Carcassonne: The Castle

Carcassonne is a game where I wonder where if it really started out as innocently as one might think. It’s a game about placing tiles to construct pictures, essentially, with tactics, strategy, tile-counting underlying that to tickle the mechanical monkeys. It’s fun and clearly has staying power, given the variety of expansions and variations published since the first set hit in 2000. Some of those expansions make less sense than others. The Catapult, for example.

For a while, I thought Carcassonne: The Castle fell towards the “gzuh?” end of the spectrum. The regular game plays just fine with two. Why would one need a variation that can only play two? Having played The Castle twice now, I can see the attraction of how the variation plays, but it’s more like a quirky, specialized implement rather than the sturdy workhorse that is Carcassonne: good once in a while in specific circumstances, but not a go-to option.

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[Tuesday Night Board Games] The Stars Are Right During Red November

Alex, Brennan and Sarah (left to right) vigorously compete to summon their Great Old One of choice.

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn

It’s been far too long since I rode in the demo saddle as a Man in Black, going back to Carnage in November. Steve Jackson Games published a number of new titles since then, the first of which being The Stars Are Right. Players manipulate a five by five grid of tiles called the sky. They push, flip and swap tiles to create specific constellations of celestial objects. For, you see, when the stars are right, squamous beings from beyond time and space can enter our world. The more complicated a constellation required to summon a creature, the more victory points it’s worth, right up to the Great Old Ones themselves, worth four points apiece. The Great Old Ones have their servitors, of course, which can help make summoning one of the big bads easier by providing bonus symbols, making their constellation requirements less stringent.

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[Tuesday Night Board Games] Quest for the Talisman

Mega City Carcassonne completed, thanks to Cedric.

Tonight at Quarterstaff, I got two games in. The first was intended as a “quick” game of Carcassonne while we waited for other folks to turn up. To that end, we declared there wouldn’t be any farmers. Unfortunately, that was more than counteracted by the unknown number of expansions mixed in with the store’s copy of the game. In addition to enough extra river tiles for a whole second branch, the store copy also has bits from Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders and King & Scout, if not more.

Thanks at least in part to players not tying up meeples in farming, it turned out to be a city-intensive game. The megalopolis you see to the right came about of at least four of the five players working to either score points, screw others over by making the thing difficult to complete or just see how big we could get the thing — which was my own goal.

It was touch and go for a while as the tile bag emptied out and all the pieces we needed to finish the city were pulled by players more interested in maximizing their own scores than just fooling around. Cedric drew the final tile to complete the city and placed it, despite having only two meeples of his own in the city. Without really thinking about it, I wound up with a majority on the feature, mostly due to placing my pieces on cities that at the time seemed separate, but eventually became part of the urban sprawl. The thing was worth 130 plus points in the end, I think. It doesn’t seem fair to claim it as a personal best though, because we were mostly just fooling around. I was, anyway.

By the time we finished that “short” game, another group had blown through an entire play of Ticket to Ride: Europe, which surprised me when I looked up from the table. Next to us, Brennan was drawing Sascha, John and Nonnie into a demo of Megacorps while the usual suspects clustered together for another round of Le Havre. Luke pounced on Nonnie’s vintage copy of Talisman — printed 1985, going by the copyright on the box — and I eagerly followed along. Until tonight, I had only heard other peoples’ reactions to the quest game, usually polarized into camps of “simple and boring” to “flavorful and fun.” So I was eager to have some experiences of my own to draw on in making an opinion.

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