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Subject: Why do people hate Settlers of Catan rss

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Gláucio Reis
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BigAlJ7 wrote:
The luck balances out, and players can decide to diversify and reduce the effects of luck or put all their eggs in 1 basket and heighten it.

In another thread:
BigAlJ7 wrote:
I like some of the luck aspect of dice rolling and development cards, but the dice can decide the game. I really do like the luck because I think it adds an excitement factor to the game, but there can be a little too much luck.

Arguing with yourself much?
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I don't hate Catan. I hate many players of it.

The problem with Catan (and I do like the game) is that many people play the game badly. Unlike other games, if someone is playing Catan badly, it negatively affects other players. This is directly related to trading, because a bad trade by another player can greatly help out someone else.

I've played games against people who traded with someone who was showing 8 points plus multiple development cards. I've played against people who traded with someone who had 9 points. I've played with people who put the robber on people who have 3 points and ignore the person who has 8 points.

Also the "wood for sheep" type jokes weren't funny the first hundred times I've heard them.
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EuroPeon
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Catan is a fine game (I play it plenty! with certain groups), but it's an older design, and it's something of a slight to game designers to think that they haven't found ways to improve upon certain gameplay elements.

There's several criticism of Settlers that I've found to be true during my plays:

1 The most important decisions are at the very beginning. Your initial placement of settlement and the road pieces are the most important decisions you make. With games that have randomized setup elements, this can be considered usual, but for a gateway game (especially one that can take 20 mins per player!) this leads to bad experiences for first time players. They spend their first game either being walked through the decision-making process by another player, or they spend the last half the game, after grasping what is going on, playing the coulda-shoulda game, with no real chance of winning. Not really ideal. Granted, after a few plays you realize a game like Dominion pretty much plays exactly the same way in this respect, but it doesn't explicitly prompt players to make those decisions at the game start, and it has a much shorter playtime.

2 The robber introduces negative player interaction. You don't benefit by rolling a 7, you punish the other players. Furthermore, it doesn't progress the game, it only serves to stall it and drag it out.

3 The resources aren't well balanced. I'm not talking about the number chits on them, I'm talking about before that: what can you buy with them. Sheep are virtually worthless in the base game. Seafarers balances that out (ships), but it's still a valid criticism of the base game. And since the dice don't take that imbalance into account, it magnifies how important that initial settlement placement decisions are.

4 Players take turns. Yes, trading keeps everyone involved to an extent, but it's still turn taking--and most times you can't plan to do anything on your turn until the dice roll. That's a situation with high AP potential.

5 Trading isn't mutually beneficial enough. It helps the player requesting the trade (whoever's turn it is) much more than the other player because they can then build with their newly traded good. If you don't believe me, try playing a game where you switch it: only other players can propose trades (well, only with you) on your turn.

6 Dice rolling doesn't happen often enough in Catan for The Law of Large Numbers to bear itself out over the course of a single game (cf. Risk). So all your carefully laid plans can rather ruthlessly be run amok by the dice gods. Catan's not a game where the best player wins, but a game where the best played game has the best chance of winning. Not everyone likes that.

d10-7 Finally, trading just isn't a skill everyone can do well. It's just like auctions. Not everyone values commodities well. So if trading's not an easy mechanic for someone, they're probably not going to enjoy the game.

So again, I'll agree with the sentiment that Catan's not bad game, it's just that some people like other ones better.
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Mr Deltaz
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I don't hate it... I hate playing it with my friends. their primary goal is to make sure I don't win...because being the owner of the game and the host automatically makes me the best player at Settlers. this means no one trades with me during the game and I am at completely at the mercy of the Dice.

They do this in pretty much in any other game, but in those games I have more ways to mitigate their teaming up than I do in Settlers.

For this reason I rather play something else...
 
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Dan T
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EuroPeon wrote:
Catan is a fine game (I play it plenty! with certain groups), but it's an older design, and it's something of a slight to game designers to think that they haven't found ways to improve upon certain gameplay elements.

There's several criticism of Settlers that I've found to be true during my plays:

1 The most important decisions are at the very beginning. Your initial placement of settlement and the road pieces are the most important decisions you make. With games that have randomized setup elements, this can be considered usual, but for a gateway game (especially one that can take 20 mins per player!) this leads to bad experiences for first time players. They spend their first game either being walked through the decision-making process by another player, or they spend the last half the game, after grasping what is going on, playing the coulda-shoulda game, with no real chance of winning. Not really ideal. Granted, after a few plays you realize a game like Dominion pretty much plays exactly the same way in this respect, but it doesn't explicitly prompt players to make those decisions at the game start, and it has a much shorter playtime.

