by waxbanks

freewrite to start my reign as lord of all catan. cutthroat game last night at rugs’s house. the game’s only fully compelling when everyone lets their guard down for the first 1/3 or so and actively trades. i’m usually too tight-fisted early on, refusing to give anyone else even a marginal advantage, which has the twofold effect of (1) slowing my development and (2) doing the same to everyone else. actively trading with everyone at the beginning accelerates the opening and midgame but leaves plenty of room for screw-tightening in the endgame.

i won after a couple of huge two-city resource pulls — i had two cities on a 3-wood space, which paid off something unlikely like twice during the game overall, one of those coming at the last possible moment for me to steal Longest Road from krevice, who was within a couple of turns of winning, i think. those four woods lemme build four roads at a stroke. suddenly we’re in the endgame! one turn later i shored up my Longest Road title and it was just a matter of turning out a city and a settlement to close it out. which took an improbably long time but wasn’t, at that point, really in doubt.

i don’t normally think of Settlers in terms of ‘building an engine,’ the way i/you think of Dominion, but last night it really clicked for me. i normally play a development card-heavy strategy in one or two small board regions, which gives me the mild thrill of bluffing and sneaking up on everyone to get Largest Army (no one else in our crew is as crazy about cards as i am), but this time i played a diversified Longest Road strategy that let me build my ‘engine’ steadily without it getting too taxing or boring. this pushed Krevice into a late-game card-buying binge, which nearly won it all for him — he had two VP in hand and was a turn away from Largest Army. Rugs was never really in the running after being throttled early by bad dice luck and awkward opening placement.

now that there are so many great German-style board games at every rules weight, it’s easy to forget that the reason Catan is so popular is that it’s an absolutely gorgeous design — for most groups, a near-perfect ‘starter’ game.