Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Five & Dime 2012: Dimes (27th-50th)

This is Year Three of posting the main results over at the Opinionated Gamers website - and that means it's also Year Three of me offering extra goodies hear at aka pastor guy

So, for those of you who were willing to follow the links, here's the next 25 games in the Dimes List! (There are some extras, since there was a tie for 50th.) 

Android: Netrunner4.57%
D-Day Dice4.57%
Flash Point: Fire Rescue4.57%
Loopin' Louie4.57%
Lost Cities4.57%
Memoir '444.57%
Through the Ages4.57%
Glory to Rome4.06%
No Thanks/Geschenkt4.06%
Thunderstone/Advance  4.06%
Zombie Dice4.06%
Forbidden Island3.55%
The Settlers of Catan3.55%
D&D Castle/Wrath/Legend 3.05%
Eminent Domain3.05%
Hive 3.05%
Mage Knight Board Game 3.05%
Shadow Hunters 3.05%
Space Alert 3.05%
Tichu 3.05%
Wits & Wagers 3.05%

Monday, December 30, 2013

Five & Dime 2012: Most Played Games (26th-50th)

Just like the last two years, I'm posting the main results over at the Opinionated Gamers website. And, as before, I thought I'd offer some extra-special goodies here on aka pastor guy.

So, for those of you who were willing to follow the links, here's the next 25 games in the Most Played List!

Flash Point: Fire Rescue1359.14%
Loopin' Louie  1359.14%
Lost Cities1359.14%
Love Letter 1308.12%
Summoner Wars1257.61%
Eclipse 1209.14%
Mage Knight Board Game1209.14%
Glory to Rome1208.12%
Werewolf  1207.61%
Magic: The Gathering 1206.60%
Forbidden Island 1158.12%
Memoir '441157.11%
Through the Ages1157.11%
10 Days in _________1108.63%
Android: Netrunner1106.60%
Hanabi 1106.60%
For Sale1058.63%
Trajan 1058.63%
Eminent Domain1057.61%

Friday, December 27, 2013

Heroquest, Game Zone & A Classic Post

This is actually the third time I've posted this particular bit of writing on this blog... but based on the Heroquest debacle (what with a Spanish miniatures company having been shut down on two crowdfunding sites in their attempt to capitalize on the Heroquest brand - and now started up on a third crowdfunding site!), I figured it was time to bring it out again.

First, let me share a quote from game designer Mike Selinker:
I've seen the HeroQuest 25th anniversary game get booted off of Kickstarter, get booted off of Verkami, and then respawn on Lanzanos. It's unclear to me whether they'll get booted off Lanzanos as well, but it's no given. There's a very good chance Gamezone will get their money and (at least try to) make their game.  
It's a fairly simple situation to me: The rights holders for HeroQuest have not given permission to Gamezone to make this game, at least in English. The naming rights holders have also not given that permission. As far as I can tell, there isn't anyone who's given Gamezone permission except a legion of crowdfunding backers. 
So if you support this game, what you are saying is that you don't care if the rights holders of games get paid for their work. That's a tenuous position for me. It means you don't care if I and my coworkers are able to make a living off what we do without fear that our works will be stolen. I don't expect everyone to hold that value uppermost in their minds, but that value -- that I can make something, sell the rights to someone else if I want, and then make an income off the sales of that item -- is what keeps me making games that people seem to like. Activity that undermines that principle is very damaging to me, even if it occurs on a game I didn't write in a country I don't live in. 
So if you're supporting this blatant ripoff of Heroquest, I hope you'll reconsider your pledge. Thanks for listening.
And now I'll go on to put my two cents in...

This is yet another classic post about gaming AND following God from 2009. For the gamers out there, there is STILL not an "official" Race for the Galaxy app - though Keldon's AI is both wonderful and "blessed" by Rio Grande Games.

