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Carcassonne: The Castle» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Be Careful What You Build For--You Might Not Get It rss

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chris carleton
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bon accord
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My wife and I have played this game twenty times, and from the first few times I played it, I knew it was good, but didn't really get why it was good.

There was little direct confrontation in our games as we both just built away at houses, towers, and paths, and raced around the score track trying to nab the wall tiles. After a few more plays, I understood what was interesting about this game was that it was equally about controlling yourself as it was about controlling your opponent.

Other than playing the base Carcasonne game with three other people a couple of games, I have not played any of the other games in this series.

Bits:

Lots of cool bits are in the box. You get 60 quite large, thick castle tiles, which are used to construct the layout of the castle. The castle walls are the boundaries of the layout, but also double as a scoring track. They fit together like puzzle pieces to form a boundary with an interesting little nook and a few extra corners.

There are eighteen smaller tiles that are put on thirteen corners of the scoring track/wall as bonuses. Each player gets seven meeples and one pointy looking house, called a Keep.

The component quality is high, and the artwork is a bit cartoonish with some interesting detail. As a tile laying game, they all fit together well and look interesting.

Set up:

Set up is pretty quick as you just have to put the wall together, lay the bonus tiles on the thirteen corners, and get the castle tiles face down. One of your meeples is placed on the scoring track.

Play/Rules:

The game play itself consists of placing tiles and scoring them so I will describe that first, then get to the interesting part: deciding how best to place those tiles.

On your turn, you first draw a castle tile, which will depict either a house, tower, path, a court, or a combination of these. Tiles must be placed either adjacent to a start space on the castle wall (there are seven of them), or adjacent to an already played tile. Roads must either join with another road, or terminate in the castle wall.

After placing a tile, you can then place one of your meeples on the newly placed tile; by doing so you lay claim to a house, tower, path, or court. If one these is complete, or gets completed, then you score the appropriate number of points and move your meeple on the scoring track.

Completion of a house or tower means that the structure is surrounded by roads, the castle wall or courts, or in other words, you could not build on any side of it. Paths are complete when they are either a closed loop, or all parts of the path terminate in castle walls or in squares (crossroads with a special symbol on them).

Laying claim to a court is a little different because when you do, your meeple is laid on its side and remains there until the end of the game, and is only scored then, based on how many markets are in that court (a court is a grassy area).

You are not allowed to place your meeple on a path or structure that already has a meeple on it (yours or your opponent's); however, during the course of the game if two or more paths or structures happen to join, each with a meeple on them, then the points are awarded to whoever has the most meeples. If tied, no points are awarded.

Players take turns laying tiles, placing meeples when necessary, and scoring.

Roads normally score one point per tile, unless there is well on them; then they score two points per tile. Towers score two points per tile; while houses score one point per tile. Each market in a court scores three points each at game end.

As you move your meeple along the scoring track you can pick up bonus tiles at irregular intervals. Some help you immediately, like giving you an extra turn, or allowing you a 2x score for a tower or house, while others help you at the end of the game , by allowing you to score an incomplete path, house or tower, by giving you five points, or by giving you four points per market.

The end game scoring also involves keeping track of your largest house by placing the Keep token on it, as the largest Keep gets extra points at the end of the game. One of the wall tiles also adds two to the total tiles of your Keep. The largest Keep receives a score equivalent to the number or tiles missing in the largest empty space within the castle walls at game end (maximum possible score = 16).

After all the tiles have been placed and all the end scoring has taken place, whoever has the most points is the winner. I am not sure what happens if there is a tie, but we play that the player with the largest Keep wins.

Strategy/Tactics:

There is so much building going on this game but you don't seem to bump into each other much, and it is not common (or at least we have not found it to be) that you have a showdown over a structure or road. However, you need to avoid being your own worst enemy, and there are other ways to interefere with your opponent.

