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Subject: Famine in Carcassonne -- A Solitaire Variant rss

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Kyle Mann
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Carcassonne seemed like the perfect game for solo play--a satisfying tile-laying element, a scoreboard, and enough innate difficulty to complete features even without other players' interference. So I undertook the task of creating a solitaire play experience that provided a real challenge, encouraged the creation and completion of large features, and went beyond just trying for a high score. Here is "Famine in Carcassonne".

I used base Carcassonne with no river expansion. Others could be integrated with some adjustments.

Here's a Google Docs version for better formatting.

---

The Rules

You will play as the black meeples. The other colors will act as your resources as follows. Place them in front of you. You start with all resources full.

Yellow - Gold (8 pieces)
Red - Faith (8 pieces)
Green - Food (8 pieces)
Blue - Water (8 pieces)

Start your scoring meeple on space 35. Vary for difficulty.

Start the game as normal with the starting tile.

You do not score points for completed features as in regular Carcassonne. Instead, reference the payout chart for your completion rewards.

On any turn during which you neither (1) place a meeple nor (2) complete one of your features, reduce your score by 1. Either placing a meeple or completing a feature protects you from dropping in score.

Farmers are no longer “tied up” until the end of the game. Farms are considered complete once they supply 2 complete cities. However, you may not score the same city twice. Place markers or counters on “spent” cities if you need to remind yourself which have been taken.

Upkeep

The key engine behind this variant is that your meeples on unfinished features need resources to survive, but completed features produce resources. In this way you have the motivation to finish features before your stores are depleted and your score takes a hit.

For every meeple on an unfinished feature, you will be spending resources to keep him alive and supplied. For every feature you completed this turn, you will be replenishing your stores. Use the charts below to resolve upkeep costs and scoring payouts.

1.) Payouts for Completed Features

Farmer - Replenish ALL Food
Thief - Replenish 1 Gold per road tile
Knight - Replenish 1 Water per city tile
Monk - Replenish ALL Faith


2.) Expenses

Farmer - Pay 1 Faith
Thief - Pay 1 Food
Knight - Pay 1 Gold
Monk - Pay 1 Water
No follower placed this turn or feature scored? - Pay 1 “Score”


This way, it is a network of resources. The thief steals gold for the lavish lifestyle of the knight, who buys water for the monk, who fasts & prays for the farmer, who grows crops for the thief. It’s the circle of meeple life!

Your stores are limited to the number of resource counters. In this way you can never have more than 8 of any one resource. Pay owed resources into a “bank” off to the side of the game.

If you cannot pay expenses when you need to, reduce your score by 1 for each payment you are “short”. If the scoreboard reaches or dips below 0, you lose.

Turn Example

You place a tile as normal and claim an incomplete city. Your newly placed tile also completes a 4-tile road that you claimed earlier in the game, so you immediately pick up that thief and take 4 gold from the bank if it’s available. Surveying the board, you still have a farmer, knight, and two thieves on unfinished features. You pay 1 gold for the knight, 1 faith for the farmer, but have no food in your reserves, so you must reduce your score by 2 to pay for the thieves’ upkeep costs. Then you draw a new tile and take your next turn.

Turn order

1.) Draw and place a tile
2.) You may place a meeple.
3.) Score any completed features (in resources, NOT points)
4.) Pay upkeep costs
4a) Reduce score by 1 if no meeple placed this turn and none of your features completed.


---

If anyone tries it and has any feedback or suggestions on tweaks or balance, please feel free to let me know. Thanks!
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michael dorazio
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Looks fantastic. Much cooler than high score boringness. I will separate out the base set tiles and make this happen soon. Hope to return to this post next week.
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Jacek Wieszaczewski
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Interesting variant. But one thing I don't get is why do you say it encourages creation and completion of large features. I feel it's the other way round - you will be better off creating and completing small and medium features.

1. Completing a really large city or road is completely not worth it (each tile above 8 is 100% wasted and usually even 7th or 8th will be, unless you're really low on gold or water).

2. Completing small features means completing more features and this means deploying more meeples during the game - so you can avoid points penalty more often.

3. Completing small cities means that there are more cities on the map, so there are more possibilities of scoring a farm.
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Kyle Mann
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hsiale wrote:
Interesting variant. But one thing I don't get is why do you say it encourages creation and completion of large features. I feel it's the other way round - you will be better off creating and completing small and medium features.

1. Completing a really large city or road is completely not worth it (each tile above 8 is 100% wasted and usually even 7th or 8th will be, unless you're really low on gold or water).

2. Completing small features means completing more features and this means deploying more meeples during the game - so you can avoid points penalty more often.

