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Chris
Netherlands
's-Hertogenbosch
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Carson City is not your typical worker placement game!

After Agricola, this is the second best worker placement game there is. I think it's a truly novel design. I'll try to explain why I think this is such a great game:

Unlike other worker placement games I've played (e.g. Agricola, Caylus, Stone Age, A Castle for all Seasons) Carson City has no resource collection aspect. Finally, no more wood, brick, clay, stone, reed, cloth, gold, silver, sand, food et cetera. In this game you only have to take care of your money. The resource collection is replaced by a spatial element, players try to grab the best spots in town when developing the town of Carson City.
Another aspect in which it stands out is the high degree of direct confrontation. Whereas most interaction in aforementioned games is mostly indirect by blocking action spaces, Carson City offers direct confrontation and a new kind of turn angst: even when an action space is taken you'll never be sure you'll get to perform said action. Other players can challenge you to a duel and only the winner can perform the chosen action. Of course, you can prevent yourself, but it will cost you valuable actions. Caylus offers some direct confrontation as well; the provost can cancel an action space altogether, but it's just another fancy way of blocking a space. The duels in Carson City let the players fight it out for the right to perform the action.
Furthermore, the game features a great role selection mechanic. The game comes standard with 7 character cards, but it's fairly easy to make the 8th character card, which was a freebie at last year's Essen Spiel. The game takes place over 4 rounds and each round 1 of the 7/8 character cards is chosen. Only half of the roles are available during the course of the game, so the decisions what roles to take really matters. These character cards are drafted from a common pool, so better make sure you're not the last to pick one. Which brings me to the turn order mechanics, another wonderful feature of the game. The role selection phase and the worker placement phase are intelligently linked: the order of passing in the worker placement phase decides turn order in the role selection phase. The roles players pick decide turn order in the worker placement phase.

All this adds up to an amazing game. There are only 4 roles to pick and about 17 actions to make. There are also a ton of ways to play this game, which makes it a highly strategic game.
A lot of decisions have a subtle impact on other aspects of the game and there are only 4 rounds, which makes it a very strategic game. For instance, when choosing a role, not only will you have to decide what special ability you want, but it influences turn order as well, and it decides the amount of money you're allowed to keep in the next of only four rounds.
The game is very balanced. In our games all the roles have shown their value. All roles can be part of a winning strategy. While losing a duel is a setback, you'll have better chances in later duels and you'll have an extra worker in a later round. However, you don't want to lose a duel in the last round, since you don't get your extra worker. This goes for all players, though, so better keep it in the back of your mind with every decision you make!

To finish up this combo of fantastic gameplay features, Carson City comes with a great and fitting theme and a lot of variants for a high replayabilty.
The wild west theme is probably pasted on, it's still a Eurogame after all, but it's pasted on really well. The abilities of the role cards and the various buildings do what you'd expect them to do in a wild west game. Some features like duels even make mechanic sense. You can gamble, rob banks with a lot of firepower, earn a decent income with your saloons and hotels or search for gold in the mines and the river.
The board is double sided, to better suit different numbers of players. You can play out the duels with dice or a blind bidding mechanic (a la A Game of Thrones and I can highly recommend to play this way!). The character cards are double sided, with each side having different abilities and cash limits. The initial set-up is different each time you'll play. All in all, Carson City is a highly replayable game.

It scales from 2-5 players. It plays in only 60-90 minutes. It's a really tense game, meanwhile it's also a lot of fun. I can highly recommend this game to everyone!
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jonathan schleyer
United States
Manhattan Beach
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I love this game too! Thanks for the review.
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Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
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Thank you for a terrific review. I've been looking at this game with great interest and your thoughts have helped me decide it is a perfect choice for me & my gang.
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Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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I too adore this game. I think it's tons more fun than Agricola. I love that the strategy is variable enough that it is difficult to know which path is best, and often the winner won't be who you expected.

Also, there is a certain special something about the physical design of the game. The bits are nice enough, but the way they all go together is somehow tremendously satisfying. I love seeing the little town grow. I've played with 2, 3 and 4 players and enjoy it each way. There are pretty major differences. I hope to try 5-player soon and expect it to be quite the interesting experience.
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United States
Davis
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Dormammu wrote:
Also, there is a certain special something about the physical design of the game. The bits are nice enough, but the way they all go together is somehow tremendously satisfying. I love seeing the little town grow. I've played with 2, 3 and 4 players and enjoy it each way. There are pretty major differences. I hope to try 5-player soon and expect it to be quite the interesting experience.


Regarding the graphic design, I really appreciate how the layout of the board facilitates game play. It's very easy to look at the snaking path of actions and be reminded of the options and their timing. It makes teaching the game much easier as well, as you can just walk through the steps in order. Each one by itself is relatively simple, but it would be hard to remember all of them if you didn't have the game board as a reminder.
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Jay Sheely
United States
Hayward
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Yes! I highly prefer this game to Agricola and Stone Age.
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Paul M
United States
Elkhart
Indiana
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I liked Carson City so much after my first game, I bought my own copy and snagged an Indian expansion too. Just as you do, I really enjoy the spatial elements and direct conflict. Carson City also seems to scale well from 2-5 players (according to the poll), which is a feature I love in a game.

Nice review.
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