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Early Experience with Settlers of Catan

7 June 2007
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Wednesdays is game day in my blog, so today’s post is about a wonderful gaming experience I had on Sunday.

On Sunday, often my Friend and I get together to play board and card games, often along with my kids. Sunday, though, I had an invitation to another friend’s house to play Settlers of Catan. I’d played this game once before and I egged my Friend to join me.

Six of us played Catan: the Host, the Grandmother, My Faux-Brother, my Son, my Friend, and I. The Host is a bright woman who recently graduated from nursing school. The man labeled My Faux-Brother reminds me of my brother, who’s twenty years older than I am. And the Grandmother is just that, a well-known grandmotherly figure in our larger community of friends.

The three people I brought had very little experience with Catan. The Host and My Faux-Brother have played often, and the Grandmother is an up-and-coming force in her own right. After some initial confusion, we all started to get comfortable with the turn structure and could concentrate on strategy.

Settlers of Catan, for those of you who don’t know, is a turn-based, resource management board game. And it turns out that placing first was a disadvantage to me in such a large group. I placed my first settlement on the most advantageous vertex on the board, at the corner of three different resources, all of which were medium to high probability. Sadly, the dice had other plans, and this settlement rarely generated any income. By the time I got to place my second settlement, I was unhappy with the remaining choices. I settled for a sheep-producing region that at least had one sheep hex with a 6 on it (in other words, when a six was rolled on 2d6, I got a sheep card).

Sixes were like rain in Seattle, and the first time someone rolled a six, I threw my hands up in the air and declared “Sheep!”. This became a thing, as My Faux-Brother and I kept getting more and more sheep.

Sadly, there were no Bricks to be had this game, and both of my settlements really left me with no room to grow. Had I to do it again, I would have concentrated on building development cards earlier and hoped to gain an advantage that way. My Friend had Longest Road, and my Son Largest Army, yet we were all pretty well matched at 7 or 8 victory points when I had to call it because of the lateness of the hour.

What made this such a wonderful gaming experience was the rare conjunction of several things:

  • A player I had no prior experience with, the Host’s Friend. Oftentimes, playing with the same people over and over makes the game predictable. And said player turning out to be a hoopy frood.
  • Getting to know someone I only knew by reputation while playing the game, the Grandmother. Games tend to be a social lubricant.
  • Sharing something I enjoy with my Friend and my Son. In this way, my circle of friends increases.
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