3. Completing small cities means that there are more cities on the map, so there are more possibilities of scoring a farm.


Point taken. I guess in my limited experience, an 8-tile road or city is fairly large. Perhaps then this more encourages various size features based on the current game state, rather than massive sprawling cities.
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L H
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I like the idea of a solo variant for Carcassonne. I really love the game, but don't often have someone to play it with.

Here are a few quick questions:
--I assume the goal of the game is to place all of the tiles before your score reaches zero?
--And a lower starting score will increase the difficulty?
--Must you have a follower on the feature to claim the resources when it gets completed?

My initial strategy for this variant would be to complete many small features quickly as this would minimize the expenditure of resources for followers on the board as well as replenishing the supply. I'll have to give it a try and see how it goes.
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Kyle Mann
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xldh wrote:
I like the idea of a solo variant for Carcassonne. I really love the game, but don't often have someone to play it with.

Here are a few quick questions:
--I assume the goal of the game is to place all of the tiles before your score reaches zero?
--And a lower starting score will increase the difficulty?
--Must you have a follower on the feature to claim the resources when it gets completed?

My initial strategy for this variant would be to complete many small features quickly as this would minimize the expenditure of resources for followers on the board as well as replenishing the supply. I'll have to give it a try and see how it goes.

- Yeah I'll make that more explicit in the rules. Place the last tile, resolve the last upkeep, and if your score is above 0 you win.
- A lower starting score is higher difficulty, yes. I am finding 35 very challenging but I need to play test another half dozen times to see if I get better at it or just need to bump the default up to 50 or something.
- Yes, only your features score resources for you. However you can still claim features as they are completed if you have the meeples available.

Thanks for trying it out; let me know what you think. I'm especially interested in balance and whether there are game breaking strategies.
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Richard Pickman
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Now that is interesting...

I'd like to know if anyone else has tried this variant.

I would suggest that not every stat needs to have a maximum of 8. I don't think the player should be constrained by the component limitations if balance dictates otherwise. After all, scoring can be kept on a notepad. (Although the meeples are notoriously cute.meeple)
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michael dorazio
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Still planning to try it out, but I've been slacking and watching tv instead.
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Kyle Mann
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Absolutely, some balance would be great. If you feel a certain resource needs more than 8 or less than 8 to make it challenging, Id love to hear your experience.
 
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Jo Mo
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Rather than limit players to an 8 resource cap, you could let the non-black meeples be counters for each resource. Say the player writes down the name of each resource on a piece of paper and to start puts 8 meeples next to each

As the game progresses the uses the meeples as a colorless counter for the resources. It still enforces a cap on total resources, but it allows the player to prioritize different resources depending on their need.
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Jo Mo
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For example,

My gameboard has 1 knight, 1 farmer, and 3 thieves.

I have 4 faith, 3 gold, and 4 food available to me.
I just paid my upkeep which left me with the above.
I draw my tile, play it, and complete the farmer.

Ignoring the color I can choose to bring in 8 food giving me a total of 12 food. since my knight still has 3 turns before he runs out of gold, I can prioritize my thieves because there are more and they will drain resources faster.
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Kyle Mann
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That's a nice take on it; thanks for the suggestion. I still need to go back and playtest this again now that I haven't tried it for a while.
 
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Richard Pickman
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I played 5 games this afternoon. It's quite addictive! It's thematic and fairly light on the bookkeeping (although the first couple of plays are a bit confusing).

It's also very difficult. I never got more than 36 tiles into the deck. The draw of the tiles just wouldn't give me the feature I needed. Probably the different resources need a bit of tweaking, but I haven't investigated deeply enough.

Anyway, it's a nice start--the variant is fun!
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Fotrich Trucks
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I played some games some time ago, too. I felt this could be a way to score for big cities and roads: replenish the resources, for every tile you have no resource take 1 point to your "score", I think this could be money for trading the "goods". In this way you also can score cloisters with 9 points and cities of fields with 3 points each (I score fields, when there are two cities, but if at that moment there are more cities, I score them all).

After playing it this way: There are too many points. I think you should start at 20 points und get only half of the resources for points(rounded up). e.g. you have a 9 tile city, but there are only 4 water: you get the four water and score 5/2 = 2.5 ~ 3 points.

I tried to find another way to avoid luck drawing cloisters: I think you could place a follower on a cloister not when placing the tile but later when placing a tile in the surrounding of the cloister. Another way could be to make a pile of the six cloister tiles and you can draw them whenever you want.
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Aleksandar Saranac
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Played 20+ games and it has become my favorite solo variant.
The only problem I have is that more tiles you use, the game becomes more and more difficult.
So, I house ruled it that to win you need to score following:
3 monks
3 peasants
3 knights from the city at least 3 tiles big
3 thieves from the road at least 4 tiles long.

