Monday, May 28, 2012

Patterns, Probability and Settlers of Catan

I love patterns.

This is why I love chess- most games boil their way down to a set few endgames. This is also why I can lose hours of my life to stupid flash games; games that have no purpose, over no real form of victory, but that over the (temporary) reward of solving the puzzle.

One of our favorite games is Settlers of Catan. It's a development game- the players build roads, villages and cities. The first player to 10 points wins (villages are worth 1, cities are worth 2).

There are 5 resource types, each attached to a number from 2-12 (except 7). Each game, the location of the resources changes, but the number stays constant.

So what's worth more? To place your starting location on the best resources, or to claim the best numbers and hope the dice play in your favor?

Of course, the answer is "it depends." Are the dice kind? How willing are your opponents to strike a trade? If you have to live without a resource, which one can survive without?

My current strategy revolves around not just the numerical value of my starting location, but also weighing the value of my next easiest to reach location. The closer my numbers average to 7, the happier I am. Within that, I need access to the 2 resources that allow me to build more roads (to quickly get more places).

Beyond that, I trust that with 18 tiles (4 tiles each of 3 types, 3 tiles each of 2 other types) if I can build my road network quickly I'll finish up with a solid mix of resources.

Play the patterns, let the rest of the game resolve itself.

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