Impact of Barbarians
Just played an "interesting" 3-player C&K game. Player A: 12 points. Player B: 3 points. Me: 3 points. Then player B left, understandably. Why? The Barbarians arrived early, after 7 or 8 turns. Obviously, player A was the only one able to build an active knight in time.
If the Barbarians arrive too early, the impact is really devastating. If you lose a city, the game is basically lost. Too little income, useless commodities, no development cards, no city wall. It happens too frequently. A fair game suddenly becomes very unfair. And sometimes there's nothing you can do. You can pick ore and wool for your first city, and an 8 on wheat for your village - that's near optimal and still you have about 20% chance of not getting your wheat on time.
So I want to have less impact of the Barbarians in the first round. I think there is a very simple solution: give everyone the first city developments for free at the start of the game. This way, everyone has a fair chance of getting development cards and that makes the game way mor interesting and dynamic.
Or at least make it possible to "save" one or two development cards from a lost city.
The point of online Catan is to follow the official rules. Implementing hundreds of home rules just is not viable.
Catan is a game where the dice can make or break a game. Get used to it.
If the rules spoil the game, then what? Stick to the rules of course!
We implemented the rules according to the board game. Therefore the barbarians will pose - especially in the beginning of the game- an imminent threat to your cities. You should make sure to recruit and activate a knight as fast as possible to beat of the first attack. This task should also influence the spots you are choosing for your first settlements.
From personal experience I can tell that indeed it is a setback when loosing your city to the first wave of the barbarian attack. But there is no need to look at it as a lost game, already.
Try to adapt you strategy e.g by a quick expansion using only settlements. The players with the remaining cities won´t see you as a big threat towards the victory for now. Try to use this advantage to take them by surprise as they are focussing on each other.
Sure, I try to build a knight as fast as possible. And in some cases you can fight back. But in 10-20% of the cases, the situation is just hopeless for a large part of the duration of the game.
Online Catan seems to have a problem with players that leave a game early. The reason is simple: people play games to have fun, so if the game is not fun anymore they leave.
So there is a dilemma for you: either remain true to the rules of the board game, or adjust some rules such that the game remains fun for every player.
In chess, if you are in a lost position, you give up. In Monopoly, you can declare bankrupt. In Catan, you are expected to play to the end, even if it takes another hour. That's not realistic for an online game.
josq has good points. However, I would point out that chess is a two person game.
Also, the nature of chess between good players is such that a player can easily see when he cannot win and the only element of luck in the game is a mistake by either side.
Certainly it would be interesting to let a player declare bankruptcy(or maybe a player has a famine/plague in his lands-I don't think the Thingvellir in Iceland had any rules for bankruptcy). It might then be a scramble to see who could grab his intersections and resource tiles. Would all of his roads, ships, settlements, cities and cards just vanish? This would be an interesting feature for Mayfair to add to one of its scenarios.
The beauty of Catan is that in a good game you can be behind almost the whole time and still win in the end. I wonder how many players who have quit early would have won in the end.
If you change the rules too much, it is not a Catan game anymore. I don't think NOT using the official rules would be good because then a lot of players would not play the game. Catan is quite horrible for the player elimination - you have to sit through because your actions still matter.
If you want to play a "fair" board game, choose something else - there's a lot of them out there to choose from: Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, BoardGameArena has a huge set of board games.
You can also play Catan online at asobrain.com - it has a bit different rules from the actual Catan but the problem you describe is not removed there either.
I agree that there may be a point beyond which you change the rules too much and then it seems like something other than Catan.
But, in one sense, I think that the rules of Catan have changed dramatically.
Maybe someone has counted them up, but I think there are several different scenarios-all as a result of innovations and rule changes.
People playing the board game create all kinds of variations on their own.
After the basic game and trading resources, this is the best part of Catan for me; there will always be a host of scenarios to look forward to online and an infinite number of ways to play the board game.
I can tell from my experience (I even got some dice roll stats for a period of time) there are few cases:
You place not wisely - sometimes I see people gamble for a better spot but lack of needed resource (grain/ore/sheep). And as they say if you gamble you will lose (eventually). So this is always a tough choice + if you dont go for the safest option - building city near sheep/ore/grain and get those right away - it is a matter of luck/dice roll.
Sometimes there are just games where at max 1 player if at all can build and activate knights, losing first city sets a pause on development that's for sure but that is no way near the end of the game. I have come back from like 6 points behind and losing city at first. It is hard but doable. Unfortunately in this community majority want to play C&K which is specific scenario due to barbarians but at the same time majority just want to have fancy progress cards and Citadels...well you cant have one without the other.
Dont like barbarians - play basic game...
Getting back to losing city - actually I had a game during last few weeks where there was a very nice turn of events - each of players lost a city at a different time and after ~30 min of play we actually got back to 5 points each and every one was progressing pretty much at exactly the same speed. Very exciting game thanks to people not giving up.
Can't have those game with attitude like yours or especially that player's who quit.
Given what you said about the score I can tell you a secret - losing a city was the least of your concerns. Either player A was skilled and placed much better than both of you or he was just super lucky with dice or both.
You can't have that difference in score just because you lost a city - add 1 point to your scores and player A is still waaaay ahead of you two.
Game variation requests come up all the time. Most of them are home rules. Some people have even learned the game by playing with home rules so they don't really know how the game actually was intended to be played. Just like free parking variations in Monopoly.
Now, adding stuff like this to an official Catan platform... It just can not work very well. Better leave it to the games in real life. If you add a lot of different variations whereas some of these variations can be used in the same game, some of them can not, some can but with special modifications etc... It will be a QA nightmare. A lot of potential bugs will appear. Very time consuming to test all combinations of the games and making sure that nothing is broken.
In addition, the matchmaker... If you have 3 selections, it is easy to find a match. If you add 20 variations... Not so much. (Which again calls for a lobby but that's another topic) About every 1-2 months someone recommends a new variation to the game. And the game is not glitch-free even in the base game yet. Let the developers make the basics work first. So far, it will probably take at least another year.