Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

Catan» Forums » Sessions

Subject: The Road to Catan is Paved with Bricks and Lumber rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Randatollah
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

A Foreward by the Author

Like so many others, my first foray into Eurogames was Settlers of Catan. Finding the results less than satisfying, I soon moved on, leaving the game largely collecting dust on my shelf. My main complaints were that the probability distribution of the dice made initial settlement placement the primary determining factor of eventual victory, and that having cards snatched right out of my hand by another player was extremely irritating. However, I have since come up with house rules to make the game more palatable. My gaming group and I have enjoyed playing Catan with a 12-sided die instead of the two six-siders that come with the game. The robber is activated on a 1 or a 7, which makes the likelihood of him coming into play the same as with the standard rules (roughly 16.7%). This takes some of the emphasis off of initial settlement placement and makes Catan into a game that strongly favors the biggest wheeler and dealer in the group. I like this because the biggest wheeler and dealer in my group is me.

The other house rule changes how the robber works. I will not detail it here, since we decided not to use it for the session I am currently reporting.

Introducing the Cast

Bear Arms – a subtle and crafty player
Big D – an aggressive player who enjoys attacking whether the game at hand rewards it or not
Replay – a thoughtful, strategic type

...and myself, of whom I will refrain from making any value judgments

Humble Beginnings

Catan manages to wander off the shelf and make it to the game table every once in a blue moon. This time, I think everyone in my group was burned out on too much tense strategizing. Whatever the reason, Catan received a warm welcome from my group when I pulled it out. We had four players, but used the 5-6 player extension anyway. This removes some tension from the game, but only one of the four of us actually enjoys trying to block the other players. We conveniently set up the board while he was still en route to my house. In addition, we made use of the Fishermen expansion

Rising Action

Once Big D finally arrived, we began placing our settlements. I placed third, which would have been torture if we were playing the standard way. As it happened, I managed to set myself up on a sweet little spot touching 2 forest hexes, with a 2:1 wood port nearby. I didn't even pay attention to where the others were placing their settlements. I just waited and hoped Bear Arms, who was last, wouldn't spoil my beeline for that 2:1 port I wanted. She didn't. Once initial placement was complete, I realized that the other three players had all placed their settlements on the side of the island opposite mine. This boded well for my roads strategy.

Play began. I didn't have a settlement touching any sheep hexes, but wasn't too concerned. Others tend to be willing to trade off sheep in large quantities. Nobody in my group but Big D would be cutthroat enough to refuse to trade with me simply because doing so would block me from ever building another settlement, and he didn't notice. Besides, I was willing to offer up high-demand items, wood and brick so the others could build the roads they so desperately needed, and all I wanted in return was to take those useless sheep off their hands!

I was able to make a deal, and after some preliminary road building, placed a settlement on the 2:1 wood port I had my eye on. Phew! I thought, I won't be desperate for sheep anymore!

Naturally, I did not say this aloud, as Big D possesses the maturity of a 12-year-old. Besides, my assessment turned out to be naïve. My progress stalled. Big D, as always, aggressively built roads until he was able to claim the longest road card. Very few development cards were purchased; nobody at the table was trying to rock the largest army strategy. Like Big D, I was hoping to claim longest road. Replay was trying for a cities strategy, which he likes but I don't understand because it only seems to work when players using the road or army strategies drop the ball.

In any event, I eventually built roads up to a couple of side-by-side sheep hexes and made another deal for sheep. Then I built a settlement there and resolved my sheep shortage once and for all.

The Plot Thickens

Then, in the midst of the game, I suggested we increase the VP required for victory. The game ends too quickly, I reasoned. We discussed, and decided to try playing to 12 VP. At that point, I got on a roll. I had the advantage in road building, and was able to collect whatever else I needed by offering up attractive trades to the other players. I was fortunate in that I had an abundance of what everyone else needed, namely wood and bricks, whereas they dad more ore and sheep than they knew what to do with. By a quirk of fate, everyone collected wheat on the same number, so the market for that commodity was unusually quiet. On the plus side, I didn't have to try very hard to remember who had collected wheat!

