Saturday, September 28, 1996

Settlers of Catan Game (9/28/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike B, Mike C, Scott

Settlers is a pretty fun game, loosely based some other game (though what it is, I don't know). You randomly deal out land, water, and seaport hexagons, interlocking them into the shape of a large hexagon, and then (sort of randomly) put numbers onto the land hexes. Players build their initial settlements and roads (two of each), the former placed at the intersection of three hexes and the latter placed along the edge of land hexes, and then the fun begins. You roll two dice and the land segments with that number produce raw materials that correspond with the type of land on that segment (forest produces lumber, rocks/ore, et cetera), and players then trade these raw materials either with each other or for roads, settlements and other cool cards. All settlements and cities, longest road in the game, biggest army, and so on -- all that stuff is worth victory points (VP), and ten VP win the game. Seemed simple enough and was just what we needed to pass the time until Nazim showed up for the main event (a rousing game of Dune).

Unfortunately, there isn't much to tell about the game as it went. The Thief showed up right away (moves around the board whenever someone rolls a "7" and steals from the people adjacent to the new hexagon). We started out with a lack of timber that seemed to stretch far into the game, brick was plentiful and we were all poor at first. Mike C. had the grain market cornered, but didn't harvest much of it; Scott made bricks by the truckload, but without timber, it was virtually useless; Mike B. had sheep, sheep, sheep, and Joshua the same. As I saw the board, the southwestern quarter was the most crowded, hemming in the building process for the first five or so rounds. All of this didn't leave the Thief much to steal.

Mike B. offered wholsale trades to his friends (one of something for one of something else) and retail to other players (seemingly all of us) where he wanted greater quantity for in-demand items. Mike C. did the same but actually treated some of us as friends, and Joshua and Scott traded more with the "bank" than with other players. Later in the game, we were all screaming for ore (which lead to several bad puns about how many "ores" it took to build a city) and grain, as Mike C. moved into the lead. The "Longest Road" bonus changed hands several times, finally won out by Mike C., and Joshua, Scott and Mike C. started their quest for the largest army (and another two VP), with Joshua beginning a drive for institutions (Library, Tower, et cetera) at one VP each.

Mike B. played the Monopoly Card (which gave him all of one commodity from all players), and then regretted it when the Timber market exploded, with literally dozens of timber cards produced and now in the hands of his opponents. With the Longest Road bonus out of his hands, Scott fell hopelessly behind, and Mike C.'s only challenger was Joshua. With Mike C. at nine VP, Joshua gambled by trading in most all of his materials for Institution Cards, and the gamble paid off when he pulled up a Tower to complete his ten VP and the win. Sorry I didn't make this more dramatic or interesting, but it's the first time we played and I'm still trying to figure out how to play, let alone how to report on it. I promise to do better next time.

A word from our winner, Joshua

"The best thing to do is spread out as fast as you can, remebering that it's better to be getting a little of everything than to dominate a certain resource. Also, don't underestimate the development cards. Buildings are a sure way to victory and using the Knight to attack acquire resources that your opponents are hording isn't too bad either. (Beware the robber.)"

Scott's words to live by:

This game has definite possibilities, and here's why:
1. The land set-up is random enough to keep the game almost endlessly interesting
2. It supports between three and four players, so we don't need a big crowd to play
3. It's fast enough that we can play a few games of this or a quick one while waiting for the main event (just as we did on Saturday)
4. Economy works pretty well, as one player cannot corner any market unless other players allow it to happen.
5. My loser's tip: Don't get caught up trying for the longest road. It's a sure path to defeat (just ask Mike C., with whom I warred over the road thing)

Dune Game (9/28/1996)

Players: Joshua (Guild), Mike B (Fremen), Mike C (Emporer), Nazim (Harkonnen), Scott (Bene Gesserit)

Dune it is. The Fremen placed their troops near Tuek's Sietch and in Sietch Tabr (right by the spice blow), putting them in a strong position already, but Harkonnen was lured by the spice and held a quasi-threat against the Fremen city after the colletion round. As you can see, the game started with no Atreides, which left Arrakeen open for whomever wanted it and left us in the dark when we bid on Treachery Cards. The Emporer and Guild battled over the empty city first, with three Saurdukar up against a dozen or so Guild troops, which of course, meant that the Guild squeaked out a victory.

