Wednesday, January 05, 2011

In Which The Warlock Makes a Semi-Obscure 80s Movie Reference...

Even our New Year's Eve party--complete with the aforementioned Bacon Weave--isn't totally without a dose of nerd-dom.  From the usual gang clustered around the coffee table to play Battlestar Galactica, to others tossing down drinks to a game of Red Dragon Inn, we had quite the dice-chuckin' lollapolooza going.

Catan.  We meet again...

However, after a few drinks, I made my way back to our game room where four of our friendly neighborhood geeks were gathered around one of my perennial nemeses:  Settlers of Catan.  "Ugh," I said to myself.  Not again.  To this, Board-Game-Karen scoffed.  Naturally, she's of the opposite opinion.  She even spent four days at last year's GenCon playing through the Catan National Qualifying rounds.  Needless to say, she's a much bigger fan of Catan (and Eurogames in general) than I. 

 I've blogged before about my problems with Eurogames in general, and Catan and its numerous expansions are the granddaddy at the top of that heap.  So, while watching the game unfold in amongst refereshing snacks and the like, I was stricken by a novel concept: 
While Catan, at its core, is a passive-aggressive sort of doesn't have to be that way!
Rather, it would make so much more sense if the Settlers on that happy little island actually decided to take matters into their own hands and blow their adverseries off of the map!  And, to do so, all you'd have to do is make one little house rule...

Two Brick + Two Ore = Nuclear Silo!
Simply put, you just have to add one additional build option to the typical Road/Village/City/Card combo.  The addition, naturally, would be a Nuclear Missile, and would cost a mere 2 Brick and 2 Ore.  When a player builds the Nuclear Missile, they must immediately choose either a rival Village, a rival City, or two adjoining Roads.  If targeted at a Village or Roads, they are "destroyed" and removed from the board.  If a City is targeted, it is reduced back down to a Village.

However, some restrictions should be put on this.  I would add that a player cannot be reduced below his starting number of Villages, simply in order to keep the game competitive.  I would also add that a player can only play a Nuclear Missile once per turn, so that they can't simply go on a killing spree, attempting to demolish all of the other players simultaneously.

On a casual--and totally unplaytested--level, this seems pretty balanced.  On a traditional Settlers of Catan board, there are one less Brick and Ore producing tiles than the other three resources, which makes them somewhat more difficult to get.  Ore is most often used in the end-game for building Cities and buying Development Cards, while Brick (which is really important early on, as Roads are a priority) gets put to the wayside.  Essentially, it rewards a player wiling to invest in Brick on a significant level, while simultaneously providing an opportunity-cost conundrum:  do you build the City with that Ore, to build up resources and victory points, or do you nuke your nearest opponent, reducing his ability to catch up to you?

So, what do you think, fellow gamers?  Would you like to play a game?  :D


  1. Thunderforge10:10 PM

    Sounds like an interesting idea, but it could result in the players nuking each other into a stalemate, or at least a really, really long game. So I suggest some sort of opportunity cost.

    Maybe have an "Armageddon Clock" starting at 1 and going up to 12. Whenever any player launches a nuclear weapon, the clock goes up by 1. Then the player who launched it rolls 2d6 and if they roll under the value of the clock, the United Nations gets involved and the rest of the world nukes the player's territory and they immediately lose. All of their territory goes away (or alternatively, they all become radioactive ghost towns that nobody can build on). Rolling the same number as the clock does not nuke the player, so the first round (at 2) is free and even at a clock of 12, there is still a chance that the player will get away with it if they roll a 12.

    For every round that all of the players abstain from launching nukes, the Armageddon Clock goes down by one.

    This might be a little too extreme, but it's an idea. It's probably still better to just build stuff. Maybe if you got rid of the "can only fire once per turn" restriction, this rule might be necessary.

    I suppose you could change this slightly to something else as well. You could reverse the scale and have "minutes to midnight" or halve the scale and have have a DEFCON counter.

  2. I like the idea of the Armageddon Clock as an additional counter. Perhaps after each nuclear launch, the clock raises one "hour". When the clock strikes midnight, the player with the most Victory Points automatically wins.

    This would put a hard limit on how many nuclear strikes can be launched (12, essentially), but also provides another level of opportunity cost: a player has to balance whether they want to hasten the end-game against the benefit of knocking their opponent down a peg.

    I would shy away from providing any option that fully eliminates a player--Settlers is good enough at that already...

  3. I'm a fan of Settlers but I like the idea behind these rules. I don't know if I'll get a chance to play them soon but I'll keep them in mind.

  4. If you give them a playtest run, let me know how it turns out! I'd be interested to see how adding some plutonium to Catan might work out...