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Subject: Romantic Island Get-away -A Review of some 2-player Variants rss

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brian
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My girlfriend (Zoe79 on BGG) and I love playing games. However, we always seem to be drawn to Euros or DOW games that are for 3-5 players. Though we play with other couples quite frenquently, we usually only have time to get in games with ourselves through-out the week. We are always on the look-out for the 2-player variants that will allow us to play the games we love with each other.

Settlers of Catan was one such game. When we finally got around to picking this classic up at the New Year, we played through it as if it were a 4-player game. We each controlled two colors and kept our hands seperate. We traded with each other first if possible but then traded with our other hand as a last resort. It played well enough but was a bit chaotic managing and tracking VPs.

The game quickly became Zoe's favorite as she always managed to quietly win or come in a close 2nd in all of our group games. She even managed a come-from-behind victory during our first 6 player session about a week ago [http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/154880]. With an upcoming vacation, we knew we had to print out a handful of Settler variants and test out our favorite.

We checked out this Geek List [http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/18866] and also stopped by Mayfair's website [http://mayfairgames.com/ - sorry, can't find a direct link to the page]. After printing out a handful, we settled for three to test out. We selected Thomas Stobie's and Ethan Spring's on the Mayfair site and Nick Burko's on the Geek List. We rejected Klaus Tauber's official variant because we felt it changed too much with the commercial chips and neutral buildings. Our goal was to play a game with the original contents of the box and something very similar to the base game. Our selections in reverse order are as follows:

#3: Thomas Stobie's 2-Player (Mayfair webpage)
Basic Set-up Each player takes 2 colors, no trading with each other, 20 VPs are needed, and the hand size increases from 7+ to 9+ for when the robber is rolled.

Much like our initial game of acting like 4 players, this game was a bit chaotic in keeping track of our resources. Not being used to having the white buildings (I always play blue), I accidently placed the robber on one of my own city hexes! We were also a bit unsure of the initial set-up: did each player get 2 initial settlements, or 4? We played that each color still got 2 settlements, along with resources for the 2nd to start the game.

What we found was that the game was too easy. With the increase of "safe" resources in your hand, the Robber rarely impacted the game. He still shut down a hex and stole 1 randomly but it seemed you could survive very easily with the opportunity to collect elsewhere. With the plethora of resources coming in though, it was also very easy to build something almost every turn, so we rarely saw our hand cut in half.

With little hampering us, we freely built what we wanted. The game was more of a race to see who could get 20 VPs instead of a strategic affair to outmanuever our opponent. The only advantage of this game was it lasted long (over an hour and a half) and gave Zoe a feeling that she had time to come back when down. But with 26 possible VPs in buildings alone, you could use any strategy you wanted and it would have worked in this game.

The longer set-up and clean-up time, the chaotic administration of 2 colors, and the no holds barred building frenzy just wasn't much fun. We won't be returning to this overly commercialized island any time soon. Of the 3, I would advise you not to bother with this variant. thumbsdown thumbsdown

#2: "Borkos 2-player settlers" (Item #4 on the Geeklist)
Basic Set-up The island is reduced by 5 tiles and 2 ports; the development cards are also trimmed along with a reduction of playing pieces; each player uses 1 color and no trading is allowed between the players; everything else is practically the same.

This one offered the most promise to me when I first read it. It was reminiscent of the 5-6 Player game where the island, resources, and development cards were adjusted to the number of players. We felt this game scaled very well and played similar to basic Catan. The island was tighter and conflict arose early. With less hexes and ports, trading became more of a goal in order to get the resources needed. But with the smaller island, it was also easier to cut off access to the desired port.

This game was by far much shorter (less than an hour). Depending on your outlook, this could be good or bad. I enjoyed the brevity of the game and felt it scaled right with 2 players. Zoe thought it was too short, and once behind in VPs, felt she didn't have the chance to make-up the score.

Another disadvantage was the prep time in pulling out cards and tiles. I thought it was offset by the short game time but she felt it was more of a pain since we couldn't play right out of the box.

