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Subject: Rant Response to "Settlers is all Luck" flames rss

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Joe Grundy
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uninitiated detractors wrote:
Strategy is only slightly more important than luck in this game. It's a good game, but it doesn't take much to win it, because of the luck factor.

Oh, lucky me! I win considerably more than my "fair share" of Settlers. And here I thought I just played it more than anyone else I know. Turns out I'm just naturally lucky!?

[ Mode = RANT ] Start reading at your own peril!

Talking about vanilla Settlers... (if you mess with it you're making your own luck, especially changing the order of the hex number counters)

Board Setup:
The variable board placement is luck, sure, but it little favours any player... the board setup information is fully available before any player decisions are made and the distribution of the resource-generating value of the numbers is a marvel of mathematical engineering. Added to the he-who-places-first-places-last rule pretty much leaves it as a major element of skill has to how the players strategically deal with the board layout and their turn order, rather than some luck-of-the-draw that someone benefits irretrievably from the board layout. I've seen "the board" hammer people for a poor choice of starting locations, and in that respect this can be a tough game for newbies, but I've never seen a board that left someone out of the game before they even started. There's more than one starting resource strategy that can lead to victory.

If it worries you, determine player order and deal out the board and then let any player veto the board. It only takes a couple of minutes. I'd be willing to bet vetos would be REALLY rare.

Resource Dice:
During the game you will roll enough dice that you get your "fair share". You may not quite get it when you want it, but that's what the game is all about. It's a trading game... I'll trade what I've got that you want, for what you've got that I want. Sometimes I'll trade for what you've got that HE wants. Your fates are very much in each other's hands, not the dice... deal with it. eg maybe you'd rather buy the same resource at a higher price from the losing player.

Lucky Winners:
You can't win Settlers if you're the only one not trading. (Ok 1/100 games, maybe.) If you take a moment to consider that thought, you'll see that again the players (collectively) make the winner's luck. The skill is in negotiation and value assessment. Hint: Like any multiplayer trading game where trading adds value to both trading parties: if you participated in every trade but each time gave a little more value to your opponent than you demanded in return, you would still win.

I've traded up from one card to a settlement, and everyone got a good deal. I've won with only my initial two settlements. (Hands up who realises that new settlements are marginally the most expensive victory points?) You'll have "better luck" if you play each different game that's in front of you rather than the game you expect it to be. Take what your resource cards give you.

Evidence of Luck?
I note that in most games we play, there are frequently at least a couple of players contending in the last few turns. Even non-winning players are tweaking their combinations/odds to try to pick up the longest road, or play the extra soldier that will transfer two points or block the "vital" resource. Often the group deliberately confound the about-to-be-winner for several turns. Many games the player coming second would have made their tenth point in the next one or two turns. If the game was too heavy with runaway and luck, none of this would happen as much. Against all this it's the skillful player who's left more avenues to completion in their last few points who can step through. If you're waiting on one particular resource card to win, you've probably made a mistake. (Or you're enjoying a long-shot-ride I mention below.)

Who Needs To Win?
It is possible in Settlers to have "poor luck" make a tough time keeping up. (As opposed to... it's not really possible for luck to make you win.) Personally I don't always want to play a game that's "fair". Sometimes I like battling against the odds. Winning Settlers is never impossible, just sometimes less likely. I'll enjoy riding that dramatic possibility down to the last lucky roll and the last wheeler-dealer trade, and yes, just sometimes, it comes through. What a BUZZ. Win or lose I'll play again, and again, and then let's see where we stand.

[ Mode = Out of breath ]
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Philip Thomas
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Settlers is not all Luck. There are definite luck elements there. Plus the rich get richer...
 
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jgrundy wrote:
the distribution of the resource-generating value of the numbers is a marvel of mathematical engineering.


This is one of the saving graces of the game that prevents the luck from leaning too far in one direction. The random setup of the tiles, paired with the static setup of the numbers, allows that the two 8s, or the two 6s, are never right next to each other. If you want a good number, you're going to have to take a lesser-rolled number at the same time!
 
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Joe Grundy
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Not to mention that robber baron activity makes the 5-spot numbers (6 and 8) more approximately into 4-spot numbers anyway. So there's 8/19 hexs which during the game will generate roughly the same resources, and they're well dispersed across the board.
 
