Another Wednesday has come and gone and another great board game has been successfully released in digital form on the Xbox Live Arcade service. This week it was the strategy game, Carcassone. Like Catan before it, this is a game a bit out of the mainstream (Oh no, it's European! Gasp!) but one that I've wanted to play for years. You can't walk into a game store without bumping into a copy of it or one of its many expansions
Players take turns drawing a random tile and placing it on the board, not unlike Dominoes. Each tile has a portion of field, road, or perhaps a section of city on it. The goal is to place the tiles (and lay claim to them with your 7 "followers" so that lengthy roads, farms, and cities are built under your color. Or should I say colour? The challenge comes in trying to build large enough entities to score huge points, while simultaneously not letting things grow so big you can't finish them. You also have to use your followers wisely, as you can only pick them back up off the board once a road, city, or monastery has been completed. Followers placed on the all-important farming fields score huge points at the end of the game, but they're left there all game long and can't be reclaimed. Do you go after the farms early and risk having no followers for cities or roads? Or do you hold out until later and risk having all of the farms already be claimed?
This is a terrific oversimplification of the game, but truthfully you can learn how to play this game in about 15 minutes and learn how to be pretty good at it in an hour or two. I played it all day yesterday. And by all day, I do in fact mean all day. It's highly addictive, the games only take 15-20 minutes to play, and it's a great way to earn an easy 200 Gamer Score. I laid claim to 11 of the 12 Achievements yesterday without much trouble and will likely get the final one today.
Is this game going to replace Catan in my daily lineup? Not likely, but I will definitely pick it up and play on and off in the future whenever I'm in the mood for a quick casual game. Also, what I really like about this game is that, since you take turns drawing tiles at random, it's possible for multiple people to play on a single Xbox 360. The reason I say this is because Kristin and I recently bought the board game version, but we haven't played it yet. And now after having played the Xbox version all day yesterday, I can safely say that I don't have the patience to do the scoring manually. It will be far easier to simply play it on the Xbox with Kristin and let the game keep track of all of the mechanics and scoring for us.
Here's a link to IGN's Carcassone page where you can see some screenshots and video of the game in action. It costs 800 MS points ($10) and is definitely worth it in my opinion.