Overall, we thought this was a decent variant. It scaled well but the time was shifted more from game play to set-up. I think depending on your goals, this would be a very satisfactoy 2-player variant. While I liked this comfy little island, Zoe felt it wasn't big enough for the two of us. My travel back here for some spice but it won't be our regular getaway. thumbsdownthumbsup

#1: Ethan Sprang's 2-Player (Mayfair webpage)
Basic Set-up Each player has 1 color; 15 VPs are needed to win; no trading with the other player; each player places 3 settlements and collects the last two as resources; the robber is not allowed on the island until after turn 2; each player rolls for resources twice on their turn; discard half your hand when 8+ cards are held.

We both agreed this was the best 2-player variant we tried and will be our way of playing until someone convinces us otherwise.

The 15 VP goal put this game at little over an hour. It allowed the one trailing enough time to get back in the game. The 3 settlements gave us some variety right off the bat and some room to grow but put us in conflict fairly early.

Holding the Robber off until after turn 2 also gave everyone a chance to get their piece of the island developed. Rolling twice but only being allowed up to 8 safe cards made the Robber that much more dangerous. He struck often and he struck hard. At least a half dozen times each, we were caught with too many cards when a 7 was rolled.

The other great thing is with only 13 VPs available in buildings and 15 needed to win, you were forced to include other strategies such as the longest road and development cards in order to win. Also, with the larger (normal for 4) island and only the 15 roads, you had to carefully plan your network to make sure that you could get all of your settlements out. We both realized, almost too late, that if we kept building roads in search of the longest road, that we would block our ability to place settlements.

Overall, this was the most fun we had playing Settlers, 2-player or otherwise. You always felt like you were in the game and could take the lead at anytime. The robber became a real threat in the game. The island size to building ratio forced us to manage our resources very carefully. It was just competitive enough, just cut-throat enough, and just catan enough for us to make this the perfect Island Romance! thumbsup thumbsup
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The Grouch
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My wife and I put in two spare desert tiles from Seafarers and remove one each of forest and fields. We get rid of one "3" token and one "11" token (Q & R). We play to 12 VP and we do not eliminate trading with each other. Otherwise, everything else is the same as the basic game. We've played two player this way for years and it seems to work pretty well.
 
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Branko K.
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You don't need ANY extra bits to play Teuber's variant.

Neutral buildings are already there (it's the two building sets you didn't choose). They are easy to use, and work very well because they emmulate the 4-player setup quite effectively. Settlers are meant to have a constant "boxed-in" feeling, not to allow spreading and developing all over the place.

Commercial chips are not mandatory, they are mostly there to alleviate the problem that can frequently happen in 2-player games when one player gets hindered too much with a robber. Personnaly I also don't like them too much so we agreed on the variant "you can chase off the robber in the desert three times during the game". It works well and it's much more elegant then printing out and using extra bits.

As for the other versions analysis, I mostly agree with the first two but must admit I am amazed you find Stobie's variant the best. I've found it the most tedious of the three, being too long, heavily unabalanced and quite frequently plagued with runaway leader syndrome.

Anyway, to get back on track - try Klaus without commercial chips and see how you like it. Just my 2 cents .
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KK Su
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I was going to post up a review on the Klaus Teuber variant, and by some amazing co-incidence, found this thread instead.

My wife and I tried the Klaus Teuber variant and found it enjoyable. This is what we thought of the new mechanics:

Rolling twice for resources; re-roll if same number
Definately improved gameplay. Since it simulates the extra 2 rolls that you would have gotten from a 4-player game, the rolls racked up resources quickly which was both good (because you had more options with more resources) and bad (because the robber was noticebly more dangerous). This is a MUST in any 2-player variant for SoC.

I thought at first that re-rolling if same number would be tedious, but it only happened a couple of times in our game. We also used 2 pairs of dice in 2 different colours and rolled all 4 of them together; it was strangely satisfying to roll 4 dice at a time.

