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.
This is the way I believe Carcassonne should be. I like the original a lot, and I still play it whenever it is suggested, but for me there were a couple of flaws in the original game: First, it was possible, just by a lucky draw, for an opponent to take away all the points you were going to get from a castle or road you had spent a lot of time building up. And second, once one of your "meeples" on the board was rendered useless, there was no way you could get it back to use again, other than by waiting (forever, it sometimes seemed) to draw that one lucky tile. In both cases you can be hosed by a lucky draw by an opponent or lack of a lucky draw by you.
Carcassonne: The Discovery solves these two problems very neatly. It is now no longer possible for an opponent to take away all points from one of your pieces, since all pieces in an area score points, not just the player with the majority of pieces in an area. And you no longer have to wait for a lucky draw in order to take your pieces back. You may choose to do that (and score points for that piece) on any of your turns. Both problems solved simply and elegantly!
I must tell you that some of the people I played with weren't as pleased with the game as I was. In fact some of them said this game ruined the Carcassonne experience: "Sucked all the fun out of it." They didn't explain to me what it was about the game they disliked, so I can't explain to you why they didn't enjoy it. But be aware that there are people who have serious problems with this version.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I will go ahead and give it five stars, and leave it up to those who found it lacking to tell their reasons and give it a lower rating in their reviews.
I love strategy games like Railroad Tycoon, Acquire, and Settlers of Catan. Sometimes you want something a little lighter for a less competitive crowd. (It's not good to play too many cutthroat- style games with your wife.)
When I read about this version of Carcassonne, it seemed just right -- a little strategy, a friendly theme, easy scoring, pleasing to the eye, yet with rewards for thinking ahead.
And I was right. This was exactly what I wanted to add to my game collection. It is great for casual friends and nights just with the wife too.
I love this game! This game was my first introduction to the Carcassonne series (it is not compatible with and does not integrate with the original Carcassonne). My wife and I played it all the time, and have taught it to our 9 and 7 year old kids (although it is challenging for them, they are getting better each time). Since then we have bought the original Carcassonne and the add-on with the pigs, but this is still our favorite. Carcassonne Discovery seems to go faster, is more straightforward, and is simpler and easier to score, yet no less rich strategically. It does require concentration, but the great thing is that the rules are simple. The downsides is that we seem to run out of tiles too fast for what we want to do (but of course part of the strategy is that you must be careful not to overextend). Another part of the strategy is that often you may actually score better by setting tiles collaboratively, so you end up trying to use a good deal of persuasion to influence your opponents. Often the persuasion becomes very vocal and loud, making this a very interactive game! The game becomes very exciting toward the end as you approach your last tiles.
We have also modified the rules so that you always have two tiles in your hand for your next turn right after you play; that way you are looking at multiple scenarios and it makes the game move fast.
When my wife are looking for a game to play by ourselves, this is almost always the one we choose.
Carcassonne was the first Eurogame we purchased after being exposed to Settlers of Catan. We went into a game shop that sadly, was going out of business. They didn't have any copies of Settlers left, but they did have a bundle of Carcassonne with a couple of expansions. We really fell in love with the game and ended up purchasing the two player Castle version and the Princess and Dragon expansion.
When Carcassonne: the Discovery was announced, I was intrigued and decided to purchase a copy. It was certainly familiar, but also different, and different in a very wonderful way. The new methods of scoring and the increased level of meeple management add a freshness to the series that makes the original seem somehow less refined. The games are tight and quick, with more thought required than the original.
It's hard not to evaluate this game without referring to the original. But it stands on its own and should be a part of any gamer's collection. If you're already experienced with Carcassonne, this version will make a wonderful addition and will take very little time to learn. If you're someone looking for your first or second Eurogame, this would make a wonderful introduction to the genre.
The previous reviewer says this is the best of the series. I think it's a great game yes (4 stars), but best of the series? I don't know. What I do know is that there are a few changes from the basic game mechanics. Namely the ability to either score an unfinished feature, or to score a finished feature at a time of your own choosing. Makes for some interesting decision making during the game. The other bonus to this new mechanic is, if you have a meeple that is blocked (or "fudgied" as me and my friends call it) then you can pull him back to your supply once you realize he can no longer score for you. For those of you familiar with the original game, once you get a meeple stuck, it can be a huge handicap for you. So this new game mechanic can help you out of a potentially crippling move.
