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Subject: Yet another 2 player Settlers point of view...... rss

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Houserule Jay
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Well I’m really not sure why this hasn’t been suggested before, or maybe it has but I sure haven’t seen it. Now everyone knows this game is not MEANT for 2 players, but lots of people really like the game and are always on the look out for a variant or way to play their favourites in a way that will be enjoyable when you only have you and the wife or husband to play with.

We have played about 100 games each of Settlers, mostly on the computer but 10 or so games FTF as well, all with 3 or 4 players. We tried playing a live dummy for our first 2 player and it was ok but not great, we have only tried this once and we were really tired at the time so we still want to give it another go. There are quite a few suggested variants for this game and I really need to try a couple more of them as well. I know I did see at least one person say they just play it “right out of the box” with the regular rules and I thought, yeah why not, it can’t be that bad. Then after reading a Review for Settlers of Zarahemla I think it was, the reviewer mentioned that the game states 2 – 4 but the componets are all very similar to original Settlers. He said the suggested way to play with 2 was that “each player should start with 3 settlements and 3 roads each and play to 12 Victory Points”. This sounded good enough for me as we were thinking of playing two colors each next anyway and this wasn’t too far off really.

So we played, we traded, we fought for position, we fought for the longest road and had a good bit of fun. I cut off her road and succeeded in boxing her in but it didn’t matter by the time I did, the game was getting towards the end and she still had some space to build roads. At this point, she had 3 cities, the longest road with 10 roads and the largest army with 10 VP’s. I had 3 cities and 3 settlements and it was getting right down to the wire as I had 9 VP’s and 9 roads. Most of the game I was just on her tail never quite being able to catch up. She might have won by this time if it wasn’t for some really bad luck with the robber. I was rolling 7 like mad for awhile in the beginning and actually changed dice because I was frustrated by not producing and we were playing the rule no attacking a person unless they had 4 VP's. Well later on, the robber rolling evened out but every time I moved it, she would get stung bad, ie. I just moved it to her 8 ore spot where she produces 3 ore and wham, an 8 is rolled.

Well a few more turns go by and at one point she had 9 cards, she traded all these in for 3 development cards. The look on her face told me the game wasn’t over yet. I had my plan to steal the longest road and I knew this was my only chance and I had to do it fast as I only had 3 roads left now and my stretch was 10, hers was 10 too but she had 5 left. One of the reasons I boxed her in was not only to cut off her road but also to stop her from cutting off my road. Then, on what would be her last turn, she sensed my plan and built the road to 12 roads long, she also built a settlement giving her 11 VP's. I thought it was over and indeed she was very close to winning and needed a trade so she asked me for an ore, I could not have been happier! She only had 3 cards so I didn't have to worry, I needed one sheep badly, she had no idea how bad as at this moment I had 9 VP’s and needed 12 to win. With 6 cards in my hand and needing 3 roads to take over the longest road she should have been safe…..nothing was further from the truth!devil I rolled, I built a settlement giving me 10 VP’s, then I built a road giving me 11 roads, 2 short for the win. Well I got seriously lucky one turn before and got the road building card, I built to 13, stole the longest road and the victory right from under her nose in true Settlers style!

After all this we really had a fun game with a nice tense finish. When you compare a 2 player game to a 3 player, the main difference in game play is you start with 50% of the pieces on the board as does your opponent, opposed to 33% in a 3 player. This means fighting for position is that much more competitive in the 3 player, not A HUGE difference though as you can see which is why we still had fun I think. Trading is also affected by this same percentage as well and obviously negotiating is different when only one other person is at the table but it still happened a couple times. Now I can see why, say, a 2 player Princes of Florence won’t work too well as it looks to be heavily based on the auction phase(so far only read the rules), and although some auction games will work with 2 the majority fall flat and lose all the tension that make the game. Now with Settlers, although the trading and fighting over position is better with more people which means the tension is as well, I will certainly argue that Settlers is broken with only 2 players which I have seen people say.

Does it become a different game with 2? Yes, by about as much as the percentage difference would show above. Does trading breakdown? Somewhat as there is no shrewd bargaining between 2 players wanting a brick up for trade by the 3rd player, but alas it still happens and there is still some negotiating to be had. Is there less confrontation? Yes but it doesn’t disappear, it still happens unless you play conservatively. Would I rather play with more than 2? ABSOLUTELY, but at this point I won’t turn it down; I would even pick it over some other games meant for 2 and maybe even over 4 player Settlers as so far I have never even liked it with 4 that much finding it TOO crowded, even though I normally like confrontation in a game.

I rated this game 8.5 and with 2 I think it still rates 7.5 which means to me it is still quite fun and it still plays well enough to warrant playing, it certainly won't become a favourite this way though and if I had 200 or more other games to choose from my opinion might possibly slide a bit. To add to this, we do own the Settlers Card game and it is a great little game for 2 adding more depth and strategy to the game, and even though it plays differently, it does scratch the Settlers itch. Still, nothing but nothing is "classic" Settlers, and when we feel like playing, we still will whether we have the third player or not knowing it will be an enjoyable game anyway. Are there lots of people that say Settlers sucks with 2? Yep, but I don’t agree and it makes me wonder how many of those people have tried it to any extent, if they always have other gamers around or have tons of other games then they wouldn't feel the need to start trying it with all these variants I'm sure. I’m also pretty sure we will here from some of them in this thread anyway though, that's the nice thing about opinions, everyone is allowed to have one and they don't all have to be the same...
 
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Houserule Jay
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After playing a variant of the Nick Borko variant I thought I should post here to share my thoughts on that as well. I still have not tried playing 2 colours on the regular board and I still want to.

The smaller island in the Borko variant works very good for 2 people and we have played probably 10 times already. After one playing we made a major change though, instead of having 2 - 8 hexes and 1 - 6 hex, we changed it so there was only one of each. This made the games much more balanced and ensured there was not a runaway winner. I have also seen some people say that playing with the C&K expansion works quite well for 2 and would like to try this as well, it plays more similiar to the card game no doubt which is a good little game.

All in all this game like most multiplayer games is better with more but we still get a great fix playing this with 2.
 
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