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Denise Lavely
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Amen Brother Joe! 'Course, it's been a long time since I've played REAL Settlers, the people I mostly play with are mostly into playing a variant that allows hoarding, doesn't use the robber (7s are re-rolled), and places the number tiles randomly. Believe me, when you place the number tiles randomly, the game comes down to the very first dice roll to determine turn order, because the person who gets the 6 brick 8 ore 8 wheat space will always win....
 
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Chris Hawks
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Denise wrote:
Believe me, when you place the number tiles randomly, the game comes down to the very first dice roll to determine turn order, because the person who gets the 6 brick 8 ore 8 wheat space will always win....

The rules for random number chit placement provided with Seafarers expressly forbids 2 red numbers being placed next to each other. We also add in the rule that neighboring hexes can't have the same number, period.
 
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John Burt
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Quote:
You can't win Settlers if you're the only one not trading. (Ok 1/100 games, maybe.) If you take a moment to consider that thought, you'll see that again the players (collectively) make the winner's luck. The skill is in negotiation and value assessment. Hint: Like any multiplayer trading game where trading adds value to both trading parties: if you participated in every trade but each time gave a little more value to your opponent than you demanded in return, you would still win.


But but, I win at Adv Civ (a trading game) on a fairly consistent basis (around 60%), I do well at Pit, win about 30% of the time (a trading game), Bohnanza, where I win about 50% of the time (ditto) and any other trading game I play... except Settlers.

Now do I suck at SoC because I forgot how to trade, or is it because I can't do percentages correctly?

As an example, the last game I played, I had 8,5 and 4 as my best numbers. The player that won got many cards from the dreaded 2/3 combo whereas 8 was rolled once. IIRC, I had 12 cards the entire game.

When you cannot get cards to trade, you cannot win, you cannot hope to win, you have no chance of winning.

Complain all you want about the people that say Settler's is luck, when you have 4,5 and 8, yet all that is rolled is 6,9 and 10 it sure is not due to your trading skills.
 
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Joe Grundy
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Xlyce wrote:
As an example, the last game I played, I had 8,5 and 4 as my best numbers. The player that won got many cards from the dreaded 2/3 combo whereas 8 was rolled once. IIRC, I had 12 cards the entire game.

When you cannot get cards to trade, you cannot win, you cannot hope to win, you have no chance of winning.

jgrundy wrote:
It is possible in Settlers to have "poor luck" make a tough time keeping up. (As opposed to... it's not really possible for luck to make you win.)


I win at Settlers more than half the time. There's something in your play style there somewhere. (Not necessarily in that last game you cite of course, but with apologies, one instance doesn't make a statistical sample.)

You received 12 cards and were coming last (?)... so you got to play fifteen or twenty cards during the game and finished on about six points?

How did you wind up with only "4" as your 3rd best? I can't conceive of, out of my six hexes, not getting onto at least two of the four equal-best-hexes between 5 and 9. Unless someone messed with the number layout, which has much more balance in it than just the trivial constraints mentioned in the random number variant Chris talks about. Perhaps you sacrifice too much to chasing quality over quantity? Or did you start on the seaside? (I don't think anyone has ever taken an opening port and beaten me.)
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John Burt
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Quote:
I win at Settlers more than half the time. There's something in your play style there somewhere. (Not necessarily in that last game you cite of course, but with apologies, one instance doesn't make a statistical sample.)


I never win at Settler's... ever. The game is based on lucky dice rolls determining your cards and then you can trade. When you don't get the cards, you don't get to trade (or participate).

Quote:
You received 12 cards and were coming last (?)... so you got to play fifteen or twenty cards during the game and finished on about six points?


No, I had 12 resource cards the entire game. I am not sure where the 15-20 cards comes from. I just remember thinking "Yeah, I don't need to play this anymore."

Quote:
How did you wind up with only "4" as your 3rd best? I can't conceive of, out of my six hexes, not getting onto at least two of the four equal-best-hexes between 5 and 9.


Eh? I had 8,5 and 4 so 2 of mine were between 5 and 9. Don't ask what the rest were, I assume 10,11 or 12.

