Thursday, May 27, 2004

Homebrew Settlers Variants, & There We Go Again.

The silent WAG was dictator last night, selecting two rounds of a Settlers of Catan variant and pizza for dinner. This weeks dictator gets a 10 for Dictating Style, but only a 4 for actual Dictator behaviour. A little too wishy-washy, dig?

Anyhow, the first game that we tried was with two varations from the basic rules. The first involved randomly distributing the numbers onto the hex areas, and the second was that whenever the robber moves to a new hex, the number from that area moves to the robber's previous position. As you can imagine, this affected strategy quite a bit - when deciding where to place your initial roads and villages, you were not assured as to the probablility of return in the same way that you would be in a standard game. Also, Kozure's cunning revealed that sometimes it could be advantageous to move the robber against YOURSELF, in order to eliminate a low probability number tag from an area you would be harvesting from. The variation was fun, but this version suffered from a fatal flaw in my opinion: without the probabilities being carefully distributed around the board, one player can have an overwhelming location-based advantage. That was the case here; Kozure smoked the rest of us in a 5-player game.

Our second round of Catan had 4-players, used the standard starting positions for number tags, and retained the robber/roving number tag rule from the first game. I personally found this to solve the previous games problem, and it resulted in my most enjoyable game of Catan yet. Whether that was because of the rule switch, or because I finally managed to implement a decent strategy, though, I am unsure. One interesting thing to note is that there are only a total of 5 victory points available from the development cards in a 4 player game. Not knowing this, I continued going to the development card well in a desperate attempt to win, when the victory points available had already been exhausted. All wasn't lost however - I think that my army ended up 9 soldier cards strong. Crazy stuff. The result of this game was that the Silent Dictator pulled out a win with the Longest Road, 3 Victory Points, and very little else. Kudos to him, for winning a close game where everyone hovered around 7-9 points for several turns.

Another interesting thing was the difference in play that results from the "special builder" phase that is included in the 5 player game. Without using "special builder" in the 4 person game, we all ended up with mittfulls of cards (seven or more) fairly frequently.

After Settlers, it was time for a quick round of Mamma Mia!, a goofy little card game of pizza making that this guy explains pretty well. I do disagree with his assessment of the playing time, though at least as it pertains to a five-player game. I think we were done in about 20 minutes, initial explaining of rules included. I think this is another perfectly fine "palate cleanser" type of game, fulfilling that role much better than, oh, Falling!, for instance. Quick pace, some luck, some strategy, some skill, and no room for discouragement or hard feelings, as far as I can see. Also seems to be a game that would be fair across quite a range of gaming abilities and aptitudes - ie., you could play w. your little cousins, and not have to "let" them win at all. IMHO, a 7, for achieving what it tries to be.

Lastly, while looking for links, I came across this guy's site - he had a few games I haven't heard of listed, so I might try to track a couple of them down, since good ol' Jim seems to be as game-obsessed as we are, or at least in the same neighborhood.

'Til next week, Over and Out.


  1. I am also suprised by how much I enjoyed SofC this week. Can't really explain it, since I think the rule changes (particularly the random starting numbers) made things quite lopsided. Still, I think that the "thief moves the number" variant was fun despite the unbalancing effect it had. A few more games like that and I might have to change my rating!
    Mama Mia was also fun, like many of Kozure's "palate cleansers". Very simple and fast, it was an enjoyable way to spend a half hour. I can't rate the game as highly as Shemp, because again i feel that replay might be limited (I didn't always feel like it really mattered what I did)
    Rating: 5

    p.s. I have no idea what game that guy in the review Shemp linked for us was playing, but if it's the same one we were he's thinking about it WAY to hard...

  2. While it's impossible to know without playing many times, I disagree w/ your replayability theory, Easy. I don't see any reason that scenarios would repeat, or that strategies could be employed to the point of boredom. I think that the game would stay fresh pretty easily, much like any other card game that emphasizes "counting" the cards - euchre, blackjack, what have you.

  3. Only time, and a few more replays, will tell. I love card games, I grew up playing them and they will always hold a special place inmy heart. Counting cards has never been my strong suit (sorry). Since I'm not good at it, I didn't try to... which left me pretty much throwing cards semi-randomly. Most card games have more going on than card counting, you can play the odds, bluff, thwart plans, etc...
    I guess if were to be more specific, I would say that this one won't have much replayability FOR ME. Unlike many games which I have criticized for low replay value, the problem here isn't "it's only fun because it's new"... but more "I don't think I'll ever overcome the "random play" strategy.
    As always, I love playing games and I would play this one anytime, despite my criticisms!

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