Monday, August 25, 2014

A Lobbyist, a Lawyer, & a Diplomat Play Settlers of Catan

So, last night my friends John, Sarah, and Christian came over to play some Settlers of Catan.  Technically, Sarah lives with me and Christian is her boyfriend (who, by extension, also effectively lives with me), but they have been dog sitting for her older brother and his husband while they are out of town.  In fact, Sarah and I haven't seen each other in over two weeks between our various travel and work schedules.  John also lived with us years and years and years ago.  So, when she said she wanted to come over to our house yesterday, John and I were thrilled to up the numbers from two to four people.  It was like a house reunion.

John also decided to bring over Settlers of Catan.  He'd played years ago with a friend at Oxford.  I play from time to time on my Nook.  I was worried that the board would be unwieldy and the pieces finicky after getting used to virtual play, so I'd avoided purchasing a copy of the game.  Plus, my tastes tend to be a little more esoteric.  Someone you know has a copy of Settlers of Catan.  I prefer to be the guy you know that has copies of Drunk Quest, A Terrible Time, and other less common games.

What is Settlers of Catan, those of you living under rocks for the last several years ask?  Also called Arguments of Catan or Divorces of Catan, Settlers of Catan is a board game where each player assumes the role of a colonizer attempting to gain control of an island, called Grolbosck (just kididng, it's called Catan).  You win by being the first person to amass 10 victory points.  Players get points for building settlements, cities, the longest road, and for being the biggest dick at the table (also known as using the Robber on other players).  You do all of these things by gaining resources and spending them to build.

A screenshot of the board from about a third of the way through our game.
Sarah is red; John is blue; and I'm orange.  Things look really good for
  me at this point.  They do not stay that way.  Note the Robber
adjacent to me--and only me.  Things do stay that way.

John's a diplomat, Sarah's a lawyer and I'm a lobbyist.  Being strategic and trying to screw people over are basically hard-wired into our work lives, but it was fun to try and channel all that nefariousness on our own behalves for once terrible things and we have absolutely no experience with them at all.  Christian, professing being overserved, but suspected of bowing out for fear we were playing something more akin to Pathfinder, took a nap.  

Of course, none of us knew how to set up the board or get things started.  John suspected (rightly) that there was a YouTube video that would show us how to set things up.  In fact, there's a Tabletop episode all about it.  We decided that we'd go with common sense and what I remembered from playing on my Nook.  

And, we got everything right except we didn't start people with resources but just made them roll for it.  We played with our resource cards face up too--I guess hiding them could introduce a new element into the game but it didn't seem to get in the way of us having fun.  As a family I demoed a game with at GenCon opined, "It doesn't matter what the rules are, so long as they're applied consistently to everybody."  But, I actually kind of liked leaving them out in the open.

I'm not sure how long our game took.  Maybe an hour and a half or so?  Everyone got very focused on trying to take the island.  Sarah's not a big gamer normally, but about 4 turns in she was hooked.  I fully suspect that we will end up with a Catan board at the house if we aren't careful.  Like everyone else, we fell into the "got wood" jokes quickly (though not as heavily as some).  John was his ever cheerful self, pointing the blame at others until he swooped in at the end to take victory from us.