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*** Warning: this report is VERY long. I have written similar reports for the previous four Australian Championships of Settlers, which can be found here on BGG. The report will cover my games and includes a lot of detail and commentary on strategy ***
This is a report of the fifth Australian Championships of Settlers of Catan, each time held at the Australian Games Expo (AGE), held in conjunction with a gaming weekend in Canberra called CanCon for over 30 years over the Australia Day long weekend in January.
In previous years, I had finished runner up in 2006. In 2007 I won three of my four round games (with a 9 in the fourth) to go into the semi finals as top seed, but failed to make the final on a development card draw. In 2008 I completely bombed out, winning one game and failing to make the semis. In 2009 I again made the final but Jeff Davies took it out. You can find reports of those tournaments here:
First prize was again a plane ticket and entry to World Championships in Germany!
Players on my table were me (yellow – my favourite colour!), Michael (white), 11-year-old Rory (red) and a guy whose name I just can’t remember (apologies to him) who I will call Bill (blue). The starting board with the initial placements is shown below.
Spots with the most pips were:
13. Ore (5)-Wheat(9)-Sheep(6)
Resource rarity was (pips):
A pretty easy decision going first in this game: the 13 pip spot covered two of the three rarest resources and had the best ore and wheat … a real no-brainer. My road placement was hoping for the ore(5)-wheat(10)-desert spot, but with the backup option of the wheat(9)-generic port which was also ok.
Michael grabbed the next best spot – 12 pips with ore and brick. Rory had the unfortunate choice of a bunch of mediocre 11 pip spots and went for sheep-brick-wood. I would have picked the ore-wheat-wheat spot for fear of being blocked out of ore. Bill also refused that spot, preferring high pips on wood and sheep – the two most abundant resources. Much better would have been to take the wheat-wheat-ore and the brick-wheat-sheep.
Rory was therefore able to pick up the ore-wheat-wheat spot with his second settlement , leaving him with numbers 3-4-5-6-9-10. This can happen with inexperienced players like Bill – a mistake on initial placement can give another player a much better start than would otherwise have occurred.
Michael’s second placement was his only viable option of brick-wheat-wood. I suppose he could have taken the wood(8)-wheat(10) coastal spot, leaving him with wood plus brick on an 8 and wheat plus ore on a 10 – highly risky. He made the right choice, leaving him with all resources covered except sheep and numbers 4-5-8-9-10-11.
I also benefited from Bill’s bad placements, since I got a 10-pip spot with my second settlement, the brick(8)-wheat(4)-sheep(3), leaving me with no access to wood and with numbers 3-4-5-6-8-9. Road placement was an interesting choice. I could challenge blue for the sheep port which also had access to ore(11). I could go for the generic port further around the brick(8) or I could challenge Michael (white) for the sheep(3)-wood(10)-wood(11) spot. The last of these was obviously the most attractive since it meant access to both wood and the number 10. I figured that it was worth the risk, since although Michael had a road in his starting hand he actually had too options to build – a no-risk option to brick(9)-wood(10)-sheep(2) or to challenge me. Both options gave him the wood(10) spot and the no-risk option actually had an extra pip, so I figured that he might let me have the spot. Of course, an experienced player would challenge me for it knowing that it was important for my game but I was hoping he would play safe. Many games of Settlers are strongly influenced on the early race for the spots in contention.
In the event, I traded with Bill for a wood on my first turn and built a road towards the spot. As expected Michael played safe and built his road the other way. My settlement there came soon after so I felt pretty comfortable.
The others followed with their own settlements soon after and I built roads for my second settlement, and here I was the cautious one, building to the closer generic port rather than the farther port with the wheat(10). Since I had grabbed the number 10 already I was no longer as concerned about that wheat(10), preferring to get a port as soon as I could. In addition, Rory had already bought two developments cards and a road building card would spell trouble.
Bill took longest road which seemed a silly idea since he had no brick production and was unlikely to hold it.
Rory continued buying cards and did not play them which had me wondering. Michael and I both build our fourth settlements, picking up generic ports. I felt that Michael was the biggest threat, simply because he looked like the most competent player.
Bill picked up the sheep port, which matched his sheep production well and Rory grabbed the brick port which he used quite a lot.
Lots of development cards were bought, and Michael and I both vied for Largest Army, but Michael got there first. Suddenly things looked a bit dire, since Bill’s road stood at only five lengths. Michael could build two roads to take Longest Road, which would take him to 9 points with his 5 settlements and Largest Army. I had earlier picked up Road Building which helped a lot here. I was thinking that I would use it at the end as a surprise to take Longest Road since I did not think I could hold it if I went early. However, Michael’s threat meant I had to play it and take Longest Road off Bill. At 8 lengths I figured I might be able to hold it for long enough.
Now something weird happened. Rory built a city and announced he had won the game, flipping over three point cards! We all sat there shocked until someone realised that he was still on only 9 points! After that Rory was in trouble because no-one would trade with him and the robber hit him a few times. I played another soldier to take Largest Army off Michael and built a city to go to 10 points with me own point card as well.
Rory was disappointed and everyone felt sorry for the 11-year-old, although I think that Michael was more unlucky. He played a pretty good game and was at times in sight of victory but in the end finished on only 6 points.
The next game was between players who had all won their first game. They were me (yellow), Richard (red), Peter (white) and another Peter, who I will called PP since his surname was Parkes (blue).
