Winter Break is here. Omicron is threatening. Time to settle in at home and break out the board games.
Settlers of Catan is a strategy game where smart resource management and deal making wins the game. Unlike Monopoly, where winning is dependent on ruthlessly bankrupting your opponents in a zero-sum game, Settlers of Catan more closely exemplifies the free market and capitalism. In Catan, each roll of the dice produces resources for everyone, potentially increasing overall wealth for all players. Like international trade relations, there must be a balance between competition and cooperation, because resources are constrained and trade is necessary to progress in the game.
Price Theory, where the price of a resource is dependent on its supply and demand, comes heavily into play. Depending on dice rolls and the placement of the game board hexes, some resources will be scarcer than others. Prices change throughout the game as dice rolls produce gluts and shortages. As the game progresses, development of more settlements affects price too. Settlements mean more resources are produced, an increase in supply, causing prices to fall.
One successful Catan strategy is to corner the market on a low production resource, allowing you to drive up prices and trade for more of the other resources you need. Evaluating hex placement is key. But determining which hex to build on at the beginning of the game is more complex than just looking at the dice roll associated with it.
Consider choosing between building on a 5 brick hex or an 8 sheep hex. Eight has more possible dice rolls than 5, so a simple analysis would have you place your settlement on the sheep hex, since more 8 dice rolls translates into a greater production of sheep than brick. But what if the other brick hexes only have 2’s and 12’s on them? Suddenly the 5 brick hex is looking much better. On an island with a scarcity of brick, players will probably pay 2 or 3 sheep for just one brick, the resource they need to build roads. But they won’t pay 4 sheep. Why?
Threat point in trade bargaining is the payoff a trader can guarantee themselves by not participating in a trade. In Catan, the threat point is always 4, because players can trade 4 of any single resource into the “bank” and get the resource they need. So if the player that cornered the brick market in the previous example demands 4 sheep, unless the other player is trying to build good will, the answer will be no, because why benefit the brick monopolizer when you can get the resource you need from the bank for the same price? Overall, trading makes the game more fun, because, unlike Monopoly’s zero-sum game, trading in Catan is a positive-sum game. Each player gets something out of the trade.
Every Settlers of Catan game is unique, with inflation and deflation of resources based on random dice throws. Not all players will behave rationally (“I’m going to keep putting the knight-robber on Dad’s brick hex just to mess with him even though I need brick”) or make rational trades (“I won’t give Mom two sheep for a brick because that’s not a ‘fair’ trade). And while trading makes the game more fun, sometimes not trading provides the competitive advantage a player needs to ultimately win. Hoarding cards only you have an abundance of can be highly satisfying.
Settlers of Catan should be in every game cabinet. Beyond exemplifying basic economic theories, it’s easy to learn and play, keeps all players involved at all times because of the importance of the dice throws, and is the perfect combination of luck and skill. And as the pandemic drags on, it is a nice way to spend an hour at home.
Read the article below to learn more,