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Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Voice of Experience Comparison to Carcassonne rss

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Albert Jones
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Much has been made of the similarity or dissimilarity of Isle of Skye to Carcassonne. Despite, or perhaps because, of that discussion, I have decided to try to make my own crack at comparing these two award winning games for the Voices of Experience 2016 Review Contest writing competition.

Currency - ...something (as coins, treasury notes, and banknotes) that is in circulation as a medium of exchange...

Both games have victory points as one of their main currencies. It is the mechanism each uses to decide the winner, and most strategic and tactical decisions revolve around maximize the collection of victory points.

Much has been made of the fact that Isle of Skye's scoring is variable, while Carcassonne's is fixed. However, in any single game, that is not true. The scoring for each game is fixed at the start of the game and does not change. Not everything is scored at the same time, but it is known and pre-determined and is very predictable. The difference here is that different games of Isle of Skye have different scoring mechanisms (generally 4, plus the scrolls). Caracassonne has 3 methods of scoring in the base game (plus a bonus), and adds another, plus more bonuses, with the first two expansions (trade goods = scoring mechanism; Cathedrals = bonus; Ponds = bonus).

Carcassonne has meeples as its second currency. Imagine for a second that instead of a meeple, it gave you seven dollars instead. You can use the money to buy the contract to build roads, cities, cloisters. Others can buy contracts for different architectural features and then join them to yours, essentially negating any credit you could take for having built the feature yourself (no victory points). Or, you could meld two of your contracts to demonstrate you have a larger stake in the construction and get the points. The meeples are merely placeholders to show who owns which contract when the features is finished being built for victory point purposes.

In Carcassonne, your meeple currency is severely limited. You pay a meeple to get a contract, and then get paid a meeple back upon completion, and sometimes points too. This means that keeping someone from completing a task is a viable opponent strategy to deny them the chance to reinvest their meeple in a future project. Isle of Skye has a similar ability to block a fellow players secondary currency generation, but, the blocking happens at the contract buying stage, rather than the contract fulfilling stage.

In Isle of Skye the secondary currency is money. Each turn, you are given five dollars to secure a contract. There are contracts that, if placed appropriately, can generate further cash. Your opponent is likely going to try to buy those out from under you whenever they can, and blocking your money making prospects by pricing those tiles very high.

On your turn, you have the chance to buy the tiles in front of you, and, perhaps, the tiles of your competitors. Unlike Carcassonne, you are not guaranteed to get your own tile, and certainly not for one 'dollar'. You have to spend your currency to secure your contracts. The consolation prize for losing them, however, is more money, giving you more opportunities to buy a tile off your opponent(s) later.

Unlike Carcassonne, each turn you get five dollars (or more), meaning you will never be left totally broke. In Carcassonne, you can have all your meeples out on the board and be left with nothing to secure new contracts with, a very depressing situation indeed.

Isle of Skye could have used meeples instead of money. They could have made the currency workers. Each year, you, as the clan leader, recruit five members to go out and secure new lands for the clan. As you grow in size and prestige, you are able to recruit more people to help you to grow. The 'auction' then becomes a sort of negotiation, with the opposing clan leader giving you some of his men in payment for the land that was going to be yours. Your men return home.

The currencies in these two games function differently, but not totally. Money/meeples are used to secure the 'contracts', however, in Isle of Skye they buy you the whole tile, while in Carcassonne they merely buy you one aspect of the tile. Plus, your 'money' is returned to you automatically in one, but only after you complete a task in the other.

Tactical Decisions: Tile-Placement - ...the art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end...

Carcassonne has you play your tiles in a single, jointly held, world. In Isle of Skye, you are creating your own world, independent of the other player.

In Carcassonne, the tactical decision making in placing a tile is four-fold:
a) make a contract closer to completion (and worth more points) BUT it also makes is more attractive to take over or screw over;
b) start a new contract, losing the valuable meeple currency but giving yourself more options and the ability to steal from another player;
c) try to prevent another player from completing a contract, or make it harder, to limit their meeple currency;
d) a combination of all or some of the above (the more the merrier).
There is no choice in the tile you play, just how you play the tile.
The interaction between players happens as they place new tiles on the world board.

