English language edition
List Price: $39.95
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from 12 customer reviews
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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.
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 30 - 45 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,000 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English).
Average Rating: 4.3 in 12 reviews
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.
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!!!
I was very hestitant to purchase this game, I am not into ABSTRACT games... but this game is brilliant and it is not as complex as it seems. I love the way board dominance can switch so quickly... keep your eyes on the other players. I have only played this with two players and fell in love with it. It seems like it is much better with three, but four players seems tacked on by merketing :) ...you have to share pieces and I don't think it will work. There are elemenets of El Grande in here; if you like El Grande, have a look at Carolus Magnus.
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As you'll learn from this game, Charlemagne was a well-traveled emperor. Control the five colors and prepare for his incessant series of visits! Fifteen islands form a circle, with the emperor on one. Mix three of each color of paladins (cubes) and randomly place one on each island. Turns begin with seven cubes randomly determined by die rolls. You allocate three per turn to the islands, or your Control Card; you control a color by accumulating more cubes on it than any opponent. End by moving the emperor. If he visits an island where you control a majority of cubes, build a castle there or replace an enemy castle with yours. Adjacent islands with friendly castles join it to form one larger island. Placing your 10 castles, or having the majority when fewer than four islands remain, wins. A neat twist in the determination of who goes first each turn adds to the depth of this fast-paced challenger.
The game resembles several others, but plays like none of them. At first sight the "board" looks like a series of those overlays that Squad Leader affectionados produced. These small islands are all covered by hexes and without looking at the rules you might assume that the board is created by joining up these islands into one mass. In fact, the islands are placed in a circle and pawns are placed on the islands. Ownership of the islands is gained through the placement of small cubes, which represent knights. The King moves from island to island, in order to rule on who controls the island, in a manner a bit like the King in El Grande. As his Royal presence attends the island, control is considered. Ownership of the coloured cubes is assessed and the new owner established by marking the island with one of that player's castles.
Exactly who is in charge of each colour of knights is decided by examining each player's court, where cubes are lined up against a particular colour. The person with the most in a colour owns that colour, rather as in X-Pasch. The winner is the person who manages to get 10 fortresses on the board, or the most when the number of islands falls to three.
Each turn, the player will roll a number of dice, which generate the colour and number of knights (cubes) produced. The player has to determine which ones to
- save in a store for future use;
- add to his court, in order to increase or wrest control of a particular colour; or
- place as knights on the island provinces.
A turn token is played which determines turn order and (on your turn) the maximum number of spaces that the King could move on his island tour. When a player gains control of an island, a fortress is received, which adds to that person's strength, and any other fortresses that were present are converted into the new owner. In addition, if a player controls two adjacent island provinces, these are merged into one larger island. There was some debate recently on the Internet about whether this was optional, but the conclusion of this was that this was mandatory even though in some circumstances it could be beneficial to keep them separate.
The designer notes recommend that you play with 2 players first, then 4 players (who operate in partnership), then 3 players for the ultimate struggle. I have tried the game only with 3 players and while we found the game interesting, in that the systems worked, the game options were clear, it is not great fun. So it is aimed at the more studious end of the market, except that you cannot make long term plans because you have to see how the board develops before making your decision. Enjoyable and a game worth adding to your collection, but I would appreciate knowing how others felt with the 2 and 4 player options.