Resources had the following pip totals:
Most pips were on the following spots:
I can’t remember who was first to choose. I have a feeling that PP chose to go first and I was second. It was a tricky choice, since the 13-pip and 12-pip spots were unattractive because they were dominated by the most common resources, although the sheep port near the 13-pip spot was attractive. PP chose the 11-pip spot with access to Brick(8) and Ore(4). This was pretty solid, although I was quite happy with getting the Ore(6) spot with Wheat(9) and Wood(3).
Richard grabbed the 13-pip spot, which was also the right choice since with the ‘rare’ spots taken it then comes down simply to pips. Peter’s choices were pretty mystifying. He took the 13-pip spot with a road toward the sheep port. His second settlement was also on the Sheep(8) hex, which was a mistake. MUCH better was the Ore(4)-Wheat(9)-Sheep(11) spot, leaving him with 4-5-8-9-10-11. Instead he had 3-4-5-8-10 and no access (and no possible access) to Wheat or Ore. Obviously if Peter got lucky on the 8s being rolled then he would do ok, but its so easy to shut down with the robber.
Richard’s second settlement was a tough decision. There were good spots left but they tended to duplicate his first settlement. He decided on a coastal spot to get onto the Brick(8) and also work towards the Ore(6) hex, leaving him with numbers 3-5-6-8-9 and a starting road to grab the Wheat(10) hex.
I had a simple choice between trying to cover off all resources on the Wood(6)-Brick(3)-Sheep(11) for a ‘balanced’ strategy or go down a development card and city route by taking the Wheat(5)-Ore(4)-Sheep(11) spot. In the end the choice was made by the numbers – I did not want to double-up on both 6s and 3s, and the second spot gave me 3-4-5-6-9-11.
PP predictably took my other option, which worked much better for him, covering numbers 3-4-6-8-10-11 and had a starting road to challenge me for the very nice spot of Wheat(9)-Wood(10)-Sheep(11). PP was by far the biggest threat in this game.
With my massive wheat and ore production I got a very early city. Richard rightly chose to build to the Wheat(10) spot rather than the Ore(6), which was further away.
I think there were several early 7s rolled so the robber moved a fair bit. I started on buying up development cards which PP built his settlement on the aforementioned Wheat(9)-Wood(10)-Sheep(11) spot but Richard built on the Wheat(5), blocking PP off that number, but PP was quickly building roads around the Brick(8) hex to the generic port.
The game more-or-less continued in this vein, with PP expanding fast, me building cities and cards and the other two struggling on. I think Richard knew he was in trouble but Peter built around the Sheep(5) hex and therefore had 19 total pips on sheep which was worrying.
The other players figured I was the biggest threat and pretty much refused to trade with me which meant I had a ton of trouble cobbling together stuff for roads. They were obviously worried about me getting to the wheat port! I did get there in the end but had to do some very generous trades to get a brick.
Meanwhile, PP built a settlement on the brick port and with 13 pips on brick was well placed. He kept building roads (without taking Longest Road) towards the Sheep(5) spot, which was a little strange since he had already used his five settlements. Soon after he did a trade to build his settlement before realising he had none to build, but the trade had been done! Despite this, PP had Longest Road with a face down card and five settlements – possibly on 8 points!
With the robber sitting on my Ore(6) a lot of the time I had trouble buying cards and had only two by this time. The second was a Road Building, which was very welcome, and I used the Wheat port to rush around the coast to the Sheep(5) spot which PP was attempting to built on.
Peter and PP both built cities but Richard built several roads to take Longest Road off PP so we could all breathe easier. My settlement and Richard’s road really hurt PP’s chances.
At this point I started to wonder if I could take Longest Road at some point and I was tempted to join my settlements. However, Richard’s road production was so strong I was doubtful I could hold it so it would have to be a game-winning move when it happened.
Peter was also a worry, since he had four settlements, a city, two soldiers and a down-turned card plus some Longest Road potential.
Richard built two cities and also had a face-down card, putting him on a possible 9 points as well! PP began building roads in order to connect his road network together.
I bought another development card which was Year Of Plenty and thanks to that and some good numbers coming up I built cities on consecutive turns and bought another card, which was a soldier.
No-one else could do anything much so on my turn I went to 10 points with the soldier to get Largest Army.
It turned out that Peter’s face-down card was Road Building, which he was trying to play at the right time to take Longest Road for the win, but he was still a way off. Richard ended the game on 8 points and PP on 7. Peter, PP and Richard all had roads of 9 lengths but Richard was still in possession of Longest Road at the end.
Anyway, it was a close-ish win but I felt reasonably in control most of the game although the robber was frustrating at times. Ore and Wheat is a pretty powerful combination even if you don’t have a lot of access to the other resources.
So with two wins I could breathe easily since a semi-final place was assured.
Being on the top table is kind of fun. Although you want to win, there actually seems to be less pressure than in the other games. I guess this is partly because all of the players will have at least two wins and qualified for the semi-finals, and partly because everyone is an experienced player and understands the game enough to not make mistakes that could unbalance the game (like in game 1 above). In short, there is less tension.
On this table was Marcus (red), who went first, me (yellow), Grant Davies (white) and Jeff Davies (blue), who had won the whole thing last year and who happened to be Grant’s brother. Grant and Jeff are both very good players! They have been to every tournament except the first. Marcus, who had his left arm in a sling, was new to the tournament this year.
The board set-up had the desert in the inner circle of hexes, which presented a real conundrum which I should have thought about before – all other things being equal, is it better to go first or last? I think Marcus decided to go first and I decided to go second, and then after the first round realised that was a really silly idea and that going last was the most sensible choice since the desert in the middle circle meant far less options, particularly choosing last, and getting two choices in a row was a big advantage.
Wheat was pretty obviously a must-get!
