Board game analysis II: Carcassonne

As I was in Japan during the week my classmates played boardgames for the first time, I missed out on making the very first analysis. I have now played and analyzed the game Carcassonne with some help from some friends that were willing to play the game with me. And now, without further ado, the analysis!

I have played the board game called Carcassonne, a strategy based board game where players fight, or cooperate against one another to claim the biggest amount of land. The game consists of big puzzle like pieces that the players use to expand their property. Thanks to this dynamic way of placing random pieces as you go, you will never have a game session that is like the one before it.

When a player begins his/her turn, they start by taking a tile from the draw pile. There is only one way to place the tiles that the players pick up, and that is next to another, existing tile that is of the same terrain type. This makes for some interesting ways to place your tiles, and also gives a lot of variety. When a tile has been placed by a player, they can choose to place a follower on any of the existing terrain as long as it does not interfere with other followers on the same tile or connected to the one you currently want to place a follower on.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5e/Carcassonne-game.jpg

Best parts of the game

The feature that stood out and was really great in Carcassonne was the tile system. The tiles make the game different every time you play it, and makes things more interesting and exciting, not knowing what will happen next. When I played the game with my friends, we played a downloadable, virtual version of the actual board game, so instead of physical tiles, we just pointed and clicked wherever we wanted to place the tiles. Playing the virtual version felt great. Even if we lost the whole puzzling, sitting at the table and playing kind of feeling, we still had a blast playing it without any problems or misunderstandings about the rules, since the computer keeps check of those things.

The other thing that was great was how the game makes players interact differently with one another in a blink of an eye. The game encourages team play, and at the same time it wants you to back stab your comrades in order to get the upper hand and take the lead. With these things affecting the game, it makes things a lot more interesting and fun. The early stages of the game, people will try to help one another to get a hold of some land before they start sabotaging for the others to prevent them from gaining enough points to win. This was a lot of fun and just plain good design in my opinion.

The “not so good” parts of the game

I have been thinking a lot about this one. It is very difficult to find something bad with a game when you have had so much fun playing it. I am trying to look at the game from an objective point of view and to give it a fair analysis, and this is what I managed to find: The random element in the game can be a bit frustrating when you need a certain tile the most. Since it is random, you have no control whatsoever on what tile you are going to get next. I had a situation where I had build a giant sized castle, with only one piece needed to close it up. The whole game, I did not manage to close the thing up because I was not lucky enough. This takes some fun out of the game. And while the tile system is super great. Having the choice to save a piece for later would not hurt the player at all. This is the only thing I could think of when it comes to “bad” things about the game. Some of this might just be frustration or something similar, but toning the random elements down a bit might just help a little. This would require a lot of testing however, and I am sure that the creators had the random frustration in mind when creating it.

 

http://pdroms.de/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/20130531_jcloisterzone_v2.2.1.1_(pandora_java_game_port).jpg
This is what the version I played looked like.

 

The Core game

The game consists of different parts depending on how many expansions you have for the game. The base game always comes with tiles and followers however, and is always included in the game no matter which expansions you have.

Different tiles

The game comes with a set of different tiles that are shaped like squares, these tiles have different prints on them, representing several kinds of terrain, among these are:

  • Field
  • Road
  • City
  • Rivers (these were the extra tiles included in the expansion that I played with)

Each of these tiles can be fit together with another almost seamlessly,  making players able to play the game in a puzzle like manner, where they have to fit the shapes and different terrains efficiently. Among these tiles there are also churches, these however are placed in the center of its tile, and cannot be merged with anything else than a single road.

Followers

These are the other objects present in the game aside from the terrain tiles, and work as a resource for player to utilize for points. These have the same colour as the player and you get seven of them initially. The player can place these on any tile to make them amass points depending on where they are placed. When they are placed on different terrains, these switch into another state. There are four different states they can turn into:

  • Farmer: The followers turn into farmers when placed on open fields, they will give points to the players at the end of the games depending on how many cities are directly connected to the farmers tile or a road connected to a farmer. The farmer is permanent.
  • Knight: When placed in a city, the follower turns into a knight, who will generate points depending on how many tiles large the city it is placed in is.
  • Thief: The thief is created when a follower is placed on a road. These will give the player points depending on how many road tiles it is from the position the thief is standing and the towns connected to that town.
  • Priest: Priests are followers placed on a church tile, giving points depending on how many tiles are directly connected around the church.

The followers are a big part of the strategic thinking the game requires from the players. And since the followers are scarce, one has to be careful with where they are placed. There is not really a “Correct” way to place the followers, it all depends on how lucky you are with your cards and how you can predict future outcomes. There is always a risk placing these followers as the game can change drastically in many ways. Making sure you have a safe city or field are practically free points, but one actually has to find and create these safe locations.

The most interesting system

Playing a few rounds, I got to the conclusion that the city tiles were the most interesting to me. These tiles can be placed if it is connected to a road somehow and will most likely start out very small, but can expand into this giant fortress. Building cities are risky though, because the longer you want to expand it, the bigger the risk of an opponent stealing a part or possibly sabotaging it completely. However, if you do manage to create a huge city, you will haul in a lot of point in one swoop. I found that the best way of building cities is making small ones at the start and creating one city as far away from everything else as possible to avoid possible obstructions for sabotage. Then I would just place followers in each small city that I made, so that I would not be completely destroyed did I not manage to complete the big city.

Target audience

Looking up the recommended age of the game since I played a virtual version of the actual board game, it says “from ten years and up”. I can agree with this, since the game is fairly simple with no text based knowledge needed to play. All you need to know are the rules which basically are “expand”. The act of placing shapes that look that they fit together is also fitting for a younger audience and is most likely appreciated, and it is a good game to play with family or friends.

The game is designed to be played by two to five players, and with each added player the game changes quite a bit. Since more players are active, more strategic thinking is required and more possibilities are available. Sabotage is also more viable and creating small pacts is an effective move for the early segments of the game. But with more players, more chaos follows. Roads are built everywhere and followers are placed rapidly, this makes placement much more important since you are now competing with more players for land. This is only what I experienced however, but I see it as an interesting element on how the game changes with more players.

Summary

Carcassonne is a strategic tile placement game where followers and smart tile placement are the key to victory. It can be played in various ways, going from being very aggressive to being almost completely passive. This dynamic creates a lot of opportunities for cooperation between players and even sabotage and creates a very special game session every time you play it. The game uses a system where people draw tiles on every round, when a tile has been drawn, they can choose to place it or skip their turn. This however is a flawed system in my opinion, since the random element to drawing the tiles can be very frustrating and luck based. There is nothing else that I think is negative however, and it balances very nicely otherwise. The game is fitting for ages of ten and up and can be played by the whole family and/or friends. I do recommend this game strongly.

And that’s my analysis on Carcassonne! until next time. Cheers!

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s