recall voting for you.

It's a review. Ever heard of one?
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Just like how SoC improved upon many boardgames before it, so too has SoC been improved by many boardgames that came after it.

Flojo wrote:
Some people like this kind of games. I can understand they like Catan but no so much as some of my friends do. It´s hard to understand when they only trade 1 card for 1 card every time. I think it´s a game to play with children or for people who only want to pass time without thinking. An easy game with some routines. I think they like it because it´s a bit like to bet with some posibilities of changing your bets.
?? but you can do stuff like 2:1 or 3:2 trades. You just can't do 0:1 or trade like resources
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Ken
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Do you think your opinion of the game might be a bit higher if your opponents were "better"? And I don't mean to insult them! By that I just mean more decisive, more aggressive (where they place, where they build, how they trade, how creatively they use the cards and robber), and most of all, faster!

This is not to say the experience would elevate Settlers past any alternative you currently enjoy more, but maybe you wouldn't find it such a drag?
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Moshe Callen
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I'm not the biggest fan of the game myself, but -- um-- you sure you're playing the game right? How exactly do a few "bad rolls" (I assume one which does not give a player resources) eliminate a player from the game? I can think of several criticisms of the game but you mention none I would consider valid.

Admittedly, I don't use expansions.
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I am glad that Johnny Jaws is my friend.
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Ok here is my problem with SoC; we played it and played it and played it until I developed an aversion to it. I do bore easily with games so I have learned to mix it up, or trade it away.
 
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Matthew Cordeiro
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If a few consecutive bad rolls knock you out of the game, you may want to consider one or more of the following.

1. Setup - place the numbers using the alphabet spiral technique rather than random placement. This will spread out the clusters of good numbers.

2. Initial placement - aim for diversity in numbers, even if it means taking numbers with slightly lower probability.

3. Use the friendly robber variant - a player can't be shut down until they've gained an additional VP.

4. Use the robber to target a runaway leader. You can move him on 7's and with knights/soldiers.

5. Play with the Catan event cards to have the "dice rolls" more evenly match the probability.
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Sven Teuber
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cordeiro wrote:
If a few consecutive bad rolls knock you out of the game, you may want to consider one or more of the following.


In my last SoC-match, the dice rolled a "5" in 3 of 4 consecutive rolls, with about eight or nine "5" rolled in what felt like 15 rolls total. It became legend as the "game of fives" for every player that attended that match.

Easily avoided? No, just sheer dumb improbability meets Murphy's Law (and a sure joy-killer for someone on a particular game of SoC).

That day, I made a mental note to use the event cards next time. Until now, unfortunately, there was no "next time".
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Jay Sheely
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My two cents: SoC is one of my least favorite games although it did kindof introduce me too games beyond Risk, Scrabble and Monopoly.

I will only play it with people who own one game, SoC in the hopes that I will soon be playing all my other games with them.
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Looks like the main complaint is early-game antics with the robber.

A variant (which I'm not 100% sure I'm describing accurately 'cuz I read it in another thread that essentially had the same complaint) is to take 1 resource card of each type, shuffle them and leave them face down on the desert. When a player rolls a '7', he takes the top face-down resource card on the desert and the robber remains on the desert. If there is no card to take, the roller of the '7' executes the robber move normally.

It's a good variant, it seems.

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Matt Rice
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Aurendrosl wrote:
WallyGator wrote:
looleypalooley wrote:
The basic "Settlers" game is not fun--not fun to win, not fun to lose. cry


Are you speaking for everyone? I ask, because I don't recall voting for you.

It's a review. Ever heard of one?


Perfect..!
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Matt Rice
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And for everyone's delictation and delight, I unearthed this old thing...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/314431/historic-catan-pa...

Enjoy, Settler Friends! laugh

Matt
 
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Jonathan C
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WallyGator wrote:
looleypalooley wrote:
The basic "Settlers" game is not fun--not fun to win, not fun to lose. cry


Are you speaking for everyone? I ask, because I don't recall voting for you.


Writing in the first person, for myself. =) As I stated above, this is a review about how this game doesn't work for *me*. My statement above would be taken out of context if applied to all of us--obviously some people enjoy Settlers of Catan.
 