There were no 13-pip spots and only one 12-pip spot! The best were:
I have a little ‘formula’ I use as a guide to the best spots. This is simply to add up the pips but subtract one pip for each resource which is of the two most plentiful (wood and sheep in this case) and add one pip for each resource which is of the two more rare (ore and wheat). So the top spot listed above goes down to 11 pips and the second spot goes up to 12 pips. The third spot goes down to 10 pips but another spot (sheep-ore-wheat) goes up from 10 pips to 11 pips. So my ‘adjusted’ pip count would be:
12. Ore(9)-Wood(5)-Wheat(10) (+1)
11. Brick(5)-Sheep(9)-Wood(10) (-1)
11. Sheep(6)-Ore(4)-Wheat(3) (+1)
11. Sheep(6)-Brick(5)-Ore(11) (+0)
11. Wood(8)-Wheat(10)-Wheat(3) (+1)
11. Ore(9)-Ore(11)-Wheat(3) (+3)
I don’t really know if this is theoretically sound but it’s a useful guide when you have to make a quick decision at the start of the game.
Marcus took the top spot on my adjusted list. I really wanted to ensure at least some wheat and ore so the sheep-ore-wheat spot was probably the best option but I was really worried about the kind of slim pickings I would be left with for the second settlement. I figured that the wood(8)-wheat(10)-generic port spot would probably be still open so placed my road in that direction (this was a little risky but the other options were either more risky or not worth it.
Grant (white) took the sheep(8)-wood(10)-wheat(4) spot, which was only ‘worth’ 10 pips on my system but he was obviously attracted by the sheep port which was fair enough.
Jeff had a lot of choice in his placements. I would have been very tempted by the sheep-wood-brick and sheep-ore-wheat spots, for a total of 20 pips, all resources and numbers 3-5-6-9-10-11, and building to the ore(11)-ore(9) spot. Instead, Jeff chose the wood(8)-wheat(10) spot which I had been assuming would be left untaken (dammit) and the sheep(6)-brick(5)-ore(11) spot, building to the wheat(4) hex. This was ok but I still prefer my suggestion (and not just because it did not block me!).
Grant’s second choice was on the other side of the wood(10) hex, with sheep(9) and brick(5), giving him lots of sheep production but zero ore. His numbers were 4-5-8-9-10 with a starting road.
I decided to take the brick(6)-wood(3)-brick port spot because it gave me a starting road and easy access to the sheep(8) spot. However, it left me doubled-up on a 3, which was far from ideal and I was very concerned about my ability to generate enough resources, with no 5 or 9 and no sure way to get to them.
Marcus had very little to choose from – he had to take the sheep(6)-brick(11) spot but I was very surprised that he picked the wheat(12) option rather than the ore(4) option. Not only did the ore spot have two more pips (and would have left him with a fantastic range of 4-5-6-9-10-11), it also worked much better for building to the generic port later on.
Marcus did build quickly to the ore(4) spot. Grant built to the sheep port and I built to the sheep(8) hex while Jeff built to the wheat(4) hex.
Suddenly I got a bunch of good numbers and with some trades I built two roads and a settlement to the ore(9)-ore(11)-wheat(3) spot. This was very important for my chances and made me a more optimistic, since once I got the sheep(8) spot (which happened soon after) I would have 3-4-6-8-9-11, which looks much better.
Consensus was that Grant’s sheep port was the biggest worry, but my early building drew some attention too so the robber flipped between us most of the time.
Now I got a pretty lucky run. Three 3s were rolled in close succession, and I was the only person who got anything on a 3, and importantly one of the resources was wheat. I managed cities on my two starting settlements and suddenly I was the major threat! The robber sat on my brick(6) spot most of the time. I started buying cards, and the first was a point card.
This left me on seven points (the others rightly assumed the card was a point) and it was pointed out that Longest Road was still unclaimed and if I got it then the game could finish very quickly! Some trades were down to get Grant, whose production had slowed, Longest Road, with 6 lengths.
I drew a Monopoly card, which I used to build another city after a good ore roll, and a Year Of Plenty, which simply got me another card.
Meanwhile, Jeff was having a lot of trouble. Marcus had beaten him to the ore(9)-sheep(2) spot and so he was hemmed in. Marcus was also making slow progress, with five settlements but not getting close to a city. However, he did have two soldiers played and two other face-down cards.
I bought another card and played a soldier to move the robber to Grant, who had had a burst of sheep production, giving him two cities, a settlement and Longest Road (still only six lengths) for 8 points!
I built another city, taking me to 8 points, only needed to build two roads to take Longest Road and the win. I had in my hand two wood and two bricks! Jeff rolled a seven and stole one of my woods. Damn. Marcus built a city and took Largest Army on his turn (to go to 8 points) but I could not pick up anything useful up to my turn and no-one would trade with me so I was a card short.
On his next turn Grant built another city to go to 9 points. But now I had the cards I needed again to build the roads. Jeff did nothing and when Marcus did not roll a seven it seemed like nothing could stop me winning. Marcus rolled well and had enough cards for a city to go to nine points. However, he also had enough cards to buy three development cards and decided to do that instead. Two point cards had already been drawn (I had one and Jeff had a face-down card almost all game which was a point) and there were still 14 cards in the deck. Marcus drew … two point cards and won the game! Well, I had never seen that before – TWO point cards to win ‘on the river’ ahead of someone who would win the very next turn.
This meant that I would finish on 8, in third place behind Grant on 9. Jeff never got going and finished on 6.