Neutral buildings; add road/settlement whenever you build road/settlement
The player who pursued an "expansion" strategy (build roads and settlements early) had a clear advantage; he could expand the neutral settlements right into his opponent's territory. We felt that this made the game rather unbalanced and repetitive; you hoarded Wood/Brick as much as possible to build roads to cut your opponent's territory to pieces early in the game. Definately not recommended.

The Neutral buildings were introduced to give the element of being "crowded" in the game. We felt that by playing with a smaller island (4 hexes across instead of 5), it better reflected this.

Commercial chips; spend to chase away robber into desert or force trade with other player
We used our Caylus coins as the Commercial Chips, which somehow added better theme. We like this concept - it gave us better incentive to build next to the desert or the coastline. In a 2-player game, the robber is extra dangerous because, face it, who else is your opponent going to hit with the robber? It also greatly helped the player who had less VPs (since he only pays 1 chip), particularly with the 'forced trade' element. The forced trade is almost like a 'double-robber' since you steal 2 resources from his hand and give back 2 resources of your own. If you KNOW that your opponent is saving up to upgrade his settlement, stealing his ore and wheat while giving him 2 bricks is a great way to stall him.

We DEFINATELY recommend using the commercial chips.
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Jeff Hoffman
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Also check out the 2-player card game of Catan. It is a great 2-player game to take with you on vacation. Of course, it is not the boardgame, but it does have the essence, especially if you add the expansion.
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Richard Turner
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One fun way to play two players is to totally use all the normal game rules except when setting up randomly mix up all the tiles land and sea together. This makes a really fun set of mixed up small islands. Allow one wood and one sheep for a ferry route between two sea hexes.
 
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brian
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Gamemaster wrote:
Also check out the 2-player card game of Catan. It is a great 2-player game to take with you on vacation. Of course, it is not the boardgame, but it does have the essence, especially if you add the expansion.

Understood. But we already own SoC the boardgame, play it often, and want to play it as a boardgame. The intent wasn't to play it as a travel game - just to play it while we had tons of freetime. We just ordered San Juan even though we have Puerto Rico. So if that proves fun and we enjoy both games, we might go ahead and invest in SoC the Card game as well.

We will probably give KT's version a shot the next time we get a chance. We may skip the commercial chips then if they aren't necessary. The "neutral" buildings still worry me. They seem too similar to the "second" color we played before and didn't really enjoy. On paper, it sounds like this will still help the one building the most and would upset the balance more. But we'll apporach it with an open mind andtest it out. I'll amend the report when we finish.
 
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Tom Candlin
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We added in a third neutral player who always follows the following set of rules:

Always builds settlements or cities on the junction between hexes with the highest no of pips.
Always builds roads towards the junction with the highest no of pips.
If the number of pips is a tie then roll a dice to see which he goes for.
Never trades with other players.
If has 5 of a particular resource, may trade with the bank for a randomly determined resource that he doesn't have.
Always builds if he can afford it in order: city, settlement, road, dev card.
Alternates his placement of the robber between the two players, always robbing the best hex of that player.
Always plays dev cards as soon as possible.

Other than these rules, treat him as a normal player.

We find it works well and gives another tactical element as you can use the neutral player to cut off your opponent.

In addition - it has beaten 2 of my friends!
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Dánial í Skemmuni
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Re: Romantic Island Get-away -A Review of some 2-player Vari
TaleSpinner wrote:

We also used 2 pairs of dice in 2 different colours and rolled all 4 of them together; it was strangely satisfying to roll 4 dice at a time.



Nice little detail I like it - 4 dice with 2 colors!

I have tried the Teuber variant to day for the first time - and it's good. I liked the neutral players and the commercial chips!

We are for sure gonna play this variant again!
 
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J
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Re: Romantic Island Get-away -A Review of some 2-player Vari
Hey there, B.

Nice review. Of the three variants you mention, my wife and I have only played Borko. It was decent, but not overly compelling. My wife liked it, but there are dozens of other 2p games I'd rather play.

Have you tried Intimate Settlers? (http://www.fortunecity.com/boozers/brewerytap/1/IntSett.html) We found it to be quite good. It's basically a 2p Seafarers, but it only requires the base game to play. We found it enjoyable enough to play 4 times.

