Sunday, December 02, 2007

Family Gaming Hour - Carcassonne

We try to play a board game now and then as a family. Eryn loves Smess, the Ninny's Chess, and has a variety of kids games that involve bopping gophers on the head, hanging monkeys from trees, and the like. But recently she's taken a shine to playing Carcassonne (alt. boardgamegeek), a game where you place tiles with a combination of cities, roads and farmland on them, and score points when you complete a city or road, or when the game is over and you count how many cities your farmland supports. When you get right down to it, it's an awful lot like dominoes - you orient a tile in such a way as to benefit yourself and interfere with your opponents. The game comes with something like eighteen expansions, and we play with two of them simply because I own them, Pooteewheet having picked me up one during a game sale, and Kyle scoring me the original game and the other. We play with a trader expansion where you collect little tiles for completing a city and score some extra points at game end (and which comes with the handy bag for your tiles), and where you can play with a pig for extra farm points and a builder for drawing an extra tile now and then. And we play with the princess and dragon expansion that changes the game a bit by introducing a dragon that can eat the other players people (affectionately called meeples - see the yellow one below) and a fairy to protect you from the dragon. There are a few extra rules here and there for scoring, but that's 95% of the game.
- picture from Wikipedia (GNU)

I think if I had my way, I'd play without the expansions, but Eryn loves the dragon (see him down there - all angry red and hungry) and likes to make wing flapping noises as it eats its way across the board. All those extra tiles (I think there are 126 with the expansions included, so I'm recommending that for late night on New Year's, we play for $0.10 or $0.20 a tile, Kyle) can make the game exceptionally long, so we instituted a sixty minute play time, which keeps Eryn from getting bored (board?) and makes it active and fun. Below you can see some finished cities and roads which have been scored, so the meeples are back in the players' piles, some farmers (laying on their side - they're tired, daylight savings and all), a thief/robber handing out on an uncompleted road, and some knights, in unfinished cities. Upper left you can see a monastery - I forgot about them. They have monks, and you score them when they're completely surrounded by tiles. Tough addition, eh?

Anyway - if you can score a copy (all of about $18.00 on Amazon) and not tell your kids about the expansions, it's easy enough for a four-year old to play. And if your kids insist on expansions once they've been playing, well those are cheap too, you can teach the expansions to them incrementally (i.e. you don't have to learn Axis and Allies style game rules all at once - each new set of rules is two sides of a very small piece of paper), and the expansions give you, as a parent, a window of winning while the kids try to catch up with the new strategies each expansion introduces.

And did I mention it feels more grown up and varied from game to game than playing Smess or Whack a Mole? A very big advantage.

- picture from Wikipedia (GNU)

6 comments:

Steve Eck said...

I had never played Carcassonne before it hit XBox Live, and I've still never played the real version. But it is a pretty fun game.

Kyle said...

If you were going to play for money based on a price per tile, wouldn't it basically be everyone putting in x amount of dollars and playing for a pot ($12.60 or $25.20 based on your example), as everyone will pull the same number of tiles during the course of the game? So I take it the high point scorer would take the pot at the end of the game then....

Scooter said...

The older I get, the more I prefer board games to video games. Probably tags me generationally as an old geezer.

Kyle - I was thinking that there could be a time limit, like 60 minutes or 90 minutes, so you might not get through all the tiles. And $0.20 a tile seems so much cheapter than just throwing in $5.

Mac Noland said...

That's a pretty cool game.

We like to play games at home as well. The last game we played was monopoly and ended with my wife calling me a $#%& head.

Scooter said...

Mac, I don't think Carcassonne would lead to any less swearing. My wife spares Eryn some of the horrors of the meeple-eating dragon, whereas I make her sink or swim and freely position the dragon to eat her meeples. That doesn't get me as many dirty looks, however, as when I position a piece so that it makes it incredibly difficult for my wife to finish a city or a road.

Kyle said...

You might not get through all the tiles, but you still would have drawn a roughly equal number, give or take a tile. Ultimately you would still have to use some criteria (highest scorer at the end of the time limit?) to figure out who wins the money right?

I suppose you could split it a couple of ways, with the high scorer getting the lion's share and a runner-up getting a smaller portion - kind of like a win/place/show sort of scenario. I don't know, just throwing some ideas out here....