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In Settlers of Catan, I sometimes try to ask people if they want to trade a certain resource, tricking them into revealing the approximate amount of that resource in everyone's hand. After this I play the monopoly card. This has on some occasions not been received very well.

Is this fair play?

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2  
This answer got buried under the pile, so commenting here: it's not necessary to pull this ploy at all. There are 19 of each resource in the game; just count the number in the bank. –  Zags Nov 20 at 0:16

16 Answers 16

up vote 40 down vote accepted

It depends on the people you're playing with and the tone of the game you're in. I play with two groups: my family (wife and two teenage boys); and a group of long-time friends. I think this tactic has been used in both groups, and everybody acts shocked but takes it in the spirit of the game.

I think a good rule of thumb is 'will this change how they play the game with me in the future (this game and future games)?' or 'will this affect whether they play the game with me in the future?' If it makes them more wary of you, and more cut-throat themselves, then that's fair enough - you've made a tactical decision, upped the ante a bit, and maybe made it more difficult to get information and trades from them. If it makes them less likely to want to play with you in the future, then you've overstepped the mark - don't do it again.

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That's not as bad as actually trading all of one of your resources away for other things, and then using "Monopoly" to get it all back. I've seen people play that way before.

Underhanded, yes. Illegal, no. The problem with playing this way is that it can really poison the friendly feel of the game. I had a player who used this tactic, as well as other aggressive ones like extorting good trades from people by threatening them with the robber. When someone plays like that regularly, the best way to deal with it is for others to gang up on them, which then leads to arguments about people being out to get them, and grudges held between games. It wound up being so bad that I stopped playing Settlers if this other player was going to be there.

As far as just using trade offers to find out what people have, that's not nearly so bad. Heck, you don't even need to do that; you can keep track of what resources everyone has. The only way someone might get resources that you don't know about are with the robber, but that leaves the same set of resources on the table, just in a different person's hand. So, you shouldn't even have to do this; just keep better track of what resources people earn and what they spend. If you can't remember, just try and think back for what the last few numbers rolled were, and what the last few things they built; you should be able to work out pretty well what they have a lot of.

If you offer trades to people, and then just grab the resources with "Monopoly" instead, they'll think that's cheap and feel burned; you've gotten their hopes up for a trade, and then dashed them by stealing resources. If you just keep track of what resources they have, and then seem to "magically" guess the right ones, they'll be disappointed that they lost the resources, but impressed that you managed to get so lucky with your "guess." How would you rather people feel about you?

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4  
You think Catan has a friendly feel? You obviously play in very different groups to me! Blocking people on purpose, threatening the robber, trading before monopoly are all expected tactics to use. If you were playing it in a tournament, then you would find this happens all the time. –  xorsyst Oct 10 at 10:09

Yes, it's lame :P.

But at my table you wouldn't be reprimanded, but expect future trade to get a little more difficult. This is an awesome way to get the rest to gang up on you.

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I think it's awesome. If you milked some resources out of me with a trade, and then mono'ed them to the traded goods back, I would first scream in pain, and then offer you a hearty congratulations.

I am surprised so many people think it's poor form. The first time I saw someone do it, I thought it was simply brilliant.

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Well, its not illegal. It is... a bit underhanded.

I'd change the way I played with you, but I wouldn't house rule it away or anything.

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It really depends how it's done, when done with a glimpse in the eye after you have proclaimed how you have loads of resource x, it can actually be quite fun.

The whole trading in Settlers is used for much more than simply getting resources. While you do it, you learn about what resources players have and that can be used to form better tactics concerning road/village building, when you're in a race against another player. You should be aware about this when talking about trades as you don't really want to reveal too much about what you have in your hand. Getting the monopoly card played on you isn't the biggest danger.

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In the real world, monopolistic business practices are lame and objectionable. I see no reason why playing the evil, evil Monopoly card in as evil a fashion as possible. Preferably accompanied with the twirling of one's moustache, and/or the line "I didn't come to this island to make friends".

Seriously, it's a game! In which the actions you take may make life harder for the other players. Is it "objectionable" to move the robber onto another player's tile instead of the Desert? Yes, the more "underhandedly" you behave the more likely it is that the other players will stop trading with you, or otherwise act to make your life more difficult. But let's try to remember that being fairly despicable in a competitive in-game persona is NOT the same as being despicable in real life. Anyone who holds a grudge after the game has been cleared away is taking things a little too seriously.

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To counter the move, I make it clear at the begining of the game that if you ask if I have any brick, I may not tell you the truth. If you ask if I want to trade, that's a different question, and I can say no without implying I don't have any. I may also say, 'maybe,' when I don't have the requested resource, then turn down the ensuing trade offer. Doesn't work if you're playing with people with good memories, but how many of us pay scrupulous attention to every resource people pick up?

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I've seen people get upset over less underhanded Monopoly grabs, but I wouldn't expect the bad feeling to linger excessively.

As an example, I made a legitimate trade request for a resource I knew an opponent had (it had been recently rolled), but was rejected. I responded with the Monopoly card, even though it netted only one of the resource, because I really needed it that turn. The other players were much more wary of my trade requests for the rest of the game; one even asked what would happen if they refused.

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If you are simply trying to determine which resource is the most abundant, can't you just count the remaining resource cards? Isn't that public knowledge?

If so, that would make this tactic unnecessary.

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Just count the number of missing cards of each resource and subtract the number in your hand. There are 19 cards of each resource. This gets you a more accurate result and players feel less swindled.

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The Settlers of Catan FAQ offers an official answer:

Monopoly - In order to find out which resources my opponents have, may I first offer them trades and then play my Monopoly card?

Yes. However, players are not compelled to provide correct information on the resources they have.

In short:

  1. Yes, you may ask probing questions about what resources others have
  2. No, they need not answer honestly.
  3. When Monopoly is played, all players must surrender the named resource regardless of what they answered previously. (per the official rules)

Monopoly: If you play this card, you must name 1 type of resource. All the other players must give you all of the Resource Cards of this type that they have in their hands.

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Wow, it's actually in the FAQ :D. They could've also just linked to this site ;). –  Matthijs Wessels Nov 20 at 22:41

There's no rule about it, so I'd say it's fair play.

However, it's a social game so if you keep 'crying wolf' then you might find your game-mates less likely to trade with you!

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I wouldn't do it unless it was VERY likely to win me the game. Having done it once I can attest that some people won't take it well. On the otherhand if someone did it to me, they had better have just won because I wouldn't trade w/ them again that game, and I'd apply all of my diplomatic skills towards hindering their trading w/ other players. I might also be a little more circumspect about trading w/ them in the next game or two, and also a LOT more likely to try and do the same thing back to them the first chance I got.

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It is legal according to the rules. At my table, it has been ruled as illegal (house rule). It just feels against the spirit of the game.

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This is the most EVIL play in the game.

It is legal though. Just very very EVIL. So EVIL that many people get mad when you do it.

It is very frowned on at my table. If you do it most players will not even acknowledge your trade attempts in the future.

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