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Carcassonne: The Wargame

One key to happiness – GAMES

For those of you who think the original Carcassonne game is too simple, soft, slow, or whatever, here is a suggestion. This is actually an inadvertent variation that we have played for four years, simply because we did not understand one of the rules. The one rule change that causes Carcassonne to become a “wargame” is to allow a player to place a meeple on any field, city, or road on the tile he plays, regardless whether it connects to the same type of feature already on the board with a meeple on it. This allows players to constantly compete for the majority of meeples on those features, to win all the points of them, or even to share the points of a very large city or road or a field that touches many completed cities. It is especially cutthroat when played with both the Traders and Builders and the Inns and Cathedrals expansions.

Think of the meeples as paratroopers who drop onto a battlefield about which little is known, because of the fog of war. The soldiers are essentially mapping the area as they arrive and trying to hold or take control of the most valuable cities, roads, and land (fields). As battles are concluded (finished roads or cities), soldiers are returned to base and are available for future deployment. Engineers are available (Builders), as are production units (Pigs), and one paratroop group carries surprisingly effective weapons (the large meeple). Cities with valuable stores (silk cloth, barrels of wine, and grain supplies, as well as the political value of cathedrals) are the most precious targets. Cloisters are even more defendable than Monte Cassino – no other army can take one from you.

The analogy plays out well, especially in cities, where a number of troops frequently gather, to take control of a large metropolis. Valuable transportation systems (roads with inns on lakes) are also frequent targets for combat. Near the end of the game, troops are often dropped into strategic locations in open spaces (fields), to hold as much territory as possible for the final victory.

So, if any wargamers out there want a slightly different challenge, try this variation of Carcassonne, which can include some interesting strategic and tactical decisions. It is a much more lively, confrontational, challenging game, which requires decisions regarding when to avoid a conflict, when to initiate one, and when to call a truce (and allow everyone with troops on the feature to score the points). You can sometimes employ spies, sneak into a city and steal all the valuable stores, while others are battling for control of the city (complete a city, taking the cloth, barrels, and wheat, without having a meeple in it). It just takes a little imagination to make Carcassonne into a conflict simulation, of sorts.

I believe Hunters & Gatherers could become the Battlefield of the Tribes, by making the same rule change. Also, consider playing Carcassonne (or H&G) in teams, allowing team members to combine their troops in cities, roads, and fields (or forests, rivers, and valleys), to outnumber their opponents. There are some intriguing possibilities here.

If you try either game with this simple rule change, let me know what you think. In the meantime, don’t consider Carcassonne to be just a friendly family game. There is much opportunity for confrontation, back-stabbing, negotiating, diplomacy, and other fun, war-like activities waiting for your enjoyment.

— Gerald … near Denver, Colorado; February 2006

aka gamesgrandpa A grandpa who is a mile high on gaming

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February 28, 2006 Posted by | Games | Leave a comment

Games Played February 25, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

It was an interesting family game day Saturday. Sue and I planned a soup lunch for the group, and we fixed four different soups – Tortilla Soup, Tortellini Soup, Baked Potato Soup, and Meatball Stew. All the dishes were big hits, and that was a good start.

Our gaming was a mixture of things from different types of gaming days. Some game days, we play just old favorites; sometimes we try new games; occasionally, all seven of us play a game together. We did all of those things on Saturday, plus we played a game by the correct rules that we have been playing with an incorrect interpretation of the rules, from the first time we played it.

We have been playing Carcassonne incorrectly for four years! Somehow, we misread, misunderstood, misinterpreted, or just missed the rule that does not allow a player to place a meeple on a road, city, or field, if the tile with that feature connects directly to the same feature on another tile on which a meeple already resides. We cannot imagine how we misinterpreted that rule, since it is quite clearly stated and has illustrations to explain it. We play Hunters & Gatherers with that rule, correctly, but we just never re-checked the Carcassonne rules to be certain we were playing correctly. So, we played it by the printed rules, and it became quite a different game for us. It was a calmer, quieter, less boisterous game, which I will describe in more detail in another article. Results: Katrina – first; Sue – second; Mason – third; me – fourth; Joel – fifth; Dan – sixth.

Natalia joined us for a seven-player game of Bohnanza. I am always surprised by Natalia’s play in this game. It’s one of the very few games she will play with all of us, although she does play other games with her parents and brother at home. She is a very quiet person who does not get loud in this game. She seldom competes aggressively for a trade, but does make and accept offers; she is not “pushy.” We hardly notice that she is quietly accumulating gold during the game. It’s fun for all of us, and we have begun playing it more often, because it is fun having everyone involved. Results: Dan – first; Natalia, Sue, me – tied for second; Mason and Katrina – tied for fifth; Joel – seventh.

The new game we broke out was Station Master. This game is fun, in my opinion. It accommodates six players, so Joel played with us. The rules are simple, but the gameplay is challenging. Railroad car cards (called carriages), which have different values, are added to locomotive cards, to form trains. The number on the locomotive indicates the total number of car cards which can be added to that train. When that number is reached, the train is complete. The train is scored, and the cards are removed from the game. When all the locomotives have been removed, the game ends. In addition to adding cars to the trains, with the same number of trains being loaded simultaneously as there are players in the game, players also may add passenger tokens to the trains (choosing to play either a card or a token in each turn). The tokens represent either 1, 2, or 3 passengers, with the number hidden by playing the token number-side-down. The number on the locomotive card also indicates the maximum number of passenger tokens that may be placed on the train. There are some special cards that allow players to move cars from one train to another, to move passenger tokens from one train to another, to remove cars from trains completely, to complete a train at any time (Caboose card), etc. Scoring is a simple matter of adding the positive and negative numbers on the various train cars and multiplying that result times the number of passengers each player has assigned to the train. Obviously, players try to build high-value trains where they have multiple passengers assigned and low or negative-value trains where they have no passengers assigned. The scoring is added continuously, as each train is completed, so players can see who is leading, which is usually the person for whom other players attempt to create negative-score trains. We noticed that the lead changed frequently, sometimes by major amounts. It is an intriguing game that plays very quickly – about 30 minutes for the six of us. I believe everyone enjoyed it, and I expect we will play it several times a year. Results: Dan – 203; Katrina – 186; Sue – 173; me – 167; Mason – 158; Joel – 141.

The fourth game we played was the old stand-by – Settlers of Catan. Hardly a game day goes by that we don’t play this game. We enjoy playing with six players, although the board gets congested in the middle, usually. I like having the development cards, among which a player may acquire some of the ten victory points required for a win, without the other players being aware of how close that player is to winning. Although the two victory points, each, for the longest road and the most soldiers (largest army) sometimes seem almost over-balancing, they are points that can change hands during the game. It’s a good scoring mechanic that works. It was a close game. Results: Mason 10; Joel, Katrina, me – 9; Dan, Sue – 8.

It was a bit of an unusual game day for us, but was fun, as always. The list of un-played new games in the house continues to diminish. I’m still eagerly looking forward to Hacienda, Alhambra, Cartagena, and Australia.

— Gerald … near Denver, Colorado; February 2006

aka gamesgrandpa A grandpa who is a mile high on gaming

February 28, 2006 Posted by | Games | Leave a comment