Wow! There's some good stuff here. But there's also some stuff missing and a bunch of stuff that I disagree with.
For the record, I win more often than I should. I've played over four hundred games including all the variants. And I've placed well in national (US) tournaments.
Most importantly, I won my wife with this game. Prior to this, she only played train games. (And mostly Empire Builder variants and a few 18xx games.) With Settlers in '95 I nudged her into full gamerdom and now must watch our bank statement carefully! But I don't think I would have popped the question to a non gamer.
Klaus Teuber designed the Seefahrer set first. That's how he intended the game. So it's only sort of an expansion. Siedler was released as it was because marketing Seefahrer (longer-play time and easier to get spanked badly) would be tough in Germany. Once Siedler won the Spiel des Jahres, they could have marketed Settlers of my Colon and it would have sold.
There is a new set of Historical Variants now available to add to Cheops and Alexander (and Nurnburg). These are The Great Wall (of China) and Troja (The Trojan War). They're both a bit more polished than the first two. It seems that The Great Wall is fairly widely acclaimed as the best of the lot.
There is also a third-party historical scenario (though, it's actually a complete game) out by Cactus Game Design called Settlers of Canaan in which each player represents a tribe of Israel. It uses some of the mechanics of Cheops and suffers some of the same problems: dragging on, being dull, and having the extras seem kind of irrelevant. I played it once and didn't feel the need to try it again.
There is a product sold in Germany called Die Siedler von Catan: Das Buch zum Spielen, which is a collection of alternate rules and scenarios. I haven't gotten through my copy yet, but what I've seen looks good. You can find similar resources at the Kosmos web site.
In 1997, still early in the popularity swing of Siedler, Die Siedler von Catan: Das Wasser des Lebens (usually called Whiskey Settlers) was released for Glen Grant Distillery Company. It came in a scotch tin, and you're settling a valley in the Scottish highlands, and the water of life is whiskey. The hexes aren't regular hexagons, but instead a tessellating variant that works just like hexes. And it came with an airline-sized bottle of scotch. This set quickly became a collectors item.
Das Kartenspiel, the Settlers card game is one in the line of Kosmos 2-player games -- which is a fantastic line of games. I happen to think this one is among the worst, but it is widely popular and has five expansion sets.
Jay Tummelson, working at the time for Mayfair Games, worked to bring Die Siedler to the US. Mayfair secured rights to the line, started importing and reprinting, sold them like crazy and went bankrupt. They've been nursed back to health and still have the rights to Settlers. Jay taught me the game at GenCon in 1995. He has continued to bring many great German games to the US through his own company, Rio Grande Games.
There are two nodes previous to mine that espouse strategy. I don't agree with it all. And I realize that in all those cases, they're guidelines, but I think there are important reasons to disagree, clarify, and emphasize.
- Don't trade with someone with 7 points or above.
- Seven points means they're still three shy off winning. If you don't trade with them, then you're hurting yourself too. I agree that some caution is suggested in the end game, but if you have eight and another player has eight, you just need to get your two points before they do. Trade to win, consider the number of cards they have. And after you trade with them, consider what they wanted, what they must be trying to build (and thus what else they have in hand), and what they're likely to generate from the roll. Then, use the final Ritter you have in reserve to dump the robber on them. I trade above seven regularly. Stonewalling usually just slows the game and if you're more than two points behind you've more than likely already lost.
- Choose your path wisely.
- In general this is a good tip. You should know what you're planning from your first placement. But the way to win and win often is to be able to roll with the punches. The most important thing in this game -- because so much depends on those pesky dice, is to be able to capitalize on your strengths even if they are not what you'd planned. And while the two bonus points are great, they make you a target, and I've seen people flush their game down the toilet by relentlessly pursuing them against someone better able to take and hold them.
- Moderation is the key.
- I'm not convinced. My best games against other good players involve completely dominating a production market and getting that port. If you can start with a solid brick producer and the brick port, or an option on it, and bricks turn out not to be plentiful for the others, then you rock!
- Race for the coast.
- I don't disagree with this. In fact, start at the coast. Depending on the fallout of the numbers and the order of the tiles, you might not be able to get stunning numbers to begin. If not, start with a port that is fed by your first placement. You'll also be able to trade for things to trade into the port.
- Avoid trying to monopolize the best tile.
- I like to have one city on the single fat ore tile particularly when two others have one too. BUT, I'd take it all too. So what if it's robber bait? You should have enough ritters to bump him off and at least he's not sitting on your other stuff. If you're losing, you won't get hit anyway. If you're winning, you will get hit anyway. If you can set it up just the way RoguePoet said it, then that's great, but it's a pretty specific case.
- Rob Everybody at Once.
- This is an interesting meta-gaming strategy, but it's illegal. You can't just give cards away, and the robber has to be placed (from a seven) before trading starts. You could secure an agreement to trade in a certain way, but it wouldn't be binding.
- Numbers Don't Matter.
- I couldn't disagree more. While good combinations are great, and you can usually make that happen, a 3/4/11 isn't nearly as desirable as a 6/9/4. I'd take a hit on the specific resources for the increased production. You can always spend your resources somehow.
- Never Start on a Port.
- There are many times when two tiles and a port are a better than any three tile combo that's left after the first round of placement. Keep the value of ports in mind as an option.
All in all, Siedler is one of the great light German games. The longevity shown by the game really attests to a winner.