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Subject: Atypical Cat and Mouse rss

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Fred Barrett
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Alexandria
Virginia
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I got the game for the look: the late 60s/early 70s yellow-orange-brown color scheme, the crazy-grotesque pawns, the irregular spacing (the rectangles are layered like bricks). Yet, this was abstract strategy: a meeting of two minds. Two wills locked in mental combat. No dice. No spinner. No theme. This frees the competitors for other things (it's no accident that most box covers of this type of game show pictures of brandy snifters, tobacco pipes, and coffee mugs). These are social games: forget the five-minte chess timer, the leaning (and drooling) over the board. Think of the old crony who comes over each week, checks out the position the two of you left the board in last week, deliberates over his move while you talk his ear off about the poetry you wrote for your mistress, then you try to figure out your next move while he mumbles about the new invention he has been working on. Did you hear about the Pristine murders? I hope Holmes solves this case like he did the last one. Are you meeting Watson for a game of that Japanese Chess? Shogi? Yes. I'll be seeing him on Tuesday; he has my Gold General under his Lance at the moment. Well, you can find out about Holmes' progress then. I will. Are you going to move your pawns? Well, back to Carapace.

I'm not sure why it is called Carapace. There are no shells anywhere near this game. There's no alternate definition of Carapace which means unbalance. I think the name just sounded nice to its inventor. The game is about unbalance, as noted by the offset scales on the box, and the fact that the offensive pawns will always win . . . eventually. That's the whole crux of the game. You're actually playing two games: one as offense and one as defense. Offense has four enormous pawns that look like the aliens from the Star Trek pilot "The Cage": silhouettes of enormous noggins above robes that touch the floor. These creepy things are after the two defensive pawns, or a pair of Abe Lincoln's Stove Pipe Hats.

You hit the bricks, so to speak, and since the board is laid out in a brick pattern, that is pretty much what you are doing. Defense moves first: moving either or both or neither of the stove pipes. Yes, defense can choose not to move. Offense has to move at least one of his Cage aliens. Defense doesn't score movement, but offense does: moving one alien is a move of "1" up to all four aliens, a move score of "4". Mark that number on the score sheet and put a plus after it, because you'll be moving again soon, and then at the end, when the stove pipes are caught, you'll add up all the numbers, and that's your score. Then the switcheroony happens, and you're now faking out the aliens with the stove pipes.

Ok, now things really get freaky, in a 70s-brandy-snifter-Watson-and-Holmes type of way. All the pawns move the same way: two bricks at a time, diagonally up or down two rows of bricks in a straight line OR diagonally up or down one row of bricks (one space) and sliding along the row one space away from your starting space. So, it's like moving like a bishop or a knight in chess, sort of. Only two spaces. And you're not jumping. If another pawn is on the intermediate brick, you can't move that way, but with the "knight move" you can do the slide before moving up or down a row, so you could get around that way. Does this make sense? Did I mention the special squares?

The are bricks with X marks on them that neither offense nor defense can land on or pass over. There are colored bricks that defense cannot land on or pass over IF an alien is resting on a simlar colored brick (did I mention that these colors were neat-o yellow, orange, and browns?). And there are bricks with numbers in them, either 1, 2 or 3, that if the stove pipes land on them, that number is added to the offensive move score.

Back to the movement, the key to this game being good. One brick at a time: bad game. Two bricks at a time in the weird patterns stated above: good game. If you play a good defensive game, you can wriggle those stove pipes around the legs of the Cage aliens for many turns, and they have to hit you by exact count. They have to keep an alien on at least one colored brick, to keep the stove pipe from going that way. One alien could do that while the other three converge on the helpless hat. The X bricks help out. Gotta keep him from landing on another number ... blast it! He got to the 2. I've trapped one of the hats in the corner. He got too greedy and landed on the 1 brick to up my move score, but I got one of my aliens on a puke-brown brick to keep him stuck there. So, now I've cornered his other hat and . . . got him! It took three aliens to do it, though. Now I turn about one pawn and go get the trapped, shivering remnant. Good game. Now we switch.

When you're the defense, you're continually finding clever ways to outwit the aliens, but as you do this, you suddenly realize that you're giving your opponent ideas, becuase in a few minutes, you'll be trying to catch HIM, and you just showed him how do fake you out. Then your heart starts to race, your eyes dart about and--

How about an appertiv? An Irish Creme perhaps? I had it imported across the stream last week. You gotta go? Ok, I'll see you next time. Give a little kiss to that daughter of yours. I'll keep the board and pieces out. Why don't you think of your next move while you stroll around London?
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