17

Before explaining what happened, here's the literal text of the "Commercial Harbor" card, as a reference:

Card Text:

You may offer each Opponent a resource card from your hand. In exchange, each player must give you a commodity card of his choice. If he has none, your resource card is returned.

Additional Text in the rulebook:

You may force each of the other players to make a special trade. You may offer each opponent any 1 resource card from your hand. He must exchange it for any 1 commodity card of his choice from his hand, if he has any.

You may use this ability at any point during the turn you play the card. However, you may only force each player to make this trade with you once that turn. Your opponent chooses which commodity card to give you if he has more than one. If you offer a resource to a player who has no commodity cards, then you take your card back and the trade is void. You do not have to give this player the resource card.

So this was the scenario that took place:

  • Four player game, players A, B, C, and D.
  • Player A played the "Commercial Harbor" card.
  • Player A approached Player B, asked if they had a Commodity Card, Player B truthfully answered that they did not.
  • Player A approached Player C, asked if they had a Commodity Card, Player C truthfully answered that they did not.
  • Player A approached Player D, asked if they had a Commodity Card, Player D falsely claimed they did not have a Commodity Card
  • The turn resolved with the card being disposed and Player A receiving no Commodity Cards
  • Player D revealed after the conclusion of the turn that they had lied about their claim of not having a Commodity Card
  • Players B & C immediately concluded that Player D violated the rules, arguing that Player A's approach constituted the necessary contract fulfillment to "make an offer", per the text of the card.
  • Player D concluded that they obeyed the letter of the rules, pointing out that Player A did not physically show the card they intended to trade to them, and thus wasn't required to answer truthfully.
  • Played D offered that in an earlier turn in the game, they had played the card exactly as they felt it should be played, but this behavior was not consciously observed by players A, B, or C.

Now, in the context of our specific play session, we concluded that this was a violation of the rules, but this determination was made via majority vote (Players B & C agreed that this was a violation, Player D disagreed, Player A abstained due to being a novice and being unsure of the rules). So I'm curious what the determination would be in a tournament setting, or at least what the usual resolution of this kind of act would be in your sessions.

I personally determined the following:

  • That this was a violation of the rules, because I don't consider the text of the card to establish a distinction where only the literal act of showing a card is sufficient to establish an attempt to make an offer.
  • That the rules as written in the rulebook are intended to offer a form of "Mercy Play", i.e. "Let's not screw over a player who's already behind", and is not intended to produce ambiguity on what kind of actions are intended to constitute a valid offer.

What do you make of these rules? Do you feel that Player D obeyed both the letter and spirit of the rules as written, or that it was correct to determine that their actions were in violation of the rules?

  • 8
    I wouldn't really consider Player D "rules lawyering", more cheating and then trying to justify themselves after the fact. This is compounded by the fact you say Player A is a new and less confident player. – Malco Nov 23 '17 at 19:42
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    @Malco That's what all "Rules Lawyering" is though: justifying why what you specifically did wasn't against the rules. =D – Xirema Nov 23 '17 at 20:02
  • 3
    seems legit to me, Player A didn't play the card correctly. If this was a "friendly" game, D should of said, "That's not how you play that, you need to make an offer" – Keith Nicholas Nov 24 '17 at 2:47
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    Your friend needs to watch The Big Lebowski. youtube.com/watch?v=ZjibEkDoXQc&t=20s (And to be clear, Player D would be Walter here) – Kevin Nov 24 '17 at 16:07
  • @Glen_b That was a typo, I've since fixed it. – Xirema Nov 24 '17 at 17:22
16

In a tournament, player D may get away with it; but he definitely wouldn’t at my house, or during any games I’ve played with friends.

In a game that involves open negotiation and trade, intent is an important factor. When a player asks “anyone have a sheep” and anther responds “Sure. For a wheat?” Both players have to infer from the language that the other is offering a specific resource for trade. So it would be illegal to have the players pass a card to each other after that dialog, and for one to pass something other than what is expected.

Similar case here. When player A asked “do you have a commodity card” the player was obviously asking in reference to the commercial harbor card he just played; in order to take/trade the commodity. That should have been obvious to all people based on the language used.

The rules never clarify what specific language is allowed to be used to convey what specific actions. The play group must decide that, based on if the language was clear enough to convey the intent. In this case, that language combined with he playing of commercial harbor should be sufficient to convey the intent. Thus it’s as good as “I’ll give you this resource for a commodity that you have”.