OK, this is going to start with semi-technical gaming stuff, but I promise I'll actually get to a spiritual point for the non-gamers out there if you'll just hang with me. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Mom & Liz.)
It's no surprise to anyone that I'm a big fan of Race for the Galaxy, a card game designed by Tom Lehmann that takes the role selection mechanic (you get to choose a particular special action each turn that you & all the other players get to do) and uses it to create a fast-moving game of interstellar exploration & development that plays well with 2-5 players... and even has a very nifty solitaire variant. Between face-to-face & solitaire games, I've played it over 100 times.
2013 Note: That's now 400+ times... not counting 1000+ games against the computer AI.
So I was pretty excited when I read a thread title on Boardgamegeek yesterday announcing an online version of the game. Well, that excitement quickly faded when I asked whether or not the developers of the online version had permission from the designer (Tom Lehmann) or the publisher (Rio Grande Games). 

Like I said, this is going to get technical for a minute. The law that governs the copying of games is, shall we say, "in flux." (Or, for the gamers in the audience, "in Fluxx." Thank you, good night - I'll be here all this week. Don't forget to tip your waitress!) The graphics of the game board, cards, and pieces are protected by copyright, as is the specific wording of the game's rules... but the mechanics are not. (Mechanics, in board game terms, are the ways that the game works - in Monopoly, the mechanics include rolling the dice & moving, purchasing or auctioning properties, collecting rents, improving properties, mortgaging, negotiating deals.)
So, if I choose to make a new version of, say, Uno (why, why, WHY would I do this?!), I might get away with it if I changed the card colors & design, called it "First & Goal" (which is what my unsuspecting players would be forced to yell when they got down to one card) and rewrote the rules. OTOH, if I kept their card design, called it "One" and essentially copied their rules, I'd be subject to some pretty swift legal attention.

2012 Note: when I wrote this, I had no idea that my good friend & game designer, Stephen Glenn, would publish a football game called 1st & Goal. Evidently I was in "gaming prophet" mode. It, by the way, bears NO resemblance to Uno.
So, the guys getting ready to unleash their homebrewed version of Race for the Galaxy online feel like since they're using new artwork (or at least trying to find new artwork) that they fall under the "fair use" doctrine of the copyright law. 

Legally, they may be right. (Like I said earlier, there's a lot of grey areas in copyright law... and the advent of the Internet and the easy publication of almost anything has made for a lot more grey.) But is it morally or ethically right?
In this specific situation, the designer has asked the individuals not to continue (which they have refused to do) and is, along with the publisher, attempting to negotiate to license the game officially to someone else. Seems pretty clear-cut to me: these guys are taking Tom's work and benefiting from it without him.
But the specifics aren't really the issue here... the question that has intrigued me is the differentiation between
  • what is legal?
  • what is ethical?
  • what is moral?
I'm in real danger of oversimplification here as I begin this discussion - actually, there's no question I'll be doing just that. Bear with me.

Legal refers to what is lawful - do the written rules of the society permit or prohibit a particular action? Ethical refers to what is right - how should an individual or group conduct themselves as a responsible member of a society? Moral refers to what is good - what is the best behavior in light of truth & the reality of evil?

I don't want to go rabbit-chasing, but you need to know that the previous paragraph would make some academic types crazier than Carrot Top on a bad hair day. Not everyone agrees that there is any qualitative difference between morality & ethics... and don't even get started about the theories about where moral/ethical norms come from. Anyway, just wanted you to know that the preceding is my personal attempt to define the three terms.

OK, an example, courtesy of a poster on blurtit.com - until 1863, slavery was legal in the United States. It was the law of the land that one man could own another man... but that did not make it ethical (right) or moral (good).

Another example, this time from the Old Testament - when Shadrach, Meschach & amp; Abednego are "prompted" to worship the huge idol or face being burned alive, they had the choice to do what was morally good (honoring God) and ethically right (being true to what they believed)... or they could simply do the legal thing and grovel on their knees.

Yes, I realize that pirating a game with an online version & the slave trade are not the same thing - not even close. (It's also not the same as worshipping a 70 ft. idol - I figured most of you would understand that.) But it is a clear example of the principle I'm trying to get across - just because something is legally permissible doesn't make it ethically right or morally good.
"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, NIV)
So, what does all this mean for those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus? Again, this is just me typing here, but I think the Biblical standards are:
  • "the good of others" (see the verse above)
  • the honor of God
  • just because I can do something doesn't mean I should do something
When we're faced with difficult decisions, our tendency is to rely on the letter of the law, whether that is a particular interpretation of the Bible or the Federal case law. As believers in Christ, that simply isn't enough - we must let go of the permissible and instead grab on with both hands to what is right & amp; true, what is pure & good.
Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10, MSG)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013: The Real Missing Piece

At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David---every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle---the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together.