2 The robber introduces negative player interaction. You don't benefit by rolling a 7, you punish the other players. Furthermore, it doesn't progress the game, it only serves to stall it and drag it out.

3 The resources aren't well balanced. I'm not talking about the number chits on them, I'm talking about before that: what can you buy with them. Sheep are virtually worthless in the base game. Seafarers balances that out (ships), but it's still a valid criticism of the base game. And since the dice don't take that imbalance into account, it magnifies how important that initial settlement placement decisions are.

4 Players take turns. Yes, trading keeps everyone involved to an extent, but it's still turn taking--and most times you can't plan to do anything on your turn until the dice roll. That's a situation with high AP potential.

5 Trading isn't mutually beneficial enough. It helps the player requesting the trade (whoever's turn it is) much more than the other player because they can then build with their newly traded good.

6 Dice rolling doesn't happen often enough in Catan for The Law of Large Numbers to bear itself out over the course of a single game (cf. Risk). So all your carefully laid plans can rather ruthlessly be run amok by the dice gods. Catan's not a game where the best player wins, but a game where the best played game has the best chance of winning. Not everyone likes that.

d10-7 Finally, trading just isn't a skill everyone can do well. It's just like auctions. Not everyone values commodities well. So if trading's not an easy mechanic for someone, they're probably not going to enjoy the game. If you don't believe me, try playing a game where you switch it: only other players can propose trades (well, only with you) on your turn.

So again, I'll agree with the sentiment that Catan's not bad game, it's just that some people like other ones better.


Well put
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Gil Anderson
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BigAlJ7 wrote:
Doomed_Destiny wrote:
BigAlJ7 wrote:
Doomed_Destiny wrote:
I enjoy playing Settlers every now and then with new people. After a few games, nobody would trade with me and everyone would put the robber on one of my tiles. Low probability of winning aside, it's really not much fun playing 3 Vs 1. With most Euro games, it is easier to overcome the gang up against the perceived leader. I'm the Boss! is in the same category. I bring it to the table only when a new group of people are at the table because after a few wins, no one wants you in on a deal.


Why not play with experienced players who are similarly skilled?


It's random chance. 10-30 people show up for gaming night. When I am in a table of very good players, the group ends up playing Village, Nobles, Power Grid, Navegador, Age of Empires III, etc. To the group, Catan is old hat and not as enjoyable as others. Last year, our group played 207 unique titles.


If you play so many new games, I guess a 10 year old game would be old. Not sure how in that group 1 player is so dominant, but in my group of friends we are pretty even. When playing with friends, I find that the trading and luck aspect make Settlers often more fun than pure skill games.


I agree. I have a house rule that if you get nothing on a die roll, you get 1 chip (gold nugget). You can trade in 2 chips for any one resource, they do not count against the robber resource limit, and can be traded just like anything else. This has saved people from a run of bad rolls a few times and have made the game more enjoyable, which is the goal. I warn people not to trade with me if I am within 2 points of winning so they do not give me the game. My primary gaming group is a meetup group so we have people of all skill levels so it's rare that a table contains all good players. Luckily, I also game with another group (membership by invitation only) that is composed of mostly good players, similar to your group. Most of the people know strategy & negotiation and are trying to win for themselves, so Catan would work great. However, this group would never play something like Catan or Puerto Rico. We play games like Eclipse, Dominant Species, Twilight Imperium, Spartacus, Battlestar Galactica, and Descent. Two members owns over 1,000 games and the group easily owns 4,000 games.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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BigAlJ7 wrote:
With a not very large map, you often need a 10 point strategy. Unless one player is much better, players need to know how they will earn 10 points with limited space.

I think... you don't really know what strategy means.

Quote:
cymric wrote:
And speaking for Settlers: the luck doesn't balance out actually, not in a single game, in any case. It only balances out over many games, I suspect in the order of 100 or thereabouts. Likely more, certainly not less.

I highly doubt that. There are a ton of rolls in each game.

I did the math for single games, and posted a few results here. It does not balance out, as you can easily see. In fact, there wouldn't even be a game of Catan if it did, because it would be boring as hell.