In truth, I was a little lucky to get to a winning position due to the run of 3s rolled. However, the luck goes both ways and it certainly went against me at the end! The funny thing was that there was not actually that much tension at the end – everyone assumed I was going to win and then suddenly I didn’t. Fortunately that did not affect the chances of us making the finals! One strange thing was that despite having the brick port and brick on an 8 with a city there for a lot of the game I did not once do a 2-for-1 trade with the brick!
Another game which, in theory, did not affect anything as far as who made the semi-finals went. In this game was Sam Northe (red) who regular readers of these reports will remember from previous years as one of the strongest players around. Sam missed the tournament last year because it clashed with a wedding. Sam can pull wins out of nowhere. Michael (white) was the same guy who I had played in Round 1 and AAA (blue), I as yellow went last, but I can’t remember if that was my choice or not.
Resource rarity was:
Best spots were (my adjusted pip count in brackets at the end):
13. Wood(6)-Sheep(5)-Wheat(9) (13)
12. Wood(8)-Sheep(5)-Brick(10) (13)
12. Wood(8)-Sheep(5)-Wheat(4) (12)
11. Wheat(9)-Sheep(5)-Brick(10) (12)
11, Ore(5)-Wood(9)-Sheep(10) (11)
10. Wheat(8)-Sheep(10)-Brick(3) (12)
Sam picked the second of these (which eliminated the third and fourth also as options), attracted by the best brick AND sheep on the board and the wood port – it was probably the best choice. Michael went for the 13-pip spot, the top one listed above. AAA took the wheat(8)-wood(4)-brick(3) spot, which was surely inferior to the adjacent spot with sheep(10) instead of wood.
I took the ore-wood-sheep spot and the ore-ore-wheat spot. After decided that sheer number of pips was the best option with the ore-wood-sheep, I had to decide if I wanted to secure brick or not. In the end I decided not to, and go for big ore and the ore port. In retrospect I don’t know if it was the right choice. Had I taken the brick-wood-wheat spot I would have started with a road and built around to the wheat(8) hex, although at the time of placement I was not sure if it would be still available after the initial placements. I knew red and blue would not take it but white was a possibility. Regardless, I am inclined towards ore ahead of brick in most circumstances.
Blue had a tricky choice for his second settlement. He went for more wood(6)-brick(3)-wheat(11), doubling up on the brick(3) hex, perhaps fearful of brick production. I think that the ore(6)-wood(9)-sheep(2) was much the better choice – it had one more pip and importantly covered the ore. A starting road is nice but good ore is nicer.
Michael (white) probably had the hardest choice. He took the wood(6)-brick(12)-sheep(11) spot. He also could have taken the ore(6)-wood(9)-sheep(2) spot but that would have meant doubling up on 6s and 9s, which is too risky. His chosen spot also gave him a starting road, so he could secure the brick (10) spot, which is ok I guess and perhaps this was the best of a bad lot of options.
Sam was therefore left with some pretty decent options, and he chose the right one – the wood(9)-wheat(3)-wheat(11) spot, which gave certain access to the ore(6) hex which would leave him with numbers 4-5-6-8-9-10-11. With good wood production and the wood port he seemed to me to be the biggest threat, although most of the players were concerned with my ore production and the ore port.
All this meant that the wheat(8)hex was still open for me, so assuming I got that I would have numbers 3-4-5-6-8-9-10, which I was obviously happy with. The only problem was securing enough bricks, so my plan from the start was to buy development cards and hope for an early road building or year of plenty, on the assumption that I was unlikely to be able to trade for any.
So that’s what I did – four early development cards gave me a point plus three soldiers! This was great for keeping the robber off me and securing Largest Army but I was really after the other cards.
So, after a few turns I had still built absolutely nothing on the board, despite having Largest Army. Blue had by now four settlements, including all around the wheat(8) hex, so I could no longer aim for the wheat-sheep spot which I figured was crucial to my plans. Red had also four settlements, including on the wood port and the vital ore(6) spot. White had a city and two other settlements but did not have any good expansion options.
I really thought that Red (Sam) would coast to an easy win, and so did the others, so the robber stayed on Sam most of the time. In fact, Sam was quite unlucky with rolls, because as soon as we moved the robber to the wood(8) hex, 8s were rolled, and when it went back to the wood(9), 9s were rolled. If the rolls had been the other way around then he would have had a completely different game!
My soldiers kept the robber largely off me, which was good, but I was way behind on the board.
Finally I built to the ore port, but this did not really improve my production at all and while I was sure I could hold Largest Army, I was unsure of where the rest of the points would come from.
AAA (blue) built to the wheat port, having now used all five of his settlements and with no access to Ore.
Michael (white) built to the sheep port and soon after both me and AAA built cities, while Sam began an aggressively buying development cards, presumably in an effort to rid himself of the robber.
By this point most people were a bit unsure exactly who was ahead. Everyone had a good port and roughly the same points. Sam still had lots of potential with his wood port but AAA had six points on the board plus good potential for Longest Road. Michael also had potential for longest road and his sheep port.
Needing to stay ahead on the Army I bought more cards – one Monopoly and another soldier. The Monopoly got me another city, and Sam finally got a city as well.
Michael took Longest Road but AAA took it off him on his next turn. With two cities my production was now pretty good and I built a settlement on the generic port. Next turn I bought a card which was a point and I had won the game. Sam finished on 7, Michael on 6 and AAA on 8. Michael was again unlucky to lose Longest Road near the end of the game.
This was a game where, in the end, an ore/wheat strategy won out. Everyone had a good port, which made that side of things even. This was also a game where the players misread the leader. After I built my first city I knew I was reasonably well placed, since the others were struggling to get ore, but the robber still mostly stayed on Sam since it had established from the start of the game that he was best placed. Often in Settlers the players do not change their view on who is winning until it is too late, and I benefited, although my soldiers also helped. This and the dice rolls meant that Sam was really quite unlucky in the game.
