Wednesday, June 18, 2008

2 Player Settlers: Review and Session report

So tonight Shalisa and I played 2 games of 2 player Settlers. Overall I think that the rule set is very well balanced (Shalisa would disagree, more on this later) and the game play does have a good "Settlers" feel to it.

The first game that we played we set the board up and my first thought was that in this version, road building is going to be the superior strategy. Since whenever you build a road you also MUST build a road for one of the dummy players, my thought process was that if I just went road building crazy, I could section off a large portion of the island for myself, and then use the dummy players to block Shalisa. This is quickly what happened, as I secured some lucrative spots on the board for myself while Shalisa was quickly blocked off by the dummy players. Also note, Shalisa went with the more traditional strategy (and in my experience, the strategy that leads to more wins) where she secured the best wheat and ore locations on the board with her initial placement. While she was able to get 2 quick cities, because of my aggressive road building she was pretty much locked out... and once I had reached about 6 victory points (and she had 4) while it "seemed" close on the scoreboard I think both of us felt that my victory was pretty inevitable. The fact was that she just didn't have much of a way to get anywhere to get more spots to secure points. At the end of the game she felt like once the game tipped towards one player, the momentum built for them and it was an inevitable win for whoever got the lead early.

In the second game I had first placement and decided to see if I could win using the wheat/ore strategy. So my first location was a 6 sheep, 9 wheat, 5 ore location. Shalisa then placed both of her settlements and secured the 4 best brick and forest locations on the board (she learned from the last game and was taking an aggressive road building stance). This game I immediately began buying development cards as quickly as I could (I ignored focusing on cities early, as I figured early expansion would be key to my late game ability to score points). I got lucky when my first development card was a year of plenty, allowing me to secure 2 bricks which I used with 2 forest a sheep and a wheat to get out an early third settlement. My next development card was a road building, which I used to jump over to a 3 for 1 port and drop down a 4th settlement. At the same time, Shalisa's first roll of the game on her turn she rolled a 7... and she was holding 8 cards. She was forced to discard half of her hand (2 forests/2 brick) and that put her in the hole to start with. After my lucky first 2 development cards I got lots and lots of soldiers. Almost every turn I was playing soldiers to accomplish 2 tasks. 1 I was always blocking either Shalisa's brick or her wood production, keeping her from being able to expand too fast. The other thing was I was constantly in her hand stealing cards, so it was very difficult for her to gain any traction and move on the board. The dummy players barely came in to play this game and I got a quick win with 5 settlements, largest army, largest road and a VP from my hand.

After looking back at it, both games I got an early lead and then that lead to a large margin of defeat for Shalisa. Shalisa feels that the game is unbalanced because of this, and that as soon as you fall behind it becomes inevitable that the person who is behind will fall further and further behind and it isn't any fun at that point. I counter that I think the game is VERY balanced, and that the key for the person that falls behind early is to use the commerce tokens to either 1) move the robber if the person is constantly using soldiers to put it on you and 2) use the ability to force a trade to try and disrupt your opponents plan as well as expand your empire to regain a foot hold. In our games Shalisa rarely, if ever, used the commerce tokens and I believe that was probably what caused the larger margins of defeat.

I do think that Settlers 2 player lends itself to having larger margins of victory than traditional 3 or 4 player Settlers. In my typical Settlers games it is often a 10,9,9,8 type victory with everyone 1 or 2 turns away from winning. In 2 player Settlers I see the winner being determined earlier and if someone gets a 7-4, 8-5 lead I don't see any "reasonable" way for the person behind to come back and win it. In 2 player Settlers a come from behind victory is going to be difficult if not impossible. This makes early game strategy and settlement placement even that much more key than in traditional Settlers.

I look forward to trying a few more games to get a good feel for strategies and the differences that 2 player has from traditional Settlers. But as a 2 player game, I thought that the official 2 player rules from Klaus Teuber turn your Settlers from a party game to a game that really does play well with just 1 other game partner.


Shalisa said...

In my defense, as Ryan was trying to "offer up his advice" on my game playing after the game was over and trying to tell me I had to use my little coins to trade resources with him...(I did move the robber)...I COULDN'T. I asked if I could, but he said no. Because I NEVER HAD ANY RESOURCES! The most I had usually was 1 (You need 2). When I had more than 1 I was trying to build. He thinks my strategy should have been, instead of using my cards to build, I should have been trying to sabatoge his hand by disrupting it, but it's a TRADE, so he'd still get cards, and since my cards consisted of...roads, I didn't think that was a good stratagy. Ryan was getting about 10 card per round by mid game, and on average I had 2 cards stolen from my hand per round...I don't think there was anything I could have done to win. It took me to mid game to even lay down another settlement. Ryan thinks the game is well balanced because he won. I think the game is unbalanced not on rules, but in the fact that one player gets trashed while another dominates. This isn't a very fun way to play a game if this is what happens every time. We'll try it again. Maybe it will be different, but even Ryan admits that it is very easy to fall behind on something minor and never recover. So since I am an inferior game player than he is...I will always lose.

Julia said...

I want to win. We'd better play something else over here.