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A Most Stupendous & Audacious Undertaking

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Burningman stories pt. 1: Settlers game finished!
[edit: this page seems to be a favorite for Russian spammers because it's linked to from a lot of blogs, and lj does a terrible job of blocking spam comments these days.  I've turned commenting off.  If you wish to contact me, I'm mattbell(at)cs(dot)stanford(dot)edu or @thismattbell on twitter.  You can follow future game appearances at @giantsettlers ]

We finally finished the giant Settlers of Catan game, a few hours before we were supposed to depart for Burning Man.  The wet spray paint on the houses wasn't even fully dry when we packed it all away at 5am.

We were worried that our efforts to do Settlers as a burning man project were in vain.  Relatively few people have even heard of the game, and most people at burning man can barely rub two neurons together and run around with the attention span of a gnat.

However, we were proven wrong. 

There were people coming by to play Monday morning, even before we had the damn thing set up.

Our campmate Nathan brought a life size Bush statue to play the role of the robber.  Doesn't it make sense?  The robber steals your resources, after all.  If only you could move the real Bush to an arbitrary location far from your settlements.

It got dusty fast.  But people didn't care.  During a heavy dust storm, we rushed back to camp to make sure pieces hadn't blown away.  Instead, we found people who were still playing... one was shouting "Does anyone have any sheep?" while wearing goggles and a dust mask.

Speaking of sheep, we decided to do resources instead of resource cards. 

Some people noticed that since we were on the desert, we didn't need the desert hex.

An interesting game dynamic emerged.  Unlike in the board game version, people were spread far enough apart that you could have a private conversation with another player.  We also had too many people wanting to play, so we ended up with 2-3 players on a "team".  As a result, a diplomatic wheeler-dealer atmosphere emerged, where players would huddle and discuss trades, periodically sending emissaries to speak with other players.

Overall, it was an incredible success.  Thanks for all who helped make this happen.  Thanks especially to frogpyjamas who came up with the idea and put in at least as much work as I did, if not more.

One day the game may be as clean as it was on the night we finished it.  :-)

More photos of people playing can be found at:



Update:  2/28/10.  I haven't used the game in a while, and it's taking up a good bit of space in my storage locker.  Anyone interested in taking it off my hands should comment here or send me a direct message. You will need to bring a pickup truck, large SUV (the hexes are 42" wide), van, or other such vehicle to the San Francisco area to get it. 


Update: 4/5/10.  The game has found a new home.  It will be appearing at various Northern California game festivals as well as at Burning Man. 

Follow the future public appearances of the game at http://twitter.com/giantsettlers

(Deleted comment)
Beautifully done, both the content and the format.

Sounds like it worked out great! Yay!

Frackin' awesome, well done!

very cool.
especially interesting was the slight change in negotiations that the scale of the game brought out.

Can I attempt to post a pic of the game to boardgamegeek, or do you want to?

Go for it, though I'd prefer it if you posted the link to this lj entry instead of the flickr set.

Awesome! I'm glad your efforts weren't in vain.

That looks awesome! I saw Settlers in the event guide, but I've only ever played Cities & Knights.... Your photos make me regret my foolishness :-).

Er, hi! Here via Cellio.

Yay syndication! If you're in the SF bay area, we will have it set up next weekend at my house. And it will be free of playa dust.

is it a full size board?

Yes, full sized 4-player version. We didn't do the expansion pack. :-)

I am very interested making my own copy of giant settler and other giant game conversions. What is the best way to contact you for tips?

you can email me at : mattkim99 (at) yahoo [dot) com

(Note for other people reading this... this is not my regular email address... I do not check it frequently, but I will check it tomorrow to read Anonymous's email)

Re: Hi (Anonymous) Expand
Wow! That's really cool! I wish I had seen this. Will you be taking it to any Decoms? I'm going to cross post this to my blog so share with other Burners!

It won't be going to the SF one next weekend. I'll be too busy taking all of my possessions, putting them in boxes, putting the boxes in a big truck, driving a while, and then reversing the whole process. But I will likely set it up in a friend's party sometime in the next couple of months.

Hi, I found this entry while looking at pictures on Flickr. I'm very impressed with the jumbo-sized version of the game you created. Nice work!

Matt, I stumbled across this from a different website and this is awesome. Great to see this audacious and creative side of you hasn't changed since college!

Excellent Stuff

Looks amazing - I'm really really impressed and am thinking on doing the same thing over here in the UK :)

Any tips I could get from you? - my email address is hutsonphutty at a o l dot com

I reckon it must have taken some time to do!