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Three player Settlers of Catan

G S and I play Catan a lot, but it doesn't seem as good with 3 players. Partly the really open board, partly not many rolls between turns so hard to do stuff, and more chance of building up cards between every second turn and losing half. G' has learned, so we've played some 4 players games, but in a few days it'll be down to G S and G'. So we've been exploring how to improve the game. G's first was to have two deserts, replacing one fo the sheep tiles. This tended not to do much, as the deserts likely end up on the edge. Tonight we're trying having one of the deserts replace the innermost sheep, and this does make for tighter boards, though not so tight as to stop S's longest road.

My idea was to have a dummy placement, rolling to place two settlements of the unused color. G pointed out that they'd often end up in stupid places on the edge, but one can easily have them on the inner ring. (Roll 2 dice for a number, roll one die for vertes on an inner tile, or inner vertex for the 8 2 and 12 that always end up on the edge. For two deserts we take the 12 H out, and now add it to the 2 to make it more valuable.

Other houserules: re-roll 7s the first two turns... 3 turns now, after I pointed out there weren't many rolls with 3 players; we're still doing it even with a dummy roll, my other idea. Namely that the 4 player game is good, so we should try to emulate it as much as possible, so there's a roll after the 3rd player, where we get income. 7 moves the robber to the desert.

A suggestion we haven't used yet is having longest road and largest army being only 3 points together, rather than 4, after a string of games won on those plus 5 settlements and vp card, or 6 points on board, but we haven't decided.

[ETA] G notes that dummy settlements shut out game income, not just make the board tighter, and I don't like piling on house rules (e.g. food stamps) to fix house rules. Dummy rolls seem to work well, though in that case we should go back to having only 2 safe rounds, not 3. There may be a second player disadvantage: 1st gets best spot, especially when 3-commodity junctions seem rare, 3rd gets to coordinate. But hard to tell; second players have been visibly screwed by die rolls as much as anything else.

So current 'rules are second desert, one internal; H out of sequence and added to 2 (unless you end up with a 6 8 junction, in which case reverse); two rounds of re-rolling 7; dummy roll after 3rd player to generate more income between turns and more chances to more the robber]

Boring nerdy game retrospective.
I almost want to rant about our latest games, where rolls have been very odd; I've had good placements ruined by large spikes of 3 or 11, sometimes 9. Haven't won a game in the last 5. I've tried some odd port strategies, or being a stone baron -- 3 11 11 stone, I had 3 11, which we didn't roll. Last game went back to my pip dominated strategy, and did better, but G blew past somehow... lots of grain heavy games, too.

Been having *fast* games though, about an hour... last one was under 50 minutes. Third game tonight... I have great placement, but but we've rolled 5 9s in the first 7 rolls, and I'm not getting anything.... well, wasn't, game's doing better now. Now we've had lots of 5, as my hand of 4 stones indicates.

[ETA: S won, 7 on board, plus last minute longest road and VP card; I had 6, losing longest road, and was going to build at least another point; G 5. I placed first this time, G second; we never rolled 4, which hurt G a lot. I'm 0 for 6 now, though doing better these past two games. Under an hour again, maybe even less. Guess dummy roll means the income of 4 players, but 3/4 of the trade negotiations.]



Damien Sullivan

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May 2018


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