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Jonathan C
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Top Hat 64 wrote:
Do you think your opinion of the game might be a bit higher if your opponents were "better"? And I don't mean to insult them! By that I just mean more decisive, more aggressive (where they place, where they build, how they trade, how creatively they use the cards and robber), and most of all, faster!

This is not to say the experience would elevate Settlers past any alternative you currently enjoy more, but maybe you wouldn't find it such a drag?


Hmm, good question. My answer is "yes", it would probably be better if everyone could play considerably faster. I think a large part of the problem is the game lasts, well, too long for what actually happens. And the fact that so much is determined by dice, just roll the darn things and be done with it: let fate decide and move on to a game with a little more mental ingenuity.
 
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J. Alex Kevern
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looleypalooley wrote:

The only mechanics that could possibly be considered "strategy" are
1] at the beginning, in the first 3 minutes, when players make their initial placements on the board, and
2] whether or not to trade resource cards


Aaah, the air of inexperience. Let me start by saying I'm a tournament Settlers player. I've won about 40% of the tournaments I've been in, and about two thirds of the tournament games I've played. To win 66% of the time when a four player game would predict 25% already indicates that there is substantial strategy involved. Thus, posts that claim that Catan is "all luck" or "all in the dice" always make me laugh at posters' naivety. It's nothing against you-- it takes a lot, a lot of practice to realize the subtle strategy that exists in the game. People who claim the game is mostly luck just don't realize the mistakes they're making.

To add to your list:

1. Yes, initial setup is key. The most important part of the game. An entire book chapter could be written about starting position.
2. Trading is not as important as people think. Being self reliant, either through being on all the resources, having a good port, or having a sufficient amount of development cards is much more important.

My additions:
(3) Where to expand to first. Do I expand to the spot that is most under threat of being taken by someone else, or the spot that is best for me in terms of resource production? Should I build to the port first or second?
(4) Where to expand to second, third and fourth. Do I continue my road so I can more easily take longest road, or do I branch off using one more road to settle instead of two?
(5) To buy development cards or save for cities
(6) How to use development cards most effectively (not only soliders but Monopoly, Y.O.P and Road Builder)
(7) When and when not to trade 4 for 1, or 3:1
(8) Robbing the correct spaces to effectively derail an opponent. (8.1) This includes knowing what resources each of your opponents has and needs
(9) How to deflect attention and focus the robber on other players
(10) Noticing who is winning or has the best potential to win and directing attention (and the robber) to him or her
(11) Devising a way to get to ten points and being able to execute that plan (which in itself requires a lot of subtle strategy)

These are just a few additions. There are many many more, depending on how nuanced you want to get-- ie if you plan on building a road and buying a development card in the same turn, buy the card first in the small chance that it could be a road builder. And so on.

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Matthew Cordeiro
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looleypalooley wrote:
...so much is determined by dice, just roll the darn things and be done with it: let fate decide and move on to a game with a little more mental ingenuity.


The dice certainly play a hand in the outcome and can have dramatic short-term effects, but over the course of the game's 100 or so dice rolls, things even out a bit, and there are ways to mitigate the effects of the dice.

Not everyone enjoys Settlers, but to downplay the elements of negotiation, strategy, and tactics does a disservice to the game. If dice rolls are a turnoff for you, so be it; but the game is much more than dice rolls. No doubt, Settlers isn't the heaviest game out there, but it's very good at what it does, and it's introduced hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to the next level of boardgames.
 
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Brent Pollock
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It's not my favourite game because it has nothing to do with WW II combined arms tactics...but otherwise I don't have too much trouble with it...definitely a fan of the event deck instead of dice, mainly to put an end to those outlier games mentioned above.
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Ken
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looleypalooley wrote:
My answer is "yes", it would probably be better if everyone could play considerably faster. I think a large part of the problem is the game lasts, well, too long for what actually happens.

I've definitely had some total stinker matches that seemed to take forever -- but usually, in my experience, it's not "normal" for a game to take 90 minutes. I realize Settlers is rated as such in its BGG profile, but I usually play three-player games (regular Settlers board, and no robber for the first two turns), and the matches are typically a bit over 45 minutes. And we often chew up time arguing, threatening each other, trying to get each other into bidding wars...

If your four-player games usually take 90 minutes, I can see why you want to stab your hand with a thumbtack. But here's a test should you be stuck in a position where you're going to have to play: use the "recommended" setup that's shown in the manual, where no resource is scarce, and good tile intersections are plentiful. If a four-player game takes 90 minutes or more, your group is too slow, and they just need to get better at the game.