As time passed, it became readily apparent that I had the advantage. However, I was still able to get others to deal with me by offering up goods they really coveted. That is what I consider my greatest triumph – not that I won, but that I was able to make deals with people while I was obviously in the lead.

Coincidentally, my one coastal settlement, built fairly early in the game, would have collected fish on a roll of 5 – but that number never came up. It wouldn't be a game of Catan without a number coming up much less often than probability would lead you to expect. The other players collected fish by the boatload. Bear Arms was able to trade in enough fish to build a road, to which I responded, “ew, that road is made out of fish!” We haven't used the Fishermen expansion enough times for that joke to get tired yet. I might get another good use out of it before having to retire the joke.

In any event, I did some upgrades on settlements, and had the good fortune to purchase VP cards as my first two developments. With a mere 3 cities and 2 settlements, I managed to reach 12 VP by joining the road segments leading out away from my first two settlements, thus prying the longest road card away from Big D. Bear Arms had only managed to claim the largest army the turn before by playing her third soldier. Perhaps she would have done better if she had purchased developments more aggressively. As it stood, however, I won handily.

The Inevitable Plot Twist

Then something unusual happened. Bear Arms suggested we play Catan again, and everyone else agreed. At our table, we hardly ever play a game more than once at a time, unless it is Race for the Galaxy or some type of filler. Catan, however, turned out to be much more fun than we had remembered, so we shuffled up the tiles and set the board up for another round.

There are No Second Acts in American Plays

For the second game, I elected to place my first settlement at a location touching two ore hexes. Having won with the road strategy, this time I would try for largest army. Luck handed me the cards I needed to upgrade a settlement to a city on my second turn, and before long I had four cities and was rolling in ore, sheep and wheat. However, I was also in danger of being enclosed by the three other players. With my anemic road-building ability, Big D managed to block me off from the spot I was trying to reach to place a settlement. I ended up wriggling my way out to the coast and settling what was literally the only spot left open to me – on the outer side of a coastal promontory, one of those magical places that only touch one hex of land. It would not collect any resources for me, but I did not care; that settlement was there solely for the VP it gave me.

I made deals even more aggressively than in the first game, even with Big D on the same turn when he blocked me from the location I was trying to settle. Before the others even had the chance to roll the die on their turn, I was already accosting them with offers. I occasionally offered 2 for 1 deals, reducing my hand down to 7 cards a couple of times in this fashion. My aggressive deal-making is what I credit with giving me another win, although lucky rolls in the early stages certainly didn't hurt. With my four cities and one out-of-the-way settlement in place, I turned my whole focus to purchasing development cards. I soon had a VP card and my 3rd soldier, thus ending the game.

Epilogue

My recent session of Settlers of Catan was an eye-opener. The game was much more fun than I remembered. The robber was less aggravating than I remember. This may have something to do with using the d12; with the standard dice, the robber seems to sit on my good hexes the whole game. Using a 12-sided die increases the emphasis on assiduous deal-making, which for me is the most fun aspect of the game. Playing to 12 VP yields a more satisfying experience than 10, reducing the sense of abruptness that seems to accompany the game when played the standard way. I had a blast, and will definitely be pulling Catan out more often in the near future. Heck, I may even try it with the six-sided dice again.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Glenn Martin
Canada
Ottawa
Ont.
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Have a look at "the Friendly Robber" and the "Welfare" variants. These optional rules greatly reduce the two most aggravating things with Catan leaving all that juicy red meat for enjoyment.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randatollah
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I may try the welfare variant at some point. I don't know about the other one. The robber doesn't bother me so much anymore. If anything, I might try having the robber's victim choose which card they have to give up.

Just out of curiosity, though, where can I find the friendly robber variant?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Malcolm Howell
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
big_buddha wrote:
Just out of curiosity, though, where can I find the friendly robber variant?


It's included in the Traders & Barbarians expansion, the rules for which are at: http://www.catan.com/en/download/?TaB_Rules_051908.pdf. I'm sure it's been published in other places in the past, and it's really only one new rule: you can't place the robber adjacent to a settlement of a player who only has two victory points.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randatollah
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
That sounds like a very good idea. I'll definitely start using that rule.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.