As a comparison, I played History of the World yesterday, the game took a little over 4 hours and I finished second last, but I didn't care because the game was fun. I got to do stuff, like place counters, roll dice and play cards. You know, participate n stuff.
 
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Quote:
Resource Dice:
During the game you will roll enough dice that you get your "fair share". You may not quite get it when you want it, but that's what the game is all about. It's a trading game... I'll trade what I've got that you want, for what you've got that I want. Sometimes I'll trade for what you've got that HE wants. Your fates are very much in each other's hands, not the dice... deal with it. eg maybe you'd rather buy the same resource at a higher price from the losing player.


Actually there aren't nearly enough dice rolls to assure a normal distribution. When playing with the computer version, it stores the dice rolls and there was nearly always at least one significant spike at a number.

So I don't think it's all luck, but there is a large luck compenent present. Good trading/negotiation can help sometimes. I don't hate the game, but firmly believe that luck plays a major part in it. I just sat through a six player Troy variant and there was one stretch of 12 rolls where I received nothing (I had 2 6's, a 5 as the ones I was counting on, but 9 or 10's were rolled seven of those twelve). Since rules prohibit gifts, that was a long time where I had absolutely nothing to do.
 
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Joe Grundy
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Xlyce wrote:
I never win at Settler's... ever. The game is based on lucky dice rolls determining your cards and then you can trade. When you don't get the cards, you don't get to trade (or participate).

If you never win, it can't be luck.

Xlyce wrote:
Joe wrote:
You received 12 cards and were coming last (?)... so you got to play fifteen or twenty cards during the game and finished on about six points?

No, I had 12 resource cards the entiregame. I am not sure where the 15-20 cards comes from. I just remember thinking "Yeah, I don't need to play this anymore."

Sorry I assumed you received 12, which with basic trading from a losing position would give 15-20 (or probably more) to actually play.

So you started with three cards and generated only 9 during the game from your six hexes? That's extreme... even assuming you had only four hexes 8,5,4,2 the odds against seven hits or less (you only started with two) in a short game of only 60 rolls is worse than one in twelve hundred! If I assume you took even a slightly better startup, say 8,5,4,3,3 it'd be one game in two hundred thousand!!

Man did you ever see the bad side of the bell curve. It won't happen again in your playing time I promise.

Xlyce wrote:
Quote:
How did you wind up with only "4" as your 3rd best? I can't conceive of, out of my six hexes, not getting onto at least two of the four equal-best-hexes between 5 and 9.

Eh? I had 8,5 and 4 so 2 of mine were between 5 and 9. Don't ask what the rest were, I assume 10,11 or 12.

Ok 8 and 5 are roughly equal resource generators, due to robber baron. I've never started with a 12 or 2 hex. Ever. I'm saying if you're 3rd best hex was the "4" you might want to reconsider your starting strategy. Maybe you're trying too hard to get resource balance? I just can't figure how you got such a poor start.

Xlyce wrote:
As a comparison, I played History of the World yesterday, the game took a little over 4 hours and I finished second last, but I didn't care because the game was fun. I got to do stuff, like place counters, roll dice and play cards. You know, participate n stuff.

Fair comment. If you aren't participating in a game, it's a lot less fun.
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Joe Grundy
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I forgot to suggest what should have been the most obvious possibility... statistical long-tail samples aside, such as the one you cite above, perhaps after some early negative experiences you haven't been paying as much attention, so your regular Settlers opponents have learned more about the game and become better at it than you are?
devil

NOTE: "2" & "3" together[i] has a 3-pip combo (=3/36), vs an "8" hex which is 5-pips (=5/36). "2" & "3" [i]together on average will come up 60% as often as "8"... they're not so extreme a comparison.

The odds of at most one "8" roll out of variously 50 to 100 dice rolls is about one game per five thousand. Which is to say, you've seen it once but you probably won't ever see it again. In 50 to 100 dice rolls "2" or "3" will come up about 4 to 8 times on average (more or less is likely of course) so vs your single "8" roll it will almost certainly feel like "lots" anyway.

