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We recently played a game of Settlers of Catan where for the first 3 rounds none of us got any brick at all, so there was no road construction at all and it dragged a little. I'm not looking to reduce the randomness, but a slight alteration of the game setup could probably do the trick.

Here's what I've thought of:

  • Give players more starting resources. If everyone began with 2 of everything things could get going faster.
  • give everyone an extra free road at the beginning.

Are there any other good ways to give Catan a bit more of a jump start? I find if one player gets a slow start in the beginning (like no brick) they can get screwed for most of the game. Different players being strong in different resources is core to the entire game, but a tiny early lack of wood can make one player suffer through the entire thing.

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Rules to check that you're playing correctly: (1) Initial settlement selection goes 1st player, 2nd player, 3rd player, 3rd player, 2nd players 1st player. (2) Second settlement chosen gets all three resources it touches before play begins. (3) you can trade in 4 of one resource for any other. In the scenario your describe it would be very unlikely for a player to not be able to make a trade (with players, then the bank) to get his brick. –  Neal Tibrewala Jan 4 '11 at 6:40
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Yeah, the game can be slow when brick isn't forthcoming, but I think that can be a good opportunity to test out a development card strategy. It's also a good incentive for everyone to make placement by brick a priority next game. :) –  Andrew Vandever Jan 4 '11 at 17:56
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I would like to point out, that it is a dangerous road you are thinking of - some starting positions look weaker at the beginning, but are much stronger at the end (and the opposite), so if you give extra boost at the beginning to someone, who will have a strong end game, his chances of winning will not grow at the same pace as the chances of others with the same amount of help but much more rapidly. Also, I agree that lack of any resource can be offset by good production of others, and even more - the type of resources produced is many times less important than the quantity. –  Krišjānis Nesenbergs Jan 5 '11 at 23:17
    
I would also be very careful about giving every player all the resources or even their choice of resources. Many games start with two players "racing" to build (a road segment on the same edge or a third settlement at a location) and this would give a much larger edge to the player who plays earlier. If you want to give extra resources, for our end of year "championship" game, we give advantage to top players based on rank, allowing them to "roll" for bonus starting resources, 1=brick/2=grain/3=ore/4=sheep/5=wood/6=nothing. –  YLearn Dec 9 '13 at 22:02
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13 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

A variant on your, "give players more starting resources" idea: After each player gets his or her starting resources, let each player take one (or two) resource(s) of his or her choice. That way, each player can assess what he or she is "short" in and fill that gap (albeit temporarily).

Another option that you can use with, or instead of, the above: Start with the robber off the board entirely. The first time a seven is rolled, put the robber in the desert. From that point on, sevens have their normal effect. This will give players more of a chance to shrink their hands of resources before getting zapped by the robber, and will keep the robber off the board longer, enabling the towns and cities to produce more resources.

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Similar to your second option; I always play that for the first 2 rounds (until each player has had 2 turns), 7's are just rerolled. At that point in the game there is no good way to choose whom to screw over yet, and it's quite unfair to get screwed over that early. –  GendoIkari Dec 10 '13 at 21:45
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Don't forget, you get a resource card for each resource you touch when you place your second settlement.

If you're still finding things going slow, here's some random ideas you can use:

  • For each player, remove a Year of Plenty or Road Building card from the deck, shuffle them up, and deal one to each player. That should get things really going.
  • Give each player one extra road as suggested.
  • Let each player pick one extra resource when starting.
  • NEW - The first time any player rolls a 7 (i.e. this will only happen once), after placing the thief the player has the option of taking a resource from the pile matching the tile they just played the thief on instead of taking a resource from a player (yes, it rewards a little bit of luck, but it also softens the blow of the first thief a little).
  • NEW - The first time each player rolls the dice in the game, if they get any resources, they may take one extra of a resource they just received.
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Another thing that I've done in the past is to cap time per turn (no, this doesn't help with the resources issue) to, say, 180 seconds (ie 3 minutes). Most players (other than stark newbies) will be thinking on the other players' time, so limiting them to 3 minutes should help a lot.

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I agree with warren, I would suggest that faster turns in the first few rounds will solve your problem as each turn is only as slow as the people playing.

Lack of resources is likely due to one of the following reasons:

  • Map setup: Make sure the map is based on one of the balanced examples provided. There are examples of balanced maps available online, use these until you get more experience playing.

  • Poor starting position selection: This comes down to experience, but having at least one square of brick in your starting 5/6 tiles is almost a necessity for new players.

  • Crappy dice results: The only thing to do about this is just hurry up and take your turn and don't spend ages scanning the board.

I like to play Catan online as it's a good adaption and here are some things that I found help speed up a game:

  • Plan your turn when other people are playing theirs and try so you are ready to go when it's your turn. Try and pay attention to what resources other people have and where they are moving.

  • Make the trading section ultra fast. Don't stare at your cards and think of the 100+ combinations you could possibly make if you just got that one card. Think about what you need and make your offer. If people don't have what you need or don't want to swap move on quickly.

  • Get to know which numbers come up frequently, so don't place your villages next to brick with 10 or 12, if you can't get 6 or 8 move near to 5 or 9.

