Friday, April 15, 2011

Carcassonne

Photo via waltthewell.com

This is a great game for introducing casual gamers (people that just know of things like Monopoly, LIFE, Scrabble) to the wide world of actually good board games. The mechanics of play are rather simple to pick up and you can play with 2-5 players in 30 to 90 minutes (the more players, the longer it takes). The re-playability is high and there's a slew of decently priced expansions that you can mix and match with the base game when you're ready for new twists. The only con is that it does take up a decent amount of space, about as much as Monopoly or LIFE.

The game has an element of strategy and luck to it that makes it a good game for a mix of skilled players. In the box you'll find 72 tiles (printed with various terrains, roads, and castle walls), a score sheet, and 5 40-piece colored followers. The tiles are placed face down and randomly mixed together, except the starting tile which is place face up in the center of the table. Players then take turns picking tiles from the draw pool and then attaching them to the ever growing game board where the tile fits correctly. When a player places a tile, they can decide if they would place one of their colored followers on that tile, which is what will eventually gain them points. There are 4 different places to place followers on the tiles and only some of those options are available on each tile. Different positions have different advantages and disadvantages, depending on how quickly you can finish the follower's "work" and get him back, and how many points that "work" will earn you. The rules and other websites can explain those positions for you. Just know that it takes a combination of positions throughout the game to get a respectable score and that what that combination is exactly changes with every tile you place. The most complicated part of game play is calculating the scoring at the end. It's a great way to work on math skills, that's for sure.

This game is great for people that aren't afraid of lots of pieces, a little bit a math, and a lot of fun. It tends to be one of those games that people come and watch being played, as every turn has the potential to be a game changer and there's nothing kept secret in player hands - mainly because there is no such thing as a player hand. I've yet to find someone that has not liked this game enough to not play again. As a matter of fact, after purchasing the XBox LIVE version which allows multiple players locally, none of my friends have yet to turn down a game.

Carcassonne on Amazon

Intro Games are like Intro Drugs..

Just like there are "intro drugs" there are "intro games" - Those games that you've never heard of and someone convinces you to play on some idle Tuesday night because you're bored and they keep saying things like "It'll be fun" and "All my other friends love it." You sit down to the table and listen to the rules of the game, wondering what exactly you just got yourself into, while eying the multitude of brightly colored pieces and tiles. You start to think that maybe you're not qualified enough to play this game and enjoy the mechanics and nuances of strategy before finishing up that PhD you've been planning to never get. "It's easy," they assure you. You're not convinced. But then, after the first round of turns and you're told to go again, you suddenly get it. The rules are easy, a bit long-winded, but overall not that complicated once you get started. About halfway through the game you realize you've suddenly come up with a strategy and so you implement it, your competitors still giving you plenty of "new guy" leeway. That is, of course, until there are only 2 rounds left and it's become painfully clear to everyone you're now kicking major butt.

After you're first time playing you'll wonder why you've never played it before. You'll start asking all your friends and family if they've ever heard of it and if not, would they like to play? When you do run into someone that's played before, they'll of course recommend another game, a new, more involved game that you've never heard of but now you just desperately need to try. You'll find out that there are stores out there that sell games that you can't find at Walmart or Target and soon, you'll know the store clerks there on a first name basis. You'll write long-winded reviews online for those games you've played and loved or hated. You'll have become.. addicted.

My shelf has become consumed with table top games. So far my collection includes...
  • Chrononauts (Original and Early American History)
  • Steam
  • Endeavor
  • Ingenious
  • Carcassonne
  • Settlers of Catan (Base and Cities & Knights expansion)
  • Dixit
  • Bananagrams
  • Onirim
  • Bottle Imp
  • Dominion (All of them.. almost)
  • Killer Bunnies
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Red November
  • In a Pickle
Games I own that you've probably heard of:
  • Clue
  • Apples to Apples
  • Cranium
  • Scrabble
  • Monopoly
  • Uno
  • Skippo
  • Risk

These two lists will continue to grow throughout time, I assure you. I already have my next few purchases selected.