Just as an example:
Out of 90 rolls, the probability "8" will come up:
Less than 6: 1%
6: 1.2%
7: 3.0%
8: 5.1%
9: 7.5%
10: 9.8%
11: 11.4%
12: 12.1%
13: 11.8%
14: 10.4%
15: 8.5%
16: 6.4%
17: 4.5%
18: 3.0%
19: 1.8%
20: 1.0%
More: 1%

So about 90% of the time, your six or eight hex will give you 8-17 results. Two thirds of the time you're in the 10-16 range. Variable, yes, but not extreme. Especially when you balance it against your other hexes.
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Houserule Jay
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enter 2 cents here

I think I can sum this up. The game is definitely not ALL luck, however when playing with any sort of skilled players or ESPECIALLY equal skilled players, luck really is the detemining factor.

There really isn't any depth of strategy in the game, get a city on the 6 and the 8, 5&9 are next best etc..., buy cards, upgrade the right cities the choices are usually obvious and almost scripted. The dice really determine who can buy, when, where (due to timing), there are still some choices you have to make of course. This is why people complain I guess, but then anyone wanting a good strategy game shouldn't be playing this.

Good players can usually beat new players or less experienced players which does show you it is not ALL luck.

Saying all that, Settlers is a fantastic game and a Classic in my mind. We don't play this title for strategy fun, but it does get played for the FUN of it. Cutting off an opponet's road, having the only 2 bricks and watching people fight over it, building a small empire and getting richer in resources when the dice do go your way are all fun things about it. It is a strangely addicting game when your in your first 30 games of it, maybe even first 70 games. Jay
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What a coincidence, I love to rant about the luck in Settlers. devil First of all, your stats haven’t convinced me that Settlers isn’t a luck fest.

I contend that the dice roll distribution normalizing over a game is fundamentally flawed way to look at Settlers. Here’s why:

Because of the robber you want to keep your hand size to 7 cards or less. What this means is it is very difficult to bank cards until you need them. For example, lets say I get lucky with that 2 that I’m on and get the resources to build a city but what I need are roads and settlements; it would be unwise to bank those city cards for later (I would want to turn them in to what I need now). Development cards (like Monopoly) further punish card hoarding. What this means is you are not it a situation where you need a certain number of resource X at some point before the game ends (thus benefiting from a more normal distribution), but within the next two or three turns! If, in those three turns, you don’t get what you need, someone else probably will.

Getting shut out is relatively common in this game not because only one 8 was rolled during the game, but because three 6s, two 5s and an 11 were rolled before one 8 was rolled.

Beyond this luck element is the trading element which supposedly evens out the luck issues. I disagree that it does this also.

There are two ways to get resources in Settlers, lucky rolls and trading. So I didn’t get my lucky rolls and I need to trade. It is almost never a good idea to trade with the person in first place (unless you can get a really good deal). And it often occurs that you are in direct competition with someone who is not in first place. This person is also a bad person to trade with (unless you can get a really good deal). So in a 4 player game there is often only one person who it won’t hurt too badly to trade with. This makes harbors fantastically valuable, especially if you are mass producing one of the 2:1 resources.

Finally, the guy who trades with everybody wins because he’s always getting stuff to trade and the other players are willing to trade with the guy who’s doing better than they are.

I think Settlers is popular because the trading is fun, the building is fun and watching your buildings produce more and more stuff is fun. And even if you lose you will have done all of those things. Among players of equal skill, luck just weighs so heavy over the game that winning and losing have little meaning.
 
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Joe Grundy
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rayito2702 wrote:
Among players of equal skill, luck just weighs so heavy over the game that winning and losing have little meaning.

If players are basically equal skill, what result do you want? What meaning are you looking for? Is the objective of play: find out which person is better at this game?

When I play, I'm looking to socialise, to exercise my brain, and to have fun. In order to exercise my brain I try to "optimise", and play ruthlessly and expect other to do the same. But winning itself has no significance other than as a part of the measure of outcome of my own mental gymnastics.

Among players of similar skill the probabilistic element gives variation and can moderate the personal competitiveness some gamers exhibit. Among players of varying skill it offers possibilities for lesser skilled players to recognise and seize opportunities. Yes, the probabilistic element which does exist means the most skilled player doesn't always win. I don't find that at all objectionable. I find it a positive.

One thing I like about probabilistic games is, it's nigh impossible to be in a situation where my decisions have zero effectiveness. No matter how far "behind" I might be, I can make choices which maximise my chance of winning, or maximise whatever my outcome measure is.
 
