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Subject: What the Hell is The Settlers of Catan? A First Impression Review rss

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Martin Juul Paustian
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My Review is a first impression review and are based on 5 games. 3 of them were 4-player games, and 2 5-player games with the 5-6 player expansion.

Components
19 Terrain Hexes
6 Sea Frame Pieces
9 Harbor Pieces
18 Circular Number Tokens
95 Resource Cards
25 Development Cards (14 Knight/Soldier Cards, 6 Progress Cards, 5 Victory Point Cards)
4 "Building Costs" Cards
2 Special Cards: "Longest Road" & "Largest Army"
16 Cities
20 Settlements
60 Roads
2 Dice
1 Robber mini
1 Games Rules & Almanac Booklet

Rulebook
Settlers comes with a “Easy start” rule sheet and a rulebook. The rulebook is one of the most poorly written rulebooks I have ever read. The book isn’t very streamlined, so after finishing each section I had more question than to begin with. As an example, the rules for the robber is covered in 3 different sections of the book. The rule sheet helps a bit uncovering some of the rules, but other than that its useless. Lucky the rules for Settlers are simple and pretty straight forward, so the poor job on the rulebook ends up to be a minor issue.

All of the components in Settlers are solid work. The tiles and tokens are made of solid cardboard. The Plastic settlements, roads and Robber have good detail, but I personally think the game would be better off, if they stuck to wood. I know It may sound picky, but I believe it brings more visual depth to the game. The artwork in general is what you would expect of a mainstream game. It’s good but nothing fancy.

The Game
I will cover the rules lightly, since it’s done in many of the other reviews. The board consist of tiles, each tile represent one of the 4 resources. The land tiles are surrounded by water frames with harbours that gives certain benefits when trading with the board. Each tile are also represented by a number from 2-12, which indicates the number needed for you to gain resources from that specific tile. The winner are the player who first reach a giving amount of Victory points. A player gains Victory points by building settlements, upgrading to cities, some development cards, building longest road and so on.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation of the rules please look at [geekurl=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/669216/settlers-of-catan-redefining-the-board-game]K. David Ladage’s review[/geekurl]
The Robber blocks the title he is standing on until he is removed, and the player who moved the Robber, gets to steal a resource card from a player with a settlement on the tile. The players can move the robber by rolling 7 or with Development cards. If a 7’en is rolled all players with 8+ resource cards must discard half of their hand before moving the Robber.

Expansions and Variants
There are a lot of Explanations to Settlers of Catan, but my first impression are based on the original game and 2 games with the 5-6 player extension. The 5-6 player extension is a decent expansion, but It will drag out the game drastically. This can make a 5-6 player game of Settlers a boring acquaintance. The Expansion also remove some of the Robbers usefulness, since most players won’t have 8+ cards (any player may build in the end of a turn).

The verdict
I didn’t really had any expectations to Settles at first. I knew it had won some awards, and have a decent score on BGG but that was more or less it. After 5 games I’m not impressed. To me it feels like Settlers try to this great strategic trade game, but it ends up as one big random mess. No matter how you plan your win it all depends on the dice rolls. If you are unlucky, you can end up not receiving any resources for several rounds etc. This will give the lucky player(s) a huge advantage in the game. The ability to trade with other players and the board will keep you in the game, and may help you in some degree, but if you end up not getting any resources, you don’t have anything to trade with!

I my play troughs I tried different approaches, covering most numbers from 2-12, hugging the most likely numbers (6, 8, etc.), and while some of my tactics worked it might as well had failed due to dices. While the Robber is not completely random (can be moved by development cards) I would like to see him moved more often. Your options in a turn is rather limited, and in some parts of the game I felt a little like I was running on autopilot.
With the simple game play and randomness I can’t help feeling The Settles Of Catan main target are a younger audience, who usually have no problem with game mechanics.

I would rather lose a game due to bad judgement than luck. Luck may be part of a game, not controlling it.
(4/10)
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Brent Pollock
Canada
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Minor English editorial point: I read "7+" as "seven or more" but you mean it as "more than seven". Using ">7" would be less confusing for folks that don't know the game.
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J. Alex Kevern
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Mahopac
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After just 5 games it can be very difficult to see the strategy. Here are some tips on mitigating the luck and becoming a better player:

Placing starting settlements:

1. Get on all resources with your starting settlements. This often requires planning ahead and predicting where other individuals are going to place before you get to place again.

2. If you can't do 1, place so that you can build toward the fifth resource and get on it by your 3rd settlement. Always ensure that you're on a good source of wheat.

3. If you cannot do 1 or 2, make sure your 1st expansion (3rd settlement) is on a useful port so you can trade for that resource.

4. If you cannot do 1, 2, or 3, make sure your starting settlements are on ore, wheat and sheep such that you can build cities and use development cards to gain the cards you don't have.

5. Try to balance your resources well in terms of probabilities. Wood is only useful if you have the brick to pair with it, so it may not be worth trying to build to a lot more wood unless you have a port or another way of getting to brick. If you're unbalanced in some way to start (ie way more ore than wheat, or way more brick than wood, etc), use your subsequent settlements to become more balanced. You will '7 out' less often and you will be able to build more often.


Gameplay:

6. BE EFFICIENT. Don't build more roads than you have to. Is it worth building two more roads to get to a spot that is just marginally better than the spot that I can get to in one road? Sometimes, maybe, but usually not.

7. Know what resources the other players have, and what they want. Don't ask for a resource that you know no-one has-- this just tells the others what hex to put the robber on. When someone cannot produce a resource, you know you're in a position to ask for more cards in a trade.

8. Know how to use the robber. Block the number your opponents need to come up most. If you're battling for army, block your opponent's ore or wheat (whichever one they do not have in their hand).

9. Don't worry about longest road too early. It will make you a target and is easily stolen. Worry about building up your production and then look to take the longest road late or for the win.

10. Deflect attention onto other players. Convice others to put the robber on them. Make it seem like you can't win, even when you know you can.

11. Always think about what you have to do to win, create plan to win and then execute it. Alter this plan if necessary, but always do exactly what you think you need to do to win.



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Martin Juul Paustian
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Thanks for the reply. I read 7+ as seven or more as well. Guess I was thinking on the roll number and not the amount of cards. I've change it to 8+ now.
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Todd Blackhurst
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I commonly see critics talk about the dice rolls. My view is most people do not learn how to use the randomness to their advantage. True, the dice have not been favorable towards me in the past, but that is the result of the combined decisions of all the players. It challenges me to find different strategies to win, and to switch to alternatives. It is like my father-in-law who can win nearly every hand in 42 no matter what he draws in the beginning. The roll of the dice is not the only factor in the game.
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Mickey
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Good positioning of your settlements helps mitigate the bad rolls.
You have to consider the surrounding resources but also the number token associated to surrounding tiles.
There are 2 things to consider when looking at those numbers :
- the probability for this number to be rolled (indicated by the number of dots on the token)
- making sure you don't always settle close to the same numbers.

I found that the high probability of the number to be rolled is less important than the spread of different numbers around your settlements.

I look at it this way : don't only consider the probability of 1 number to be rolled, consider the probability of any of your surrounding numbers not to be rolled.

a 6 has less chance to be rolled than any 1 of 2,4,5.

So the more you spread your settlement around different numbers, the more chance you have to actually roll at least 1 of those numbers, yes ?

Furthermore, to mitigate really bad rolls, in cities and knights you have an optional event card deck which replaces and sreads nicely the rolls.

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