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Subject: Various Beginner rules and Learning Curve rss

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Robert Canner
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I've just got Settlers of Catan (SoC), and have some questions below about learning the game.

Background: we have played twice, once 4-player (Robert, J1, J2 and O) and once 3-player (Robert, J1 and F). Both times we used the beginners' set-up, changing which person played which colour. I have read Game Rules & Almanac thoroughly. We play Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Stone Age a lot.

My questions are:
(Q1) How many games do you recommend, before graduating to Combined Trade/Build phase?

(Q2) How many games do you recommend with Beginners' set-up (first two settlements pre-determined)?

(Q3) How many games do you recommend with the Beginners' map, where we can place the first two settlements and roads ourselves?

(Q4) Once a group has some experience, if a new player joins in, should we revert to the Beginners' set-up for a couple of games?

(Q5) Is it easier to learn 3p or 4p? Does it make much difference?

I am thinking: (Q1) start Combined Trade/Build phase part-way through first game if people ready for it; (Q2) use pre-determined settlements for about 3 games; (Q3) play about 2 further games where people decide first two settlements, still on the beginners' map; (Q4) use beginners' set-up with pre-determined settlements for one or two games with the new person.

Let me know what you think :-)
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Gláucio Reis
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Q1-2-3: One.
Q4: I wouldn't.
Q5: No difference.
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DC
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I would start playing with the combined trade-build phase as soon as possible. I suspect that new players would find it much more natural to be able to trade whenever they want.

I'd play one or two games with the beginner's map, then move on to a fully random map. The initial placements are a big part of the game, and you should work on figuring out good placements quickly.

If a new player joins, I'd just help them with finding good spots on a random map. For learning, 3p leaves the board much more open, while 4p makes things much tighter. You HAVE to expand and cut people off in 4p games, or else you'll get caught and be stuck for the rest of the game. That could be bad for a brand new player.
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Blorb Plorbst
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I'm not familiar with the latest version but my understanding is that the beginners game has a preset map and preset starting pieces, correct?

The only real purpose of the beginner rules is to get people playing the game and providing some equity in the starting positions. Of course, this equity goes out the window as soon as the dice are rolled. But for a new "non-gamer", they may not quite get that placing on 5, 6, 8 or 9 will provide the most opportunity for resources.

(Q1) How many games do you recommend, before graduating to Combined Trade/Build phase?
(Q2) How many games do you recommend with Beginners' set-up (first two settlements pre-determined)?


One (for both questions). If you're playing those other games, there will be no issue at all with playing SoC with all of the standard, non-beginner rules.

(Q3) How many games do you recommend with the Beginners' map, where we can place the first two settlements and roads ourselves?

None, go straight to the standard rules.

(Q4) Once a group has some experience, if a new player joins in, should we revert to the Beginners' set-up for a couple of games?

No, just explain the game and when it's their turn to place their starting settlements, offer advice and explain the strengths of different placements. I've taught Settlers to dozens of new players. We've always played with the standard rules (random board, place your settlements) and there have never ever been issues with them learning the game and even being successful at it.

(Q5) Is it easier to learn 3p or 4p? Does it make much difference?

No difference, same game. 4 player is more competitive as there are more limits on expansion.
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Alex Vandertol
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Agreed with all of the above. The beginner setup scenario and rules, in my opinion, are designed to avoid a situaiton where a first-time player, because of (unintended) poor settlement placement, is locked out of one of the five resources (either completely or only has it on a 2 or 12) and has to spend the game begging for that resource from other players. This would understandably give people a bad taste for the game.

If you understand that to have a shot at winning you *must* have a plan to get all five resources, and a plan for how to use the resources you have to get points, and understand that if you don't and just play randomly you will almost always lose, then you don't need the beginner's setup at all. It sounds to me like you're there already.

When you introduce a new player to the game, especially someone new to euro games, explain this to them clearly and make clear and helpful comments when they place their first two or three settlements. I'd rather lose to someone who wants to play again than beat someone who ends up being frustrated with the game.