In Isle of Skye, the tactical decision making in placing tiles is limited. You merely solve the puzzle of which configuration will provide the most points. In some cases, a tile may be worth more in one place now, but potentially worth even more in another if some future events take place. Even still, the decisions of placing tiles is unrelated to your opponent and is meant only to maximize points for yourself.

The real decision making in Isle of Skye is during the 'selecting' of tiles. Each player gets to look at three tiles (they are not theirs yet). They can axe one if:
a) it is the least useful to them;
b) it is more useful to the opponent than themselves and likely to be bought out from under them;
Then, they get to assign a value to each tile. This means, unlike Carcassone, the contracts do not seem to be worth one dollar, but more. In Isle of Skye, you get to use all of the features on the tile, not just the one feature you can get with Carcassonne. This means, the valuing of a tile is really deciding how many contracts you can get out of the tile and/or how valuable those contracts are going to be on your personal world. Placing a bid has the following tactical decisions:
a) how much is this tile worth to me;
b) how much is this tile worth to my opponent (and how much do they have);
c) how much money do I need to keep to try to buy my opponent's tiles;
d) what is the turn order (ie/ will I be getting any money before I buy);
e) a combination and evaluation of each of the above.
There is choice in the tiles you get, while placing them is pretty straight-forward. The interaction is the fight over getting the tiles.

The crux of the comparison
In Carcassonne, the major decision making moment is placing the tiles.
In Isle of Skye, the major decision making moment is in getting the tiles.

Why so many comparisons to Caracassonne?
The reason is because of the tiles themselves. The mountains could just as well have been city sections for the way they connect (especially if you are playing Carcassonne with the first two expansions: Inns & Cathedrals, Builder & Trader. The roads, while they follow slightly different rules, are still roads. The lighthouses and brochs are analogous to Cathedrals and Cloisters. Even the water elements are in Carcassonne, though mostly only in the River expansion (an expansion everyone has). The bonus points are covered by the addition of the three trade goods added in the second expansion. The tiles in each game are very, very similar in how they are placed, how they complete architectural/geological features (even by making small football mountains/lakes), and how they score (sometimes).

I propose a Carcassonne Variant
IN fact, the games have such similar components, that with the River and the first two expansions, I think I could make Isle of Skye using Carcassonne.

1. The meeples are now dollars, with five being given each turn. The players with shield icons in a city get an extra dollar each turn for each shield (ie/whisky barrels).

2. The trade goods are the "scroll" bonus, same rules as Carcassonne, the person with the majority gets the bonus and/or gets one point per trade good not completed and 2 points for each completed.

3. The tiles are the tiles, and instead of the axe, you just throw one back into the bag. The roads do not have to match up. Field to field, city to city, water to water is still the rule.

4. Each player starts with their own football city, straight road below one half, and grass above the other half.

4. For the scoring tiles, you'll have to cut up one of the expansion boxes into business card sized rectangles. Write the following on one each:
a) 2vps for each square of 4 field tiles. Field tiles can be part of multiple squares.
b)1vp for each road intersection in the clan territory.
c) 1/3/6 vps for each city that contains 1/2/3 trade goods. A single city with more than 3 trade goods is still only worth 6 vps.
d) 5 vps for the player with the most shield in their territory. 2 vps for the player with the second more shields.
e) 1vp for each road intersection that is on a tile orthogonal to a pond (see the image below). 1vp for a [pond[/i] on a road intersection tile.
f) 2vps for each Cloister that is in a field that touches the starting football castle.
g) 1vp for each road connected to the original road, intersections do not stop the counting of these points.
h) 2vps for each tile in your longest connected river section.
i) 1vp for each completed area (city, road (intersections count), cloister).
j) 3vps for each completed city or road that is 3 or more tiles large.
k) 5vps for each set of completed trade good (cloth, wheat, barrel). Each can only be part of one set.
l) 5vps for the player with the most trade goods. 2vps for the player with the second most.
m) 5vps for the player with the most meeples. 2vps for the player with the second most.
n) 3vps for each completed city that has a Cloister connected to it by road (without intersections in-between).
o) 3vps for each contiguous vertical line of 3 or more tiles.
p) 2vps for each completed city in the clan territory.
If you look at the file page, you will see that these bonuses are very similar to the Isle of Skye victory point scale.