Quote:
cymric wrote:
If you don't expect to play that many games, then the factor luck dominates too readily, and it doesn't really matter if you diversify or specialise. Randomness doesn't care one iota, that's why it's randomness.

It's not about randomness caring so much as the way you work with randomness. Diversifying allows you to lower the effects of randomness, while putting your eggs in 1 basket increases variance. Also, luck is way overstated in this game. Playing a good game often wins out.

But if the expectancy value is equal then it's much more difficult to make the case that one way is better than the other (though not impossible); and having a good game winning out is only measurable over a relatively large number of games.

Think of it like Poker. In a single game anyone can get lucky and win from a pro. Now play a thousand games: who's gonna win now? A pair of German researchers actually calculated for a given collection of Poker games from a single online website where the crossover point between luck-dominated games and skill-dominated games lay. Unfortunately you need to pay to read the full article, and the cited author has moved his freely accessible documents to that graveyard of social privacy, Facebook. Perhaps you have better luck—haha—finding some handouts of talks which highlight these ideas. But it turned out that, for this database, you need vastly more games to tell if you're a good player (1500 vs. 35000 to 200000 depending on how much money you want to win per hand), and that bad players invariably played less games than the bad limit, while good players invariably played more than the good limit. Bad players play a game of luck, good players a game of skill. In any case, I strongly doubt Settlers will be any different.

Quote:
cymric wrote:
The strategy in Settlers is very limited precisely because of the number of random elements in the game. That doesn't mean it's not there or that it cannot be honed, but the game is far more about working out optimal short term paths than it is about having grand plans and executing them to perfection.

As I mentioned before, especially in 4 player games, winning is not just about getting the resources and letting them dictate your moves. Cards obviously affect short term decisions, but you need to be efficient in realizing your 10 point strategy. Any wasted purchase can cost a player the game.

There is no pre-set 10 point strategy: the dice and cards will have a large say in how the game flows. And since their randomness doesn't even out (see my graphs), you cannot have a fixed path to follow. You stating that a wasted purchase can cost a player the game is strengthening my idea that you either do not know what strategy truly is, or that you are using the wrong word to describe matters. Settlers is, again repeating myself, mostly about short term optimisation of a number of situations with limited strategic value. That is a valid way to design a game: look at Poker, look at Dominion, look at Race for the Galaxy. I just don't find those designs interesting.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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wytefang wrote:
You absolutely can lay out long-term plans AND have them succeed via good planning and playing and trading.

And in the pursuit of that succeeding, are the other players just letting you get away with good trades which help you offset the randomness more than it helps them? If that is the case, then the other players are just not as skilled as you are, and consequently you deserve to win; and if they aren't, the fact that quite simple random events are strongly interfering with what is now essentially a game of (subtle) skill (differences) just clouds that competition unnecessarily.

In the end it's actually mostly about player preference. I prefer games in which skill differences become apparent with fewer games: this is difficult in case of games with lots of random factors. It doesn't necessarily mean Settlers is bad on an objective scale (should one exist), but it does mean Settlers is bad on my subjective scale. It also doesn't mean I dislike dice on principle; I can, however, dislike the way in which they're used. I really like Yspahan, for example, and can play it quite well, too. But in this game it is all about making the choice between tempting alternatives, and not in working around the set primitive limitations of what you've been given, do or die.
 
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Jacek Wieszaczewski
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I don't like Settlers because of politics. Every time I played getting a win required:
1. Playing decently.
2. Not being hit by bad luck.
3. Convincing players who failed on either of the above to gang up with you against the other player who did not fail. This was by far the most important thing to do.
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West Ward
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A game that allows you to lock another player out of meaningfully contributing without eliminating them from the game entirely is A Bad Game.
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Derry Salewski
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It's a eurogame based on luck and negotiation. Just things a lot of people grow out of when they think of serious strategy games, which euros often bill themselves as.

I personally have not much of a problem with luck when the point is to play with it, mitigate it, use it, so forth.

I don't really want to play negotiation games though.

It's a good gateway game. But it's so exposed that of course it's going to have lots of detractors.
 
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Howard Burdett
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Not only do I hate Settlers, it was the game that put me off the hobby for a decade. A boardgaming friend played with me in an attempt to get me interested in designer boardgames - all he succeeded in doing was convincing me that video games were vastly superior. It was the opposite of a gateway game (a "portcullis game"? I jest). I only realised my mistake in the last year-and-a-bit.

