Carcassonne: The Castle
English language edition of Carcassonne: Die Burg
List Price: $29.95
Your Price: $23.99
(Worth 2,399 Funagain Points!)
from 16 customer reviews
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The imposing silhouette of Carcassonne sits like a throne in the light of the setting sun. The city also acts as a fortress, protecting those who live there with its impenetrable walls. Visit the city to discover its many features and to learn why it is so magnificent.
Carcassonne: the Castle is an exciting tile-laying competition between two players. Inside the castle walls, the city grows as the players place tiles and their followers: knights to guard the towers, heralds to spread the news, and merchants to sell their wares in the markets. The player who makes better use of his followers will lead the race around the castle wall, which is also the scoring track for the game. There are several items waiting on the castle wall for the first player to reach them. Each will prove useful to the player who acquires them.
This edition is a great twist on a fun game. When my cousin and his family moved away they took my best game players with them. But Carcassonne Castle is great for my husband and me. It's similar to Carcassonne with some twists.
In recent years I have started to change my outlook on games and gaming. At one point I owned literally dozens of games, some of which were played regularly and some simply gathered dust. Over time I determined the dusty games were best suited for EBay, and I reduced my collection to roughly twenty games which consistently find their way to the table.
These days when I ponder a new game purchase (and I still buy a fair share) my first consideration is always "Will I actually play it"? Carcassonne The Castle has risen to near the top of my current top-20 list for that simple reason - I play it a lot. There are already very good reviews of this game already, my contributions to these include the following....
1) This is meatier than regular Carcassonne, but not much. This is a pretty good portal game for newbies precisely because you can teach it one-on-one.
2) The game plays in just under an hour for experienced players. This in and of itself makes it a clear winner for me - I have a buddy that games and works nearby and we pull this out at least once a week over lunch. Now that's time well spent.
3) It is by far the best two-player game of Carcassonne for those who like the series (I can take or leave the original, I really enjoy Hunters and Gatherers).
4) It's worth the money.
5) Get a Crown Royal bag for the tiles. It's a nice touch. I use a mini Crown Royal Bag for the scoring tiles and playing pieces. You can get these cheap from EBay. In fact, get a CR bag for any game with tiles, including any game in this series, Ra, etc.
Carcassonne: Keep `em Comin' seems to be the theme for this franchise design by Klaus Jrgen Wrede. Extra tiles, stand-alone games, biblical adaptations, and now even the great Reiner Knizia hops on the bandwagon to design a two-player version using the tried and true place-a-tile, place-a-follower system. This time, the building is constrained within the walls of the castle and not surprisingly when you pair a great game system with a great designer you get a game that works wonderfully.
As a Counter reader you certainly are familiar with Carcassonne: The Basics, so no need for telling you the foundational ideas in the game. The castle walls are created in jigsaw-puzzle like manner from 10 pieces that fit together creating 14 right-angle corners. A scoring track runs around the outside and encloses 76 spaces for 60 total tiles. Players can score for building houses and towers, constructing completed paths, and being merchants at the game end. Paths work like roads in the basic game, except that paths which hold a fountain score two per tile rather than one. Also, path branches do not always break the path, so it is possible to have multiple ends to close off before scoring.
Towers score like cities, in that a completed tower scores two per tile. Houses are built in the same way, but score only one per tile. A special piece, called the keep, marks the largest house completed by each player and at game end the player with their keep on the largest house gets a special bonus. Since there are always 16 spaces left at the game's end, the player with the best keep scores one point for each missing tile in the largest unfilled space. Merchants are like farmers, and score three points for each market that they serve. The standard Carcassonne rules of placement apply, meaning that one of six followers is placed on a tile immediately after the tile is placed, and once a path, house, tower, or market is manned no other follower can join in directly.
Other than the modest differences in standard scoring options and the clever 'keep' idea, The Castle incorporates two ideas that give the game a new feel. The first is that the only tile placement restriction is that paths must connect. This means that houses, towers, and markets can abruptly end and at first this both feels and looks odd. However, given the constraint of the playing surface this is quite valid and it allows the ability to quickly recycle followers or hold out for the huge score. The second idea is the wall tiles. Fifteen of 20 tiles are placed on the corners of the castle at the beginning of the game. Each corner holds two spaces on the track; for example spaces 12 and 13 form one corner while spaces 82 and 83 form another. These wall tiles are all helpful and add flavor to the scoring. By landing on either of the two spaces making up the corner, you take the tile and place it face up in front of you. Thus, while creating scoring opportunities you often are looking for specific amounts in order to collect the wall tiles before your opponent. This too encourages follower recycling and multiple, smaller scorings versus fewer large scorings.
The wall tiles, as stated, are all helpful. In this game, features not completed at game end do not score at all. With the right wall tile, however, you can score an incomplete house, tower, or path. Some of the tiles improve the scoring potential: double the value for a completed house or tower, and four versus three points for each market in your farm. One tile is worth five points on its own, another allows you to take two turns in a row, and a final tile acts as two tiles added to your largest house when determining values for the keep bonus.
The result of these ideas is a familiar yet fresh game. The wall tiles, flexible placement, and keep battles all must be considered and yet there is somewhat of a 'Can't Stop' mentality when deciding to cut off the house or tower versus continuing it for a larger score later. Most versions of Carcassonne play very well with two players, and yet being specifically designed for two makes the Castle even better balanced and tight. The Carcassonne juggernaut seems to be strong as ever, and while it seems that the ideas should have run out by now it is nice to see at least one more nice adaptation.