My theory is if your opponents become "better players," the game will move along more quickly, which on its own may/will make you happy; however, the added bonus side effect is once they do get "better," they will also challenge you a lot in ways that have nothing to do with the rolls. That could make you even happier.
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Johannes cum Grano Salis
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mistergnome wrote:
1. Yes, initial setup is key. The most important part of the game. An entire book chapter could be written about starting position.


"Get on a 6 or an 8" is an awfully small book chapter...

[/ducks]

J
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J. Alex Kevern
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rarevos wrote:
mistergnome wrote:
1. Yes, initial setup is key. The most important part of the game. An entire book chapter could be written about starting position.


"Get on a 6 or an 8" is an awfully small book chapter...

[/ducks]

J



Haha. Nice. As you probably expected me to say, initial placement is much more complicated than that. Sometimes you can even be better off not being on a 6 or 8.

Part of the chapter would go something like this: (note: This is something I've written previously. I didn't type all of this just to convince you)

"A thorough and nuanced understanding of the resources will allow you to make informed decisions about initial placement and subsequent building. When examining the building costs, it becomes immediately apparent that certain resources tend to pair together. For example, there are no cases where one can use brick without also having lumber, or use ore without also having wheat. This may seem obvious, but this information should guide your strategy. Generally, there is no sense being on an 8 brick if you’re only on a 12 lumber; you will simply end up with a hand full of brick that you have no use for. The key point here is that you need to match your resources. If you’re brick heavy, try to also get on a fair amount of lumber. The ability to build roads will allow you to cut off other players and reach other valuable resources and ports. This is valuable in a three player game where there are more valuable expansion spots to be had, and in a four player game where individuals without road building capabilities can easily get boxed in.

Just as lumber and brick complement each other, ore and wheat have their own symbiosis. Ore and wheat are both very unique resources. Wheat is the universal donor-- it makes everything easier, from building settlements to buying development cards to building cities. This make it perpetually useful, and often the target of demand in trades. It is only rivaled in importance by its partner in crime, ore. Ore is incredibly powerful. Paired with wheat, it can double the production of your best spots on the board, whereas building roads and settlements typically only allows you to expand to weaker spots. However, having ore without wheat can become extremely frustrating for a player. Typically getting on a lot of ore forces one to sacrifice road building capability, so building to wheat or a port is difficult. In order to make use of the ore than you have, you’ll either need one wheat to buy a development card, which may feel like a waste of your hard earned wheat, or two to build a city, which can entail collecting cards and often getting sevened out. The best way to avoid this frustration is to skillfully pair your ore with wheat. even an 11 or 3 can be valuable, especially in a four player game with more rolls, because as soon as you build a city on that spot you will only need one roll to gain the wheat you need to build a city.

You may have already noticed that the one resource without a companion is sheep. Some call sheep the least valuable resource, with some justification. It is generally more plentiful than brick or ore, as there are four sheep hexes instead of three, and as opposed to other resources, it is difficult to use multiple sheep at one time (as opposed to building multiple roads or building cities, all or which allow you to use multiple numbers of other resources). This can lead to a build up of sheep in many players hands, making them largely worthless as trade bait. However, all these reasons (abundance, build up in players’ hands) makes sheep a perfect port resource. However, this may only be relevant in a small number of games where the board arrangement dictates a sheep port strategy is valuable. There will be cases where the sheep port isn’t accessible, the number tokens on sheep are poor, or, simply, there are better spots and strategies to be had.

If you twisted my arm, if would say that if you had to forgo any one resource, it would be sheep. But that being said, your life will be much easier if you are on sheep, and it will prove particularly useful when you have successfully paired your wheat and ore. Buying development cards is critical, and sheep are of course integral to this. So, if you can, get on sheep. But generally, do not choose an 8 sheep over an 8 ore or wheat unless you have a very clever strategy in mind"

Again, that's just one small aspect of it. You have to be cognizant of what resources are rare, where ports are, and in what direction to place your roads.
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mistergnome wrote:
So, if you can, get on sheep.


..now it's a party...shake
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markgravitygood wrote:
mistergnome wrote:
So, if you can, get on sheep.


..now it's a party...shake


I have wood for sheep.
Anybody want to "trade"?
 
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