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My wife and I were playing Settlers of Catan and she moved the robber onto one of the numbers where only my settlement was. She took her hand off of the robber and told me to spread my cards. I was out of cards and told her I had none for her to steal. She then grabbed the robber, said "just kidding" and proceeded to place it on another player's settlement.

I believe that the robber should stay on the original settlement as "a robber laid or placed is a robber played". My wife believes that because she did not take a card from me she has the right to move the robber again even though she had already placed it somewhere.

Who is right and why?

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5  
In general, the times people will insist mistakes like this are final will be when they're desperate for the win, and see the mistake as an opportunity. Nothing about the game has changed since the robber roll was made - no trading, rolling, new turns, etc, so there's no reason (in a simple and clear case like this one) not to allow a redo. –  Samthere Jun 11 '13 at 13:37
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In this case, I would go with the "Don't sleep on the couch" strategy. Ergo, your wife was right. QED. –  corsiKa Jun 11 '13 at 15:21
    
In my experience, unless you take the game very serious, consider the "don't sleep on the couch" rule suggested by corsiKa :) –  Bazzz Jun 12 '13 at 13:59
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3 Answers

There is no real "correct" answer here, in terms of official game rules. It is going to depend completely on the friendliness/casualness of your playgroup. In a tournament setting, such a thing would need to be clarified in the tournament rules; otherwise a judge would need to be informed of the situation and make a ruling.

My game group pretty much always tends to follow this basic rule: If no other player has taken an action that revealed new information to you after you made your move, you are still free to undo your move. Note that this action could be as simple as a "whew, glad you went there!" or an actual game-action such as playing a card.

In your case, I think the rule would apply. Because the number of cards in hand is open knowledge in the game anyway, you did not take any action that revealed new information (showing that you had no cards shouldn't be considered new information).

Basically, you are free to enforce whatever rules you decide on... often if there's an uncertainty in such situations, we also just take a vote amongst the players, and see who is ok with allowing the take-back. There's nothing "wrong" with a rule that says "you took your hand off, therefore the play is finalized", but in my opinion it decreases the general friendliness and thus the overall enjoyment of the game.

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Play Mistake rules (as defined by the Convocation of Dining-Table after the Monopoly wars of 1992):

Core Code of Practice

  • If both players are "veteran" gamers, they should agree in advance what constitutes an committed play error. In the case of an unanticipated situation, one takeback per player per game session is permissable.
  • If one player is a "veteran" and the other is not, the casual player is allowed a takeback of any play mistake they have not already made once (for example, you can take the robber move back, but next time).
  • If both players are not veteran players, any mistake is house-ruled in to not be a mistake for the duration of play, under the principle of "we're going to forget that again, might as well not play with it".

Veterancy is defined by comparing relative skill and number of plays. Basically, if a player self-identifies as "teh hardcorez", "I own this game" (literally or figuratively) or "a gamer", they accept the duties and restrictions of veterancy for the duration of play

Specific Rule Exceptions and Extensions

  • If there is no way that the move would have been made given the public information on the board, and conversation is going on around the board, the player is assumed to have been "distracted". A "distracted" player is treated as casual under the CCoP above.
  • If play has continued to the point where an approved takeback is agreed by the majority to have a major effect on how the game "would have played", then the mistake is house-ruled in as normal behaviour for duration of play.
  • By contrast, if the takeback has had no effect on the gameplay, it is acceptable, based on majority agreement to allow a "free" takeback. Free takebacks do not count towards any of the limits in the CCoP above, and may be used even if the CCoP does not normally allow a takeback or if a non-free takeback would normally exceed a limit.
  • If the player is a "Spike", and losing because of trivial play mistakes would make them miserable, it is acceptable to allow takebacks above and beyond the traditional rules to an approved limit. This limit must not be extended more than once, and applies to all players, not just the Spikes.
  • If any of the opponents is a dick about the play mistake, they are ostracized for the duration of the game until they apologize. No alliances may be formed with them, no cards may be traded with them, and no-one will pass them the pizza.
  • These rules only apply to competitive games. In the event of co-operative games, a new convocation will be arranged, and rules will be devised based on the "Pride vs Fun" system.

Being a dick is defined by both majority consensus and symmetry (if I did it and you called me out for being a dick, when you do it, you are automatically considered a dick)

Judgement

In this case, if your wife hasn't played Catan as much as you, or there was conversation going on when she made her decision, the rules would permit a takeback (especially as it sounds like the conversation entered "Grumpy Spike" territory). As at this point, the playing of the robber has had no effect, the takeback could be treated as free.

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Certainly, the rules don't get that niggling in any edition I've seen. However, the number of cards you hold is semi-public knowledge (you're required to tell if it's relevant).

I would, however, in this case side with, "You put it down, you asked to pull from his hand, you're stuck drawing 1 of none."

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