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)

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