The Background and Players
Earlier this year I started running regular games night's earlier this year inviting a few friends over to teach them games. Most nights have been three to five players, I was expecting a bigger night this time but several people had to pull out late and all the maybes turned into not able to come so there were four of us. Myself, Warren, my wife Jeni and two friends, Guy and Scott, who had both been along to games nights before.
Every games night up until now had started with Carcassonne. I was thinking of starting with something different this time but everyone knew the game was keen to play. Scott warned me before that night that he was ready for Carcassonne. Since the last night he had come to my place to play games about two months ago and learned Carcassonne, he had gone out and bought himself a copy and had been practicing. Jeni has played several games against me alone and in a group. Guy had played regular Carcassonne twice and also Carcassonne: The Castle several times.
The Game Itself
We played with (Mostly from my Big Box set):
Carcassonne (base game)
Carcassonne: Expansion 1 – Inns & Cathedrals
Carcassonne: The River
Carcassonne: The Mini Expansion (from Games Quaterly magazine)
Despite having the river in the middle of the table the game seemed to continually grow to mainly one side, away from the spring on the opposite side of the river. And even though we had a quite large table twice we needed to pause the game and shift the whole play area to one side.
I drew the two cathedrals in a row about two thirds of the way through the game. This had happened the last game I played two and I had used the effectively then to take points off the then leader by making a virtually incompletable city. This time however I could see no place to do that easily. Also knowing I was poorly placed in the fields I needed the points to compensate so I took a risk and added them to two of my cities. The one I thought might be hardest I did manage to complete. However the other more open cathedral city I just did not get enough pieces to finish before the end of the game.
Scott was the only one who ran out of meeples, about 3/4 of the way through the game, and this cost him many scoring opportunities. It also helped Guy, as Scott in desperation to finish a road and get a meeple back added the single road to a monastery tile which also joined Guy's farmer into the biggest field in the game to share the points with Scott.
Guy did very well on the farmers scoring which is what put him so far ahead. There were two large fields in the game, and as stated above Guy and Scott shared one of them. I had considered trying to get a share of this field earlier in the game, but although it never finally happened it had looked like this would merge with another of Scott's farms and I considered it two hard for me to get two farmers on the field. Instead I had tried to get my large follower onto the second largest field and and take it from Guy, but had not been able to make the final connection before the end of the game.
Overall a good win for Guy and everyone got a decent score. Guy was happy to win. Jeni was happy to have anyone beat me in Carcassonne; I think it is still her ambition to beat me in a game of it. Scott could of easily won if his meeples had not been all tied up for last of the last quater of the game or he managed to join his two farms and take back the majority in the large one. I was happy with my strategy knowing it would have been a very close game if I had either finished my second cathedral city or stolen the field from Guy with my large follower.
It was also good to have a game with other players working hard on the farms. I find some players, and particularly newer players don't tend to understand them and don't want to take the risky but generally very profitable strategy of placing farmers. I usually win games against my friends from behind when the farmers are counted. When entered the Carcassonne tournament at the Australian Games Expo in June 2007 one of the greatest challenges for me was I was not used to opponents aggressively fighting me for control of farms. The other great thing is with at least four experienced Carcassonne players the games night can expand to more people one of them can run the group playing Carcassonne while I teach others something else, maybe The Ark of the Covenant or Carcassonne: The Discovery.