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Carolus Magnus
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Carolus Magnus

English language edition

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 30-45 minutes 2-4

Designer(s): Leo Colovini

Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Venice Connection

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Product Description

The players are Charlemagne's heirs -- hence in constant conflict with each other. Here he has asked them to build castles in some of his favorite territories. But to do this they must seek and then maintain for as long as possible the support of the five powerful clans of nobles, the paladins (represented by colored cubes) which administer the Emperor's lands. But then the players on their side can dispose of exceptional tactical resources. One is that they decide themselves the order in which they move. Another, that they can determine how far the Emperor travels, which is crucial, since castles can only be built in his presence. And when castles are built in neighboring territories, these territories can be joined, so that, as the game progresses, great domains are formed, defended by four, five and more castles.... In the end, to win the game and gain the Emperor's favor -- and perhaps even the right of succession -- a player must have built 10 castles.

Product Awards

Spiel des Jahres
Finalist, 2000
Deutscher Spiele Preis
8th place, 2000

Product Information

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Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.3 in 12 reviews

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A unique and challenging gaming experience
June 02, 2003

Few games change their feathers quite like Carolus Magnus, which plays quite differently depending on the numbers of players. The 2 player game tends to be chess-like, and the 4-player game (played as partners) affords makes it possible for one side to make bold moves by bidding so to have both players play in succession --- sort of like letting a baseball team bat in both halves of an innning (Of course, that means the opposing partnered pair will also get back-to-back turns, so beware!). Preventing this possibility adds a lot more thinking into each round of bidding.

It is probably best as a 3-player game, in my opinion, offering a wider array of options each turn.

The game seems to accelerate as land tiles (castles) are merged, thus shrinking the board and usually making each successive merging even more dramtic than the last. However, clever play (and a little luck) can instantly turn an opponent's seemingly awesome cluster of castles into a vulnerable target for conversion to your side. Experienced players can change the situation almost every turn. It's not unusual to see victory snatched from the jaws of defeat by brilliant play.

I find Carolus Magnus extremely challenging because the power balance can change in a heartbeat. To minimize the impact of changes, one must plan defensively as well as offensively. Deciding how much more of one and less the other is part of the fun in the design.

And the components are beautifully crafted and quite functional.

I highly recommend this game for those seeking a very unique strategic gaming experience.

by Marc
Rolling with the changes is the key to winning.
July 18, 2002

What do you keep, what do you sacrifice. Or better yet how long do you retain a certain colors control before changing your strategy to ditch certain colors while merging more 'islands'? How can the colored 'paladins' and/or 'court' markers of your opponents effect and/or threaten your power base on the board? The key to winning this game is indeed within an abstract thought process. It's not important to dominate control of any color forever per se, but to constantly rotate your strategy. This can't be explained in a review so you'll have to work it out when you play this great multi-tiered abstract strategy game. I will now try El Grande since the reviews before mine have been so favorable towards it. Carolus is a GREAT GAME though!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! 5 STARS!!!

One of the best 3-player games available
June 28, 2001

Carolus Magnus is an unassuming little game that owes a debt of gratitude to the masterwork of [page scan/se=0040/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]El Grande. While considerably lighter than El Grande, Carolus Magnus manages to have quite a bit of the same feel as its spiritual ancestor.

There are some real innovations in Carolus Magnus, the most important being the joining of the various 'islands' into larger and larger kingdoms. Once entrenched, it is hard to displace a player. When it happens, though, watch out. Huge shifts in power can occur with almost every turn of the game.

One of my former co-workers swears this is the best game he has ever played. While my praise is not quite so resounding, I do feel it is a very good game for those not put off by its abstraction.

One of the most important aspects of the game is that it works extremely well for three players. Most games are designed with either 2 or 4 players in mind, with the middle number receiving short shrift. Carolus Magnus can be played by 2 or 4 as well, but it really seems at its best with three players fighting over these little islands.

Two thumbs up.

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