30 March 2008

Board Game Review - Carcassonne

Here we go again, with another week of Gaming stuff.

This week, I'm going to review the board game Carcassonne. Here is my board game review system, and my analysis of Carcassonne:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 3
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Useful
Expected Length: One hour.The game consists of a number of square tiles. Each one depicts a grassy field, a portion of a medieval walled city, or both. There may or may not be any roads on a certain tile, and some of the tiles that have no city segments may display a monastery. Each player has a number of small wooden people. One of these people is placed on the scoring track. The rest are used as markers throughout the game.

A single tile is laid in the playing area, and players take turns drawing a new tile and laying it next to a tile already in play. The new tile must line up with all features on the adjacent tile. That is, you cannot place a tile so that a city segment abuts a field, and if there is a road on one tile, there must be a continuing road on the adjacent tiles. After having placed a tile, that player has the option of putting one of his markers on that tile. He cannot put it on any tile aside from the one he just placed. When he places a marker, he must decide what role that marker will play. There are several options:
  • A marker placed on a road becomes a robber. Robbers are scored when the road is completed.
  • A marker placed on a city segment becomes a knight. Knights are scored when that city is completed.
  • A marker placed on a monastery becomes a monk. Monks are scored when the monastery has eight adjacent tiles.
  • A marker placed in a field becomes a farmer. Farmers are scored at the end of the game.
Roads are completed when both ends terminate in tiles showing an interruption (usually denoted by a marker on the tile, but also sometimes when the road enters a city gate). At that point, a robber scores a number of points equal to the number of tiles the road covers. Cities are complete when they are completely surrounded by an unbroken wall. At that point, knights score a number of points equal to the number of tiles that the city covers. Monks are worth eight points, when the monastery is completed by surrounding it with adjacent tiles. Farmers are more complex, and will be discussed in a moment. In all these cases, after scoring your marker, you return it to your supply to be used again.

However, it is important to note that you cannot claim a city or road that already contains a marker, whether it be your own or an opponent's. The only way for two players to score the same city or road is if two separate sections are later joined by new tile placement. In this case, both players will score the same.

Farmers are different. For starters, they are placed on their side, rather than standing, to denote that they are not removed until the end of the game. This is the great weakness of farmers: they can be very valuable if played right, but sometimes, the fact that you are making a permanent sacrifice of one of your pieces can outweigh their value. The other scoring options are more flexible, since you get the marker back once they are scored. As with roads and cities, you cannot place a farmer on a tile if that tile is connected by an unbroken line of fields to a tile containing another marker. At the end of the game, farmers are worth two points for each completed city that they supply (that is, the city is connected by an unbroken line of fields to the tile containing that farmer). However, if more than one player is supplying a city (because of two sections being joined by subsequent tile placement), then only the player with a larger number of connected farmers gets the points.

This review (as any review of the game) is much harder to understand than actually playing the game. Once you've seen it demonstrated, everything makes much more sense.

My personal opinion of the game is that it's not bad, but it's not great either. The randomness of tile draw makes it difficult to plan where to place your markers. Several times, I would place a marker in what I thought was an ideal location, only to find that I was never able to score that marker because the quirks of the tiles drawn afterwards prevented that marker from ever being able to score. Granted, I've only played the game once and watched it played one other time, so I may grow to like the game more as I learn the idiosyncrasies of game play.

But that's my review. I hope you enjoyed it! Whatever you thought of it, please remember that whilst I describe my personal opinion of a game, I try to be objective enough in my description that you can decide for yourself whether it's worth giving it a try. So don't let my like (or dislike) of a game decide whether you will try it! Decide for yourself!

And with that, I bid you a fond

Game on!

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