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Subject: Carcassonne: the Good, the Bad, and the Lukewarm. rss

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Jeff Mays
United States
Cincinnati
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So, I finally got around to playing Carcassonne and after about a dozen plays, the game is somewhat of a mixed bag for me. My hope is that this review will give you a sense of my experience with the game and maybe bring out what I may be missing.

The GOOD

Learnability: Carcassonne is a fairly easy game to grasp. I am not going to explain the rules, but trust me, they are easy to understand (and fairly short, so if interested, look them up and read them). The possible exception to this is the farmer. The farmer role can be a little muddy for people playing their first game but I think this has more to do with seeing the long term potential and benefits of the farmer than what the farmer actually does.

The style of gameplay is straightforward without an overwhelming array of choices to make on any given turn (but some people still may suffer a little bit of Analysis Paralysis, haven't figured out why in my particular group, but it happens). I have been able to teach my daughters (ages 5 &6) how to play the game with minimal difficulties (and minor pieces of advice from time to time), although when playing with them we don't use farmers because they just don't think in long term strategy (YET!).

Enjoyability: Carcassonne is a game that can be very enjoyable to play, even though sometimes it seems that luck is not smiling on you. I know some people are much more cut throat with Carcassonne, and try to memorize the tiles and play probabilities, but I don't find that this matches up very well with the game. Maybe it's just the cartoon like qualities of the tiles or the brightly colored meeples, but I just can't get into a cut throat game of Carcassonne (don't get me wrong, if I can potentially block your huge city, I will. I just won't quite get that HA! TAKE THAT BIATCH! vibe from it).

Replayability: So far, Carcassonne has been a game that I will willingly play multiple times. The tiles always come out differently as do the choices made and at the end, it is kinda neat to see what you've built and what you just didn't quite get completed.

The BAD yuk

Depth: Like stated above, there are a number of people who play a much more cut throat, hardcore type of Carcassonne than I do, so maybe the depth of the game has more to do with me than the game itself (I am not perfect, after all modest ). But it does seem to me you would have to approach Carcassonne in an overly aggressive way to make it play that way. I guess what I mean is that if I am in the mood to play an evil bastard kind of game, there are plenty out there designed for that kind of gameplay and there is no confusion when it comes out. Perhaps when I have many more plays under my belt, this aspect will come out naturally, but right now, it's just not there for me. And beyond the aggressiveness aspect, it still feels very light to me. And although light is not necessarily a bad thing, it is something to consider if you are thinking of getting Carcassonne.

Luck: There are games, especially when first introducing it to new people, were luck can really get in the way of having fun. A new player drawing road after road, while everybody else is competing for cities and drawing cloisters can be a somewhat disappointing experience. I know this is considered to be a great gateway game, but honestly, there are other games that I think provide a much better hook for the potential (but unknowing) BGGer out there.

The LUKEWARM robot (Okay, so there's not a good lukewarm emoticon)

Endgame: There are games where I really get psyched about winning (my wife is far superior than myself at PR, so I am vastly happy when I win a game) or irrational about losing (losing a game of Arimaa to my son because I was too focused on my brilliant strategy and left the door wide open for an obvious play by him). And some games where I'm happy for whoever wins (BANG! usually has an outcome like this). But Carcassonne? Well, it's kind of like, okay, you/I won, you wanna play another? I know that sounds contradictory and all, but that's the feeling I get. So, if I want to play a game but don't want it to be overly taxing or I don't really care if I win or lose, this is probably the game I would pick. Is this wrong?



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Kevin Salch
United States
Bristol
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I think this is a well balanced review of carc-
I would add traderes and builders into the mix as this greatly increases the strategy of the game.

Also what farmer rules were you using? (theres a 3 point and a 4 point scoring mechanism - 1 where farms are treated more like cities - ie they are independent- the other where the farms may score nothing because they compete for cities. I have palyed both and am not yet convinced about which I like better - but it seems the newer rules are less of a "long term" statagy which sounds like it would appeal to you.

Once again good review.
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Jeff Mays
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We were using the farms are worth 4 points for each completed city, nothing for incomplete cities. And something I meant to bring up in the review was in regards to the expansions, i.e. are the expansions for Carcassonne worth getting and do they add anything to the actual gameplay mechanics/strategies? Anyone?

And thanks for the feedback!
 
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Andreas
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The expansions add a lot. Of course depends on how You play. For the occasional player Base is enough I think. For the hardened gamer and those that grew a bit tired about the base the expansions give it a really fresh feeling. And You need the big meeple from expansion 1 if You want to really play cutthroat. Yes You should get them. At least in my opinion. Them? There are so many. Well let me give a short summary:
1) Inns and Cathedrals: well worth it. Roads are severely underpowered in base Carcassonne and this helps. Then nothing as nice as putting a cathedral in an opponents big city shortly before the game ends - which leaves him with zero points when the city remains unfinished. Of course big grin from the opponent if the city finishes... Then the big meeple. A worthy expansion and not so expensive, it retails for under 10 euros here.
2) Traders and builders: The builder which gives You 2 turns when You add to Your city is a nice addition and allows for more decisions. Then the trade goods can make the person playing them right getting some valuable victory points. Also very good to have.
3)-... the other expansions are not something I am very familiar with. I played with the Dragon once. This is vicious. Do not try with children. It sent my 11 year old nephew in a "I never play this again and hate it" bad mood and soured his experience for life when the dragon was feasting on his meeples. Well. But with a big audience that can accept losing its a nice change of pace and shouldnt be overlooked.
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