What exactly does the Friendly Robber checkbox do?
In PlayCatan it was like this:
You can not rob a player who has only 2 points on the board (VP cards do not count).
When a 7 is rolled (or a knight card is used), you can not place the robber on a hex where a player with 2 points has his settlements.
Some people like it because you can have a safer start. Some people abuse it - buying a lot of development cards and wait for the right moment and use their development cards to build a lot of stuff very fast. IMO friendly robber makes the game worse because the early game robbing is what can give more balance to the game - you can see from the initial settlements who has an advantage but you can not do anything to stop them.
Thank your for the response. That is a very detailed analysis. Seems you know a lot about this game and the strategies that go with it. It is a very unbalanced game, and the robber can be a great equalizer or curse...
@Stroom This may be true for a four player game, but in a three player game I feel the friendly robber is better since people don't start off with a strong advantage. So when one player controls the robber in the first 3-4 turns (which happens quite often) the game is pretty much over for the others unless they get really lucky.
@dragonbharg In a 3 player game it is actually even worse.
You build the first settlement, you immediately get a robber on one of your settlements. Since there are less settlements overall on the map, it is a higher possibility that you are on a 6 or 8 hex alone and it will be blocked for the remainder of early game. Even if you roll a 7, you can not rob from anyone because they have 2 points.
Also, if 2 players are on a 6 hex, one of them has 5 points and the other one still has 2, you can not place the robber on that hex. If the player with 5 points has build 2 cities next to that hex, he gets a massive advantage because that hex can not be blocked by the robber.
Since in the 3 player game there is more room for the initial settlements, a player could get the best locations for development card strategy. He can just not build any more settlements or cities and just hoard development cards. Geining VP cards does not count for friendly robber so there is no risk. He can use knights and 7s to steal from those who have 3 points on the board but no-one can steal from him. Effectively abusing the system. When the time is right he can just use his development cards in any way to boost the economy up (using monopoly, road building, year of plenty) to just get the engine going. With 3 player game there is a very small chance to stop the player once he gets the 3rd point. Less chances that the opponents roll a 7 with 3 players.
In my experience, it is less common that rolling 7s in the beginning without friendly robber would ruin the game. With friendly robber, the first player to publicly have 3 points will often become the target for a long time.