Settlers of Catan

Hey everybody!
It’s that time of the week again! Time for another game to come under the spotlight of awesome, and following last week’s look at some of the expansions to the genre-defining Dominion, I thought it was time to take a look at another true juggernaut of the board game world, and bring to this blog a gateway game that, in a lot of respects, started it all. Today is a game day blog with a difference, as we look at Settlers of Catan!

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is an area-control, resource-management game in the German mould, first published all the way back in 1995. I say “started it all” as its success was unparalleled at the time, seeing worldwide sales rocket and really helping what I suppose you could call the non-traditional board game market really take off globally. Its popularity has been demonstrated time and again by being the only such board game offered for general sale up and down the UK, very much in the manner only previously achieved by Hasbro staples. Anyway!

Settlers of Catan

In Settlers of Catan, you take the role of a settler, aiming to cultivate the land nearby to gain maximum resources, which you use to increase your presence on the island of Catan by building roads and villages, and upgrading villages to cities. The board is made up of a number of hexagonal tiles that can be randomized each game, meaning no two games will play alike. Each hex represents a type of resource you can claim – wood, brick, ore, wool or grain. At the start of each turn, two dice are rolled to determine which hex tiles produce resources, and if a player has a settlement adjacent to any such tile, he’ll get the resource card for later use.

As the rules say, you’ll never gain all the resources you’d ever need simply from generating resources out of your own settlements, and a very big part of this game is the bartering system of trading with your fellow-players. When the game begins, you essentially have two free settlements, but due to restrictions on where these can be placed, you may find yourself blocked by other players, forcing you to always work for your resources. If your fellow players don’t want to trade with you, however, you’re always welcome to trade with the bank, or if you control a coastal settlement, you may be able to trade off-island. This affords the game a tremendous amount of player-interaction, as you all seek to gain resources and, potentially, off-load that glut of wood or wheat for the more lucrative ore you need to build your city.

Settlers of Catan

While there is technically no hand limit, a roll of a 7 will activate the Robber, who is moved to a tile to prevent it generating resources – if a player has more than seven cards in hand he must discard half of his hand. Furthermore, the player who moves the Robber can steal a card from a player with a settlement adjacent to the Robber’s new tile.

Robbery can be prevented by the use of the Knight development card. The development deck has a variety of other cards that grant several in-game effects, such as the Monopoly card that allows a player to claim all cards of one resource type from the other players. Development cards are bought with resources much like settlements and roads, and can be a viable strategy to gain victory bonuses, for example having the largest army. When a player reaches 10 victory points, the game immediately ends.

Settlers of Catan

A large number of expansions have been released for the game, such as Seafarers, where you explore a board made up of smaller islands; Cities and Knights, where you must work together to fend off barbarian invasion; Traders and Barbarians, which features a number of smaller scenario-based expansions and includes the official two-player variant (which basically uses two ghost-players). Two years ago, a second scenario-based expansion was released, Explorers and Pirates. In addition to all of these, there have been a host of re-skins of the game, from the historical series to Star Trek Catan, and card game and dice game alternatives are also available.

But here’s the thing, guys: I hate Catan. Actually, hate is a pretty strong word here – I dislike the game, quite a lot. Normally when I feature a game here on a game day blog, it’s a game that I have in my collection and one that I love, but this one is just awful. I first played it years ago with the ex-girlfriend, and we were actually both pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, but when it was featured on Tabletop a few years ago, I convinced myself to try it again, and bought the game, but couldn’t convince anyone to play with me. So I downloaded the app, and played a lot of Catan that way. I was learning the ropes, and it wasn’t all that bad – maybe we had been hard on it, back in the day. Heck, I even won a game! Finally, with all my experience on the app behind me, I brought it to the table nearly two years ago with some friends, and we played what I would consider my first real game. And it was awful. I was teaching the others to play, so we were going through it pretty casual-like, building settlements and roads, and all the rest of it, but it just ended so horribly that it soured us all towards the game, and I’ve never wanted to go back.

A big part of this is the fact that development cards are kept secret until they are actually played. No big deal in and of itself, as a lot of games have cards with a secret knowledge mechanic. Heck, pretty much all card games play like that! But when someone can just spring their Victory Point cards on you and basically claim victory out of almost literally nowhere, it leaves a pretty sour taste in the mouth for everyone at the table. I actually won that game we played, and I felt like a bastard for it – people were building their settlements and their cities, and felt like they were on track for a win, when I played my cards in very much a “oh, and by the way, I’ve just won” manner. It just really sucked.

