Seattle Cosmic Game Night

(Saturday, 22 April 2000)

Settling for Catan

Since I took practically all week to report last time, and since I have a little time tonight. I thought I'd make an early report of yesterday's game. You can find the complete set of photos (including some not appearing here) at http://www.ludism.org/scpix/20000422/. This week, Marty carefully cleaned the pix up manually, so they'll look a little better than the crude automatic fixes I've been doing -- plus, I used "fine" instead of "standard" mode on the camera.

Present last night were me (Ron), Marty, Paul Unwin, and John Braley. It was a non-Cosmic night, and we only had time for one game: The Settlers of Catan. This was quite a treat for me, as I had heard a lot about Settlers but had never before played. I think everyone reading this knows how to play, so I won't belabor the rules, just give my impressions.

First off, Paul, whose copy of Settlers it was, explained the rules to us. Since he had played it many times, he offered to handicap himself, but we turned him down. He won, so maybe we ought to have handicapped him by a couple of points. Next time we won't be such beginners anymore, and Paul won't likely be so generous... ;-)

Here are Paul and John early in the game:

That's an ice bag on Paul's hand -- he had a mysterious swelling on one knuckle from which acid-spewing Aliens threatened to erupt at any minute.

I heard Paul say that the Ore resource is important late in the game, when people build cities, so I placed my settlements on Mountain hexes, whence cometh Ore. When the Ore started rolling in, I built cities early, and obtained a lead that lasted throughout most of the game. Everybody else was building roads and settlements last night; Marty actually ran out of settlement tokens, and pulled ahead at various points because she had so darn many on the board. Here it is, by the way:

And here's Marty scheming to dominate Catan economically:

I had hardly any roads and 3 cities. Two were on one hex, a Mountain, so when a 10 was rolled I got quadruple Ore just from that one hex, and double something else from another 10 hex. Everyone else was building long roads and trying to see if they could steal the Longest Road card (2 points). That was a game I couldn't win. I had no Timber hexes (roads need Timber), so I concentrated instead on building cities and buying Development cards. Each of those cost a Sheep, an Ore, and a Grain, and I usually had plenty of Sheep and Ore -- that's almost all I had -- so I was constantly trading for Grain with other people. This strategy -- trading for Grain and buying Development cards -- backfired in a big way late in the game when I revealed my 3 Soldier cards (Development cards), grabbed the Largest Army card for 2 points and foolishly revealed my Market (a Dev. card worth 1 more point) before I had to. (I thought people would figure I had a card worth 1 or 2 points anyway, but I didn't realise how many Development cards were worth no points at all. I found out, to my cost, when I was trying to get the ONE LAST POINT.)

After getting the Largest Army card and revealing my Market, I was at 9 points, just 1 point shy of winning the game. Suddenly my source of Grain cards dried up as no one wanted to trade with me anymore for some reason... :-) My Ore and Sheep cards started drying up too, because everyone started playing the Robber on me. (Did I mention how freakin' OFTEN we rolled the Robber last night?) In these straits, I couldn't obtain any more Development cards for sex or money, so I went turn after turn without obtaining that ONE LAST POINT. The final blow came when John built his army up one Soldier higher than mine, and took away my Largest Army card. John was furthest behind, and observed wryly, "Underdeveloped nations often have the largest militaries."

Our dogs Gwenyth and Tia were out and about last night and behaved themselves very well. Gwenyth decided to break the tension with some comic relief at this point. She had recently been liberated of The Bucket, a torture device invented by medieval veterinarians to prevent dogs from licking themselves and creating "hot spots" bare of fur, and, well, evidently she felt lonely for The Bucket...

I was now down to 7 points, and Paul, who had snuck up to 9 points already, just needed a turn or two to get that final point and win the game. His Fabulous Prize was an unplayed copy of the cyberpunk CCG NetRunner. Here he is showing it off:

Overall, I liked Settlers, but can't see what all the fuss is about. Maybe if I played it more... This was Marty's second time (at least), and she had the same reaction. Even Paul said that it wasn't as explosively fun as he had remembered. Maybe the world has now seen too many German games, or maybe I'm just spoiled by Cosmic Encounter, about which it was remarked on Usenet, "it was a German game before there were German games."

Speaking of which, sports fans, we'll be playing Cosmic at the next game night. I'd like to get an early head count, since several people have already said they're not coming. John Braley is going to see Michael Palin at the UDub, and thanks to John's generous gift of a spare ticket, so is Marty. I believe Paul said he's not coming (right, Paul?). Of the regulars, that leaves Dave, Mark, and Luke (who may now have a car, yay!). As usual, if we can get 3 players, including me, we'll have game night. So who's coming?


p.s. We didn't play Focus last night, but I've been practising and beat Marty the last two times I played her, so maybe I won't do embarrassingly badly against others....


Saturday, 29 April 2000, 8:00 PM at Ron and Marty's in Kent.

Remember, game nights at Ron and Marty's are every Saturday at 8:00 PM. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!

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Page last updated 29 May 2000.