Carcassonne: The Discovery
English language edition of Carcassonne: Neues Land
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This is the newest, and, as many of us at Funagain believe, the best of the Carcassonne game series. Carcassonne: The Discovery is a stand alone game, not an expansion, and Funagain Games is the exclusive source of the English version of this game (the only other copies of this game in the US are available only in the German edition).
The rules are brief and an enclosed, separate score chart summarizes the scoring, allowing you to begin playing in a very short time (probably 5 minutes if you have played the basic Carcassonne game previously). Carcassonne: The Discovery is a great game for experienced game-players to introduce their friends to the world of gaming in a simple yet strategic format that is family-friendly and comfortable for players of all levels.
The plot of the game is that the people of the Carcassonne region have decided to expand to distant lands. The players explore and discover the geography of the surrounding area, facing the dangers of the sea and the mountains and exploring the vast grasslands. The skill and strategy of the players exploring these new territories and their approach to controlling them by deploying their followers as brigands, navigators, and explorers will determine who is victorious.
Unlike the original Carcassonne game, regions are not automatically scored when completed. In a strategic twist unique to this game, you get to choose when your regions score. They are worth more if they are completed vs. left incomplete, but to complete them requires precious time and resources, so when do you choose to score your regions and free up the scarce and always-needed "meeples"?
From award-winning game designer Alan R. Moon:
You get the idea -- now get the game!
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This version is the best I have see so far, as it makes you adjust your game plans in many different ways, and with so few people to put on or pull off the game, it makes for some very interesting choices on how to play.
I really enjoyed how simple yet fun with some advanced concepts this game was.
Experienced Carcassonne players may find this game "too simple", as there are fewer strategic choices than in the original game, but the variety of scoring opportunities and the tight budgeting of follower placment keep the game interesting. Players new to Carcassonne -- or those in the US who are still using the old field scoring rules -- will appreciate the straightforwardness of the scoring process. Scoring is now by follower (no majority rules), rather than by feature, and occurs only during the game (no end-game scoring). Follower turnover is also much faster (which is good thing since each player now has only 4, rather than 7) because features can be scored regardless of whether they are complete (though incomplete features score less). Scoring is always optional (completed features need not be scored) but players must now choose between placing a new follower, and scoring one already on the board.
Far from being a replacement for Carcassonne, or even an improvement, The Discovery simply adds a new member to the family: the focus here is on faster, more tactical play; the new dynamics created by the opportunity to share, rather than steal, high-value features; and the tradeoff between scoring and placing new followers.
But the question is, does this new Carcasonne stand on its own as a great game? For me the answer is absolutely. Although the rules are simple, there are a lot of implication that will take many plays to really figure out.
As for Carcasonne's cutthroat side (ie, kicking someone off of their feature by carefully placing followers), that's basically gone. That makes this game a little nicer, but it does not mean there's less strategy. Because multiple followers on a feature each get points, you are motivated to try to "get on board" someone else's feature, if that feature is proving to be a very valuable one.
You can also get points for incomplete features (ie, even before the end of the game), so that completely changes things.
So for me it seems obvious that the only people who might not like this game are those that have played the previous versions of Carcasonne and don't want to see major changes. For anyone playing this game without having played the previous versions, there's no doubt that they will say it is a great game. And it is.