From the Jesus Storybook Bible

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Touched by Books

The meme showed up a couple of weeks ago... and finally got to me (thanks to a good friend from my English major "sic 'em, Bears!" days at Baylor U.) on Tuesday. The instructions were as follows:
List 10 books that have stayed with you. Try not to think too hard. They don't have to be "right" or "great works" they just have to have touched you in some way.

And so I did.

And now I'm sharing that list with you. (They are in no particular order - except the first one. Which is first.)

The Bible (especially Habakkuk & James) 
There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: 
Fear God. 
Do what he tells you.   
Ecclesiastes 12:12-13, The Message
2. Soul Cravings - Erwin McManus
Bitterness is the enemy of love because it makes you unforgiving and unwilling to give love unconditionally. It is the enemy of hope because you keep living in the past and become incapable of seeing a better future. It is the enemy of faith because you stop trusting in anyone but yourself
3. Cadillac Desert - Marc Reisner
When archaeologists from some other planet sift through the bleached bones of our civilization, they may well conclude that our temples were dams. Imponderably massive, constructed with exquisite care, our dams will outlast anything else we have built... The permanence of our dams will merely impress the archaeologists; their numbers will leave them in awe. In this century, something like a quarter of a million have been built in the United States alone.
4. Astro City graphic novel series - Kurt Busiek
He was saving innocents and serving truth. And in the final judgement, what is more important? The burdens we bear -- or the way we bear them?
5. The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.
6. Columbine - Dave Cullen 
My big surprise was that most of what we "know" about Columbine was wrong. It wasn't about the jocks, goths or the Trenchcoat Mafia. The killers didn't even see themselves as school shooters: their primary focus was the bombs.
7. Prince Ombra - Roderick MacLeish
It is said, and it is true, that just before we are born, a cavern angel puts his finger to our lips and says, “Hush, don’t tell what you know.” This is why we are born with a cleft on our upper lips and remembering nothing of where we came from.
8. The Twenty-One Balloons - William Pene du Bois ...
Half of this story is true and the other half might very well have happened.

9. The Once & Future King - T.H. White
It was well for him, with his chivalry and mysticism, to make the grand renunciation. But it takes two to make love, or to make a quarrel. She was not an insensate piece of property to be taken up or laid down at his convenience. You could not give up a human heart as you could give up drinking. The drink was yours, and you could give it up: but your lover's soul was not you own: it was not at your disposal; you had a duty towards it.”
10. Spirituality for the Rest of Us: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Knowing God - Larry Osborne  
God often liked to hang with and bless the very people I'd been told he'd want nothing to do with.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 2013: Bad Draws & Wrapping Paper

Pretty much everyone who reads this blog on a regular basis is aware that I like board games. (Quit snickering... "like" is just a nice way to avoid the phrase "am obsessed about board games".) Anyone unclear on the concept should have picked up on it Friday when I managed to relate dice-rolling& probability to some important spiritual truths.

Part of my enjoyment of gaming is my part in the online community of board gamers - I participate in a number of mailing lists, read a bunch of blogs, and even listen to a few podcasts. In addition, I write for the Opinonated Gamers and appear as a guest on gaming podcasts. (OK, maybe you were right to snicker at the last paragraph.)

So it's no real surprise that all that conversation about gaming sometimes ends up bleeding into my thoughts about life & God & important stuff. Which is what happened when Christopher Dearlove (a gamer in the U.K.) posted this little blurb as he was writing about a new game:

I've played enough games to know bad draws stick in the mind more than good ones, so I suspect it wasn't as bad as I felt it to be...

And that got me thinking... if that's true of games (I can give you story after story about drawing the wrong card at the wrong time, or how I lost a game of Settlers due to one bad die roll on my last turn), it is probably true in my life as well.

