Interesting game last night. Four players. Three of whom had played before. After a somewhat contracted explanation to the new Carcassonner we got started, figuring that we'd play one game "open" -- where everyone would talk about their tiles and why they'd play where they played, and to help him, etc. We never got to game number two, the "real game," however. The first one went at about half speed, but was still fun.
My wife ended up trapped in a city that would never end. She watched player after player (usually me) draw that one tile she needed with the city section and the road to the side. Eventually she gave up and used it as a clearing house for city pieces she didn't have any other use for. She came in last -- tied for the one huge farm.
I focussed on my farmers. Got a robber stuck on a big road that never did end. Made two decent-sized cities, but one of them was horned in on by my friend's wife, who eventually won. I came in second -- tied for the one huge farm, as well.
My friend had a hard time figuring out the farms. After repeated explanation of how to place tiles to hopefully connect them to the farm in later plays, he only started to understand it as the game began to come to a close. He finished one city, and got points at the end for two, because of a trapped lonely farmer that made him tie the rest of us for those two cities. He came in third.
The winner made some bold, risky moves toward the very end. At one point she only had one farmer to my wife and my three. She placed three farmers in quick succession practically next to each other (getting single city pieces and finishing two-section cities and placing farmers between them) and then drew the tiles she needed to link them up while my wife and I watched hopeless -- not getting any tiles to sabotage her. She ended up tied with all of us for three cities and then got the three small ones to herself. She won the game by something like 14 points.
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Interesting things about the game:
We had VERY FEW cities. Four were completed, I think, until the winner made those three two-section ones off the board ("the Projects," I called them). Never played with that few cities. I think that, perhaps, if I'd realized what was going on, I could have made a few smaller cities and tilted the game more in my favor. But then, I didn't really get the pieces.
Her bold move (partly due to the luck of getting four of those single-section cities in the middle of the tile with no roads attached) was swift and impressive and made me want to try the strategy of 1) get a piece of the big farm, 2) focus on city/road points, 3) focus back on the farm for the endgame. Don't know if that's too luck-dependent, but worth a try perhaps.
My friend is the second person I've played with who has really just not GOTTEN the farm thing. My wife and I, I feel, got it right away and could see how it snaked and weaved around through the tiles. We tried very hard to be supportive and tell him that he'd get it eventually, and to make sure he was enjoying the game best we could. You could see the light in his eyes fading, however, as he just didn't get it again and again. Wonder if he'll ever want to play again.
There came a point where I drew the one tile that my friend needed to get him back in the running. The second cloister with a road. I jokingly said "How many points do you have? Eight? Give me eight points and I'll trade you my tile for the one in your hand." Anyone worked up a variant like this? Might could be interesting.
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Overall, I continue to like Carcassonne. We don't play it that often, and when we do we're usually teaching someone. Still, I feel like I learn something about the game every time I play it; that there is enough strategy between the lucky draws to give it some depth. I still like it with the I&C expansion better (we were playing with the basic set, sans river for teaching) and want to play it when it comes out once or twice a month. And it's doing the Good Work: introducing our friends to the idea of a different kind of game.