Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers
English language edition of Carcassonne: Die Jäger und Sammler
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More than a thousand years before the great city of Carcassonne was built, the area was settled by stone-age tribes. These people hunted wild animals, gathered nuts and berries, and caught fish in the nearby streams to provide themselves with the basics. Even today, there remain fantastic cave paintings and archaeological finds that provide evidence of their existence and give us an understanding of their lives.
As with Carcassonne, the game of the year in Germany in 2001, the players play land tiles to create a beautiful landscape, with scattered wild animals like mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. They populate the landscape with hunters and gatherers and build huts to live in. Rivers, filled with fish, snake through the landscape. The game also includes rare, but very useful special cards. There are many new things to discover in this prehistoric Carcassonne.
Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers is brand new, but retains the challenge, fun, and excitement of the original Carcassonne. Players who know Carcassonne will pick up this new game quickly. Others will learn it as quickly as players learned and loved the original.
Well I've just recently purchased the final chapter in this fantastic series of games from Rio Grande and Hans im Glück. This I believe was the first spin-off from the parent game, Carcassonne, but I may be mistaken? I have so far reviewed most of the Carcassonne family, I'm just now getting around to finishing off the expansions (major and minor) as well as some other games I've recently played and/or purchased. So with that said, I can offer the casual gamer this word of advice, if you're interested in this series, there is no one bad entry, except perhaps Carcassonne: The Castle, which I think is the poorest attempt of the bunch, other than that you won't hurt your game closet to get any Carcassonne game that's out there.
I really like this version, it's primitive, instead of Castles, you build Forests, instead of Farms you build Pastures for hunting, and instead of Roads, you build River Systems (and segments) for fishing. If you have the one and only expansion (a minor expansion) you can build an extra "Gold Nugget" or bonus tile when you close a forest possessing a nugget. The mechanics are exactly like those of the original, and strategies are equally as similar. The tiles are pretty, a summer theme as opposed to the latest incarnation (New World) which has a fall template. Most of the other versions have a "weather neutral" theme but, one could argue that Carcassonne has a "spring" template. In any event the game plays well, is simple to learn, and is very portable. I don't recommend it as a camping, hiking or travel game, but you could certainly take it over to Grandma's for the holiday festivities. Scoring works very much like the original game, with one exception, the Hut. The hut scores on river systems only, and once down stays down until the end game scoring.
In a word, this game rocks on so many levels, there's a Carcassonne theme to fit every gamer, and like I said, the whole series is a knock out triumph from Europe, with the exception of one poor entry.
And remember, you can't pass GO if you're not playing the game!
For those new to the Carcassonne 'franchise', there is plenty to like with Carcassonne Hunters & Gatherers: nice graphics, fairly straightforward rules, tons of replayability, etc. For those who like and play the first Carcassonne -- myself included -- they may find this sequel to be far better, less luck, and more interesting 'parts.' Sounds good, don't it? You betcha!
You know the old adage: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', and that maxim is nearly as true in board games as it is with movies and their own sequels. So, let's get it out in the open: Hunters & Gatherers is quite derivative of the original Carcassonne. For example, where in Carcassonne (we'll call it 'CC') made large cities and placed knights on them, in H&G (Hunters & Gatherers) you now build forests and place, well...uh...knights on them (well, their called gatherers now, but we're not fooled! =) There is a lot of the same elements here as CC: cities became forests, roads became rivers, and fields became fields (sort of.) There are some significant changes though, don't get me wrong, and all for the better, I think. For one, the scoring system for each of the elements has been altered (all for the better), so, while familiar, new tactics must be employed.
One example is the forests. Where before, in CC, a city might grow to be a sprawling metropolis with many players vying for control, H&G tends to produce small forests (cities). Why? A small tweak in gameplay: if a forest has gold in it, whichever player FINISHES the forest, even if he has no one in it, gets an extra turn which is often a high scoring tile. So players are constantly finishing others' forests to acquire the extra turns. It makes for more checks and balances, and means that a player will very rarely take a 20 point boost from a stolen area (something that happens all too often in CC.) The price is a little less interaction. In my playings, players are far less likely to involve themselves in a competition for forests as they used to for cities.
'Farming' has gotten a lot easier to score and keep track of, which is worth a lot to my enjoyment of the game. Throw out the whole farmers-servicing-cities concept. Now you simply get two points for every animal in your field (farm) except tigers who eat deer. Easier to score, easier to keep track of. This makes it easier to introduce to new gamers, and makes the game less swingy, since now their is a way to contain runaway field points -- keep adding tigers to your opponent's fields. =)
The most original and enjoyable change is how rivers work. Like the CC roads, you score one point per section of river, with the river (CC: road) ending in either forests (CC: cities) or lakes (CC: intersections) but now you also get bonus points for the number of fish in any lakes at either end. Chances are good you can pick up extra points by extending rivers out of lakes.
And the best change is the addition of huts. Thse wooden huts are played on rivers like regular 'meeple', but they score for the ENTIRE fish population of a river system -- all continguous rivers and lakes conected by water to the hut. Really fun scoring system for that, and no equivalent in the original game.