So if I'm going to really "give thanks in all circumstances" (1st Thessalonians 5), then part of my job is to remember all of my life - the "good draws" as well as the bad. When Braeden wakes up at 3 am with a nightmare, that isn't the whole story of his life - it doesn't take into account the miracle of his birth (after 3 years of trying & multiple miscarriages) or the wonder of his healing from Kawasaki syndrome in 2005.

God made sure the Israelites had this hardwired into the lives - festivals like Passover & Hanukah were not simply excuses for getting together & eating until you had to loosen your belt... they were reminders of places & times when God has moved in amazing ways to take care of His people.

In Christian tradition, that's what Advent is all about - remembering the birth of Jesus Christ with more than just a one-day orgy of ripped wrapping paper & too much eggnog. By setting aside the 24 days leading up to Christmas to ponder on the mystery of the Incarnation (big fancy theological word meaning "God becoming man"), we take time to remember that in a world full of "bad draws", we were given a very good draw when Jesus was born.

There's a lot of different ways to celebrate Advent - but however you choose to do it, I want to encourage you to spend less time & energy on shopping for the perfect gift or decorating your home so that the photographer from Better Homes & Gardens can come in & do a layout... and instead spend more time enjoying your relationship with Jesus Christ - whose birth we are celebrating.

This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving & receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ. Frank McKibben

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Primer on Probability

I am posting this post that ruminates on both board games & Christianity because the post I really want to post references this post. And it's a pretty good post in and of itself. (Could I use the word "post" more times? Unlikely.)

BTW, this post was originally written in 2005. (Snicker.)
God does not play dice with the universe. Albert Einstein
I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education. Tallulah Bankhead
I play a lot of games with dice. (Heck, I just play a lot of games.) Years ago, I even taught Collin to roll the dice - he shook them in his hand and then VERY carefully laid them down on the table. (This behavior would get me kicked out of most gaming groups - but it's cute when a 19-month old kid did it while shouting "dies!" at the top of his lungs.)
Most folks who play games a good bit have figured out the basics of probability. You know - flip a coin 100 times... it's "probable" that you'll get 50 heads & 50 tails. When you roll a d6 (that's gamer-ese for a six-sided die), you have a 17% chance of rolling a one.

It gets a bit more complicated when you roll 2d6 (again, gamer-ese for 2 six-sided dice... and yes, "die" is singular, "dice" is plural). Now you have a 1 in 36 chance of rolling snake eyes (2) on two dice. Of course, your chance of rolling a seven is much better - 1 in 6.

By now, I'm guessing that some of you are wondering if I'm ever going to reach some kind of spiritual point. Just hang on... it's coming.

Now, there are a couple of important principles that many gamers (let alone regular non-gamer type people) forget:

1.     Probability is just that - "probable". The fact that the odds of rolling box cars (double sixes) on 2d6 is 1 in 36 does not mean you will roll box cars in 36 rolls. Or, OTOH, that you won't roll boxcars 2 or 3 times in 36 rolls. (If you want to check this out for yourself, try this online resource: http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/probability/dice.htm.)
2.     Each die roll is a discrete event. (Let's take a short pause to digest that $25 phrase - "discrete event". Do you feel like you're back in your college math class yet?!) Here's the easy-squeezy definition: one event (a coin flip, for example) does not have any connection to the next event (coin flip). So I can throw ten "heads" in a row... or roll 3 sets of box cars.

Which leads me to a couple of gaming tips:

1.     Remembering basic probability (the chances of rolling a particular number) makes you a better game player. If two players are sitting on Jail (we're playing Monopoly in my example) and I own the orange properties, it makes more sense to build houses on St James (6 spaces away) or Tennessee (8 spaces away) than on New York (9 spaces away)
2.     Remember that probability is not a promise... there is no such thing as "hot" or "cold" dice. Just because you haven't rolled snake eyes in a long time does not mean you're "due" to roll them... only that it's probable that it could happen.

