Sunday, February 27, 2005

Weekend: Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan

My shabbat guests surprised me by agreeing instantly to play a game. These are two of my wife's serious no-nonsense 40-50 year old friends who have never expressed any desire to play a game before). And my wife wanted to sleep, so that left just the three of us. I nervously brought out Settlers, anticipating a lot of confusion even before I finished explaining the rules.

I have explained many games, and some games, like Settlers, I have explained many times. I have gone over and under, in different directions, and I have a feel for how to minimize the pain. The biggest issues are: the lack of coordination between symbols on the convenience chart and the board (only the resource cards themselves have both symbol and background), the complexity of the robber, and the complexity of both the rules and variance of the development cards.

For the symbols, I carefully showed them the match between all three items: convenience card, board, and resource. I very carefully explained the object of the game, what things were worth what, how a turn went, how you start with two settlements, how you place new ones, how you upgrade to a city, and what a city gives you. Then, how the robber worked. Again and again I went over the basic flow of a round: roll, collect, trade, build. I kind of hoped to leave the development cards until after the first turn around the board, but they asked "what are these?" "I was kind of hoping to wait for the first turn around the board" "No no, we want to know now". So, development cards, soldiers, vp's, other cards, one per turn, only after you get them except vp's, largest army, longest road.

Well, amazingly enough, it went very well. Yes, they complained about too many rules, but by turn 3 they were pretty well into it ... except. One of them was a Sensitive Person.

Actually, both are sensitive people, but one of them was a game sensitive person. The first time I refused a 1 for 1 trade with him, and asked for two cards in instead, he got angry and passed the dice. Why? He figured I was trying to take advantage of him since he was a new player. Wuh-hoah. I explained that I run and teach a game group, and believe me, my reputation rests on being a fair broker.

This of course, occurred again, when I suggested that he was winning and was a more logical person to rob from, when I took an intersection I needed before he could get it, etc... I think, as he also got to do these things, that he began to realize that he wasn't being exclusively targeted. But, some people have a hard time of it. Thank
goodness I didn't start them playing Diplomacy.

They had to end before the game ended. All of us had 8 or 9 points, so we were all doing well, and I think she enjoyed it, at least. We will see if they ever ask to play again. Maybe something a little less confrontational, like San Juan.
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