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Joe Grundy
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rayito2702 wrote:
... For example, lets say I get lucky with that 2 that I’m on and get the resources to build a city but what I need are roads and settlements

I notice people focus on trying to expand. I often win from a starting position with no wood or clay. Settlements themselves are (marginally) the most expensive victory points at a minimum of six resource cards per VP, more usually eight. Cities offer more additional resource generation AND are cheaper to buy at only five. If you can buy eight dev cards you can expect about 4 VP... also not a bad price ratio at six resources per VP.

rayito2702 wrote:
... What this means is you are not in a situation where you need a certain number of resource X at some point before the game ends (thus benefiting from a more normal distribution), but within the next two or three turns! If, in those three turns, you don’t get what you need, someone else probably will.

Sure, you need a settlement sometime, although I have won without any at all, but there's rarely a hurry unless you haven't planned your starting spots very well. Ok so first priority maybe you want cities to quickly multiply your resources, second priority you want one or two more settlements. If you can't build those things, a dev card will do.

The skill in Settlers is about negotiation and opportunistic behaviour, and quantity (to trade with). Don't sweat too much about resource quality.

rayito2702 wrote:
It is almost never a good idea to trade with the person in first place (unless you can get a really good deal)

You can get a good enough deal because nobody is trading with the player in 1st place, and you're the most favourable (although not necessarily the cheapest). There is a viable range where it is worth it to both of you to trade. It's the range where you make a marginal gain against 1st place, and 1st place makes a marginal gain against everyone else. (Proportioned in terms of closing the gap to victory.)

rayito2702 wrote:
And it often occurs that you are in direct competition with someone who is not in first place

Ah. Ok. I think of playing Settler's as being in direct competition with the circumstances of the whole game. If you try to beat "the person who is closest to you" you will disfavour yourself. If you are not winning and you want to win, you are looking to polarise the possible outcomes into "won the game" vs "didn't win don't care where I placed", which is a different game from aiming for "at least I can come second".

rayito2702 wrote:
This person is also a bad person to trade with (unless you can get a really good deal).

Same comments as trading with 1st place. Any deal where you both close roughly the same proportion of your remaining gap to victory is a good deal, because you both advance relative to the other players.

rayito2702 wrote:
This makes harbors fantastically valuable, especially if you are mass producing one of the 2:1 resources.

Leveraging a 2:1 harbour can work benefits, although if you start up with it you should always lose the game in my experience. I take harbours at all in much less than half my games... the net effect is generally (a) you generate less resources in total and (b) you are biasing on purpose to trade down a goodly chunk of what you do get. Unless you are clearly winning you shouldn't need to trade down. If you are clearly winning you don't need a boost from a harbour.

rayito2702 wrote:
I think Settlers is popular because the trading is fun, the building is fun and watching your buildings produce more and more stuff is fun. And even if you lose you will have done all of those things.

Oh muchly agreed. It's a game it's enjoyable to play as well as enjoyable to play well.
 
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Robert Rossney
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Abnormal distribution of production die rolls in the early game of Settlers often results in a player being too far out of contention to catch up. You can't expand your production capacity if you don't have resources, and you can't get resources if your numbers don't get rolled. ("But you can trade!" Not if you're not producing resources that anyone wants you can't. And in the early game, if you're not producing the resources that enable expansion, you're not producing resources that anyone wants.)

I'd estimate (having worked out some of the math) that in as many as 75% of Settlers games, abnormal distribution of production die rolls in the opening isn't a problem. Unfortunately, in the other 25% of games it is.

Note, by the way, that nothing I've said here boils down to "Settlers is all luck." Not at all. I'm saying that in an uncomfortable portion of Settlers games, a person could play the best game possible and still never have a chance.

I think that the "It's a game of skill, not luck" partisans deny this because they're just paying attention to their own game. If you play four-player games, a problem that arises in 25% of games will only affect you one game in 16. It's easy to dismiss that as a fluke. And if you hear someone else at the table bellyaching about how he never had a chance, well, that hardly ever happens to you, so it probably didn't really happen to him either, right?

Quote:
Settlements themselves are (marginally) the most expensive victory points at a minimum of six resource cards per VP, more usually eight. Cities offer more additional resource generation AND are cheaper to buy at only five. If you can buy eight dev cards you can expect about 4 VP... also not a bad price ratio at six resources per VP.


