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I've played a few games of Settlers of Catan with friends and seen some deals emerge in the trading that don't seem quite right to me. When do deals that extend beyond the current trade become unbalancing?

For example: Player A is planning to build a road that will block either Player B or Player C from longest road. So Player A sets up a bidding war between B and C to control this future behavior. B and C offer deals like:

  • Any time I have two of (favored resource) I will give one to you

  • I will never attack you with the robber

At what point do deals like these cause the balance of the game to shift too far where it's not fun or as good to play? Balance seems to be the key in all games, and I just want to make sure deals like these don't kill it for the rest of the players.

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This sounds like it's a style difference. Perhaps you should discuss this with the group and tell them why it makes you uncomfortable. If you don't think the other players are approachable in this way, it's time to find a new group. –  neilfein Apr 2 '11 at 16:30

4 Answers 4

up vote 17 down vote accepted

As ICodeForCoffee said in the "bribing off the Robber" question:

According to the rules of Catan, players can't trade unless they're both exchanging resources.

This would seem to be the same issue with the agreement to give extra resources to other players. They could form an alliance to trade the resources, but not just give the extras "in the future" for a favor.

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it is fairly trivial to work around the 'both players must receive a resource' rule as long as both players have at least 1 resource. –  Colin D Nov 14 '12 at 18:07

Deals can be "unbalanced" as long as they are "within the rules." That is, either party can offer to trade RESOURCES at 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 in "domestic trade."

What you cannot do is to involve a "non-resource" consideration such as action. I can't offer two resources for one resource and an "action" (e.g. refrain from putting the robber on me) even if the deal may actually be "balanced."

And the other thing is that you may trade only resoures currently IN HAND. You can't offer to trade, say two resources in hand for one resource now and one resource "when you get it."

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I'm pretty experienced with groups that have a similar play-style to yours.

The main deals that strike my groups as unfair are those which are 'kingmakers.' That is, a player is threatening to hand the game to someone else unless a third party gives him something.

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Deals in Catan are not binding. There's no game rule to enforce the future promise. Also, since the two players in question obviously established an alliance, your best bet is to ally with the fourth player.

In general, these and other types of trades are a good thing rules-wise because players farther behind allying for mutual benefit helps balance out unfair randomness in the game (assuming rational play, of course).

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