A few years ago, we started playing Settlers of Catan weekly, during lunch, and we even started keeping a leaderboard to track wins, losses, averages and other stats.
It dropped down to fortnightly, as people were busy and Geoff wanted to introduce some other games, so we now alternate between Settlers and another random game that’s short enough to fit in the lunch break.
I haven’t been able to play for a while, because I’ve been too busy with project work to be able to set aside the time to play, so it was nice to be able to play again. Today’s game was pretty close, with most people being on 8 or 9 points, and a very closely contested longest road (that’s not a photo of the final game, as people started packing up before I could take a good one).
It’s interesting how the strategies have developed. At the start, Geoff, Grad Paul and I were the most experienced players, so sometimes it was just us telling the other people what to do, and suggesting moves. The three of us would often make a somewhat unfavourable trade in order to give someone else a leg up in the game, as the game can be a bit “snowball-y” with one person getting in the lead, and staying there. The only thing you can really do is to form a trade embargo against whoever is in the lead, and trade with each other to steal longest road / block them off, but depending on where their settlements / cities are, sometimes even that doesn’t help.
Now that everyone has about a year of games under their belt, that isn’t really necessary anymore. The newer players still have to be reminded about how many cards they need to discard when a 7 is rolled, but other than that, they have a good grasp of the game. Because of that, the game feels a lot more exciting now, as people are making trades while being mindful of the future (e.g. “I don’t have access to wood, so even though I don’t need it right now, it’s still worth trading this other resource I have an abundance of”), rather than the old mindset (“I can’t do anything with wood right now, no thanks”).
I think the game itself was also a lot more relaxed, as everyone wasn’t so focused on the game, and we could just chat as well (while still playing the game).
Even after 3 years of playing, I’m still not sick of Settlers, which is a testament to how great the game is. There is a luck-based element, and sometimes the numbers just aren’t with you, no matter how well you’ve tried to select your initial settlements, but the game doesn’t feel like it’s just a huge luck-fest. Also, now that everyone is familiar with the rules and basic strategies, the games aren’t completely one-sided with the more experienced players beating the less-experienced ones. While the three of us tend to do better on average (i.e. we tend to average about 8 points per game), the wins are actually quite spread out amongst everyone.
Hopefully I’ll have more time to play this year. :)