Finally, a spiritual point to this long-winded discussion:
The rules that work for rolling dice in Monopoly or flipping coins before football games do not apply to the spiritual world. There is no such thing is a discrete event.
Think about it - my decision to treat the waiter at Red Robin in a Christ-like manner doesn't simply have a positive effect on the service I get. (Look, a fresh basket of fries!) It also helps the waiter have a better day. (Wow - a table of people who aren't jerks - unusual!) In turn, the chances of him treating other customers kindly (Hey... they've got great service here!) as well as his fellow employees (I like working with _____.) are improved. This bleeds over into the rest of his life as well: family, friends, other service persons that he encounters...
And so far, we've just looked at what it does in his life - in my life, doing the right thing helps me draw closer to Christ. My wife & my kids see what it looks like when I act like Jesus... and the chances of them doing the same thing are improved. Selfishly, treating someone with respect even makes me feel good.
So a couple of important principles that many people (let alone us Christian-y types) forget:

1.     I can't tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father. But permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we love each other. Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love. This is the first thing you heard, and nothing has changed. (2 John 1:4-6, MSG)
2.     Probability is not a promise... just because we "conduct our lives in love" does not guarantee that other people will choose to react in positive ways. But we don't do the right thing for other people - we do it for God. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4, NLT) 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

5 Reasons You Should Back A Board Game With Only One Card

The game is Coin Age... and if you really want to know more about it, you can head over to the Kickstarter page. I'm just here to give you five reasons to jump on board before the pledge window closes.
  1. There's an actual game here... seriously. I sacrificed my paper & ink in order to give it a whirl - and was pleasantly surprised that the designer had managed to create a sneaky little area control game that reminded me a bit of Web of Power or Eight Minute Empire... just in a much smaller package. (You can also download the print-n-play file on BGG.)
  2. By waiting until the last minute, you've made sure that all of the stretch goals (cardboard coins, credit card map, 2 extra maps, stickers for actual currency, etc.) have been reached so you'll get 'em all.
  3. It's a "pay what you want/can" pledge system - so you can get in on this for as little as $3. I promise you, you've paid a lot more for a lot less game. (I'm looking at you, Schleck und Weg!!)
  4. It will not cause your significant other to complain about how much room your games are taking up.
  5. The guys at Tasty Minstrel are really good at this Kickstarter thing... they are not a fly-by-night operation. (And a good experience here might convince you to give their games a second look - especially one of my personal favorites, Eminent Domain. Which, by the way, is about to get an awesome looking expansion - Escalation.)
I'm posting this with 38 hours to go before the Kickstarter ends. What are you still doing here?!

#5: The Settlers of Catan (Mark's 100 - 2012)

The Settlers of Catan

Mark's Ranking
  • 2012: 5th
  • 2010: 1st
  • 2005: 1st
  • appeared on all three lists
  • rank: 112
  • rating: 7.43
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • The game that launched the European "game" invasion... the first true "franchise" game for Kosmos & Mayfair... a game so simple & yet so innovative that it could inspire devoted play with almost any crowd. This infinitely variable game of trading & building is still a personal favorite, even when way too many gamers have left it behind.
Tips & Tricks:
  • In the next few weeks, I plan on publishing more of my old (and when I say "old", I mean 15 years old) Catan website stuff... something to look forward to!
  • While your first game may take 90+ minutes, it's not unusual for experienced players to knock out a game in 60 minutes or less. A lot of that depends on how quickly trading goes and how "aware" the people you're playing are - example: it doesn't matter how many times you ask for "brick", if we haven't rolled it in two rounds, it isn't there for trade. Sigh.


If you feel a need to catch up on my admittedly-aging Top 100 as of February 2012 list, you can check out:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Strategies of Catan: Trading

Overall Strategies
Initial Setup
Early Game
End Game & Ports

Largest Army, Longest Road, Development Cards, The Robber & The Pirate


People seem pretty split on trading. It seems that some will only trade kicking and screaming, as they see big problems with helping other players. Others don't seem to mind, as long as they make sure to look out for number one. I have always tried to trade as much as I can in the early game, primarily out of one big fear -- if I don't trade with Player X, Player X is going to trade with Player Y. In this case,Player X and Player Y will have a better distribution of resource cards (and hence will build more) than me. This is especially bad if X or Y is an adjacent and direct competitor with me for future resources. If you don't trade with X, someone else will. This leads me to take the position that trading is necessary, and instead to focus on the question of how to make the trade as advantageous to you (and as disadvantageous to others) as possible, as long as it is going to happen anyway.