Cities offer more additional resource generation than settlements only if you're lucky enough for them to pay off in the near term. Settlements get you onto more numbers, which increases your likelihood of producing any resource at all on a given turn.

If you've bought a city and its numbers don't come up for twelve turns in a row (which will happen about 8-10% of the time depending on the numbers) you're in serious trouble.

On the other hand, if you bought a city and its numbers come up disproportionately for the first 12 turns you own it (which will ALSO happen about 8-10% of the time depending on the numbers), you'll make out like a bandit. You may even think that your skillful play won you the game.
 
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Gavin Wynford-Jones
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You contradict yourself. In one paragraph you say there's only one possible trading partner, in the next you say someone wins by trading with everybody. Cannot be both.

rayito2702 wrote:

There are two ways to get resources in Settlers, lucky rolls and trading. So I didn’t get my lucky rolls and I need to trade. It is almost never a good idea to trade with the person in first place (unless you can get a really good deal). And it often occurs that you are in direct competition with someone who is not in first place. This person is also a bad person to trade with (unless you can get a really good deal). So in a 4 player game there is often only one person who it won’t hurt too badly to trade with. This makes harbors fantastically valuable, especially if you are mass producing one of the 2:1 resources.

Finally, the guy who trades with everybody wins because he’s always getting stuff to trade and the other players are willing to trade with the guy who’s doing better than they are.


You also say that you shouldn't hoard cards over seven because of the robber. No wonder you don't do well if you're not prepared to take an occasional risk! The cards removed by the robber are also your choice, so having a bigger hand to select from allows you to keep the ones you need for your "project" while dumping unwanted cards when the taxman turns up.

Then you talk about having the cards for a city but wanting to build a road. Build the city, man! It's a victory point and doubles production - how difficult is that to understand as a concept? You get extra cards for trading from the city. They, in turn, can generate other cards you need through trading...

Gavin
 
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There is a way to resolve this, but it will take work: mimic tournament bridge play. The "It's impossible to win with bad die rolls" crowd plays a game, noting the starting set-up and all die rolls. Then the "I can win even with bad die rolls" crowd plays from the same starting position and using the same die rolls (via a neutral referee or somesuch). My money would be on a completely different outcome, with the second group proving their point.

Gavin
 
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Joe Grundy
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Heh heh... I'm allowed to keep writing too much, I put "Rant" in the thread title ...

UhhhClem wrote:
I'd estimate (having worked out some of the math) that in as many as 75% of Settlers games, abnormal distribution of production die rolls in the opening isn't a problem. Unfortunately, in the other 25% of games it is.

Depending on your definition of "a problem" of course. I have agreed (prior) that "bad luck" can cause you to have a difficult time in the occassional game of Settlers. If 25% of games see one player disadvantaged by the outcome of dice rolls, meaning any given player is subjected to this 1/16 ... that sounds pretty occassional to me. I wouldn't flag this as a problem with any probabilistic game. In fact I'd say it's a darn good ratio... a probabilistic game where 15/16 losses and all wins were primarily dependant on skill level?

UhhhClem wrote:
Note, by the way, that nothing I've said here boils down to "Settlers is all luck." Not at all.

Noted. Cool. Note I don't know anyone who suggests the better player will always win either.

UhhhClem wrote:
I'm saying that in an uncomfortable portion of Settlers games, a person could play the best game possible and still never have a chance.

Depending on your definition of "uncomfortable" of course. My objective is to play the best game I can (ie try to maximise my possibility of winning) regardless of if I'm in a fair position to win. Persistance sometimes (but not always) pays off.

It all sounds like Life.

My assertion is that (unlike life ) nobody really "wins" on luck alone... that a random decision machine or even a simplistic decision machine will never win against a group of skilled players. (Where "never" colloquially approaches but does not quite equal zero.)

UhhhClem wrote:
And if you hear someone else at the table bellyaching about how he never had a chance, well, that hardly ever happens to you, so it probably didn't really happen to him either, right?

