Games that you played five or ten times in a year (five and dimes) have been used as a barometer of the board gaming world for years. Here’s what made my five and dime board gaming list in 2011:
Dominion — 19 plays
My winner for the year was Dominion, which made 19 plays, many of those after the releases of Cornucopia and Hinterlands. This also made Dominion my most-played board game ever, with its 94 tabletop plays edging out the 93 plays across all variants of Ticket to Ride.
Welcome to what just might be my last game design article on Carcassonne. In case you’ve missed them I’ve written five previously. The first four extensively covered the main game and its expansions while the last article instead looked at the standalone variants, and examined how their tile selection and scoring differed.
This week I’ll be continuing my look at the six standalone Carcassonne games and taking a look at how each one offers different answers to some major game design questions. I’ve identified three major elements, each of which differs quite a bit from game to game. Examining them offers some interesting insights both into game design and how the Carcassonne series has changed and evolved. Continue reading
Last year I wrote a series on game design articles on the original Carcassonne and the expansions for that game. If you haven’t read them yet, those articles are:
I’ve long intended to to follow those articles with another part or two talking about the game design of the Carcassonne stand-alone games, and now I’ve finally been encouraged to do so by the publication of my Carcassonne overview in Knucklebones Magazine.
So, what are the Carcassonne expansions, and what do they bring to the original game?
This week I’m going to start off by talking about the games, the tile distributions, and scoring, particularly focusing on how changes to the tiles and scoring change the feel of the later games. Then in two weeks I’m going to finish up the topic by talking about more far-reaching rules changes.
This is a reprint of an article written in December, 2006 for first publication in the May, 2007 issue of the now-defunct Knucklebones magazine. Because of its origins, this article is more introductory and (hopefully) more polished than many of my online writings. Despite the original source of this article, this blog is in no way associated with Jones Publishing or Knucklebones Magazine.
In the late 1990s Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, a German music teacher, took a vacation in southern France. He was following the track of the Cathars, a Catholic heresy that flourished in the area in the 12th and 13th centuries. The walled French town of Carcassonne was an obvious stop on Wrede’s pilgrimage because it had been a stronghold of the Cathars until 1209, when the famous crusader Simon de Montfort took the town as part of the Albignesian Crusade.
For most people a stop in Carcassonne would be a memorable event on a vacation but little more. However for Wrede, the town of Carcassonne stayed with him. Long a gameplayer, Wrede now decided to try his hand at designing a game that captured his vision of Medieval Carcassonne. He wanted to create a game “in which … a medieval landscape developed and different power groups fought for influence” (my translation).
I winced when I saw the tile that my opponent had drawn. It showed a tiny road turning into a glorious medieval city, with fields running along the other two edges. It was exactly the tile that she needed, and as she placed it, merging my field to hers, I could imagine her farmers marching across the tile in victory. She’d just won the game.
Unless I could get the tile I needed on my next draw.
The result was Carcassonne, which has now spawned over a dozen sequels that have together sold over half a million copies in the United States alone.
Gaming expansions. They’re a way of life — particularly if your game has just won the SdJ, or alternatively is published by Fantasy Flight Games. (If both happen some day, we can only assume that the expansions will have expansions.)
Frankly, I like expansions, or at least I like the basic theory thereof. If a game is well-designed or otherwise enjoyable, I want to be able to play it more, but on the other hand my constant need for novelty requires me to go out and find new games to play. Expansions for games that I already like meet both needs.
However last weekend while playing The Dunwich Horror, the second and newest expansion for Arkham Horror, I increasingly realized that in my mind some expansions work, and others are, to put it topically, turkeys. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Dunwich Horror, and it’s going to get played again, but I also think that FFG is advancing right down the path that makes me most leary of gaming expansion.
Generally, I categorize gaming expansions into four types: permanent expansions; one-time expansions; replacements; and alternative games. As we’ll see, The Dunwich Horror falls into the first category, and the one I like least.
This is the fourth article in my series about Carcassonne. See part one for a discussion of the base game, part two for a discussion of tile distribution and balance in the expansions and part three for a discussion of cooperation, competition, and theming in the expansions.
There are many ways to expand a successful game system. Ticket to Ride continues to put out new editions of the game, featuring new maps and some new rules, an approach also seen in Empire Builder and other games.
Alhambra continues to publish small, distinct supplements which are easy to put into a game or take out, because they form very different game elements.
The Settlers of Catan has tried both approaches, with standalone games like The Settlers of the Stone Age and also distinct add-ons like The Seafarers of Catan and The Cities & Knights of Catan. It’s also offered semi-new games such as the Historical Scenarios, which are very similar to the standalone variants offered by other systems but reuse game components
Carcassonne, on the other hand, has centered its expansion policy on a different and somewhat dubious method. Hans im Glück just keeps on adding new tiles to the game, which once mixed in are somewhat difficult to pull out, unless you have tile distribution sheets showing you exactly what belongs and what doesn’t. In certain ways, Carcassonne shows how not to expand a game. Because tiles can’t be removed without work, the game keeps getting longer and longer and more and more complex.
This is my third article on the game system of Carcassonne. In case you missed the others, the first article looked at the game design of the core game and the second article analyzed how the early supplements affected balance and tile distribution.
With that out of the way, onward!
I picked up a copy of Carcassonne: The River II in March, and it was the first Carcassonne supplement that I’d bought in some time, due to a variety of factors.
One factor, that’s beyond the scope of this series of articles, was that The Cathars was released exclusively through a German magazine. Because I didn’t want to spend outrageous amounts of money for four tiles I ended up with a gap in my Carcassonne collection, and thus some of the symptoms of The Collector Bug abated.