Settlers of Catan: the Short Story

archive7

“Big news,” harked my young daughter Lenora as I came home from the local tavern, smelling of ales and sausages. My wife explained to me that she had been round the village hall and saw Younger Fitzgerald the Elder wheatpasting a new ordinance up upon the wall. Upon closer inspection, this was the rumored Colonial Expansion Act, promising land to anyone willing to pull up their stake here in the Old Country and head to the newly discovered island of Catan. After years of famine and a weak sorghum crop, this was the chance I had been waiting for. People also talked about Catan as the end to chronic tooth pain! We set sail two months later.

We arrived in the mild weather of February, but before we could start our settlements, the authorities parceled out villages and cities between three colonial parties. Our “Blue” party — symbolized by the traditional blue peacoats of Smithshire vintage — won the right to choose the first location of our village. After carefully examination of the statistical probabilities of good harvest and good mining, we choose a nice spot near the middle of the island — with ample brick reserves, a lush forest, and great grazing land for sheep. After the other two teams chose the location of their towns and then cities, we were finally allowed to pick the location for our own city, but for some reason, we could not interchange the village location and the city location. Bureaucratic hogwash, if you ask me. By at this time, almost nothing was available but a barren spot with low chances of wheat harvest and ore mining. We were also far from the sea, with little ability to trade.

Things went sour immediately. We dedicated our first cloth and ore to outfit a knight to protect us from barbarian attacks. But he would not work without proper portions of bread. We explained to him that our wheat-production possibilities were low, but he would not budge. We had hoped that our lush forest would give us a surplus of lumber to trade for the wheat, but the Green Bastard would just not produce. From the initial numbers, the forest should have given around lumber 5 times in 36 “rolls” (our slang for the passage of time) but we never saw any harvest-able lumber. Meanwhile the other cities had invested in another set of properties with the same probabilities, and yet, they enjoyed an overabundant stream of production.

Just as the barbarians were within site of our fair land, we were able to scrap together four kilos of brick to trade with the Old Country for the bread to feed our knight. (Our local rivals would not come to our aid and make a more reasonable barter!) Finally feeding our knight would protect our city for another year. But just then we heard that the Orange team had suddenly built another city! The pirates had evidently heard the same tale before setting sail and brought sufficient warriors to attack four different cities. Orange, however, failed to provide two knights for their two cities. After a great battle, the barbarians ransacked all cities, except for one of the two Orange ones. At the end of this great holocaust, only Orange still remained a center of civilization able to create commodities like coins from their natural resources.

So, as we scrapped together to rebuild our broken city, the Orange city grew and grew. This growth brought great pain to our small villages. An Orange “diplomat” removed roads that took years to build. Loyal knights suddenly deserted. They even had the audacity to throw a wedding party and ask for resources as presents. (We refused on the principle of being less endowed.) Their road growth was getting out of control and tangling into our territory, so we put a knight in the middle to disrupt their so-called “Longest Road.” Then they used some form of intrigue to force that knight away! They also repeatedly sent a robber to stowaway in our forest and steal our lumber. Whatever we tried, we could not win.

But once they hit 17 victory points, everything just kind of ended.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

7 Responses

  1. Chris_B Says:

    computer game reference?

  2. adamu Says:

    yeah sounds like someone got their ass kicked in civilization.

  3. joey Says:

    Inspired by a recent metafilter post (http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/52859) or just another random internet coincidence?

  4. marxy Says:

    Totally random, but we are all the same nerd, just different faces.

  5. Jean Snow Says:

    Anyone that cracks it gets an insight into one of me and Marxy’s regular obsessions.

  6. marxy Says:

    Shhhhhh!

  7. r. Says:

    AD&D?