This game I describe is not exactly Isle of Skye. It lacks some of the variables, like sheep, cows, broches, lighthouses, whiskey barrels, ships, and amount of water, but, it replaces them with road intersections, ponds, Cloisters, shields, and trade goods.

The fact I can make a very similar game to Isle of Skye using only the parts of Carcassonne and two expansions goes to show that these games have very similar moving parts, some similar mechanics, and generate a feeling of similarness.

With all the re-issues, re-imaginings, expansions and the general massive machine that is Carcassonne, a person should be forgiven for mistaking Isle of Skye as an update, reimagined, personalized map-making new version of Carcassonne (perhaps set when the Queen of Scotland was married to the King of France?). Despite saying that, it is still a pretty great game, with its own flavour and and its own set of skills to master.

The only real major difference between these two games, aside from the details, is that one has some difficult decisions to make regarding placing tiles, while the other has some difficult decisions to make regarding getting tiles. In my opinion, of course.


This image shows the ponds referenced above and Isle of Skye tiles for a visual comparison - similar but different.

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Richard Derr
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An interesting take, but your argument that because you can make the same game using the same components isn't the greatest. This is like saying Poker and Go Fish are the same game because you can create one using the same components. To create Poker from Go Fish you can use the same deck and you'd have to cut up the box the Go Fish cards came in to create coins to gamble with.

I do like your comparison of coins to the meeples. Definitely never thought of it that way. I think you've pointed out more similarities than I would've thought of between these two games, but I still think there are significantly more differences than similarities between the games.
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Ben H

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At the price points of both games, I'd rather just buy both and enjoy each of them. But this was an interesting thought exercise.
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Albert Jones
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rderr27 wrote:
I think you've pointed out more similarities than I would've thought of between these two games, but I still think there are significantly more differences than similarities between the games.


Despite everything I wrote above, I am not sure that I disagree with you. To play devil's advocate for a moment though, I was thinking, each expansion and re-imagining of Carcassonne are different from the original game and from each other. Some make the game more complex, or score differently, or add a new mechanic, etc. They are all recognizably Carcassonne. If I understand your comment, Isle of Skye is not. I am wondering if it isn't on the spectrum, perhaps far away, from being similar to Carcassonne + expansions - similar enough to be called a re-imagining of Carcassonne?

rderr27 wrote:
An interesting take, but your argument that because you can make the same game using the same components isn't the greatest. This is like saying Poker and Go Fish are the same game because you can create one using the same components. To create Poker from Go Fish you can use the same deck and you'd have to cut up the box the Go Fish cards came in to create coins to gamble with.


I never said Carcassonne and Isle of Skye are the same game, just that they are quite similar. Poker and Go Fish are also similar. Sure, Go Fish is a very simple game, but it asks for pairs, or sets of pairs of cards, and so does Poker. They use the same deck of cards. How one gets cards for your set collections is a little different, but they are at their core similar. One more complex, the other simple, but definitely one could be said to be an expansion of the other.

This comment above may be the death of my argument altogether. I am not sure if I am blurring the lines of similar too far, but I am thinking Twilight Struggle and Agricola are in no way similar, Isle of Skye and Carcassone + expansions are very similar, one of the reasons being the components of one can make the other.

Either way, thank you for your comments, I appreciate the feedback.
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Andreas Pelikan
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From the perspective of tile placement rules it would be more appropriate to link the roads in Carcassonne to the water in Isle of Skye. In both games there are three edge types (Carcassonne: city, meadow, meadow with road; Isle of Skye: mountain, grassland, water). Beyond that, the topology is quite different. Note that you're hardly ever trying to "complete" a meadow in Carcassonne. The roads in IoS, despite the thematic similarity, are in no way related to the roads in Carcassonne.

How does the proposed meeple economy work? Do you have a huge stockpile of meeples? Or do you reset each player's meeple supply at the start of each round, meaning that you get no benefit from selling your best tile for a high price? I may have overlooked a third option. Please elaborate.
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Armand
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Ldayjones wrote:
Poker and Go Fish are also similar... definitely one could be said to be an expansion of the other.


Then an outhouse is an expansion of a salad bowl because they're both made of wood.
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Jay Sachs
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Despite your hope, there is not even any inherent symbolism; gravity is simply a coincidence.
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doctoryes0 wrote:
Ldayjones wrote:
Poker and Go Fish are also similar... definitely one could be said to be an expansion of the other.