  • 9
    If someone asked "Do you have any bricks?" and you said "No", even though you did, that's fine. If they play the monopoly card and ask if you have any bricks, it's a different matter and you have to tell the truth. I think in this case while technically the player is right for tournament rules (no resource card was offered for them to return.) I think it's against the spirit for friendly play! Technically players B and C should have seen 1 resource card from player A's hand, which they didn't. – Nick Nov 23 '17 at 23:51
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    @Nick, Re "Technically players B and C should have seen 1 resource card from player A's hand", That's not true. There's nothing about revealing the card. It just has to be offered. (And like Gendolkari points out, "do you have a commodity card?" should be considered an offer in context.) – ikegami Nov 24 '17 at 0:40
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    @ikegami I feel that it is a valid interpretation that “offering a card for trade” involves specifying what card you are trading. Due to the fact that 99% of the time that “a card is offered for trade” in Catan, it is done so by announcing the card you are trading. Though I think your interpretation is valid as well. – GendoIkari Nov 24 '17 at 5:34
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    I did not play this particular variation of Catan, just regular Settlers of Catan, but it appears to be the rules are clear, that you have to give that card to an opponent, and if the opponent does not have a commodity card the card is returned. It appears, that Player D was not given the card, so he had no idea what resource card he has been offered. I would also have felt in this situation that I was being treated unfairly. – Andrew Savinykh Nov 24 '17 at 7:16
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    @AndrewSavinykh It appears, based on the official FAQ, that the card is implied to instruct the player to pass resource cards face-down, so there's no guarantee that the Commercial Harbor card is guaranteed to give information like that. Certainly one could house-rule it that way though. – Xirema Nov 24 '17 at 17:27
18

TL;DR

I agree with player D's interpretation, but it's not clearly enough worded to be enforceable without prior agreement from other players. In a casual setting I would have agreed the interpretation, but allowed player A to re-do his go now that we'd agreed on the card's rules.

Interpretation of the rules

You may offer each Opponent a resource card from your hand.

On a quick scan of the Cities & Knights rules, I cannot find any definition for offer. This is problematic, as player D's behaviour hinges on what offer means. However, the base game rules have an example of an offer:

Example: It is Pete’s turn. He needs one brick to build a road. He has 2 lumber and 3 ore. Pete asks aloud, “Who will give me 1 brick for 1 ore?” Beth answers, “If you give me 3 ore, I’ll give you a brick.” Cooper interjects, “I’ll give you 1 brick if you give me 1 lumber and 1 ore.” Pete accepts Cooper's offer and trades a lumber and an ore for a brick. Note Beth may not trade with Cooper, since it is Pete’s turn.

This would imply that an offer is a verbal statement of what card(s) you would like to give out and what card(s) you would like in return. However, the further information on the "Commercial Harbour" card, which doesn't tie up with this:

In exchange, each player must give you a commodity card of his choice. If he has none, your resource card is returned.

This is a clear implication that a resource card must be taken out of player A's hand and given to someone else. It can't be returned if it has always remained in player A's possession. In fact, I would hazard that in order to be returned it must temporarily be in someone else's possession, i.e. player D's possession. This means that player D must be allowed to look at the card, and (if he does have multiple commodity cards) use that information to decide which commodity card to give. With "normal" offers involving everyone around the table knowing what trade is being carried out, it is probable that other players should also know what resource is offered, and (when a commodity is actually traded back) should probably also know what commodity is traded.

So, although it is not clear, I agree with player D's interpretation of the rules.

Resolution of this kind of act in my sessions

Although I agree with player D's interpretation of the rules, he went about it in completely the wrong way. He made two mistakes:

  1. It is only an interpretation of the rules; it's not clear. Not by a long chalk. Player D's only viable way to enforce this interpretation is to get agreement from other players before using it to his advantage.

  2. Player A was clearly trying to use his Commercial Harbour, rather than just fishing for information

So, during player A's turn, player D could have said "I don't have to answer that question. If you want to use your Commercial Harbour on me, you need to give me a resource card in trade first". The discussion on the interpretation of the rules could have then happened. And player A would have almost certainly been happy to hand over the resource card before finding out whether D had a commodity.

