Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Not Video Games: Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne

Posted by deckard47 on March 1, 2008

Every week, I’ve decided to implement the “Not Video Games” post. This will be a post that reviews or covers a game that is not a video game (or possibly video games based on board games, card games, etc.). Hopefully, this will help convince people that I am two kinds of dork, not just one! Also, it’ll introduce you to games you might not otherwise play. Enjoy! 

Today, it is time for something completely different. I recently acquired Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne as gifts, and as such this semester I have been trying to convince people to play them with me as much as possible. Of course, only a few of my friends are cool enough to enjoy these games, but I’ve still had some fun times.

I’ve been thinking of getting both of these for the 360, because then I could play these stately, slow games with people besides the regular two people who I play with (not disparaging them, I’m glad two whole friends of mine enjoy these things). But, because I feel like it, I’ll review them for you, since some of you have refused to play these games when you had the chance. Losers. Carcassonne is the most recent addition to my game collection, so we’ll start with that. Upon finishing my first game, I realized that I had just played a competitive, territory control-based version of Rivers, Roads and Rails. This is by no means a bad thing; I love R, R & R, but let me explain the similarities.

In Carcassonne, each player takes a turn, a turn that is comprised of placing a land tile, and possibly placing some follower of theirs (a knight, thief, farmer or monk) upon that land. Depending on how the tiles play out, you’ll complete cities, roads, fields, and monasteries. Corresponding to these areas are the aforementioned knights, thieves, farmers and monks. Your get different amounts of points for controlling different areas with these tokens, and if you play tiles carefully, you can challenge other players for control of cities, roads and fields. If you’ve played Rivers, Roads and Rails, then you’ll see the similarities between the two. Both games require you to exactly line up the sides of pieces (a side that ends in a river and a side that ends in a city can’t be placed adjacent to each other), and both games rely on the random act of drawing tiles. You may see every other player pick up that one curved road tile you need, and never get it yourself.

There are of course different strategies involving farms (which spread their influence instead of concentrating it) and small cities and roads, which are universally used as quick, “cheap” ways to get a few points.  

It’s a fun game, and is better with the maximum five players. I found the way in which you picked up pieces randomly a bit annoying, but I am perfectly ok with the same mechanic in Settlers of Catan, so maybe I’m just weird. Carcassonne is a fast, fun board game, although it is a little less complicated than Settlers, to its detriment.

Settlers of Catan is probably the best “board game” that I have played in a long time (besides the demo of Culdcept Saga, which rocked!). Like Carcassonne, it focuses on the acquisition of “points” through the control of land. Unlike Carcassonne, it complicates this simple idea to the extreme. You start with all land tiles on the table, in a large hexagonal formation, all of them bounded by water tiles. Every land tile has a number placed on it, between one and twelve. One tile is a barren dessert, where the thief lives. The goal is to accumulate points by upgrading cities, building towns, picking up “event cards,” and maybe building the Longest Road or having the Largest Army.

Each player starts by placing a town and road next to each other, at the meeting of three tiles (each tile is itself hexagonal). After two sets of roads and towns have been placed, you’ll collect one of each of the three resources from the second set of three tiles (so, if you placed your second town at the apex of a field/sheep/forest area, you would get one wool, one wheat, and one wood). Complicated already, right?  

Every turn, you roll a set of dice, and the towns that surround the numbered tile that was rolled collect the corresponding resource. If you roll a seven, you get to move the thief. Wherever he lands he stops all production from that tile, and allows you to steal from anyone who has towns near that tile. Also,, if anyone has more than seven resource cards, they must discard half of them.

Next, you can choose to trade with other players. They might need two wood, and maybe you need wheat and brick. Everyone gets what they want, if they trade smartly. Next comes the building part of the turn, when you can build new towns and roads, buy “event cards” or upgrade your towns to cities. There are a variety of event cards. Some allow you to steal other players’ resources, some allow you to harvest extra resources, some allow you to build extra roads, and some are soldiers. Soldiers can force the thief to move to another tile, allowing a player with a soldier to use the thief as an offensive weapon. The Longest Road and Largest Army achievements come when you reach arbitrary army or road limits.

It sounds complicated, and it is, but once you get the hang of it, you can play a whole game in around 30 minutes, maybe more. Winning a game of Settlers is extremely satisfying, and although the dice obviously make the outcome random, it still involves more skill and is more fun that Carcassonne, I’d say.

Regardless, both of these games are great. They make great small party games, and they involve enough ludicrous rules to trick “serious and intellectual” people (like yours truly) into playing them. I assume they are just as fun on Live, but we’ll see soon enough.

Stay tuned, because next week I’ll be reviewing two card games: Guillotine and Zombie Flux. Awesome.

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2 Responses to “Not Video Games: Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne”

  1. controlling chaos said

    CARCASSONNE is a great super addictive game. I play the game with friends 2-3 times a week. Instead of golfing or going to bars, I play carcassonne. It’s worth every penny and better yet, buy all the expansions. I normal game lasts 2-3 hours.

  2. Aliceus said

    i am gonna show this to my friend, guy

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