And finally, one common rule is the friendly robber. Which means you can't place the robber on a tile next to the village of a player with less than 3 points. This will give players some breathing space, especially those who are struggling to start.

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Another thing I just thought of... If you can't get next to a decent brick square at the beginning, another tactic is to try and get next to two good squares of another resource and head to a port. e.g. 6 and 8 of wheat and then head to wheat port or a 3:1 port. This may put you in a better position later in the game. –  xiaohouzi79 Jan 6 '11 at 2:35
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I would suggest to kept the rule as they are, but speeding up the play at the beginning. For the first turns, just play the dice, collect your resources and pass the dice to your neighbor. After a few games, distributing resources should take 10 seconds. Even if the game take five turn to start, it's not an issue when those five turn are played in about a minute each.

Just set the example by doing it yourself and explain to the other players that there is no point discussing about trade when everybody want resources nobody have.

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One thing we like to do is eliminate sevens from the first two rounds. If a player rolls a seven then the dice are thrown again. This has several consequences:

  • No one worries about losing half their cards when a seven is rolled
  • No one worries about having a card stolen
  • Key resources are not blocked

The end result is that very little building happens on the first round because everyone would rather wait for their second turn when they have more resources and information. So the first round goes quicker and initial expansion is faster as everyone builds on the second round.

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we usually just skip the first 7 that is rolled in the game. This tends to work really well as an early 7 can easily add 5 minutes to the game-time alone. :D –  Gordon Gustafson May 16 '11 at 21:56
    
We also implement the "robber delay" house rule for the first 2-6 rounds of play, depending on number of players. In addition to the reasons mentioned in this answer, the biggest reason we do it is to prevent starts where a 7 gets rolled early and one person is nearly knocked out of the game if another 7 is not rolled for a few rounds. Every group I've played with that has been introduced to the robber delay house rule thinks it improves the game so much that they adopt some version of it. –  Joe Golton Jan 9 '12 at 19:47
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You could make the start a little more even for everyone, where they know they are going to get some resources at the start. If you have extra markers lying around, do the following:

  • Get enough markers for 1 or 2 rounds of play depending on the number of players.
    • Favor 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and 11 over 2, 6, 8 and 12
    • Tailor for the map setup, ensure 1 of each resource type will be produced by the set of numbers chosen
    • 3 players (2 rounds): 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11
    • 4 players (2 rounds): 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11
    • 5 players (2 round): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
    • 5 players (1 round): 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11 (throw last one away)
    • 6 players (1 round): 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11
  • Shuffle and place in a stack (or a line) face down.
  • Instead of rolling dice, players draw the next marker, until the stack is exhausted.
  • For Cities & Knights, you can opt not to include the event die until the stack is gone.

Everyone can be ensured a card at some time in the beginning if they build next to a number in the stack. I consider the selection of numbers as part of the board setup phase, so do this before the initial starting points are selected.

This method still has randomness, although the expected payouts of the numbers start out even and move toward normal as the game continues.

This will naturally give you the friendly robber variant, as there is no 7 marker.

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I've seen it in tournaments in a few ways:

  • give a third round of placing an additional road (WBC)
  • give an extra settlement
  • give a city instead of one of the settlements
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There is a technique that I've found works great, borrowed from Starfarers of Catan...

At start of game, make a deck of 10 each of all 5 resource types. Shuffle. Each player-turn, anyone below 6 VP who doesn't get a resource by the roll gets a card off the deck. When it's emptied, restock it with 5 each.

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One house rule we typically use is to reroll when a seven is rolled and no one has yet gained an extra point.

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In the Traders and Barbarians expansion there are 2 rules that would help for this situation ( and it also helps when playing with kids ):

  1. A set of 36 cards that represent the distribution of rolls. Draw from the cards until 5 or so remain. This makes it quite likely that even the 12 or 2 hex produces.
  2. The robber is not allowed to steal from or affect a player with 2 or fewer victory points. ( i.e. everyone at the beginning of the game. )
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The cards from Traders and Barbarians are available as a standalone expansion, boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/20038/catan-event-cards –  Sparr Dec 10 '13 at 16:26
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In addition to any of the other variations mentioned, one of the variations we have used to speed up games is to provide each player a number of "trade tokens." We keep this low as we don't want to diminish the value of having ports, so typically 1-3.

These trade tokens can be used to trade two resources (same type) for any one resource. When the token is used, it is removed from the game. If you try this with C&K, I would suggest limiting this to only resources (no commodities).

Limiting the tokens means players want to preserve them for when they really need them, so they still try to trade with other players first, but it gives you an option if no one is getting a certain resource or one is just not available when you need it.

If they are held to the end game, it also helps to speed the game as it can sometimes slow down when players get close to winning and no one will trade with them.

P.S. Sorry for resurrecting an old Q/A, but thought this was worth throwing into the mix.

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There's a badge for resurrecting an old question with a good answer. We don't like duplicate questions, so we like thread necromancy here! –  Paul Marshall Dec 10 '13 at 0:54
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Catan Event Cards (optionally played without using the events themselves) or even the more generic Deck of Dice can reduce the randomness of the game significantly, which would include evening out the early game resource distribution. I very much prefer to play this way, being relatively certain that my "10" will produce 2-3 times during the first 31-36 turns.

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