Sunday, April 03, 2005

יחד כלם קדשה לך ישלשו

(Warning - nerdy post to follow)

Settlers of Catan - what a great game. It's absolutely perfect for shabbos afternoons. You can finish a game in less than an hour, it involves up to 4 people (more if you play in teams, which is just as fun), and has just the right combination of luck and skill to allow both inexperienced and experienced folks to enjoy themselves.

Another nice thing about Settlers is that it is entirely constructive - while there is competition, obviously, the way you win the game is by literally constructing cities, roads, settlements, and sometimes armies and "wonders" (somewhat like civilization.) There is quite a bit of luck, but is entirely possible for an experienced player to steamroll 3 other beginners, dominating for the entire game.

Some thoughts on Settlers:

1) The two main strategies, i.e. the wood/clay and the wheat/ore strategy, work surprisingly well against uncoordinated opponents. If there is a guarenteed way to pull this off in the pre-game set-up (usually only the case if you are 4th to go), you have a very strong game ahead of you, especially if you manage to monopolize one of these 4 resources.

2) Monopolizing any one resource, even sheep, is powerful but is more likely to slow down the game than give you an extreme advantage. Usually such a monopoly requires taking bad numbers or being left with only 2 resources at the begining of them game; this usually only works if you have a port. If you own the port of that resource, you will likely win the game.

3) The wheat/ore strategy needs another settlement very, very, quickly, depending on how likely you are to be boxed in. It is usually worth trading 4-1 twice in order to get the clay you need for another settlement.

4) "Mixed" strategies, i.e. merely maximizing your resource probabilities at the beginning of the game without a clear plan, are a great way to come in 2nd place. I usually play to come in either first or last, so strategies which win early or not at all are most appropriate. Diversification is less valuable than it seems, because the first 15-30 dice rolls matter more than all of the rest.

5) By the same token, ganging up on the leader at the end is not always in your best interest. For instance, if you have 7 points, someone has 9, and wants to buy a dev card, it may be worth it to trade him that dev card for 2 clay so that you can take longest road, and still have an iota of chance of winning. If he draws a point, fine, he wins, but if not, you get 9 points and a chance to win yourself.

6) The NTR game is completely different, and requires a much more mathemtical strategy. Point 4 no longer applies, and clay/wood strategy seems to do better.

In closing, I have some wood for your sheep. That is all, good night.

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