In many cases you may not want your structures or roads to grow too large because, unless you have a wall tile allowing you to score an incomplete, you get nothing for them. So it's a good idea to keep a couple of large projects on the go, and a number of short term ones going so that you can make some low scores that might just help you get a wall tile on the scoring track, and some big scores to get you ahead. You need both high and low scores to win.

Paths are a blessing and a curse. They are extremely useful for quick, low scores, and nice high scores if they contain a well. However, they can grow Hydra-like as each new tile added to them creates more paths to close. Adding to your opponent's paths in this way can be a good way to cause him grief (especially towards the end of the game).

Any building with a path involved can also be hard to add to, especially if the building is in the middle of the castle. The castle wall is definitely your buddy when it comes to finishing anything to do with a path, and the nook between spaces 20 and 39 is excellent for getting rid of all those tiles with multiple paths on them.

The castle walls are also excellent for controlling the growth of houses and towers, or for quick scoring of them in the corners.

There are also opportune times to shut down your opponent's roads and structures with a tile, and force an end to his much grander plans. Sometimes you might want to force completion to give him enough points to send him clear past all those bonus tiles on the scoring track.

Near the end of the game, when there are few tiles left, you might want to add a tile to his structure to open it up to three sides, so it won't ever get finished (provided your opponent does not have the bonus tile allowing him to score).

Joining structure or courts can be extremely useful to ensure that no one scores, and we have found this to be more useful than one-upmeepleship.

One of the biggest decisions is whether or not to use a tile for a low score to get a wall tile, at the expense of building on to a high scoring larger structure. The bonus tiles are important and I don't think you would do too well if you made no effort whatsoever to get them. Lots of low scores do add up, and are often just what you need to get the wall tile, but I never sacrifice a tile I have been waiting for just to get to a bonus tile from the wall. Some of them get missed by both of you anyway.

The scoring at the end game can make a huge difference, and in many cases you can not be sure of the win until this scoring has been done.
While you should try not to be out of meeples during the game, you don't want to have missed out on claiming markets, and have a bunch left over at the end. Two or more courts with markets are a real plumb at the end of the game (especially if you have the wall tile that gives your 4 points for each), and by the halfway point I try to claim the obvious ones, and the less obvious ones towards the end of the game.

The largest keep can add a lot to your score, especially if there is a large open space at the end of the game. If you think the game is going to be close, and you have no chance of getting the largest Keep, it may be worthwhile to try to reduce that big space.

In general, concerning your opponent, pay attention to what she is not paying attention to and capitalize on that. There is lots to keep your mind on in this game.

Conclusion:

This game requires you to use your judgement: where to build, how big to build, go for the quick score or the long term project. The decisions are interesting, and coupled with subtle and not-so-subtle intereference with your opponent.

Sometimes it's nice to see if some of your own planning, unimpeded by your opponent, works out, and there is enough of that in this game to satisfy that urge. If any more of that urge was fulfilled you would be playing two-person solitaire, but there is enough opportunity to mess with your opponent both on the board and on the scoring track to give this game a competetive feel.

If that kind of balance appeals to you, then you will really like this game. I give it a 9.
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Gordon Stewart
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Very thoughtful review.
After over 50 games, our house rule is that you can only pick
up wall-tiles that you land on AFTER totally all your points that turn; not score first a 2 point road and move to pick up a wall tile 2 away then add on your 8 point tower; you would move ALL 10 and only pick up a wall tile if on the 10 th space. (if this makes sense)

Also, we find the market wall tile too strong: one courtyard with 8 markets grows in worth from 24 (8x3) to 56 (8x7)!

Nice writing!
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Nate Straight

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capt yid wrote:


Also, we find the market wall tile too strong: one courtyard with 8 markets grows in worth from 24 (8x3) to 56 (8x7)!


Doesn't that bonus just make the markets worth 4 points each instead of 3 points each? It's not an additional 4 points each, only an additional 1 point each. So, it would be 32 instead of 24, not too big of a deal and not much different from the potential gains from some other bonus tiles.
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