The mechanics (other than the new scoring rules) are otherwise the same as the base Carcassonne game, Mountains replace Castles, Grasslands replace Farms, and Oceans replace Roads. Meeples can be deployed as Brigands (Mountains), Explorers (Grasslands) and Navigators (Oceans). Tile placement is the same as in Carcassonne, in that like features must match like features, mountain to mountain, ocean to ocean etc. and meeples can only be placed in an "empty" feature. However majority scoring no longer applies, meaning that if I have 1 meeple to your 3 meeples in the same feature I can still score. You however can now score for each meeple on successive turns, potentially scoring 3x the amount for that feature. Scoring is a little different, but still similar to the original, and will take you only 1 game to figure out, if you are familiar with the original. But make sure you know when to score your meeples, at the game end all features are scored as if UN-finished, even if IT IS finished, potentially loosing you some points. Strategies are similar but there are some added nuances as stated above.
My only caveat is that this game does not give you the 50/100 scoring markers for exceptional players. It needs them, the potential to score multiple times for multiple meeples in a feature give the player a chance to circumnavigate the scoring track several times. First game I played with my friend Kevin was 97 (Kevin) to 47 (Me) we had to borrow them from Hunters & Gatherers to keep track. And, YES!!!! I lost the first game on MY new Carcassonne Discovery! I can already see the expansions for this game. The admiral, works like a builder, place him in your ocean, when you build on that ocean, you draw a new tile and go again. The Robber Baron, place him in the Mountain and score 1 point for each mountain tile as well as 2 for each city attached to it. And finally the larger Expedition Leader (Looks like a double meeple but acts differently) put him in a grassland and score 2 for each grassland tile, plus 1 for every city attached to it. That's my prediction for the expansions.
Best of the series? I still can't qualify that reviewers point of view, but I'll say this.... I have every version of Carcassonne except for The City, and The Ark variants. I also have every expansion for the Original game and I must say that in general, the entire series IS one of the best games I've ever played. You can't go wrong in buying this game. Look for the expansions too, we'll see if my predictions are close.
About once a month, I see someone bemoaning the massive amount of Carcassonne spin-offs and expansions on the internet. Why someone would complain about more of a great game is beyond me, so I tend to ignore them as I snag each new copy of one of the greatest games ever made. Carcassonne: the Discovery (Rio Grande Games and Funagain Games, 2005 - Leo Colovini and Klaus-Jurgen Wrede) was the first I had ever shied away from, though - since I'm not a huge fan of the majority of Mr. Colovini's games. I find them too abstract and simply lacking "fun" to be enjoyable.
But I'm sorry I waited so long to pick up Carcassonne: the Discovery, because it is an excellent game in its own right. It still plays off the basic Carcassonne game mechanics but adds in a few dimensions and can even act as a "gateway" game. Players have a few choices, but they can be excruciating to make; yet tile laying is a bit easier. Carcassonne: the Discovery is all about scoring, or more importantly, when to score. That, combined with some very nice artwork, makes Carcassonne: the Discovery a very worthy game to pick up - whether or not you enjoy the original game.
Each player is given four "meeples" (wooden people) in their color with a fifth meeple placed on a scoring track. Eighty-four tiles are shuffled together and placed in face down piles near the board with a designated tile being placed face up as the starting tile. Each tile shows a mixture of three different terrains: grassland, mountain, and sea with port cities occasionally included between the sea and grassland/mountain. One player is chosen to go first, and play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they simply flip the top tile from one of the stacks and place it on the board, so that each side of the new tile matches all sides of tiles currently on the board. The player then can either deploy a meeple or score an existing meeple on the board. When placing a meeple, the player may place it in one of the areas on the tile they just placed, as long as there is no meeple of any color in another tile that is connected to the same area. For example, I can place my meeple in the grasslands on a tile, as long as there are no other meeples in that specific grasslands on the table.
When scoring, a player removes a meeple from the board and scores
points received from the area the meeple resides in. Points for an
area differ depending on whether the area is "completed" or not. An
area is completed if it is completely surrounded by the other two
areas. Scoring occurs thusly:
- Players receive one point per tile for each incomplete grassland area.
- Players receive two points per tile for each complete grassland area.
- For incomplete mountain areas, players score one point for each city in the mountain area, as well as one point for each city in adjacent grassland areas.
- For complete mountain areas, players score two points for each city rather than one.
- For each incomplete sea area, players score one point for each port city in that sea.
- For each complete sea area, players score one point for each port city, and one point for each tile making up the sea area.
- Any completed area of any terrain type that consists only of two tiles counts as "incomplete" when scored.
Players move their scoring marker accordingly whenever they score an area - removing the meeple there. If for some reason a territory has more than one meeple because of tiles laid down to connect areas, then both players can score from that territory on their turn.
