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In a recent casual game of Catan (base game), a novice player built a city and placed it on an empty intersection. No other players noticed the mistake that the intersection did not first have a settlement.

Much later in the game, the novice player made the same mistake, but it was noticed and corrected by the other players. The novice player admitted that they had previously made the same mistake much earlier in the game.

The novice player had been erroneously collecting two resources and benefiting from two victory points because of this city for several turns.

To rectify the mistake, the other players agreed that the novice player would keep the city on the board, but must play to 11 victory points to win, while all other players would only have to play to the normal 10 victory points to win.

As an experienced player in the same situation, what would you have done to rectify the mistake in a way that the game could continue being played and that no matter who won, the game would be considered fair?

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If you don't notice a mistake until long after (or once you can no longer roll back the moves to correct the mistake) it happens then you should just let it stand. In this case the player should get full credit for the city as if it was built correctly.

The problem with trying to penalize the new player for the mistake is it is also the fault of the other players for not paying close enough attention to catch the mistake in the first place.

On the other hand if the player was intentionally making the mistake as a way to win more easily then they should be removed from the game instead.

You should always remember that when playing games with a new player mistakes will always happen and being a new player they have a smaller chance of winning anyways so it will even itself out in the long run.

This also applies to experienced players who make mistakes (everyone can make them) but need to be careful that someone isn't just trying to cheat. The main theory behind this is that everyone playing the game is responsible for ensuring that it is played correctly and also responsible when a mistake that is publicly knowable (like playing a city without a settlement there already) is made.

  • OP's solution was better than this. Yes, it was too late to roll back the moves, but that doesn't mean you should let everything stand. In the OP's solution the player who made the mistake gets a massive advantage from double resources around the city, but doesn't get the extra point from it. No-one is penalising the player for the mistake as you seem to think; they're just limiting the advantage they get from it. – AndyT Mar 8 '18 at 14:45
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    I disagree, as everyone who is playing the game is responsible for catching major mistakes like that so it is not just the fault of the player who made the mistake fault but everyone. If they can catch the same mistake at a later point in the game they should catch it earlier in the game as well. Not to mention we don't know how other players may have benefited from the mistake either. I believe in the simple rule if a mistake is made (either to help or hurt) and it is not caught in time to fix then the results should stand. And it is penalizing them if they make decisions based on the mistake – Joe W Mar 8 '18 at 15:54
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Find a mutually agreeable solution

Outside of organized play if a genuine mistake is discovered and it's too late to "fix", finding an equitable solution by discussion amongst the players is the proper course of action. I generally find there are two (plus one) general ways to handle such a situation.

First, if it's a new game and everyone has been making the mistake we often finish that game with the misapplication of the rule treated as if it was the rule. If everyone has been building Cities fresh rather than upgrading Settlements just keep going like that for everyone for the rest of the game. You're not playing Settlers of Catan anymore, but you're all playing the same house-ruled variant of it.

Second, if only one person has made the mistake and it gives significant, but not gaming breaking advantage finding some sort of way to ameliorate the situation (as you did in the example in your question) is best, especially if everyone agrees to the solution.

Finally, in some cases the mistake will be so huge that you'll basically need to scrap the game and restart. Sometimes when a mistake is to far back to be undone the group won't be able to come to a consensus on an equitable solution in which case scrapping the game can result in the least hurt feelings.

Ultimately as long as it really is a mistake, and not an attempt to cheat, finding the least disruptive way to complete the game is best. I generally try and avoid the last option if at all possible (hence listing two + one options).

  • It hasn't been called Settlers Of Catan for a few years now, I don't think anybody would be playing it at all... – Nij Mar 5 '18 at 18:07
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    @Nij Fair point... but in my mind the game is called Settlers and I expect that most folks who have bought 1st/2nd editions of the game haven't bothered buying it again and so most people are actually still playing SoC. – aslum Mar 6 '18 at 14:05

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