Oh it probably happened to them, in 20-20 hindsight. It's bellyaching about it in the middle (or bellyaching at all) that I don't fathom. It's the folks that give up in a probabilistic game just because they're behind that I don't fathom. The game includes probabilities, things out of the player's control. I'm fine if someone doesn't like that. (If so they really shouldn't be playing it.) I may be approaching "control freak" in real life but bizarrely I'm not one at the game table.

It's still a game also involving a high degree of skill
- The more skillful player will win a substantially larger percentage of the time. Not all the time. Just more of the time. Ideal, for my mind. (You might call it a win-win.)
- A player with no skill (skill by instinct included) will not win.
- I'm sure you know (intelligent) people who "never" win, off enough games to be a statistically significant demonstration of skill.

UhhhClem wrote:
Cities offer more additional resource generation than settlements only if you're lucky enough for them to pay off in the near term. Settlements get you onto more numbers, which increases your likelihood of producing any resource at all on a given turn.

Cities offer more additional resource generation. What they turn out to actually produce in any given game is unrelated to this concept. If one style of my several probabilistic decisions each game bites me one game in twelve (as you say) but supports a win for me half the time (out of four players) it's a pretty good decision.

Covering the numbers gives you a steady slightly low-production game, and indeed I have sometimes done that... or rather, I sometimes deliberately diversify because my numbers are also all covered by someone who is ahead of me, or to cover the numbers of someone else when I am winning.

Maximising your average production gives you a higher frequency of wins, but a lower certainty of production. Are you trying to maximise your chance to win, or are you trying to maximise your minimum result? (Either objective is fine, but require different choices.)
 
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Robert Rossney
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Quote:
If 25% of games see one player disadvantaged by the outcome of dice rolls, meaning any given player is subjected to this 1/16 ... that sounds pretty occassional to me.


I'm not so sanguine. If in 25% of games, one player isn't going to have a chance of winning regardless of how he plays, I'd rather play something else. It's not satisfying to be that player; it's really not very satisfying to defeat him either.

I think that the rich-get-richer aspect of production/development games like Settlers exacerbates this. Early events have a disproportionate impact on the overall game. Not only will bad luck knock you out of contention, it will knock you out of contention in the first 15 minutes of a 60-minute game.
 
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UhhhClem wrote:

I'm not so sanguine. If in 25% of games, one player isn't going to have a chance of winning regardless of how he plays, I'd rather play something else. It's not satisfying to be that player; it's really not very satisfying to defeat him either.

I think that the rich-get-richer aspect of production/development games like Settlers exacerbates this. Early events have a disproportionate impact on the overall game. Not only will bad luck knock you out of contention, it will knock you out of contention in the first 15 minutes of a 60-minute game.


Settlers should not take 60 minutes to play. If it did, I would agree that bad dice eliminating a player early is not tolerable. Fortunately the game usually takes closer to 30-40 minutes to play in my groups - a length at which the occasional bad luck is easily shrugged off.

-MMM
 
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This is a fun discussion. Here are some of my responses:

First of all, my comments were not intended to be a discussion of strategy, but a discussion of probability. All examples are merely intended to be the best move possible in the given situation. If I refer to an action that “needs” to be done I am using that term as an abstract reference to the best possible action given a situation.

Second, Uhh, Clem probably stated my main point clearer than I did which is: it’s not the overall likelihood of getting a roll that’s important, it is the short term sequences of rolls (which are much less predictable). A bad run of the dice can really take you out of the game no matter how good your strategy and placement are. I, however, maintain that it doesn’t have to be at the beginning. A crippling string of bad rolls can happen at any time during the game. It’s probably least crippling if it happens in the middle of the game because the player probably has enough of a foundation and time to mount a come back. It kills at the beginning. It’s also very unsatisfying at the end when this happens. When you and another player both just need one point to win, so no one will trade with either of you, it just come down to the dice. (The fact that you are tied means you have equivalent production systems.)

Third, Mr. Grundy, when you say you’ve won without any settlements what do you mean? Do you mean you’ve never expanded beyond your starting two? If you have won with out any expansion whatsoever I am greatly impressed. If I understand correctly, except for your 2 starting points (4 if you turned them into cities) all your points came from armies, longest road (seems unlikely if you didn’t expand) and development cards?