The benefits from trading are not always equally distributed. I would take the position that they seldom are. So how does one make sure they are distributed more in your favor then the other person?

1) Try to trade as close to your turn as possible, and preferably on your turn. 
Why? If you trade on your turn, you will have a much greater chance of using that card you just got.

For example, you need one more grain to make your city, so you trade a wool to someone for a grain. Trading on your turn means you KNOW where that grain is going -- to your city. However, the other person does not know they are actually going to use that wool on their turn. They might be trying for a settlement, and when their turn comes around do not have a clay. Or maybe the robber stole a card. Or a monopoly card was played. Or they wound up producing a wool themselves on that 12 they didn't think they would roll. In any case, when their turn comes around, they may or may not be using that wool for something. If they don't use that wool, that trade was a bust for them, and you were the one who got the greater benefit from that trade.

The farther from your turn you make a trade, the greater the chance that something will happen that will make that card you got worthless, or of losing the card entirely. And that means the other person probably got more benefit out of that trade than you.

If the person the who plays the turn ahead of you is trying to make a trade with you, try to wait until your turn instead, if you can. They will have to wait another turn to produce what they wanted. Of course, if they really want to they will trade 4 to 1 or through a port, and then you are stuck...

To stop a trade, you can always promise the player who turn it ISN'T that you will trade with them when their turn comes around, by arguing how they will benefit from this and how the player whose turn it is will be hurt, by the reasoning above.

2) Conversely, try to trade with others who are farther away from their turn, all other things being equal. 

Of course, you don't have much of a choice if it is not your turn, as you have to trade with the person whose turn it is.

Comments 1 and 2 are probably a lot less useful for those of you who play with the Kosmos or (later edition) Mayfair 5-6 player build rules, where anyone can build on any turn.

3) Trade with people who are losing, or are no threat to you. 
This is a no-brainer.

4) Trade early on as much as possible.

You don't want to fall behind on that exponential growth race.

I once played a game in which another player made a four-to-one trade with the bank early in the game, rather than trade one-to-one with me. I thought she was nuts, but then I was a little biased. However, in order for me not to have the benefit, she fell on the sword herself. I made a two-to-one port trade to get that resource instead, and was therefore two cards ahead of her. The real winners were the other two players. Losing this many production cards this early on did not help her growth rate at all, and I wound up winning in a very close battle that she might have very well won instead.

5) Remember, you can always trade for stuff besides cards, though it isn't binding. 

How much is it worth to someone for you to build a road and block off a potential port of their immediate competitor? This is useful when you REALLY need a card or cards and have no cards to trade that the other person wants. And you can always trade wood and brick in unequal trades to the person whose turn it is, to stop someone from getting the longest road (or whatever) when you can't build there yourself.

6) Think of other players as 1:1 ports.

7) It isn't necessarily bad to trade two cards to someone for one you really need (2:1 trade), it just sounds that way. 
You are saving cards as your only other options was presumably 3:1 at a port or 4:1 with the bank. If it was a 3:1 port, you are one ahead. As the other player gained one card too, they are also one ahead. You are both ahead in my book, and the real losers are the players who were not in on the deal.

You are probably trying to figure out the catch here. You are correct, there is one. The above only assumes the number of cards are important, not the type. The problem comes in if the other player was also planning to do a port or bank trade to get that resource you just gave them. That means they are not just one ahead, they might be two or three ahead. In a worst-case scenario they were going to need to do a bank trade at 4:1 for both of those resources you just gave them, meaning they are now SEVEN ahead (it cost them one card instead of eight).

It is up to you to figure out how many cards they are really saving. If you can appeal to their greed and give them two cards they don't really need, or that they could have traded 1:1 for themselves, then go for it. In general, try to do 2:1 trades with people who are behind, those will use those extra cards to screw someone else, those who were going to do a 1:1 trade with someone else to get those resources, those who were not going to need to do port or bank trades to get those resources, those whose turn it just was and therefore have to wait the longest (see 2 above) and have a good chance to get those resources you gave them anyway, those who already have a lot of cards and may attract the robber because of your trade, and of course those who are not just going to use those cards to hurt you. If you do it right, it is a very powerful tactic. If you mess it up, it could come back to bite you.