To me, the best part of SoC is figuring out how to find a sweet spot in a random setup, so you're missing a lot by continuing with the learning setup.
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Yee Keat Phuah
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I have never taught the beginner setup so far.

The first time I taught it to beginners, I played together with them, and won the game in around 60 minutes, they saw how I played and learned. Subsequent games are closer fights.

The second time I taught it to a group of beginners, where I did not play with them. They took 2 hours to finish the game, and I wished I have used the beginner's setup.
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YaVerOt YaVerOt
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Combined trade/build? ... Wait? The rule of keeping them separate exists only in the beginner's game to make teaching harder? Who's bright idea was that. When you make the mental model of the game Roll, Trade, Buy changing it later to Roll, Actions makes it a totally different game. I'd gotten to the a point where I assumed that was intentional difficulty.

Without that handicap I'll probably start playing better, and be in the mood more often.

As for using the beginner's setup, if new players > 1, or if I mention it and they request it. But if they're gamer gamers then I may bypass it altogether.

Everybody wants to see a random board on their second play.

4p vs 3p. Don't know.
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Brook Gentlestream
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(Q1) How many games do you recommend, before graduating to Combined Trade/Build phase?

I recommend doing this immediately. It makes the game easier to play, easier to learn, and adds immensely to gameplay. There's no real reason to divide these two phases, and the expansions get rid of it altogether.

(Q2) How many games do you recommend with Beginners' set-up (first two settlements pre-determined)?

You just need to go through it once. You don't even really need to finish the game. I would just treat it like a tutorial and when people have the hang of it, play a proper setup.

(Q3) How many games do you recommend with the Beginners' map, where we can place the first two settlements and roads ourselves?

None. There's no need for this limited graduation. The game isn't all that complicated once you learn how to build and how things are produced.

(Q4) Once a group has some experience, if a new player joins in, should we revert to the Beginners' set-up for a couple of games?

I believe the beginner's setup was made for a group of novice players new to the game with no one to teach them. It's made for you to have the rulebook in hand and slowly work out the concepts until you've grasped them. If he can just join in a game with people who know it and can teach him, that's the perfect way to learn and there's no need for a beginner's setup.

(Q5) Is it easier to learn 3p or 4p? Does it make much difference?
I don't think so. I learned three-players, personally. The game is generally more fun with four players than with three, however.

I am thinking: (Q1) start Combined Trade/Build phase part-way through first game if people ready for it; (Q2) use pre-determined settlements for about 3 games; (Q3) play about 2 further games where people decide first two settlements, still on the beginners' map; (Q4) use beginners' set-up with pre-determined settlements for one or two games with the new person.

Again, the game's not really that complicated and a lot of the fun comes from the random setups. Playing too much in the beginner setup will only really teach you how to play the beginner setup, and you'll may have some unlearning to do later on.
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Robert Canner
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Thanks for all your helpful answers. Here's where I'm at right now:

(Q1) How many games do you recommend, before graduating to Combined Trade/Build phase?
We started using Combined Trade/Build phase part way through our first game. I agree that it does make SoC easier to play and easier to learn.

(Q2) How many games do you recommend with Beginners' set-up (first two settlements pre-determined)?
We played two games like this (second game with one new player).

(Q3) How many games do you recommend with the Beginners' map, where we can place the first two settlements and roads ourselves?
In fact we played one game like this.

The first time we set up a random map, it seemed "very clustered" -- neighbouring hexes of the same terrain type seemed very frequent. We thought we hadn't shuffled properly, and went back to the Beginners' map.

Later I dealt out a few random maps, and realised that our "very clustered" map was more average than I thought. The beginners' map (with only 2 Pasture hexes touching) is less clustered than average. Which of course makes sense for a group of beginners.

(Q4) Once a group has some experience, if a new player joins in, should we revert to the Beginners' set-up for a couple of games?
When this happens, I will probably not revert to the Beginners' set-up, but instead try to advise the newbie(s) about their first 2 or 3 settlements etc. And if they +do+ get horribly cut off from something important, I might suggest we start again now they have got the hang of it.
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