Below is a list of the top 30 finishers, with the top 16 going through to the finals. The first number is wins, with the number in brackets the total points. Marcus, having won his first three games, got a 6 in the fourth game, so I managed to finish as the top ‘seed’ going into the finals – I had done this before in the second year with three wins and a 9, but lost in my semi-final. The score of Ming was interesting – she scored 2 in her first game and won the rest! I don’t think I have ever seen anyone not score a single point other than for the starting settlements! A surprise was the results for David Hawkins, who had previously appeared in two finals but failed to win a game and finished in 43rd. One player made it through to the semi-finals with only one win.
My record in the preliminary rounds in all years is now:
So this makes a total win-loss of 11-9. I think players like Sam, Grant & Jeff Davies and Simon Plummer would all have similar records and they make it to the finals every year – whoever says Settlers is mostly luck is completely wrong.
3 (38) John Clark
3 (36) Marcus Schutenko
3 (32) Ming George
2 (38) Grant Davies
2 (36) Samuel Northe
2 (36) Robert Whelan
2 (36) Peter Parkes
2 (35) Simon Plummer
2 (35) Danny Frahm
2 (34) Matthew McGucken
2 (34) Daniel Song
2 (32) Glenn Posford
2 (31) Jeff Davies
2 (31) Lee Clarke
2 (31) Michael Wake
1 (36) Barnes Fullam
1 (35) Paul Styman
1 (35) David Evans
1 (35) Tim Kelly
1 (34) Jessica Evers
1 (32) Peter Grosse
1 (32) Matthew Taylor
1 (32) Richard Hume
1 (30) Kit McDee
1 (30) Jennifer Roberts
1 (30) Rawson Wade
1 (30) Andrew Lin
1 (29) Andrew Johnston
1 (29) Galen Carlin
1 (29) Richard Lucas
The semi-finals were as follows, with the winners of each progressing through to the final.
Most players are philosophical when it comes to the semi-finals. Making the finals is a meaningful goal because the luck should even out over four games. However, winning one particular game is a different proposition. I think that there should be a better system for determining the finalists but I can’t think of anything that works. One option is to play only two semi-finals and have first and second go through to the final, but this is open to collusion. Another option is two play three semi-finals and have the winners and the best non-winner go through to the final, but this is a problem if more than one player finishes on 9 points. I guess my preferred option is to simply have a full fifth round of games and then the top four players simply play a final with no semi-finals at all. However, a fifth round might get pretty tedious for the players well out of contention. I suppose the fifth round of games could include only those players who could in theory make the final, plus any others who wanted to play.
I admit I was worried when I discovered that my semi-final included Simon Plummer, who had appeared in three of the four previous finals and won one of them! In fact, the only time he had not made the final was the year after he won the tournament and everyone attacked him with the robber so much that he did not even make the finals! Simon is a very good player, and really excels at the ‘verbal’ aspect of the game. Simon is an amazingly persuasive player and can really influence players to do what he wants. He also has a very keen sense of board position and possible scenarios for how the game will develop. The funny thing is, Simon never says anything which is not true – in fact, he volunteers information which is actually very useful. Of course, he does not highlight the things which benefit him, but that’s for other players to do. I decided that I really needed to match Simon at the verbal game, which is against my style of play. Crucially, our semi-final included the 16th player (Barnes), who had only played one game and it was clear from quite early that he was inexperienced and potentially putty in Simon’s hands!
The other player in out semi-final was Danny, who I think had been in previous tournaments but I had never played – he was in his 20s with reddish hair and was playing PSP before our game!
I arrived at the game last, and Barnes had grabbed my favourite yellow pieces which I had had for the previous four games. I should not stick with one colour all the time because if I have to change then I keep looking at the wrong pieces on the board! I took red, and I don’t think it made a lot of difference in the game.
Here is the rarity of the resources:
OK, so that was kind of weird. Sheep being the rarest (but generally least useful) resource made for an interesting choice! Best spots were:
13. Wheat (6)-Wood(5)-Wood(9) (12)
12. Ore(8)-Wood(5)-Sheep(4) (12)
12. Ore(8)-Wood(5)-Sheep(10) (12)
12. Brick(8)-Ore(5)-Brick(10) (10)
11. Wood(9)-Wood(5)-Sheep(10) (10)
Being the top seed I had first choice of which position I sat. My first question was if there was an obvious ‘best’ spot to go, and the answer was no. I leaned towards either of the Ore-Wood-Sheep spots but was worried that there would be no wheat around for my second settlement.
In the end I decided that there was not much to choose between the 13-pip option and the ore-wood-sheep 12-pip options so I decided to go second, which seemed to surprise the others on the table, knowing that I would get one of those two spots and hopefully have a better choice for the second settlement than if I went first. In retrospect I think it was an ok decision but really all of the positions were about equal.
Simon (white) chose to go first and Danny (blue) chose to go last, leaving Barnes (yellow) going third.
Simon picked the Ore(8)-Wood(5)-Sheep(4) spot. He chose the sheep(4) instead of the sheep(10) because he wanted to build to the wheat(3) hex. Had he chosen the sheep(10) spot he could have built toward the wood(9) hex which is more pips but I guess he figured that he may be blocked out of that spot and he had the same worried that I had about picking up any wheat with his second settlement.
I picked the 13-pip spot, securing the best wheat number (6). I wasn’t that happy with it since the wood port was not really an option I was considering, being on a 3.