Then an outhouse is an expansion of a salad bowl because they're both made of wood.


That's a one-way transformation. In a pinch I might use a salad bowl in place of an outhouse, but never the converse.
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Zaphod Beeblebrox
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This conversation reminds me of Kramer making a salad while showering.
 
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Albert Jones
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doctoryes0 wrote:
Ldayjones wrote:
Poker and Go Fish are also similar... definitely one could be said to be an expansion of the other.


Then an outhouse is an expansion of a salad bowl because they're both made of wood.


I have thought a lot about this comment, and I feel that the first part is true, an outhouse is an expansion of a salad bowl, but not because they are both made out of wood. A porcelain bedpan is a better example of a bowl that is a simpler version of an outhouse. It is not made from the same materials as an outhouse, but it does, or at least can, serve the same function. Jay Sachs was quite right, while a salad bowl can serve the function (follow the rules) of an outhouse, an outhouse cannot server the function of a salad bowl. So they are less similar than a bedpan and an outhouse.

If we look at materials, all board games are similar as they are made out of plastic, cardboard, paint, etc. with similar components of a board, maybe dice, little plastic pieces etc. Monopoly has little figurines, dice, and money. Axis & Allies has little figurines, dice and money. They are not similar. You could not follow the rules of one using the components of the other and still have anywhere close to a similar game experience as the original.

Even Taluva, a game where you pick a random tile, place it on a shared map, and then sometimes add pieces to the tile to claim it (or in the case of Taluva another tile) - demonstrating a lot of shared rules as Carcassonne, cannot be played using Carcassonne tiles. On a spectrum with totally different on one side, and totally the same on the other, Taluva would be closer to different than Isle of Skye...I think. Taluva doesn't have similar components, beyond having tiles (in different shapes), just some similar rules. Isle of Skye has some similar rules, and it also has similar components.
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Albert Jones
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Puschl wrote:
From the perspective of tile placement rules it would be more appropriate to link the roads in Carcassonne to the water in Isle of Skye. In both games there are three edge types (Carcassonne: city, meadow, meadow with road; Isle of Skye: mountain, grassland, water). Beyond that, the topology is quite different. Note that you're hardly ever trying to "complete" a meadow in Carcassonne. The roads in IoS, despite the thematic similarity, are in no way related to the roads in Carcassonne.


In Carcassonne, whenever you place a Cloister with no road, you are trying to complete a field. Also, when you are trying to shut someone out of a farm area, you may try to complete a field. In Isle of Skye, keeping roads open to your starting castle is related to roads in Carcassonne. The rules around roads in Isle of Skye are more liberal with roads, but they do connect, make circles, and serve somewhat similar functions in each game - though I agree they are more dissimilar than the mountains/cities.

Puschl wrote:
How does the proposed meeple economy work? Do you have a huge stockpile of meeples? Or do you reset each player's meeple supply at the start of each round, meaning that you get no benefit from selling your best tile for a high price? I may have overlooked a third option. Please elaborate.


In a two-player game, you could borrow from the other colours. In a four-player game, yes you may have some trouble unless you assign different values to the colours. Red is one person, Yellow two people, Blue five people, etc. That should give you enough 'money' to cover selling your tiles.
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Armand
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Ldayjones wrote:
...a salad bowl can serve the function of an outhouse...


I'm never eating dinner at your house.
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Pete K
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Interesting comparison - I'll have to take your word on the second expansion for Carcassonne, and I'm not sure which one that is. Isle of Skye (IoS) involves interaction every round, because you have to set your prices with the incentives of other players in mind. Turn order also matters more in IoS. It just seems to be the more strategic game.

What do you think about the artwork? For me, IoS falls into the "ugly but effective" category with so much detail packed onto every tile. I would have preferred larger tiles (which would have meant larger player screens) and something besides those incongruous scroll symbols. I am appreciative of the low price point, however.
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Armand
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???

Tiles don't go behind screens...
 
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Pete K
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doctoryes0 wrote:
???

Tiles don't go behind screens...


True, but you kind of line up your money commitments to the tiles in front. Maybe crescent-shaped player screens ...
 
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