Catan: Is this game balanced?

The Setters of Catan, is a multi-player game that was published in Germany by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag in 1995. It is a 2-6 people zero-sum board game, with the primary objective of the players to compete with one another with one objective in mind: to get to 10 victory points first and become the only winner. It is a beloved game by people of all ages, and has a very entrepreneurial twist too: it is LinkedIn founder’, Reid Hoffman, favorite game, and is “recommended for all future founders to practice their negotiation skills”
– At the beginning of each player’s round, they roll a dice, and every player collects resources where they have settlements around. Having just the right balances in this game is key to victory in Catan. There are 5 different types of resources in this game, and players must balance how they want to deploy their resources to build settlements to win victory points. Players are also allowed to trade resources with one another, so this creates very interesting player dynamics because at the one time it promotes cooperation between players to give each other resources that they don’t need, but on the other hand, players also need to be careful not to give a leading player the resource that they need to win the game. Conflicts also arise when one player blocks the future building path of another, so the gaming experience is drastically different depending on the types of other players you choose to play with.
– Catan does a good job of balancing the initial configuration of this inherent asymmetric game: Since everybody gets to place two settlements at the beginning of the game, the first person who places down their first settlement also becomes the last person who places down their second settlement. Furthermore, the strategy to victory is always different in each game and there is no single best strategy to win all Catan games. This is because, at the beginning of the game, all the resources are randomly spread across the board with random numbers spread on them. This way, depending on the exact distribution of the numbers, there will be a new strategy per round. Furthermore, to achieve the balance between game objects, the designer made sure that there is no one “important” resource in Catan. You always need multiple resources to build settlements or trade for secret cards, which encourages players to collect as diverse of a set of resources as possible.
– Catan also balances its victory points using the transitive relationship. For a player to build one settlement, it typically costs 4 different sets of resources, and that equates to the award of one victory point. However, for one to upgrade the settlement into a city, it costs 5 cards, but only 2 distinct types of cards. Both the rewards and the cost are relatively similar. Furthermore, the Catan also employs some sort of intransitive relationship. Although there is no direct competition between resources themselves (Like I can’t use a resource to beat out another type of resource), some resources, such as rock and wheat, grow in importance as you progress through the later stages of the game, while resources like wood and brick diminish in importance. In some ways, it is very difficult to compare (Fruity relationship) the importance of different resources with each other because different players might envision different ways of gaining 10 Victory points: Some may envision building the longest road and building as many settlements as possible using brick and wood, others may try to buy as many secret cards as possible using rock, wool, and wheat.

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