Barnes simply made a bad decision to take the wheat(6)-wheat(11)-sheep(3) spot. He should have taken the remaining 12-pip spot, Brick(8)-Ore(5)-Brick(10), rather than his far inferior 9-pip spot. He was keen to secure wheat, but it was not worth 3 pips to do it, especially given that he would probably pick up wheat with his second settlement anyway.
This left Danny with a 12-pip spot, which the fourth player should almost never get. Danny would have been tempted to take the brick port with ore(4)-wheat(11) as his second settlement but I think wisely chose not to, instead going to cover all resources and as many numbers as possible with the wood(9)-sheep(4)-wheat(11), for numbers 4-5-8-9-10-11 and the 6 within reach provided no-one blocked him, which was a reasonably safe bet.
Barnes’ second settlement selection took a long, long time as the rest of us debated which was the better spot. Simon was very keen for Barnes to take the brick(8)-ore(4)-sheep(3) spot, simply because he did not want me to get it. He had a good case – that spot would have left me with all resources covered and numbers 3-4-5-6-8-9, with good access to the 10.
Barnes was agonising over that spot and the ore(8)-sheep(10)-wheat port spot. Both of the options were not great for him (the first option doubled-up on the sheep(3) hex) because his initial placement was so bad. The ‘discussion’ as to his ‘best’ option went on and on. Simon made a strong case for him to pick the first option while I made a case for the other spot but claiming that I really did not mind which he chose since I would be happy with the other. That was mostly true, although I did have a slight preference to get the first option! Looking at the board now, I had another option as well, the ore(8)-wheat(3) spot, which would have blocked Simon without hurting my own chances to secure the ore(8)-sheep(10) spot, and once I did that I would have 3-5-6-8-9-10 with a wheat port but no brick. That would have been interesting.
This was excruciatingly draw-out and in the end we all gave Barnes the hurry-up and after almost actually holding his settlement over the first spot (the one I wanted more) he put it on the second spot, with ore(8)-sheep(10)-wheat port. I think it was an important ‘win’ for me since I reckoned that Simon’s powers of persuasion were not quite as strong as I had feared.
I duly took the brick(8)-ore(4)-sheep(3) spot and Simon took the best of a bad lot remaining, brick(10)-sheep(3)-wheat(11), which was not so bad since he now had the numbers 3-4-5-8-10-11 with certain access to a 9 and maybe a 6 later on.
The crucial bit now was the race between Barnes and I to the brick port. I had a brick in my starting hand and Barnes had no road materials at all. When one of the first two rolls was a 9 I had my road and Simon pronounced (rightly) that I was a very big danger in the game.
The robber sat continually on the wheat(6) hex, which was the right thing for Danny and Simon to do, although there was also an element of, “you are the top seed so the robber should go on you”. I had a lot of trouble getting a wheat so I built another road, to the wood(9)-sheep(10)-generic port spot and when I finally got a wheat I chose to build that settlement first, rather than at the brick port. The reasoning was simply that the generic port had 7 pips and the brick port had 5 pips and I could always come back to the brick port later whereas Barnes could have (with lucky rolls or more likely some generous trading by the others) block me out of the generic port spot by building a settlement around the sheep(10) hex.
Meanwhile, Simon built towards the wood(9) hex, rather than the ore(8)-wheat(3) spot. Both spots had the same number of pips but I thought he should have gone for the ore(8)-wheat(3) spot simply because wheat was rarer, and it blocked out Danny from it, and Danny was more likely to want to contest it than the other. However, Simon may have been worried about being blocked into the middle of the board. Anyway, Simon did get roads down in both directions. He also bought three cards in quick succession and had two soldiers played in order to bring the robber back to the wheat(6) spot. I bought a card too which was a soldier which got the robber away for a (short) time.
I should say here that I was a little to fixated on Simon as the biggest threat. I thought I was best placed to win but Simon was the main competition and my robber placements were generally against him. I figured that Danny’s wheat production was not strong enough, but he built quickly to the brick(6) hex AND the wheat(3) hex, giving him numbers 3,4,5,6,8,9,11. He also had a development card turned down for several rounds.
Barnes built a city on his wheat(6) settlement and I cobbled together the resources for the settlement at the brick port and also started roads in the other direction. I figured I was a good chance to get and hold Longest Road, and Danny would be the only competition.
When I built a city on my first settlement I felt pretty safe, particularly as I bought two more cards and both were soldiers. Simon now had a settlement on the wood(9) hex plus two more development cards but he was making pretty slow progress.
I played my soldiers and took Largest Army, taking me to 6 points. Evidently Simon’s cards were not soldiers so I was curious if they were points or especially Monopoly. Danny also had two face-down cards.
My Longest Road ambitions suffered a blow when Simon pointed out that if I got it I would go to 8 points and the game might soon be over. Danny built a few roads and a settlement (on the generic port) over a couple of turns to take Longest Road, going to 7 points assuming that he had one point card. Simon built another settlement, on the ore(8)-wheat(3) spot and I still felt that he was the main competition because I could not see how Danny was going to build cities, particularly as he now he had all five settlements on the board with no access to ore.
Simon and I both had a problem with Barnes, who had almost decided that he was out of the game. He was nearly correct, but he had already shown an inclination to do silly trades when his fortunes waned so Simon and I were both encouraging him, telling him to stay in the game and he was still a chance, which he was, provided he stayed on target with buying cards and cities.
Danny kept building roads, and I bought cards, hoping for anything but a solider, but that’s all I got.
All of a sudden Danny did get a city, which made him a huge danger (on points, assuming that he had a point card) since we knew a settlement could follow quickly. The robber finally went to him but it was too late. On his next turn he played a Monopoly card on ore, getting three off Simon, and built another city to win.