My opinion on the Settlers card game: skip it. It's way, way too long, and has been eclipsed by later games. I owned it for 3 or 4 years and it only got played twice. (So, no, I obviously haven't seen the "full depth" of the game.) It takes up a huge amount of table space, and takes 2 to 2.5 hours to play. If you're looking for a Teuber-y producing-things-with-randomly-earned resources game, check out Starship Catan (also a bit too long, though) or Anno 1503.

If you do try the SoC CG, though, check out the mega-deck variant. We used that the second time we played, and liked it a bit better.
 
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brian
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I'll have to check it out. After re-reading this review, I realized we never went back and played Teuber's offical variant either. We'll have to book another flight to catan shortly!
 
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Ethan Sprang
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Re: Romantic Island Get-away -A Review of some 2-player Vari
Thanks for the positive review! I just found your article, and I'm glad you enjoyed the game. My wife and I have been playing the game with these rules for years now, as have my parents.

I just posted the rules on the BGG site, here:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1693162#1693162


Let me know how the Teuber variant plays!
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Re: Romantic Island Get-away -A Review of some 2-player Vari
I haven't tried all of these 2 player variants, but of the 2 or 3 we have tried, the Mrs. and I really like this one, by Dave Baum. We just played a game last night that had the kind of thrilling back and forth, down-to-the-wire feeling that Settlers is known for at its best. And it's definitely the simplest variant, in terms of what is different. Here it is...

Same setup.

VP needed = 12

Trading only with the bank.

Roll twice per turn. If 7 is rolled on the first roll, the robber is controlled by whoever has less VP points (otherwise the player who rolled controls the robber).

Card limit is 9. If you have 10 you lose half on a roll of 7.

That's it. Last night was the first time we allowed a player to buy things and otherwise make moves between the first and second rolls of their turn. I don't believe that was specified either way in the variant rules, but we hadn't played that way before.

We also played last night using the Fishermen of Catan, which we recently bought and enjoy using, but we have also played this 2 player version several times without the Fishermen add on and it seems to work great, regardless.

And FWIW, we usually start by placing a city and a settlement, and you get all of the resources the city is touching, to get things going.
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K Septyn
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I just found this post, and I have to say I think Borko's variant is the better of the three listed by the OP.

I've played a 2-player 15VP game or two and found the game to be long and boring. It was a spur-of-the-moment variant so the girlfriend and I could play, so we didn't have the expanded hand size or double rolls, which might have picked the pace up a bit. Still, 15 points is a lot to climb for, and I didn't like it.

I'm philosophically opposed to playing multiple colors or including neutrals on the island. I know it can be done to accomodate a lot of games to only two players, but I just don't like the idea and don't want to play that way.

Borko's variant, with the no-double-robber rule, feels just right to me. It plays fast enough, but not too fast. There's competition for space on the board, which is just right for Catan. My only complaint is the numbers are slavish to alphabetical arrangement, but that's pretty minor.

ColtsFan76 wrote:
Another disadvantage was the prep time in pulling out cards and tiles. I thought it was offset by the short game time but she felt it was more of a pain since we couldn't play right out of the box.

Overall, we thought this was a decent variant. It scaled well but the time was shifted more from game play to set-up.

I don't feel that pulling out some pieces is that big of a time sink, not when there are plently of other games out there with far more setup and a lot less return on fun.

Link to a thread about Borko's variant here.
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Mike Fitts
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My wife and I have played Borko's variant for 2 twice and enjoyed it.

We have allowed trading between players, though. After all, a man has to give his wife what she wants, at least until she has 8+ VPs.


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Yee Keat Phuah
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Now that the Rivals For Catan is out and I had to choose between the SoC 2 player variants and Rivals, I chose the Rivals.

The Rivals does takes away the simplicity of the SoC and need a lot of reading on the special attributes/abilities of the cards. The good side is that now they have an introductory game which is around 30 minutes for us to familiarize with the cards.

I probably will get the SoC game anyway in the future.
 
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