I am playing with all light gray tiles I have.
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G Allen
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This solo variant is great. Highly addicting, entirely unpredictable, and a clever take on correlating the color-scheme to the various roles of the black meeples. I love it.

I stumbled upon the FIC variant after playing three games with the regular "high score" scoring (me, playing as four or three colors). It was late and no one wanted to play with me, and, although brand new to Carcassonne ms solo variant is great. Highly addicting, entirely unpredictable, and a clever take on correlating the color-scheme to the various roles of the black meeples. I love it.

I've amended some rules that maintain the flow of the game when resources are low and extend the game when resources are gone.

RULES:
You will play as the black meeples. The other colors will act as your resources as follows. Place them in front of you. You start with all resources full.
Yellow - Gold (8 pieces)
Red - Faith (8 pieces)
Green - Food (8 pieces)
Blue - Water (8 pieces)

Start your scoring meeple on space 35. Vary for difficulty.
Start the game as normal with the starting tile. YOU MUST PLACE A MEEPLE ON THE STARTING TILE. DO NOT PAY UPKEEP COSTS ON FIRST TURN. This forces you to take a gamble and place a meeple before the game really starts.

You do not score points for completed features as in regular Carcassonne. Instead, reference the payout chart for your completion rewards.
On any turn during which you neither (1) place a meeple nor (2) complete one of your features, reduce your score by 1.

Farms are considered complete once they supply 2 complete cities. However, you may not score the same city twice IN THE SAME TURN. A City can be completed, but the decision must be made as to whether it will count towards a Farmer or the Knight that may be inside. It cannot count for both. Replenish appropriate resources, pay upkeep costs. If a city with a knight in it is a completed and by doing so, a farm could be scored, you have to choose to replenish your water or your food. You can't score both the city and the farm to replenish both water and food in the same turn.

For every meeple on an unfinished feature, you will be spending resources to keep him alive and supplied. For every feature you completed this turn, you will be replenishing your stores. If a resource is replenished after completing a feature, any upkeep costs requiring that same resource are not paid this turn. For example, if you are out of Faith with a Farmer on the board and a cloister is completed (returning to you all Faith), the Farmer is no longer required to pay his upkeep cost FOR THIS TURN ONLY. Any and all other Meeples will pay for their upkeep. This keeps the resources you just won in your hand and you aren't effectively -1 resource for every completion when multiple kinds of meeples are on the board.

Lastly, and I'm still play testing this one out, but I'm keen on it so far, (because I hate losing to myself and I like placing tiles until they run out):

LAST HURRAH: When ALL four resources have been depleted AND your life score is still above 0, pick 5 tiles. One at a time, place them on the board. DO NOT PLACE ANY MEEPLES. Replenish any resources back for completed structures as normal. DO NOT PAY UPKEEP COSTS UNTIL ALL FIVE TILES HAVE BEEN PLACED. Continue game as normal until a) all tiles have been placed, or b) life score falls below 0. It prevents you from losing all of your life points in the last few turns, extending the game just a little bit longer.

I've been starting at 35 or 40, depending on my mood, and usually end up somewhere around 10 by the end of the game.

I also played a game (again, just to keep playing and not have to start over) that I'll call Famine Zombies. When your life score hits 0, knock over your meeple on its side and continue to play normally. Change directions on the scoreboard (scoring positively, rather than negatively). Play normally until all tiles have been placed. This variant should not be played with the Last Hurrah ending mentioned above. It does nothing except let you keep placing tiles and playing the game and pretend your scoreboard meeple is a zombie.

Carcassonne newbie, and I can't put it down. I've stopped doing just about everything that needs to get done.
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G Allen
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I made some more changes to the base rules of this variant. It's balanced out the resources a little bit better and makes for a slightly more difficult game. Here's a summary:

Updated Expense/Payouts:
The THIEF steals GOLD.
The FARMER requires FAITH.
The KNIGHT must provide WATER to his city.
The MONK requires FOOD (alms) for his prayers.

Completed ROADS bring WATER to the cities.
Completed CITIES bring back the GOLD the thieves tried to steal.
Completed FARMS return ALL FOOD your monks have eaten.
Completed MONASTERIES replenish ALL FAITH for your farmers.

GAMEPLAY
1. Use the RIVER expansion. Place SPRING piece in center of table. Remove and set aside the LAKE piece.
- Choose X RIVER tiles (where X is relative to your table size; 3-5 is solid). X also determines number of tiles drawn during (optional) LAST HURRAH phase.
- Place a tile. If the tile contains a ROAD or CITY, player MUST place a meeple. If the tile simply extends the river, player has the option to begin farming or not.
- Continue until last drawn RIVER tile has been placed. Place the LAKE to end the River. DO NOT PAY UPKEEP COSTS.