It was a classic case of the players getting into a mindset of who was winning (me) and failing to notice someone creep up to win. It was similar to the previous game where I benefited while Sam suffered. I was partly at fault too as I picked on Simon for too long.
There was a small disappointment at the end as we discovered that Barnes had failed to play his own Monopoly card. Had he down so he would have taken Simon’s ore and built his own city, and Danny would have had to wait to play his (no-one else had anything to help him win that turn). It was unlikely to change the outcome but I guess there was a chance, but Barnes’ inexperience affected the game much more at the start than at the end, which was a little frustrating in a semi-final.
None of this is intended to take anything away from Danny’s win. Despite his good starting spots I still thought I was best placed and he did well to take the game.
Normally the top seeds in each semi-final fail to progress to the final. In the first year three of the four top seeds failed to progress and I think it was the same last year. This year I was the only top seed NOT to progress! Marcus, Ming and Grant all won their semi-finals.
Marcus (white) was the top seed for the final so he chose to go first. Ming (red) chose to go second and Grant (yellow) third, which meant Danny (blue) was fourth.
Resources were quite evenly spread:
Best spots were:
13. Wood(6)-Wheat(5)-Sheep(9) (13)
12. Brick(8)-Ore(5)-Wheat(10) (11)
12. Wheat(8)-Wheat(5)-Ore(10) (11)
12. Wheat(8)-Wheat(5)-Wood(10) (12)
10. Brick(8)-Brick(4)-Sheep(3) (13)
Marcus took the Brick(8)-Ore(5)-Wheat(10) spot and although did not have the most pips in either the direct count or my ‘adjusted’ count, I would have been very tempted by it as well – brick was the rarest resource and ore and wheat are just too good to refuse.
Ming took the Wheat(8)-Wheat(5)-Ore(10) spot, which left the 13-pip spot for Grant, which he took.
Danny’s choices were tough. There were three 10-pip spots on offer and he took the two with wheat and ore hexes, ignoring the Brick(8)-Brick(4)-Sheep(3) spot. The wheat-wheat-wood spot was obviously more attractive because of the wheat port and generic port in close range. His road choice into the middle of the board from the other spot was optimistic as it was highly unlikely that there would be room to build settlements in that direction, although he was part way to the ore(5) hex. I thought a better choice would be to either the ore(8)-generic port or to the sheep(9)-wood(4) spot.
Grant got the Brick(8)-Brick(4)-Sheep(3) spot, leaving him with BOTH of the spots with 13-pips on my ‘adjusted’ count, and with numbers 3-4-5-6-8-9, which is almost ideal and all resources covered except ore. Grant also built both his roads towards the middle of the board, which makes me wonder where he thought the other players were going to put their settlements if not in those middle spots.
Ming made the wrong choice with her second settlement. She picked the wheat(10)-sheep(9)-wood(11) spot, with 9 pips but doubled-up on the 10. If you really have to double-up on a number, its better to do it on ore/wheat or wood/brick, and Ming had the former so that was ok, but she hardly needed more wheat production. A better choice would have been the wood(6)-sheep(3)-brick(11) spot (also 9 pips), giving a starting road to build to the sheep(9)-ore(10) spot (for numbers 3-5-6-8-9-10-11 and then perhaps to the brick(11)-brick(4) spot to grab the 4 as well.
Its possible that Grant expected Ming to do that, which would have left the wheat(10)-wood(11)-sheep(3) spot open to build to, assuming that Marcus would have then taken the wheat(5)/sheep(9)-wood(4)-wood(11) spot.
Due to Ming’s decision, Marcus could now take the wood(6)-wood(11)-sheep(3) spot, giving numbers 3-5-6-8-10-11, but with no possible access to the 9 but plenty of room to expand. I think that this was probably Marcus’ best option, although I wonder if better was the wood(6)-brick(11)-sheep(3) spot for a starting road to build towards the sheep(9) hex.
Jeff Davies (Grant’s brother and reigning champion) and I watched all this and after initial placement we agreed that Danny (blue) was placed worst and was unlikely to win – he did not have the numbers and was unlikely to get them.
The early rolls were 6s and 8s which gave Grant roads and he built roads to the ore(10)-sheep(9)-brick port spot. This was a huge move, since Ming was now really boxed in and Grant would now have access to 3-4-5-6-8-9-10, with all resources covered AND the brick port. Had Ming placed her second settlement correctly she would have already built the road there are prevented Grant beating her to it. Ming’s chances were much lessened and I doubted she could win, barring an amazing run of rolls of 10.
Over the next few turns there were several 7s rolled and soldiers played, and the robber went exclusively on Grant, except of course when Grant rolled the 7 and then the robber went on Danny or Marcus. Danny had bought a lot of cards, which was not surprising given his numbers were ore and wheat and sheep and he quickly secured Largest Army (although everyone had at least two soldiers down!). Crucially, he also drew a Road Building card, which negated efforts to deprive him of wood and brick. He chose to build the roads to the sheep(9)-wood(4) spot, which was his best option in terms of pips (7) but I would have thought that the ore(5) hex was more attractive. He may have been thinking that going the way he did he would need only three roads to build two settlements (the other one at the ore(8) spot), which is fair enough.
Meanwhile Grant built his settlement on the brick port, which intensified focus on him as the leader. Marcus and Ming both built cities, thanks to some rolls of 10 and 5.
Grant built two roads around the brick(8) hex to the sheep port but Marcus placed his own road and settlement to beat him to it. This really hurt Grant – those roads were now wasted and would have been very useful elsewhere. Marcus was now on 5 points and while he was still in the game he had suffered much (particularly early on) from being on some of the same hexes as Grant and hence the robber.
