Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Adam and Nate Review Carcassone

In the latest Roll 2d6 podcast we get a pretty good over view of Carcassone by a couple of seasoned gamers.  I find it interesting that the blurb for their site that’s returned by Google emphasizes the fact that these dudes occasionally throw in some Car Wars material on thier show.  Oh yeah… like that fact’s really gonna help Google pull in more ad revenue.  Like 80% of their listeners wait with baited breath for the next Car Warsreference from these two guys….  Heh.  (Well… it’s why I listen to the show.)  At any rate, it’s evident that whoever is getting tapped for these Google blurbs is as obsessed with Car Wars as I am.

Anyways… I’ve covered Carcassone in previous blog entries… though I notice that the Wikipedia page does a better job of summarizing the key tactics of the game.  I’ve played several games of it in the past few months and have a few thoughts to add in.

As Adam and Nate so humorously put it, Carcassone is a great “gateway game.”  It’s short playing time of 45 minutes combined with it’s attractive pieces and simple rules make it very accessible.  You can’t always find people to play Ogre and Car Wars… and Carcassone can keep you gaming when you’re stuck with less-than-geeky people.  While Settlers of Catan‘s similarity to the classic M.U.L.E. makes it highly intriguing to myself, it’s just a little bit too consuming to work as a game to be played with “normal” people.

I’ve ended up playing Carcassonne as a two player game quite a bit.  I’m used to crushing the typical non-gaming sort of player… but after getting whipped 5 times in a row by a new player, I begin to suspect my tactical skills are lacking.  I believe I think way too much like an accountant… and not near enough like a warrior.  Being a good accountant has caused me win more than my fair share of autodueling events… but I notice that my neanderthal-style just-play-for-material approach to chess puts a distinct limit on my potential rating in that game.

I agree with Adam and Nate that the score board in Carcassonne leaves much to be desired– the final game that I lost ended in grumbling over whether or not one player had scored over 50 points or under 50 points.  It was late at night and I’ll never know if I really lost or not.  How aggravating!

One thing we noticed was that the player that goes first has a big advantage in that they can play a farmer before anyone else.  This gives that player a strong advantage in scoring the central farm at the end of the game– and as we were playing Winner-Goes-First, I have to wonder if this fact is enough to completely unbalance 2 player Carcassone.  Or maybe I really am that bad….

We quickly switched to playing with the river expansion and also with The Count of Carcassone.  The Count completely changes the dynamic of the game as he allows people to “pin” the other players… and then win not so much by scoring but by preventing other people from scoring.  This makes for a risky game… as any attempt to score a section with The Count in play opens up an opportunity for the other players to pin you.  This makes the tactics much more difficult to ascertain… and the usual “Accountant” mindset becomes irrelevant.

At any rate… keep an eye out for upcoming Roll 2d6 podcasts.  These guys are smart, humorous, and put out a well-produced show.  And don’t forget to comb through their back log looking for Car Wars references.  (The show is named for the 2d6 to hit rolls from Car Wars, by the way….  So don’t miss it!)

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