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Players in my Catan groups never reneg on deals, so we have a number of common contracts. For example, we often sell each other a "Not-Hit," the right to be avoided the next time the seller gets to move the robber. We also often sell future cards -- I give you my wheat now in exchange for your next two rock.

It took us a while to commoditize these now-ordinary contracts, though. What are other common contracts people use in Catan?

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I'm curious -- do you do this verbally, or do you have cards for these things? –  mattdm Dec 6 '10 at 19:09
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At first we did it verbally, but now we pass each other spare wooden pieces as signifiers of the contracts: roads for Not-Hits, and occasionally settlements/cities for future cards (those resolve quickly, so it's not as important to use a token for them). –  warbaker Dec 6 '10 at 19:14
    
I think the idea behind this question is one of interest to many Settlers players. However, this question did not spell out the details of the rule variant or request such details, did not make clear whether Catan rules should be obeyed or broken, and had a title question which was unclear. The result was a highest voted answer which argued for why answering the question at all is a bad idea, while subsequent answers addressing the Q are nearly ignored. I have posted a different Q which I believe stands a better chance of leading to a clear Q&A: –  Joe Golton Feb 4 '12 at 22:22
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The new question is: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/6448/… –  Joe Golton Feb 4 '12 at 22:22
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4 Answers

We don't use contracts with the group of friends I play Catan with. While it's an interesting idea, trading resources for nothing in return during the trade is explicitly against the rules of the game. Also, the player who's turn it is has to be involved in all trades being made during that turn. So, a player giving resources to a player they promised them to previously would break two rules in the game.

I could have some of same problems as allows players to bribe off the robber if players start trying to extort resources from each other.. It would be easy to abuse, and adds complexity in the game since you would have to track contracts. Players would have to be to surrender the resources promised when they generated them in order for this to work. I personally don't think the added complexity would make the game better. It would certainly deepen the trading aspect of the game though.

For those not familiar with the topic of bribing off the robber, we discussed this previously in, Is bribing off the robber a good addition to Settlers of Catan?

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We do require that you only enter into a new contract with the player whose turn it is. Additionally, we only allow players to pass resource cards at the appropriate times under the rules. For example, when I gain the rock I owe you, I don't pass it to you until it's either my turn or your turn. –  warbaker Dec 6 '10 at 19:25
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While it may be true that people who play by the letter of the rules can't use contracts, my purpose in asking this question was to learn from people who play more like my groups. :) –  warbaker Dec 6 '10 at 19:31
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Your the first person I've heard to adopt this set of rules, but I've only played Catan with my friends. We stick to the original rules. –  ICodeForCoffee Dec 6 '10 at 19:34
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Trading resources for nothing is forbidden, but trading e.g one wool and one wheat for one wool is not, which is almost the same thing. Forbidding handouts always seemed silly to us. –  user503 Dec 9 '10 at 15:07
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@Powerlord - Players are allowed to build in a "special building phase" when playing 5-6 players after the player who just went. Players may only use the resources they have on hand, and may not trade with each other, or the bank. –  ICodeForCoffee Dec 10 '10 at 22:10
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A common contract for those I play with is what instigated my question about Bribing Off the Robber (noted by ICodeForCoffee). This is similar to your Not-Hit contract, but with more immediacy. It sounds like all of your contracts are futures tradings. Our play would be loose enough to allow for such a thing and also has the keep a contract virtue, but I'm not sure we would be willing to risk future cards. It would be interesting to see what happens if this were set up explicitly at the start of a game.

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Incidentally, posting an answer to Bribing Off the Robber is what inspired me to ask this question in the first place. :) –  warbaker Dec 8 '10 at 22:30
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When I was in university we played many, many games using such contracts.

We didn't use markers for the contracts except in a few extremely complicated cases, and we probably contracted just about everything, including robber placement, futures markets, and building patterns, e.g.

  • "I'll give you a wheat to not put the robber on me." "Oh yeah, I'll give you a wheat and a wood to put it on him!", etc.
  • "I'll build my settlement here (leaving you the third space on this lucrative tile), if you don't cut off my road over there."
  • When we played with Cities and Knights, lots of resources got tossed around by people try to cause or avoid the barbarian invasion.

We did retain the rule you could only trade on your turn, so you had to wait for either person's turn to finish the contract.

We also, rarely, reneged on contracts. The most common reason for reneging was that you could win that turn if you didn't honor it.

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We have a simpler version of this that adds much richness to the game despite the simplicity: "future trades." It works as follows:

  • All Catan rules must be obeyed (trades only on your own turn, at least 1 card offered by both parties)
  • When a legal trade is made, a future trade can be included as part of the deal. So you can offer a brick and a "future trade" in return for a wheat (you would only do this if you desperately needed that wheat)
  • The terms of the "future trade" must be made clear (i.e. The player granting the future trade agrees to trade a single resource of the type to be specified at the time the future trade is made in return for any resource that the recipient wants to give. This particular trade is the standard contract that is used for over 80% of future trades in our games)
  • The recipient of the future trade can cash it in at any time it is legal for the 2 players who entered the agreement to make a trade

Note that Catan rules do not have a mechanism for enforcing future trades to occur as promised. However, we always point out to people considering reneging on the contract that if they do so, they are unlikely to be a party in future trades in any future game, as nobody would be able to trust them. For this reason, every future trade I've ever been a part of has been honored.

Note also that for experienced Catan players, future trades are very powerful and can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. After seeing future trades employed just 2 or 3 times, most players learn to greatly fear and respect granting a future trade to one of the better Catan players at the table.

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