All in all, this game has slightly less 'teaming up', but far more tactical play, closer scores, and more interesting gameplay. Anyone who owns CC may think that they are getting so much of the same game in H&G as to not be worth the purchase. If you are on a tight budget and have CC, I suggest trying H&G before buying, but I do suggest trying. If you don't own CC, H&G is, im my opinion, a far better game. And another catch is that for CC to get interesting, you really need to get the 2nd expansion, Builders& Traders. With H&G you get a better game that doesn't need a $10 expansion!
I rated the original Carcassonne a 4: accessible and cheap, and niec to look at. I give H&G a 5. It is one of the best games I've played, plays well 2-5 players in about 30 minutes. A no brainer for every collection.
Is Carcassonne the next Catan? Fans of Germany's 2001 Game of the Year, as well as newcomers, will enjoy another leisurely yet challenging tile-laying interlude. The tiles illustrate segments of rivers, meadows (teeming with mammoths, deer, and tigers), and forests. Each turn, reveal a random tile, add it to the array, and optionally place either a hut on a river or a Follower on a river, forest, or meadow.
Score when you place tiles forming closed rivers, or forests surrounded by meadows, provided that Followers are present. If the forest segments illustrate gold, draw and place a tile from the Bonus stack: These can add points to certain scorings. Return Followers to supply.
When tiles are depleted, score one point for each fish in rivers on which you have placed a hut Followers in meadows earn points for mammoths and deer there, after the number of ravenous tigers is deducted. Highest score wins. Heartily recommended to families hunting fine games.
I had the opportunity to see this new Carcassonne sequel at the recent Spiel show in Essen, complete with actors dressed as a caveman and cavewoman explaining the game. It was hard to ignore their approaches since they were carrying large clubs - which upon closer examination proved to be plastic toys! Since I knew that I would ultimately purchase this new version, I didn't make the effort to try to play it during the convention, but immediately purchased a copy once the Rio Grande edition became available.
The game is not a variant or addition to Carcassonne; it is a stand-alone game that can be played without owning or even having played the original Carcassonne. However, there is no mistaking its similarities to the original as the mechanics are essentially identical. The setting is a bit more distant, though, as players travel further back in time and are concerned with acquiring food for survival.
Since almost everyone is familiar with Carcassonne, I'll concentrate on simply explaining the major differences between the two versions of the game. The tiles are of the same sturdy quality and depict various types of terrain, including forests, rivers, lakes and fields. Some tiles also depict animals, which are ultimately worth points to the player who has the most hunters in those fields.
As in Carcassonne, players choose a tile and place it on the playing area. They then have the option of placing one of their five tribe members (those little 'meeple' figures) onto one of the terrain features of that tile. The meeple figures here are a bit more sociable than in the basic version, as each figure has one arm raised up in an apparent friendly wave! Since players only have five 'meeples' in this version, the game requires players to be a bit more judicious in their use and placement. Like farmers, the meeples placed in the fields (referred to as hunters) will remain in place until the end of the game, but can potentially yield considerable amounts of points. Meeples placed on other types of terrain will be returned to the owners for reuse provided the patch of terrain they are on is completed during the course of the game.
Players earn points for controlling rivers and forests once those particular features are finished. Rivers earn one point for each segment (like the roads in the original Carcassonne) and one point for each fish in any lakes that are part of the river. Forests earn two points per segment. However, the player who finishes a forest that is larger than 2 tiles draws one of the bonus tiles and may immediately play that tile to the board. There are four types of bonus tiles:
In addition to five meeples, each player also possesses two huts. These are placed onto (or beside, actually) lakes. This allows the player to control the entire river system connected to that lake, awarding the player 1 point per segment and 1 point per fish present in the lakes that are part of that system. Other players may still have meeples on the actual rivers and the presence of a hut does not affect their scoring. The idea here is to create a long and winding system of connected rivers and lakes. Of course, your opponents will likely do their best to bring that system to an abrupt end.
The game ends when the last tile is placed. At this point, river systems containing huts are scored and each field is examined and scored. The player possessing the most meeples in a field scores 2 points for each deer, mammoth and auroch in that field. As mentioned, each tiger present in a field negates one deer for scoring purposes, with wooden tokens being provided to assist in the tallying of these points. Liks the 'hut' river systems, meadows do not have to be complete in order to score.
The game seems to offer a greater variety of placement and scoring options than the original and, as such, seems to cause a tiny bit more downtime as players carefully analyze their options. There also seems to be more 'cruelty' in this game, as you can interfere with the plans of your opponents more readily than in the original game. Depending upon your tolerance for such hostile actions, this could be a good or bad thing.
The new tiles do take a bit getting used to, however, as they are more 'busy' than the tiles in the original game. The artwork isn't as crisp or clear and some tiles have caused a bit of confusion. Still, this is minor and doesn't really present an obstacle to enjoying the game.
I, for one, have found myself pleasantly surprised by this new version. I was expecting a 'more of the same' feeling and figured the sequel wouldn't match-up to the original. After numerous playings, I now find myself reaching for this version as opposed to the original. I am sure this is for the most part attributable to the "newness" of this version, but I do feel there is enough new and different here to warrant keeping both games in my collection.