Grant followed with his own city on his brick production spot and Danny built TWO cities on this two starting spots and also a settlement. This meant Danny was on 7 points plus two face-down cards.
Grant then built two roads around the sheep(9) hex to take Longest Road. This was a difficult choice, since Danny was the leader but Longest Road kept attention on Grant, with 6 points plus two face-down cards. In fact, my photo at this point has seven face-down cards among the players – two each for Marcus, Danny and Grant, and one for Ming.
Grant’s issue was that his best roads were probably to the brick(4)-brick(11) spot, but I think he must have been worried about Danny also taking Longest Road and probably win the game so he decided to take it himself. The problem was that for Danny to take Longest Road he would have needed to join his settlements, giving him a 6 length road which would beat Grant’s five length road anyway.
He Simon been in this game I think it would have developed quite differently. He would have ensured that someone else – probably Ming – would take Longest Road to keep Danny from it.
As it happened, Danny’s production had slowed, but he had a Monopoly card, which he used to take all the wheat (an nice even 8 of them) and built two roads for Longest Road and, with his point card, was the champion.
There were a lot of similarities between this game and Danny’s semi-final win. He got his last points thanks to a Monopoly card and he benefited greatly from the other players believing that someone else was the biggest danger. In the end, Grant finished on only 5 points!
None of my photos reveal what any of those five face-down cards were which were held by the players other than Danny and I am very curious to know. I assume that none were Year Of Plenty, since these generally get played pretty quickly. Danny had one point card so it was not possible for ALL of the five cards were points (and its unlikely that four of them were as well). Danny had already played one Road Building. If one was a Road Building then it was surely held by Marcus, since Ming and Grant had every reason to play it. If one was a Monopoly then it really should have been played, just as Barnes had not done in the semi-final.
My big question is if any of those face-down cards were soldiers. All of Marcus, Grant and Ming had two soldiers, and if any of them had gone to three soldiers then this would have placed pressure on Danny. Many players seem to think that soldiers are for chasing away the robber and if the robber is not on you then you don’t play the soldier. This is quite wrong – soldiers are just as much for Largest Army, and with Danny getting close to winning he needed to be pressured, even if it meant playing a soldier card when the robber is not on you.
Anyway, that’s all speculation and it may have been that no-one had that extra soldier but I would love to know what cards the others had at the end!
- Last edited Mon Feb 1, 2010 12:50 am (Total Number of Edits: 6)
- Posted Sat Jan 30, 2010 12:10 pm
I remember seeing this recap last year when I joined the site and glad to see it return!
Nice commentary John That semi-final against you was very intense.
A quick note - I remember winning the semi-finals by building both a settlement and a city in the same turn, using the monopoly card to get the ore I needed. I remember because I tried to build the settlement first, but already had five down. So I monopolied and built the city first.
The monopoly card wasn't greatly significant in the finals. I only needed a single brick to complete longest road and win the game. In my hand I had brick, 2x wood and 1 or 2x wheat. I asked around about brick for trade but nobody said they had any and I beleived them, it was a friendly table. So I instead went for the wheat. It tipped me over though.
I don't think anyone talked about the "biggest threat" in the finals until it was too late. The robber was hitting the 8 brick hard because everyone wanted the chance to steal brick. From start to finish that Brick port was a robber magnet.
I haven't decided yet, but I might come down next year ...
- Last edited Tue Feb 2, 2010 8:57 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Feb 2, 2010 8:36 am
Nice one John
I just Googled the tournament to see if anyone had created anything from it, and it appears you are the only one. Had thought the organisers might create an official results page or similar.
A couple of clarifications. This was my second tournament. I entered in 2007 in Albury, but got knocked out with four straight loses. There were about ten of us who went up (about six players). A year later three of us were in Mongolia, so missed the 2008 tournament, but Rohan Flavelle went on to win it (and come second in the World Championship). Rohan's a bit of a quiet dark horse, so wasn't surprised he did so well. Has that ability to look like he is not even in contention, and then suddenly shoot from nowhere and win.
We all missed the 2009 tournament, when the organisers changed the date from Queen's Birthday to Australia Day. No one I know was notified, but the organisers this year told me they emailed everyone on their mailing list. Unfortunately neither Rohan or any of the rest of us made that list.
I agree with Jeff and your evaluation of the final in 2010. I also didn't think Danny had much hope with his starting positions, and that Grant was going to romp it in. Unfortunately that 8 Brick spot was shared by both Grant and I from the outset, so when you say that Grant always wore the robber, you could say Marcus & Grant always wore the robber. If either of us rolled a 7 we moved it off that spot, if either of the others did, then return it did.
Danny ended up playing a great under the radar game, which in my experience is a strategy that fools people, myself included, far too often. I didn't see him coming, and by the plays Ming and Grant were making, I don't think any of us did until it was too late to stop.
Interesting to hear that there is a group who recognise each other from one tournament to the next. Will be great to say hi to familiar faces at next year's gig.
- Last edited Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:29 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:26 am
"A son seul aspect n'est-on pas terrasse? Nul n'est assez hardi pour l'exciter" Job 40:28
This is a fantastic report!
I read it to the last word and I know what game I will be playing tonight.
- Last edited Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:43 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:40 pm
It looks like your pictures always show all Development cards purchased by the winning player. Is that correct?
It looks like your pictures always show all Development cards purchased by the winning player. Is that correct?
Well, I TRY to get all the cards purchased by everyone in the shots but sometimes I don't get them in.