Clue: More Than Meets the Eye
Clue may seem to be child�s play, a simple game of deduction. However, like baseball, with the proper scoring tablature and more than two or three people, it can be much more complex. The trouble with the Clue scoresheet is that it doesn�t have room to write down partial information. I�m sure you have noticed that when someone makes a suggestion no one can answer, everyone�s ears perk up, but where can you record the fact that one of those three cards is in the envelope? Some people put dots to the left of the word, but its difficult to scratch them out as you narrow it down. I usually just write the three at the bottom since there are seldom more than three of these moments in a game. You (and everyone else for that matter), then try to discern which of the three is actually in the envelope by forcing the others to show you certain cards (by including cards in your own hand in the suggestion). This brings up another important point. Anyone who is being systematic about her investigation will have to call on certain people and weapons more often than others because they are the cards in her hand. In fact, there is a very high probability that anyone who uses a suspect or weapon twice has that card. Therefore, I put that person�s initial next to the suspect and weapon he names in each suggestion. This might seem messy, but it is spread out over enough items that it seldom gets untidy. This comes in very
handy towards the end when everyone is racing to find the last element.
Clue For Champions
These two records alone should give you a major leg-up, but if you want to go whole hog, you have to keep track of who answers to which suggestions. If, for instance, I were playing with Kristen, Michele, and Gene, and Kristen suggested that it was Mrs. Peacock, with the Wrench, in the Conservatory and Michele showed her a card, I then know that Michele has either Mrs. Peacock, the Wrench, or the Conservatory, n�est-ce pas? Now the trick is to record this somewhere so that later, when Kristen shows me the conservatory card, I can narrow my deduction to Michele having either Mrs. P or the Wrench. This can�t be done with just the clue score sheet; you need a sheet of lined paper with four columns for each opponent: suspect, weapon, room, and asker (or this form
). When the same answer shows up twice to different askers, the person probably has it. (The asker column is simply to make sure that if something repeats it is not a function of someone using their card to force a particular answer.) You can also cross out cards you know they don�t
have (until you can deduce that Michele showed Kristen the wrench) but this seldom results in knowledge you couldn�t get via one of the other methods and involves cross-referencing your list of who definitely has which cards.
Extreme Clue, a la Celebrity Fear Factor
The other thing that you need for this is a good one or two-letter, non-repeating code for easy cataloging and reference. This is going pretty far even for me, but in the interests of your mirth and Clue-playing prowess, here�s what I got: M-Colonel Mustard, P-Professor Plum, G-Mr. Green, K-Mrs. Peacock, S-Miss Scarlet, W-Mrs. White, N-Knife, CK-Candlestick, V-Revolver, R-Rope, LP-Lead Pipe, WR-Wrench, H-Hall, U-Lounge, D-Dining Room, T-Kitchen, B-Ballroom, CV-Conservatory, BR-Billiard Room, I-Library, Y-Study.
Settlers of Catan: Contingency Dependence for Fun and Profit!
Gene has a new game, and it is great fun, but unlike Clue, it is less complex than it seems. Winning Settlers of Catan has almost everything to do with the initial placement of your settlements. For those of you who have not played, it is much like all "civilization" games where the goal is growth, which is exponential, not linear. Therefore, you need the most resources in the beginning to get bigger faster than your opponents. You get resources from someone rolling the number on the resource space (hereafter called 'hex' for its six-sided shape) your settlement is next to. Therefore, you want to build next to hexes that have numbers that get rolled often (6 and 8, then 5 and 9, etc.). The makers of the game have been kind enough to put little dots on all the numbers that show how often they come up. Since each settlement sits at the corner of three hexes, you can simply add up their little dots to see how often a settlement there will give you resources. In my experience, you have to have the highest total score for your two initial settlements to win.
Settlers of Catan: Small Print and Nitpickiness for Obsessive Gamers
There are other things you have to do too, but getting that high score is the determining factor. Luckily, the way odds would have it, there is usually one most valuable intersection (17 or 16) two or three valuable ones (15) and some okay ones (12 or less). Since the placing goes ABCDDCBA, A is likely to have the most and least valuable and D is likely to get two average picks (see example
). If everyone chooses the best available spot, usually at least two people tie for best initial set-up. Picking a less valuable intersection because it has wheat and ore instead of brick and sheep is wishful thinking. Take the most valuable intersection available at every chance and adjust your strategy to suit your holdings. There are other factors that will help you decide between two equal intersections, like proximity to a port, complimentarity to your other resources, scarcity, abundance, room for expansion, etc, but the bottom line is that you have to get the highest total (or tie for it) to be in the running for the win. The ideal situation is to end up with lots of wheat and ore that you share with one other player on each hex and a settlement two road-lengths away from the wheat port. This prevents you from getting the Robber too frequently and allows you to build cities early, which double your production.
Ports and the Yellow-Brick Road
You�ll need a port to save yourself from too many pricey trades at the bank, and I like resource specific ports because it�s much easier to get two of something than three. Pick the port that best matches your biggest resource (and preferably the one that looks like it will be most common in the game so you can 'loan' other people your port on your turn for a one-card fee). From there, it�s pretty much up to the dice. You�ll need the longest road or the largest army to win too, so if you have brick and lumber, connect your roads, and if you have ore and wheat, buy cards. You can win with four cities and the largest army or with four settlements, two cities, and the longest road. There are other combinations, but those are the two most common.
Though I have only played this game once, it is also a game of statistics. You roll five dice and get points for particular arrangements. Except for the straight and the flush, all the other situations reward you for having more similar numbers. Therefore, you only have three possible goals on any roll: (1) all the same, (2) all different, and (3) three of a kind with a pair. The flush usually comes at some point when trying for all the same (a yahtzee), and it will be obvious which rolls predispose you to a straight. When you get nothing, use your ones, your yahtzee, or your chance. There is a bonus that requires that you have at least three of a kind for each number in the top section. A high-scoring chance is a great way to pick up some points, but probably not as many as you would get for the bonus, and you�ll almost never get a yahtzee (odds are 3:1188 or 1:396). Your chances rise to 1:36 if you roll three of a kind on the first roll. I say, take the flush if it comes and then use your next three of a kind to go for the yahtzee, if you're lucky enough to get one.
In essence, in Clue, Settlers of Catan, and Yahtzee, there is always a single best move and you simply need to organize your the data well enough to consistently make it. Almost never will inspiration or luck overcome the grueling consistency of pattern for manufacturing a given outcome. What fun!