Play proceeds until the last tile is placed, at which point the game ends. Any meeple still on the board is scored, but they all count as "incomplete", even if the area they are in is complete. The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: I'll start by mentioning that I wish they had included some way to mark that a player has passed fifty points (it's happened in every games I've played); but other than that, the components of the game are absolutely terrific. The tiles are thick and easy to handle; and each one shows unique artwork on it, keeping similarities between the different areas, but not so much that the game looks forced. Once finished, the tiles form a group of islands and continents that really look good on the table. The meeples are different than the meeples of other games - as they have a different shaped head; there was a lot of speculation in my group as to what exactly it was (I think it was a stocking cap.) Everything fits inside a cardboard insert that fits inside a nicely illustrated box that is the same size as all the other Carcassonne boxes - small and sturdy.
2.) Rules: The rulebook is four pages that very clearly explains (with full color examples and illustrations) how to play the game. The rules for the game are fairly simple, although I find myself having to explain the scoring rules several times to new players. Fortunately, the game includes several scoring aids, which show all nine ways that something can be scored - with pictorial explanations of scoring. This still isn't intuitive to players (I had one player who had to have scoring explained to her almost a dozen times), but it helps most folk.
3.) Meeples: The limited amount of meeples is a point players will have to deal with the entire game - it never seems as if you have enough. Players will often score an incomplete area just to get a meeple back, because one simply cannot afford to fall behind the leader in points. Placing a meeple in an area that you know won't be finished can also be a good tactic just to remove them on the next turn for a few points, since every point counts. It is a bit annoying (although humorous to others) to remove a meeple from an area that "will never be completed" - only to see it finished by a tile from another player the following turn.
4.) Competition: Unlike regular Carcassonne, the competition between players is slightly less pronounced in this game, because meeples do not actively compete in a territory - only share in the points for it. Because of this, the "Screwage" factor is lower than other versions of Carcassonne - and this will please/displease you depending on how much you enjoy direct confrontation. This doesn't mean that players are playing a solitaire game at all; players can still mess one another up by their placement of new tiles. Still, it's more of a friendly game than the original version.
5.) Scoring: As I mentioned, scoring may seem convoluted to new players, but it's rather quite simple. Each of the three areas seems equal in points; but I usually see seas as scoring the most points, although to get a good one set up takes a bit of work. Grasslands, on the other hand, are usually a player's best bet, as they score the most points when incomplete - one per tile. Still, with only three options to choose from, it's not like players will sit there for hours, trying to figure out what to do next. Place a meeple or score. Place a meeple or score. Place a meeple or score. Etc., etc.
6.) Fun Factor: Carcassonne: the Discovery will appeal to those who enjoy placing and connecting the tiles; this is something that I have seen many folk enjoy - especially those who like jigsaw puzzles. It is simple, has satisfactory results, and even a bit of confrontation but not too much to annoy those shy to such a thing. Games last about an hour, and scores remain fairly close (usually) to keep things exciting to the end. Sometimes games are decided by when a player scores, and waiting too long to score a big area might have it count as "incomplete" by game's end.
7.) Comparison: Will fans of "vanilla" Carcassonne enjoy this game? I believe they will, as it offers a different, unique spin on the original formula. As much as I enjoy playing the first game with all the expansions included, sometimes I yearn for a bit of simplicity. Carcassonne: the Discovery adds that - by eliminating a lot of the features of the original, without getting rid of all the strategy. Discovery has fewer meeples, but also allows a player to pull one off the board at any time -something drastically different from the original one, in which meeples were "stuck" to the end. There is no more convoluted farmer scoring - everything seems equal; and overall, it appears that this version is the most balanced of the three.
Still, as much as I like the game, I still like regular Carcassonne and Carcassonne: the City better. Simplicity is not always something I look for in games; I kind of enjoy the massive options in Carcassone + expansions. But that's like comparing two flavors of ice cream together; I may not think Discovery is as good as the basic thing, but it's still a great game! New players may find it more to their tastes, and experienced Carcassonne players will find it a pleasant change of pace. I'm really glad I got a copy - I'll alternate and play it once in a while, and I must congratulate Leo Colovini in taking a great game and finding a new way to make it work.
"Real men play board games"
This was our first exposure to the Carcassonne series. I wonder why the others have a lower- age rating when the seem to have more elements to add complexity. I guess I'll find out when the next birthday rolls around! It does seem more overtly abstract than the others. Maybe they should have plopped a maiden to rescue in a tower or two for added flavor and a bonus point or two. Maybe there is hope for an expansion set after all.
Placing the tiles to reveal terrain was reminiscent of how exploration in Warcraft does much the same. Risk, without the direct attacks - but you make land grabs, foils other's efforts, form alliances to gain points for both parties advantage, so it can have a nice competitive element.
The scoring explanation was a bit vague on one one point: whether cities on Mountains but at water's edge counted as a point for water or not. The example images did not show one either as a point, or specifically not a point, but we elected not to count them and it seem to make sense for balanced scoring twix the three options of plains, mountains and sea.