In most cases, a generally good 2:1 trade with someone is if you give them two resources for which they have a 2:1 port. It's a great trade for them, and they often jump at it. They will trade them in to get one card. So now they wound up trading a card to you, for two cards, which they converted back into one in their port. It's the same as making a 1:1 trade with you for the resource they really wanted, which they might have made with someone else anyway. Or think of it as you "borrowing" their port for a turn. And you are still one ahead. Just make sure they actually will trade them in at their port, or you might have the same problem as above.

8) It's amazing how many people don't have any particular idea of what to build their next turn. 
For those people who just react to what cards are in their hand in deciding what to build (instead of going out and getting what they need), you can force their strategy a bit. Want them to build a settlement instead of that road that is going to cut off your port? Make sure they get a grain and wool to go along with that brick and wood. Or make sure they draw cards instead of building those ships to that island you want.

9) Don't blindly follow trade embargoes on the person that is ahead.

Chances are, they were set up by a single person for a reason that will benefit them the most, or were set up too early. This is your opportunity to make some very good trades with people that no one else is trading with. I assume you will make sure they won't win because of that trade, although.


This guide is a compilation of many people's ideas. People's comments are included as separate paragraphs, with attribution (hopefully all of them). If the paragraph is un-attributed, I wrote it. That is not to say I came up with the idea; obviously I didn't invent the ore-grain strategy and other common ideas. If I have thoughts on other people's comments I add to the paragraph after the attribution. Using this method, you can email whoever came up with the appropriate idea to discuss it further. I don't know if any programs can find email addresses inside posts, so I played it safe. Remove the "DE" and "LETE" in each email address.

Please email me with your comments, other tips, criticisms, or request to be put on the mailing list for the next version at scotDEscot@pacLETEbell.net. If you don't want your name and email included in later versions, let me know. Later versions will also be posted on rec.games.board.

For the next version, I really need info on the Stadt and Ritter, Cheops, and Alexander expansions.

Yeah, I know no one is going to remember all of this. But maybe certain bits will be useful.This is for all experience levels. For those of you that think you don't need help on the basic stuff, you can probably skip a lot of this guide. But remember, Richard Feynman used to teach freshman physics because he said it was essential to go back to the basics every once in a while.

You are free to copy, publish, or reprint this guide in any form, as long as it is whole and unedited (yes, that includes everything from the title to the end of the version notes). You can format it any way you like. If anyone wants a text file, email me.
  • November, 1997 This version derived from a post and replies made on rec.games.board.
  • January 13, 1999 Added new strategies, more emphasis on the robber, more tips on trading, and various odds and ends.
  • January 18, 1999 Major editing. Added info on the Wood-Brick strategy, info on six and eight hexes, formula for ranking intersections.
  • July 29, 1999 Minor edits and changes in overall strategy. Other odds and ends added. Updated some email addresses.

The Strategies of Catan: Largest Army, Longest Road, Development Cards, the Robber & the Pirate

Overall Strategies
Initial Setup
Early Game
End Game & Ports


1) One of them is essential

You need either the largest army, longest road, or a lotta luck to win. While you should probably not start building them right away, you should figure out early in the game which one you are eventually going to shoot for, and how you will do it.

The size of the board and number of players could influence your decision. For example, it could take a different strategy to get the longest road on a crowded board, compared to a wide-open board. On a wide-open board, the player who can pump out the most roads can probably will get it, meaning it probably easier playing with a wood-brick strategy.

On a crowded board, the number of hex sides is the determining factor, and the player who can get to those faster will probably get it. The nod could still go to the wood-brick player here, as they can usually get to areas faster, but other factors might be more important in this situation, such as the starting location. However, this doesn't mean that the longest road is "harder" to get on a crowded board; after all, only one person can get it on any board. It just takes a different approach.

2) Be a contrarian

Note that the longest road and largest army are worth more if the other players aren't trying for them. The more roads/knights that you have to buy, the worse the investment. (Allen Doum) This could be more of a factor in determining which one to go for than the type of board and number of players. This means it might actually be preferable to go for the one that you normally would not, if there is going to be a lot of competition (for example, longest road when you are playing an Ore/Grain strategy).