2. Place tiles and meeples as normal. Normal means: AT LEAST ONE MEEPLE MUST MOVE DURING EVERY TURN. You can place a meeple on a tile you've already placed (from your supply). You can score a completed structure (return a meeple to your supply). Or you can lose 1 health (move meeple on the scoreboard). A player MAY place a tile to complete an object that he/she occupies, replenish the resources for it, place a meeple on the tile he/she just placed.

NOTE: If a resource is replenished after completing a feature, any upkeep costs requiring that same resource are not paid this turn. For example, if you are out of Faith with a Farmer on the board and a cloister is completed (returning to you all Faith), the Farmer is no longer required to pay his upkeep cost FOR THIS TURN ONLY. Any and all other Meeples will pay for their upkeep.

UPDATED SCORING:
Completed ROADS bring WATER to the cities, EQUAL TO NUMBER OF TILES.
Completed CITIES bring back the GOLD the thieves tried to steal, EQUAL TO NUMBER OF TILES (Do NOT count pennants).
Completed FARMS return ALL FOOD.
Completed MONASTERIES replenish ALL FAITH.

SCORING NOTES:
1. A FARM is complete when it touches TWO (2x) COMPLETED CITIES.
2. A CITY may NOT be scored more than once during any given turn. Either it counts towards replenishing your GOLD or it counts towards the completion of a FARM. In essence, you cannot replenish both GOLD AND FOOD in the same turn.

2. Play continues until a) all tiles have been placed, b) life score reaches 0, or c) all resources have been depleted.

- If all tiles have been placed, your life score is above 0 AND you have at least ONE of ANY resource, you win! Congratulations!
- If your life score falls below 0, you lose! Play again!
- If your life score is above 0 AND you've exhausted all of your resources, enter (optional) LAST HURRAH PHASE.

LAST HURRAH: When ALL four resources have been depleted AND your life score is still above 0, pick X tiles (equal to X RIVER tiles that began the game). One at a time, place them on the board. DO NOT PLACE ANY MEEPLES. Replenish any resources for completed structures as normal. DO NOT PAY UPKEEP COSTS UNTIL ALL FIVE TILES HAVE BEEN PLACED.

- Continue game as normal until all tiles have been placed OR life score falls below 0. It prevents you from losing all of your life points in the last few turns, extending the game just a little bit longer. If you run out of resources AGAIN, you totally suck and must start over.
______________________


I've played this version, with the updated resource attributes, about half a dozen times now. It flows a little better and feels far more balanced. I'm not waiting turn after turn for a monastery card to replenish all the faith I've lost trying to score some farms on my cities. Also, thieves should steal your gold. That makes more sense to me than having them eat my food. And monks need alms, more than water. And I'd imagine life in a hot sheet metal jacket would make me quite parched, not to mention the logic of roads transporting water from the River to the cities. A slight rearrangement of the resources helped balance things out AND make the game a little more difficult. The trick, I think, is entering this circle of life on the right foot, at the right time, to keep everyone alive.
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Joel Marler
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Great idea, but really hard too: I'm going to try adding the builder to my supply.
 
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Andrei Ivushkin
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p4warrior wrote:
I'm especially interested in balance and whether there are game breaking strategies.

I tried to play several times placing meeples from the very beginning and lost quickly. Then I decided to place black meeples only to immediately score roads or cities and spend a score point otherwise. That way I managed to lay out about 50 tiles of total 72 and had 5 score points left. It was time now to place meeples to avoid score decrease. To that moment I had a bunch of completed cities so it was easy to place thieves and replenish food with farmers. I never scored cloisters. Finally I won having laid out all 72 tiles with 2 score points left.

Unfortunately I feel your variant is a great idea but broken cry
 
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Roger S
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Played this a number of times last night. I failed miserably each time. Don't quite have a strategy down yet. I did have a question - if I complete a city and there's a farmer out there, I understand that I cannot score the city (for gold) on the same turn that I score the farmer (for food). But, can I take the gold in the first turn and then score the farmer in the next turn? Or does the farmer just come off the board without any reward for his farming?

One tip I employed that may help others - in the "bank" section, I separated out a number of meeples to represent the expenses I need to pay each turn. So, for example, when I place a knight, I push a water up from the pool of water meeples in the bank. Then when I place a thief, I push a gold up. That way, I can easily look and see each turn that I need to pay 1 gold and 1 water. I found that easier than counting up my meeples every turn and cross-referencing them to their resource payments.
 
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