Undaunted, the Emporer went for Carthag next round, a move that the Emporer believed would convince Harkonnen to fight the Guild in Arrakeen, but instead, Harkonnen reinforced Carthag and left the spice for a hungry Bene Gesserit. The Fremen became even more dangerous when they took over Habbanya Ridge Sietch, and with their proximity to Tuek's (and Sietch Tabr already in their pocket) they were looking mighty mighty. Carthag went to Harkonnen (doesn't it always), and the Emporer appeared pretty beaten and bruised. The Guild went for spice just above Arrakeen, opening them up to another attack, and the B.G. continued to mass in the Polar Sink (hole); meanwhile the storm parked itself over Sietch Tabr, thus allowing the Fremen to commit troops all over the board.

The Guild then donated spice to Harkonnen so that the latter could stop the Fremen from ending the game. It was the first time in all our memories that Joshua did something so wonderful, so selfless, so benevoleant, and we thank him for having us in his presence when the blessed event took place.

Harkonnen brought some of his tired troops into Habbanya, and the Fremen (aren't we always talking about them?) moved out to the rocks and were thus no threat to end the game by sweeping into Tuek's. The Guild moved back into Arrakeen, the Emporer and Bene Gesserit took the round off to collect their thoughts, and STILL no worms so no alliances (and boy did I need one). Next round, the Emporer fought Harkonnen over Carthag again (must be good-looking 'ores there), but this time the Baron (Harkonnen) could not reinforce from on-planet, so he split off three troops from Habbanya to pursue spice. Seeing this, the B.G. moved non-advisors into the partially-vacated city, while the Fremen finally attacked Tuek's Sietch, convincing the Guild to call a special conference in Arrakeen (all Guild required to attend). The Shield/Lasegun brought all that Carthag business to an ugly close, Harkonnen collected his spice and lost Habbanya to "those bitches" in religious garb.

The Bene Gesserit bought erroneous storm information from the Fremen, and thus did not play Weather Control, a crucial mistake as Habbanya was now vulnerable to attack, which the Guild gladly provided. In fact, the Guild went for the win by splitting forces between Arrakeen and Carthag in addition to Habbanya, and the chase for a longer game was on again. With donations from Harkonnen and the Emporer, the B.G. guaranteed a victory over the Guild in Habbanya, and the Baron attacked a weakened Guild in Carthag while the Emporer spent the round recovering from the force of that Lasegun. The Fremen then surprised few when they marched troops into Arrakeen, and the combination of that city with Sietch Tabr (which they occupied from the start) and Tuek's Sietch gave them the win when the Guild could offer little resistance (due to lousy cards). So the Fremen were finally free men (which hadn't happened in a long time), and the rest of us had to "pound sand" as slaves to Dune's natives.

A word from our winner, Mike B

"It may have looked like patience and cunning were what gave the Fremen the win. However, part of the victory must go to stubborn pride. The way the spice came up in the game (which was remarkably short, all things considered), Harkonen always had a shot at it. His offer to let me get it and pay him for not attacking offended my native sensibilities, so I preferred to remain poor and weaponless through the whole game. Also I didn't want to fight the Baron without any weapon. I believe it was just good fortune that all the other players except the Guild slaughtered each other, and then the Guild made a play for victory without weapons or overwhelming force.

"I was pretty surprised to win the game with one battle. If I had gone along with the Harkie offer, I would have obtained cards, and may well have been more aggressive, and who knows what would have happened. In retrospect, I think that in most of the games the Fremen can successfully adopt a wait untill the other guys finish each other off strategy, just by lurking near three cities ready to pounce."

Scott's words to live by:
- Sometimes, a lack of alliances makes this game feel a bit like McMulti
- Did the Fremen deliberately hose me with bad storm-movement information? Just to win the game? Can't be, can it?
- The Emporer aptly pointed out that it's easier to play when you know the other players, something he learned during those massive and unexpected wars with Harkonnen
- Happy Birthday to Lori (8/2) and Mike C. (8/4).