3) If going for the longest road, don't make too many "side trips" with your roads
You only have 15 in the basic game. Remember, if you are the first person to get a road 15 in length, it cannot be taken away from you (unless someone splits it, as shown below).

This is much less important in Seefahrers, when the longest road could theoretically be 30 long (it includes ships). This also means that getting the longest road in a Seefahrers scenario can be much more costly if a race develops, a factor to consider when deciding between getting the Longest Road or Largest Army.

4) Doing the splits can make you uncomfortable

Remember if an opponent builds a settlement in the middle of your road network, your routes are split in two for purposes of determining longest trade route. (Matt Gardner) Also remember that no one can split your ship lines.

5) Triangulate

If you know you are not going for longest road, then building settlements off triangle forks saves you having to build two roads for each settlement, and instead allows to you build three roads (instead of four) to get to two settlements. (The Maus)

1) Victory points are great when you get them, but are not to be counted on at the endgame
There are seven victory point cards in a 36-card deck in the original (first and second edition) Mayfair version, which means you are drawing an average of five (at a cost of 15 production cards!) to get a point, and ten (30 cards!) to get two. It is much easier to get two points with far less than 30 production cards the old-fashioned way: build something. It gets worse with the Kosmos or later Mayfair versions (five victory point cards), diluting the mix even further.

2) Don't use knights too early
Save them if you can to keep the robber off of your hexes (play BEFORE you roll the dice in this case). However, don't get caught with too many development cards, as you can only play one per turn. This is especially important if going for the largest army -- get those knights out before the endgame.

3) Watch out buying too many development cards early
If you draw a victory point card (or two) at the beginning, it can really hurt your future development chances, as they don't produce. However, the rest of the cards CAN produce for you (at least indirectly). (Aaron D. Fuegi)

4) Save that Road Building card to the end if you can, if you are going for the longest road
It can be a great surprise when you play it on the last turn. It is also great to use at the beginning, to save the four resource cards and pump up that exponential growth rate a bit.

5) If you can't build anything, consider buying a card if you can
You will lower your card count and keep the robber away. Also, it is a great way to "store" resources for use later.

How much is a development card worth on the average, just in resource cards? If you assume that a knight card is worth one (from getting one resource from a player), road building is worth four, monopolies are worth three (this just evens the card out, of course you could get a few more or a few less), and discovery is worth two, then each development card is worth 1.3 cards in the (first and second edition) Mayfair deck. [Conductors note: this is true in the Kosmos/3rd edition Mayfair deck as well.] That is for a cost of three. Of course, that doesn't count victory cards, getting the largest army, etc. If you play a resource card at an optimal time, it can be worth a LOT more to you.

6) It is hard to get the robber off of you without Knights

Remember, a seven comes up only once every six turns on the average.

7) Know the odds

Your chance of drawing a particular type of card is as follows, in 36-card combined Basic/5-6 Player Expansion set (this is also the same as the first or second edition Mayfair Basic deck):
  • Knight: 56%
  • Victory point: 19%
  • Discovery: 8%
  • Monopoly: 8%
  • Road Building: 8%
Meaning, your chance of drawing any specific card, other than a knight, is pretty low. [Conductors note: the percentage chance is the same in a 25 card Basic Kosmos/Mayfair 3rd edition deck.]


1) As stated in many places above, try not to build around a hex in such a way that it will attract the robber

2) Watch out where you put the robber
You might need that resource, or suddenly create a shortage. Consider putting it on a resource you already have a supply for, and don't have to trade for. And of course, on someone who is ahead, or someone who has a resource you need. If you put it on a hex with fewer number of people, or a person who does not have any extra development cards (no knights) it will stay there longer.

Consider putting it on a hex so that you are left as the sole or major producer of a commodity. (Greg Aleknevicus) See notes on the Monopoly / Cartel strategies above for more info on this.

3) This pirate's most important function is to restrict ship building around its hex
You can completely block off an island in this way. Your main goal should be to stop others from getting victory points on the islands, not to get the most number of cards that you can. The cards are gravy.