Why do I hate Catan? Maybe it goes something like this:

1. I am player C, with two decent numbers.

2. Player A rolls a different number and a seven. The thief blocks one of my spaces. Now I have one number.

3. Player B rolls. My number does not come up.

4. I roll. My number does not come up. I do not have enough resources (or enough of interest to others), so I have no trading options as well as no buying options.

Obviously not all turns are like this, but sitting through several players' turns without doing anything, and then not doing anything on your own turn is the very antithesis of fun. In fact, it's the antithesis of playing a game. Yes, various expansions and house rules seek to overcome these problems, but they are bandages over a fundamental mechanic that is no fun, nor even a game. Yes, the rolls even out over time, but just one occurrence of the round described above is enough to leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Postscript: since getting into the hobby I have tried Settlers in various flavours to try to convince myself that millions must be right, and I must be wrong. I still can't stand it. On the other hand, the game that got me into the hobby was Arkham Horror, which has a host of its own problems. So what do I know?
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General Norris
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Because it's not a zombie-themed worker placement euro released through Kickstarter during the last two hours.

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Scott Hill
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cymric wrote:
Quote:
cymric wrote:
And speaking for Settlers: the luck doesn't balance out actually, not in a single game, in any case. It only balances out over many games, I suspect in the order of 100 or thereabouts. Likely more, certainly not less.

I highly doubt that. There are a ton of rolls in each game.

I did the math for single games, and posted a few results here. It does not balance out, as you can easily see. In fact, there wouldn't even be a game of Catan if it did, because it would be boring as hell.


What?! How does that prove anything what-so-ever?

You took a very small and completely arbitrarily sized sample of random numbers and found out that they're, erm... random!

Well done you.

Maybe you can get a job working for government office making up statistics for them that prove whatever they need proving.

And, sorry for the tone of my post, but this kind of psudeo-acedemic response really winds me up.

If you want to do a academic analysis of the game then do a proper academic analysis of the game.
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Neil Brooks
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I really enjoy Catan because of the heavier luck element. It can be a really nice pallet cleanser after something like Power Grid or Agricola and it allows everyone to kick the brain into a lower gearfor a bit.

That said, it does very much depend on the people playing it. If you don't have much of a personality then you're not going to bring much to the table. If the dice are against you then you need to be prepared to laugh at your rotten luck. Start breaking out the bad puns and crack the lame jokes!

And just because you're not catching the breaks this time doesn't mean you should start whinging about it. Maybe it's someone else's turn to get all the good rolls this time around and it would be pretty poor form to complain and spoil the winner's game. Maybe you'll get the luck next game but for now, play the game and try to have a laugh.
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Gil Anderson
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the_spiral wrote:
Not only do I hate Settlers, it was the game that put me off the hobby for a decade. A boardgaming friend played with me in an attempt to get me interested in designer boardgames - all he succeeded in doing was convincing me that video games were vastly superior. It was the opposite of a gateway game (a "portcullis game"? I jest). I only realised my mistake in the last year-and-a-bit.

Why do I hate Catan? Maybe it goes something like this:

1. I am player C, with two decent numbers.

2. Player A rolls a different number and a seven. The thief blocks one of my spaces. Now I have one number.

3. Player B rolls. My number does not come up.

4. I roll. My number does not come up. I do not have enough resources (or enough of interest to others), so I have no trading options as well as no buying options.

Obviously not all turns are like this, but sitting through several players' turns without doing anything, and then not doing anything on your own turn is the very antithesis of fun. In fact, it's the antithesis of playing a game. Yes, various expansions and house rules seek to overcome these problems, but they are bandages over a fundamental mechanic that is no fun, nor even a game. Yes, the rolls even out over time, but just one occurrence of the round described above is enough to leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Postscript: since getting into the hobby I have tried Settlers in various flavours to try to convince myself that millions must be right, and I must be wrong. I still can't stand it. On the other hand, the game that got me into the hobby was Arkham Horror, which has a host of its own problems. So what do I know?


My wife bought me Star Trek Catan. In this flavor, you can use characters (Kirk, Spock, Scotty, etc.) to prevent the thief effect, trade resources to the bank 1:1, etc. (played only twice and last play was several months ago so recall may be fuzzy). Whatever its faults, the game does have cool Enterprise figures instead of road logs.
 
