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If you have the robber and are playing against the field, you might want to place it where it can do the most damage.

But my understanding is that sometimes the better use is to "sic" the robber on the player who is in the lead.

How do you decide between the two courses of action or others? And what about the times when one or another course of action will do YOU some harm?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The robber is a political action.

If it's early days in the game, you may well want to shrug your shoulders and say "I don't care, I'm just going to put this where it will cause the most damage to the most players who aren't me. Nothing personal."

If it's later on, you might want to attack a player who's been giving you hassle, and make it clear that that's what you're doing. Or you might want to avoid doing anything to hurt a player who's behind - they may be grateful to be "given a break", and return the favour later.

Naturally, if another player is about to do rather too well, putting the robber on him may be everyone else's last chance not to lose the game. Or if you're about to grab the last few points necessary to win, then a well-judged resource-steal may be a timely action.

But in general I don't think you need to micro-analyse your robber plays. Use the robber to make friends and punish enemies, and maintain some approximation of a status quo (until you're ready to break free of that). Sometimes it can even be advantageous to place the robber where it will do the least harm. Everybody likes a nice person, right? Where I come from, it's not nice guys who finish last, but overly competitive ones :)

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I'd say it's more diplomatic than political, but the point is the same I guess. –  The Chaz 2.0 Feb 27 '13 at 4:10
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One obvious choice is when an opponent threatens to take the Longest Road (card), and thereby reach 10 points, with the help of a city on wood/brick with a 6/8. I would block a hex to stop this course of events, even if I had a settlement adjacent.

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The placement of the robber should take into account several factors:

  • Does the next player have a Knight card? (or Development card, since this isn't open information) If they do, they are likely to use it before rolling for their turn, likely putting it on your settlement/city. You should consider placing it on a hex that blocks the player to your right, because it has the highest probabilty of remaining there.

  • Does another player have a higher pobability of having a good you need right now? Stealing from them may help you improve you board position this turn, allowing you to build that road, settlement, or city this turn intead of having to hold cards in hand until next turn.

  • Who is in the lead? If a player is closer to winning than any other player, hurting them is usually a good course of action.

  • Does placement of the robber make your trade goods more valuable, or a good less available? If you become the sole provider for a good, it will trade for more or make it harder for someone to get a good you want to make more scarce.

  • Does this hurt the most (more blocked pips) without hurting you? You rarely want to block your own settlements/cities.

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Good answer. Also worth mentioning that rather than blocking the most pips, sometimes it can more beneficial to block a specific resource you know a rival needs. E.g. If you know the lead player is one stone away from being able to upgrade a settlement to a city, rather than block their sheep with 4 pips, blocking their stone with 3 pips might be a better bet. –  theon Mar 3 '13 at 19:58
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