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In Settlers of Catan, there's a variant where instead of rolling the dice, you use a stack of 36 cards with each combination. This reduces the luck component, but has as disadvantage that you can predict future rolls to some extent.

The iPhone Catan game also allows this rule variant.

Have you tried this and do you think it's an improvement?

EDIT: Have you tried other methods of reducing the importance of luck?

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My method of reducing luck is to play Go. If I want a game with no luck, I play an abstract strategy game. Luck is an essential feature in Catan for me; it means that weaker players can get a little boost sometimes, and that you need to be flexible and adapt to anything when playing. –  Brian Campbell Oct 22 '10 at 0:18
I don't care about the luck, dice just make the game a lot slower too. You can save 5 minutes spent doing nothing by shaking dice fairly easily if you just use cards. –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 26 '11 at 0:02

8 Answers 8

I played a diceless variant where every village has a "worker".

  • you place the worker in an empty tile next to the village when you create the village
  • at the beginning of your turn, you get one resource for each worker, from its tile
  • -OR- you may skip acquisition to remove another player's worker (he'll be able to re-assign it at the end of his next turn)
  • at the end of your turn, you may re-assign your workers (still into empty tiles)
  • cities have two workers

The game is very different from the original version, and very interesting.

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I really like this idea! I'm gonna propose this the next time we play the game. –  Kempeth Nov 3 '10 at 13:00
I agree with Kempeth. This is a fascinating variant. It seems that you would generate too many resources after a short while, but perhaps that is mitigated by getting resources on your turn only, rather than upon each dice roll. –  Clay Bro Jun 3 '11 at 5:11
Lo'oris, how do you mark where the workers are? Lego characters seem out of place, and little scraps of paper seem too "ghetto". –  Clay Bro Jun 3 '11 at 5:13
@Clay: we used Ikea glass gems –  Lohoris Jun 6 '11 at 7:28
Just wondering, can you assign workers to a tile of another colony, or must it be 1 worker next to 1 colony? –  Joubarc Aug 16 '11 at 18:45

The card system that you describe is not just a variant, it is an official expansion, Catan: Event Cards, which includes not only the rolls (in the form of the totals with the appropriate distribution) but also red dice for Cities and Knights and a selection of minor game events.

Sample Cards

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The event cards were also included in the traders and barbarians expansion. –  Simon Withers Oct 30 '10 at 2:39
There's actually a deck called the "Deck of Dice" that was around long before they came out with the Event cards. –  Lance Roberts Oct 30 '10 at 3:53
The event portion really changes the game on the Catan:Event Cards. Using them only for the die rolls is a far saner choice. –  aramis Aug 17 '11 at 6:47

I haven't tried this variation, and to be honest, I don't think I would want to either.

Randomness in games can bother me, but Settlers of Catan is one of those games where I don't mind the randomness. With the deck-of-cards variation, you know at some point in the next 36 cards that, for example, a 2 and a 12 will come up at some point, and if you can count cards, you can most certainly predict what the next results will be.

Me, I rather be amused when we spend six turns in a row rolling a 3. That's just part of the game.

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Some games are simply spoiled by the dice, that can be pretty frustrating. There's also a variant where you remove 5 random cards from the 36 possibilities, so that you can't be quite sure what the last cards in the deck will be. –  Michiel de Mare Oct 21 '10 at 23:38
I have a set of event cards that has a "reshuffle" card which will be randomly distributed in the deck. This allows for the 5 rolls of 3 in a row possibility. –  Alex B Aug 11 '11 at 21:15
@AlexB: The official version calls for putting the reshuffle card 5th from the bottom to avoid too much gaming by knowing what is left. –  Guvante Apr 26 '13 at 21:09
@Guvante Thanks! Didn't realize that. –  Alex B Apr 29 '13 at 20:04

The large majority of my games of Settlers, or more recently Cities and Knights, were done using a computer program to simulate the deck of 36 dice. It would randomly reshuffle at some point between 34 and 36 cards through, so you can't count rolls precisely, but it was a blissful solution to the frustration of the "Settlers probability distortion field". I much prefer Settlers played with "enforced probabilities" like this: there's still plenty of randomness in what order the rolls come up, but you at least know that building on a 6 and an 9 you will get more resources than the person who built on 4 and 11, where in the dice version the opposite seems to happen frustratingly often.

The program we were using also provides for the Cities and Knights dice by colouring one number red, and giving a background colour of black (3 in 6) / yellow (1 in 6) / green (1 in 6) / blue (1 in 6).

You can download it from http://members.lycos.co.uk/qqzm/downloads/Projects/Other/SettlersDice.zip.

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I bought the deck of cards, but everyone I play with just wants to roll dice.

So I bought precision dice.

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Precision dice? What are those? –  Michiel de Mare Oct 29 '10 at 21:53
@Michiel, Dice manufactured to have as equal a probability per side as possible. –  Lance Roberts Oct 30 '10 at 3:51
The basic idea is that, because of the pips being drilled out, the "1" side is slightly heavier than the "6" side, so over time you would expect it to fall toward the bottom. On casino dice (precision dice), the holes are filled flush with a colored but otherwise identical material so that this variability is removed. –  GalacticCowboy Oct 31 '10 at 2:37
The other forms of precision dice are (1) equal volume of drilled pips (The 1 is wider and/or deeper than the pips on the 6, but the same total volume), (2) Gamescience style shallow arabic numbers on sharp edged dice, (3)partial weighted pips, where the pips are slightly weighted with a dense material to make up for the weight of the missing material for the pips. --- I've not seen 3 in MANY years, and most people accuse such dice of being unfair even if they are truly fair. –  aramis Aug 17 '11 at 6:52

I use an iPod/iPhone Settlers Dice App. The benefits I see are: 1.) They're quiet, 2.) They're fast, 3.) They don't make a mess and get hung up on piles of cards or the edge of the board, and 4.) The probabilities are assured by the programming.
The probabilities exactly match the theoretical probability of each dice roll, which is not the case with physical dice.

I have used two iPod Touch/iPhone apps: "Settlers' Stats" and "Dice of Catan". "Stats" has a so called feature that allows you to track point changes of the various players. This turns out to be more trouble than counting again when you wonder. This app stinks. "Dice of Catan" is a different story.

"Dice of Catan" (On the App Store) costs $0.99. It is a very pleasant and simple app to use, and it takes the physical dice out of the game, which I think is a big plus. You tap the dice, and they display a pseudo-random (probability driven) Settlers of Catan roll.

Features: Cities and Knights (C&K) support (has a die for barbarian movement/progress card.) Safe mode for early rounds, which allows no sevens (and no barbarian movement in C&K). Multicolored dice (one red, one green, see below.) Tracks barbarian movement and has a pop-up reminder for the Robber/Bandit and when the Barbarian strikes.

Example Roll Example Bandits Always starts in Safe Mode, tap to change

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I've got (but don't use) and Android App called steady roller. It auto-adjusts the probabilities to even out the randomness, but in a less predictable way than the event deck / dice deck. I don't know its exact algorithm.

You can also set it to reduce the chances of 7s, if you like that sort of thing.

It's a freebie on the app market.

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I bought casino-grade dice which, in theory, fair better than the dice that come with the game. I haven't performed any analysis, though.

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Casino-grade dice are still dice and not an "alternative to dice" –  LittleBobbyTables Aug 16 '11 at 1:36

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