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Because even Wal-mart carries it now ??

... but seriously it was a good game when I started playing boardgames ... ... and its still OK today ...but there are better things out there. Starfarers of Catan is probably the best of the "Catanic" games ...

... but you have to learn to stand before you can walk or run ... enjoy the voyage ...
 
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Ryan Bretsch
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I'm not a fan of this game for a different array of reasons than others. But it stems from my love of *Gateway* Games. I guess for me, Settlers of Catan stacks up has maybe a "gateway" to introduce people to Euros. But in my opinion, it is simply an "easier to play" Euro-type game.

As a big fan of *Gateway Games* it does not meet my litmus test for what a true *Gateway* game is.

From this quarter:

-- Both the name of the game and the artwork are completely uninspiring.
-- The theme doesn't draw you into wanting to play the game.
-- The game mechanics are very Euro, which is NOT a favorite. So it appeals to a narrower market.
-- Don't like the board or the game playing components.
-- None of my friends ever showed any remote interest in it... so its hard to even get my most fun people to want to play it.

To Settlers of Catan's credit-- it is the only Euro that I have seen that has sold well in the mainstream market. I don't know why that is but I suspect that is because it has been "introduced" so many times that enough people decide they just like the Euro game playing experience and they go out and buy it... perhaps as a change of pace to Monopoly? It IS fairly well known now.

However, I just don't think too many people walk by seeing it on the shelf at Target and decide they "oh I have to have this."

So that's why I personally don't like it.

----

FYI: My two examples of games that DO get it right in the *Gateway* Game department-- Ticket to Ride and Escape: The Curse of the Temple.


 
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Kevin Wisser
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I know people who practice for catan tournaments by practicing setup over and over again. Getting a great setup position counts for a lot in this game, which is kind of lame. I dont care for the dice aspect, too random for my taste. Anyone surging ahead can be plain ignored by the other players, they just refuse to trade with you. Sucks to be swindled by the thief. And idk, its just.. not fun shake
 
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J Holmes
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It has dice rolling, just like Monopoly
It has building stuff, just like Monopoly
It has trading, just like Monopoly

It has a world champs with prizes, just like Monopoly
 
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Kamille
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Sometimes you lose,

sometimes the others win. whistle


Settlers isn´t a game to win. It´s a game to play. That´s the fun in it.

Compare a loss against the fun all the people had together while playing it. If i couldn´t stand a loss i would only play Chess. I dont need to win a game but i really need to have fun with the people i play with. That´s why i like and play Settlers of Catan. greets Hessi
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Craig Somerton
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I despise the fact that there are numerous times where the dice doesn't fall your way, leaving you with nothing to do for a turn (or possibly several turns), meanwhile other people are getting ahead, and all because of the luck of a dice roll.

Player 1 rolls - "8! I gain 2 bricks and 1 wood. I think I'll build a road.".

Player 2 rolls - "11. Nup, I can't do anything. Want to trade a brick for a sheep? No. Didn't think so. Your turn".

Player 1 rolls - "Oh 8 again. I'll trade-in these extra cards for this card and build a settlement."

Player 2 rolls - "4. Good - you get a Sheep and a Brick I get nothing again. Want to trade a brick for a sheep? No again? Your turn.

And so on for well over an hour.
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Peter van der Helm
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I managed to get some extra fun out of Settlers using a 12 sided die, instead of two d6's. A roll of 1 and 7 are used as the robber instead of only seven. That way all numbers are evenly distibuted.
 
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Christian K
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I thought the point was that the distribution was not even.
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Martin Larouche
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The main Catan problem is that it can be a frustrating experience. I am here, with no resources. I roll the die, nothing for me. Other players play, comes back to me... still not a single resource. Can't trade or do anything really when i have nothing.

It comes back to me... Yay! i got one brick. Other player plays after me... gives me another brick. A player wants to trade a brick for a wood. Hurray again... i get to trade a brick for a wood and will build a road next turn.

Third player roll the robber... steal my wood.

Fourth player roll the robber gain... steal my brick.

Comes back to me... i have no resources again.

This kind of things happens A LOT.

The only way i like playing Settlers is with the event card deck. it reduces the random distribution of the dice a lot. The dice rolls are much more predictable and interesting, while you are still not sure if your number is going to come up soon or at all.
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