Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Let's Talk Boardgames: Settlers of Catan

Image from www.amazon.com

Settlers for me is like that one band you discovered in high school that no one else had heard of. Then all of a sudden everyone got into it and now they're not cool anymore. I discovered Settlers when my college roommate brought it back from Germany. We played it in German (with none of us speaking German except my roommate) and due to the game's simplicity, had no problems learning and playing.

Then it seemed like EVERYONE knew about Settlers and it started appearing in English. I started to lose interest mostly due to burnout. However, I also consider it to be my first hipster moment. Recently however, I've started to rediscover what it is that makes this game so popular.

Gameplay is simple yet strategically deep. The board is a random set of hexagons, each representing a particular resource. Numbers between 2-12 are assigned to each so the board is different every time you play. The objective is to obtain 10 victory points before anyone else (expansions raise this to 12). You gain points by building settlements, cities and roads. On a roll of a 7, the robber can shut down a tile and steal resources.

Trading resources is an encouraged, and certainly necessary part of the game. Resources can then spent to expand, or upgrade your settlements into cities. You can also purchase development cards which allow you to bump the robber, give you free roads or other improvements.

The rules are very simple. I was able to learn despite all the components being in German. This is a game you can get your non-gamer friends to play. There are three expansions for the game: Seafarers, Cities and Knights, and Traders and Barbarians. Each adds a new level of play. In Seafarers, most of the board is unknown and is revealed as you explore. In Cities and Knights, you must defend Catan against barbarians while improving your cities internally. I have not played Traders and Barbarians, but it allows movement on roads and various other scenarios.

The game supports 4 players, but also has a 5-6 player expansion (you'll need one for each further expansion, so it does get a bit pricey). For your first expansion I'd recommend Cities and Knights. Seafarers is good but Cities and Knights has a lot more depth. Learning this game is much less intimidating than Agricola or Dominion. If you've never played a Euro-style game before, this is a great place to start.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Cheated On Purpose

One of the guys in our local group, IGJames, is getting ready for the Broadside Bash.  He's got a reputation for being our most hardcore tournament player.  You can hear an interview with him on the Life After The Cover Save podcast (strong language warning).  Anyway, as part of his preparation he's been playing against people with his 1850 tournament list with all kinds of handicaps.  Some of these handicaps include the opponent having extra points or getting to go first.  I challenged him to a game but I would be allowed to cheat.  He knew up front what I was doing and part of the game was him trying to catch me.

That's a cheetah, in case it's not obvious.

The first thing I did was make my list over points.  That's an easy one to get away with in a pickup game, but if the tournament organizers are on top of things it's harder to get away with it in a tournament setting.  For the rest of the game I found it really hard to cheat, but here's what I did.

I was playing Eldar.  I deployed about 16" in, instead of 12".  I fudged my movement with my vehicles, moving them from front to back, or bumping them forward a few inches after I moved them.  As I started taking casualties I would simply "forget" to take morale and pinning tests.  He reminded me on most of them but I got away with a few.  I accidentally forgot to allocate wounds, but he caught me on that one.  It never came up but with my Rangers I was planning on not rolling to wound if I rolled a 6 to hit, and just feign confusion over the rules.  I tried cheating with the dice, picking up failed wounds and calling them successes.  That one is only easy when the opponent isn't watching.  Another guy who didn't know the conditions of our game came up and watched our game which made things more difficult for me.  I still got away with quite a few things, but it didn't make a difference.  Every tank I had was gone by turn three.  My Farseer (with a fudged statline) survived until turn 5 but got destroyed finally in close combat.

From this I learned that it's really easy to get away with minor cheats like dice rolls and statlines in Xenos codices.  Please note I am not justifying cheating.  If you cheat you are a Scumbag Steve as pictured above.  It's very easy to say, "Oh yes, my Farseer is T4 and has base 2 attacks" when you know he doesn't.  Should your opponent question you, just feign ignorance and say you confused him with Eldrad.  Feigning ignorance is easy to get away with but it only works once.

I think where cheating is the most damaging is in a tournament setting.  Sometimes games hinge on a single dice roll, and having that little extra cheating edge can make you win when you shouldn't have.  When prizes are involved, people are more willing to bend the rules in their favor.

So what can you do if you suspect your opponent is cheating?  Do you review every statline and question every special rule?  If you do that you'll slow the game down too much.  What do you do?

In my opinion the best thing to do is be familiar with all codices.  Know what your opponents can and can't do.  Also, don't take your eyes off the table.  If he's rolling dice behind a big LoS blocking piece of terrain, just move over where you can see them.

How else can you deal with cheating in a tournament or a local pickup game?

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