Fourth, (to Mr. Grundy) I concede my point about a game between equals coming down to luck was silly. If the players are truly equal any game will either be determined by luck or end in a stalemate. For me, Settlers just has obvious choices. It’s seems pretty obvious the best action, second best action, third best action and so on. And since the choices are obvious it exacerbates the importance of luck.

Fifth, (again to Mr. Grundy) you’re never in direct competition with other players? Settlers is one of the most confrontation competitive games I’ve ever played. Euro games are often referred to as non-confrontational but all of Teuber’s designs seem to relish confrontation. When someone gets shut out it’s often because of quick decisive (and statistically improbable) expansion by another player. It often behooves you to deny a player access to certain areas.

Sixth, (to Gavin) I should have been clearer, but my statement about “trading with everybody” was a reference to Mr. Grundy’s statement that the person who trades the most wins. It does not contradict my statement that there is often only one person safe to trade with, but endorses it (i.e. you shouldn’t be trading with that guy ‘cause he’s winning and you trading with him is why).

Seventh, (also to Gavin) I never said I don’t do well at Settlers. I win as often as everybody else. In fact, my favorite strategy (because, personally, I like to build, but don’t like to trade) is to ignore resource type and just go for number types. All I build at the beginning of the game are roads and settlements trying to get on as many different numbers as possible. This leads to me not being in the lead at the beginning, but about 3/4 of the way through the game my hand is full to the brim because I always get something no matter what gets rolled. I am able to use the resources to catapult me close to the win if not to the win by the end of the game. It also means that I lose more resources to the robber than all the other players put together. My point about the robber was that it is designed to punish card hoarding. Yes you can push you luck and add yet another layer of luck to the game.
 
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rayito2702 wrote:
This is a fun discussion.

That's the spirit

rayito2702 wrote:
Third, Mr. Grundy, when you say you’ve won without any settlements what do you mean? Do you mean you’ve never expanded beyond your starting two?[/b]

In one instance I won with only my original two settlements. I don't propose you should be able to plan to do this. This was opportunistic, skillfully (ahem) taking advantage of mistakes or unskillful play by opponents. Though I'm kinda making the details up from dim recall, it went something like this...

The board had low total production of wood and clay, masses of sheep, and a normalish amount of wheat and stone. The pre-setup discussion showed clearly people were going to fight for the wood/clay. I placed first, took the highest production spot (which I always do if first of four) which was all wheat and stone. Second player went for the only remotely decent clay and wood spot, though it was a low total. Third player got stressed and took the second best wood/clay/something spot, which had even lower total production. With few options, last player took the sheep port and mega sheep production. On the way back around the other two players, trying to fill out wood/clay/wheat combos, placed tightly amongst each other. I finished with another stone/sheep spot, giving me a good mix of stone and wheat and some sheep as well.

I totalled considerably more net production than any other player.

For the first part of the game the "sheep player" refused to sell sheep at 1:1 to players, trying to make life difficult. Effectively, they put themselves marginally out of the game by choosing less production than anyone else... being minus one hex and trading down two thirds of their natural production.

The other two players were both convinced you need to expand early to win, and dismissed my position as untennable. They "wasted" some road placements to try to cut each other off, and took low production third settlements to add to their relatively low production first two. Each bought wheat from me at a loss, and I quietly added a road or three, never quite having the sheep at the same time to make a settlement.

My own play? I relatively quickly upgraded to two cities. Then just bought dev cards and traded away my surplusses, whatever they were at the time. A road building got me the longest road at six length. (The other two expanders were building webs in their eagerness to cut each other off.) Three soldiers kept me protected from the robber and gave me the army card with only one other soldier anywhere on the table. Meanwhile I chose to (barely) keep my longest road by selling stone and wheat (usually at profit) when people decided they needed it, and by using one of the resource dev cards at an opportune moment. Two victory point Dev cards and I won the game.

During the whole game my setup would have generated maybe 20 to 25 resource cards, mostly in pairs from cities. In the last part of the game I could have lost the longest road and added a settlement, but by then adding two points to someone else might have lost me the game.

It was a strange game.

I often (but by no means always) play the early-city strategy, and it often wins. But except for twice I've always added settlements by the end of the game. (The other once, I made a stupid mistake in my initial setup and another player, wary of my long winning streak, chose to place just a couple of roads to block me.)
 
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