So the only way any player could have practically used my interpretation to their advantage is if they didn't have any commodity cards and wanted to find out information about player A's resources.

The resolution would have been to force player D to give up his commodity to player A for a resource, and allow player A to carry out the rest of his turn as if he'd had the card.

I'd also have told D not to be such a {insert expletive}. I'm all for rules lawyering, but I'm also for cutting novices some slack, and allowing do-overs when someone has misunderstood a card.

Note that my sessions are played for fun with friends, not in tournaments.

  • 7
    This is the best answer, IMO. Especially with A being a novice, D was being, well, a D. – Kevin Nov 24 '17 at 16:12
7

In general, depending on how well you pay attention to the game and the rolls of dice, you can know almost all cards a player has or at the very least get a good impression of it. Since commodity cards are an important resource, I usually keep track of who has how many of them at a given time. (This is made slightly more difficult by rolls of 7 or playing the knight card but what subsequently happens is usually sufficient to determine whether an interesting, rare or important card has been drawn or not.) Since I would likely have known that D had a commodity card, I would have called them out on the spot.

A second point that can be made would be a rehash of Gendolkari’s answer: a lot of the game is communication and the trust that is placed into it. From the sequence of events (first playing the commercial harbour, then asking each player in turn if they had a commodity card) it is very clear that player A is making an offer that D cannot refuse if they have such a card. Considering you explicitly note that player A was a novice, they might not have thought about exactly which card they were going to offer yet or something else would have held them back from openly showing one resource card (generally, you are supposed to keep those cards secret after all). If player D now answers with ‘no’ that is a definite statement, namely ‘don’t even bother, I don’t have what you desire.’

Of course, player D may choose to keep secrecy about their cards. They may want to see the actual offer. In this case, there is a simple way out: ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not telling you’. This is not a lie, it is a non-information. It clearly presses for the full offer to be made, i.e. the card to be shown. Once the full information has been given, of course there is no longer a way out and the commodity card must be surrendered.

From this, I conclude player D clearly violated the spirit of the rules.

As I have already alluded above, I would not let this slide in a private setting. I have not taken part in tournaments so I don’t know what would be the case there.


What about the letter? Let’s take a look at the actual phrasings again:

You may offer each opponent a resource card from your hand. In exchange, each player must give you a commodity card of his choice. If he has none, your resource card is returned.

You may force each of the other players to make a special trade. You may offer each opponent any 1 resource card from your hand. He must exchange it for any 1 commodity card of his choice from his hand, if he has any.

You may use this ability at any point during the turn you play the card. However, you may only force each player to make this trade with you once that turn. Your opponent chooses which commodity card to give you if he has more than one. If you offer a resource to a player who has no commodity cards, then you take your card back and the trade is void. You do not have to give this player the resource card.

Nowhere in these rules do I read the word ‘show’. They all talk simply about ‘offering a card’. From the way this is written, it is enough to hold up a card with the resource side hidden from the other players saying something like ‘I offer this (resource) card, give me a commodity card’.

Thus, I conclude that player D has even violated the letter of the rules.

-1

Commodity Harbor was misplayed

No prior exchange of information is needed or required. In each trade, both participants can give ANY appropriate card they want. Player A could ask me if I have any paper before the exchange, but I'm under no obligation to give her a paper, nor be truthful about whether I even have a paper. This is NOT a normal trade where you agree on the terms beforehand.

Discussion of resources/commodities desired, potentially mutually beneficial trades, or any other kind of agreement are totally allowed, but are not binding or particularly relevant (Well... if you agree to trade a stone for paper and don't, you might have a hard time convincing folks to trade with you later).

TL;DR: When you play Commodity Harbor the person giving the resource chooses which one to give, not the receiver.

Takeway However at best Player D is being a poor sport, in practice I'd say he violated the intent of the rules of the game, especially if Player A is a newbie. Player A is obviously trying to save time by asking if any players have commodities rather than handing a resource and getting it back when the other player doesn't.

Edit: It's been a while since I've played C&K and I forgot the distinction between Commodities and Resources

  • You seem to misunderstood a) the Commodity Harbor card and b) the question. a) - It can't end up with the same resource being traded, it's a resource for a commodity. b) - Player A didn't try to choose what type of "resource" they got, the card states they must get a commodity, and they asked if Player D had any commodities. – AndyT Feb 13 '18 at 11:50

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