Speed Up The Beginning Of A Catan Game With This One Weird Trick!
Here’s a quick description of what I consider to be an essential mini-variant of Catan that helps make the beginning of the game less tedious. I’ve seen it called the “food stamp” variant, which is a little iffy I’ll admit, but the German title translates awesomely to There Is No Shame In Poverty.
It’s especially good for new players, and best of all: it’s free.
Here’s how it works: every time there’s a dice role that produces resources for others but which doesn’t produce any resources for you, you get a token. We use pennies or poker chips or Ticket To Ride trains.
These tokens can be traded with the bank for one resource card, based on the number of victory points you have. That is, if you have four victory points, you’ll need four tokens to get one resource card. Victory points on cards you haven’t flipped over don’t count, of course.
EXAMPLE: I have six victory points and five tokens. Anna rolls an 8, which produces wood for her, and wood and sheep for Bob. Neither Carol nor I get any resource cards, so we each get one token. This brings my total up to six. On my turn, I can trade in my six tokens for the card of my choice.
Nobody gets a token on a roll of seven, because nothing was produced. Nice try!
Similarly, if the production of your number is blocked by the robber–like if you usually produce on a roll of six, but the robber is on your six–you don’t get a token either. (Because technically, you did produce that turn, but the robber stole your resources.)
If you have 7 or more tokens when 7 is rolled, do you lose half? Nah. Is there a limit to how many tokens you can have? I don’t guess so. Can you trade tokens the way you trade cards? I don’t know…maybe?
Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be, it’s more of a tweak than a full-blown game mechanic. It’s just a simple way to speed up the start of the game, when nobody has anything and nobody wants to trade because everybody needs wood and brick.
The neat thing about this little variant is that it’s since it’s tied to your score, as the game goes on the tokens become increasingly rare (because you have more settlements to produce resources) and increasingly worthless (because you have more points).
Essentially, it’s really good for breaking up the tedium of the beginning of the game, then they sort of go away. It doesn’t really impact the mid- or late-game in any meaningful way, and personally I won’t be playing a game without them if I can help it.