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Jan 09, 2014 11:52 PM EST

Settlers Of Catan Journal Entry One: The Settlers Of Long Island

Catan Holder
(Photo : Kevin Bickard) This holder of Settlers of Catan pieces was 3-D printed from the labs at the University of Pennsylvania

The winter standings (in wins):

(1) *Steve: 3 (2) Kim: 2 (3) *Kristen: 1 (4) *Katherine: 1 (5) *Scott: 1 (6) *Pat: 0 (7) Kevin: 0

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This winter season, the third official Catan-playing period since our first game as a group over a year ago, we've also kept track of total victory points scored (which will be worth one win when the final standings are tallied); regretfully, I left the scorecard at my brother's house, our preferred playing grounds. Complete standings to appear next week.

Today's entry marks the first of a University Herald weekly feature documenting the Wednesday night games of a dedicated and rather colorful group of Long Island Catan players. Basically, we play Wednesday and you can read about it on Thursday. Let's start at the end and see where it takes us.

On the car ride home last night, my younger brother, Kevin, made an obvious point, but one worth stating: "That was one of the friendliest games we've played in a while." The line brought us -- my older brother, Steven, was behind the wheel of his souped-up BMW -- back to Saturday night's game, or the one that indefinitely ended weekend games. Increased alcohol consumption aside, Saturdays are just a little too open for the closed-off world of Catan, especially when playing with a regular group of players. Lesson learned.

Steven won Wednesday night's game, his third victory of the year. In fact, the "late bloomer" (he finished fifth last season) won both of our games, though only one was official.

We always begin our night with a "six point game," the winner of which can choose to keep playing to 10 for two wins in the standings (but risk losing a win if he or she loses, while the remaining players receive the standard one point if they win) or choose to end the game (for no points in the standings) and instead pick his or her order for the next game (after seeing the board's layout). One of the biggest opponents of this rule (invented by me), Steve smartly chose to end the game at six. Kristen was nearly a "Harbor Master" and Pat just settled on gold (owners of "Traders & Barbarians" and "Seafarers" know what I'm talking about).

Steve's decision to go first next game was marked by his younger brother and my older brother, Pat, who's been compiling order statistics for the past six months (and hasn't yet come to any clear conclusions). Our first ten point game lasted so long -- mostly because players refused to settle for anything but the best trades -- we didn't even achieve the near standard doubleheader, or at least two ten-point games. In one never-before-seen trade, for example, Katherine and I colloborated on a 4-for-2 deal with Kevin: I exchanged one of the cards he needed for two of his own, while Katherine did the same with the other resource Kevin sought.

As you can see, we worship the game, but not necessarily its rules. Kevin, who, unlike us, first learned the game while in college (at the University of Pennsylvania, no less) was initially aghast by our loose interpretation of Klaus Teuber's game. Yet, I believe Teuber would personally congratulate us if he knew how far we'd stretched his "guidelines." With its interchangeable hexagons and randomly assigned numbers, the game provides a foundation for variety. It's up to its players to add options and scenarios when possible, almost as if Teuber and his confidantes (he likely had some help) designed it specifically to be manipulated. If that truly is the case, we could be the most enlightened group of Catan players this side of the Long Island Sound.

That's the intro. Expect more specific instances of gameplay in next week's entry; expect to better understand what makes each of these Catan fanatics tick; and expect at least a "2" next to my name in the standings.

Special thanks to Mayfair Games, better known as the surrogate mother of Settlers (and even better known as its manufacturer) for linking my Catan article from last week!

Fun fact: as first reported by Mayfair Games' Facebook page, Settlers of Catan was played on NBC's "Chicago Fire" Tuesday, on a date (Catan can be played 1 v. 1 in rare instances), and even led to a make-out. Skip to 16:40 (for the build up) and 37:08 for the big scene.  

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