This has also happened with pretty much all of my games with the app, too. You’re there, building your board-presence, watching what the other guys are doing, wondering if that hand of six development cards is just six knights, you build your city, you feel like you’re on track, the other players don’t have as many victory points on the board as you, but then – out of nowhere, the game is over and you’ve lost. It feels so damn arbitrary that it’s almost worth taking those VP cards out of the deck. But, while I may sound like an entitled arse for saying so, I don’t think it’s up to me to balance a game I’ve paid money for.

I’ve since sold my copy of Settlers, wanting nothing more to do with it. It’s just not a game that I find enjoyable, so was taking up valuable space in the game room that I could devote to others.

Have you played Settlers and loved it? I’d love to hear your experiences with the game!

Feel the Wrath!

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another game day here at spalanz.com! Today it’s the turn of the first expansion for Thunderstone, which came under the spotlight of awesome back in February: today, it’s time for Wrath of the Elements!

Wrath of the Elements

At the most basic level, every Thunderstone expansion is along the lines “more of the same”, as we see more monsters for the dungeon, more items, weapons and spells for the village, and more heroes to level up. However, there are a number of synergies and new areas of focus that are explored…

Wrath of the Elements

A lot of the traits from the core set are explored further here, so we get monsters who can only be affected by Magic, etc – luckily, we have items and heroes who have some real buffs to this.

Wrath of the Elements

Some of the heroes are really pretty interesting, too – the Gohlen, for instance, gains +2 attack if you reveal a monster from your hand, which can be really useful in the late game when you’ve defeated a fair number of monsters. A great little sub-theme is the exploration of Strength, with monsters that can only be attacked by heroes of specific strength values, and assorted cards that give all heroes Strength buffs. With something like the solo rules, things like this add an extra level to the proceedings.

Wrath of the Elements

There is a lot of new here, however, starting with the dungeon deck – or, should I say, Dreadwatch Keep! Two interesting ideas come here: traps and guardians. Both are shuffled into the deck – the guardian into its own stack that will appear in the mid-third of the game, in something of an effort to mitigate the fact that he is a very powerful enemy. The guardian can move into its own rank – rank 0 – which triggers a special breach effect that targets the village! That breach effect continues for as long as the guardian is in rank 0. It’s a nice little addition that is fairly simple yet adds another layer to your strategy. Wonderful stuff!

Traps act as soon as they are revealed from the dungeon deck, acting almost as event cards that trigger an effect and are then destroyed. Another interesting addition to the game!

Wrath of the Elements

There is also a completely new kind of enemy called the Horde. A deck of “placeholder” cards is shuffled into the dungeon deck, while a separate deck is placed off to the side: each time one of these placeholder cards is fought, you actually fight the top card of this Horde deck, which increases in strength the more you fight. It’s another interesting idea, though it can make the game somewhat easier, as in the early game you can be reasonably assured you’ll have an easier enemy to defeat, rather than revealing something like a Knightmare in the first position.

Wrath of the Elements

It’s a really good expansion for giving you more options to play with. There are interesting hero options, new dungeon options along with more interesting monsters, but the manual has what is possibly the most exciting option, with half a dozen or so pages of campaign variants!

All in all, it’s pretty great, though in terms of more modern games (a ridiculous idea, given this came out in 2010, but you know what I mean), it’s definitely in the “more of the same” category. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it doesn’t feel like a really innovative experience. There are a couple of tweaks, but the basic concept remains the same – if you’re expecting something more, then you’re better off with one of the later expansions. However, if you’re just looking for more options, then it’s pretty much an insta-buy.

 

Thunderstone!

Hey everybody!

It’s game day once again here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look at a real classic of the deck-building genre – today under the spotlight of awesome, I’m taking a look at Thunderstone!

Thunderstone

Before I launch headlong into this blog, I should perhaps start with this caveat. Thunderstone is, like Runebound, one of these games that I’ve had for years and years, and is actually currently out of print. So this is a blog in the vein of my Runebound entry from last year, where I look at the awesome that was. Whether you can still find it for sale remains to be seen I suppose, though if you can I suggest you snap it up at once! It has been supplanted by Thunderstone Advance, which I have not yet managed to play, and which appears to be similarly difficult to come by the base set. At any rate, let’s begin!

Thunderstone is a deck-building game from what I suppose is the next generation of such games: Dominion, which started it all, is simply about building a deck; in Thunderstone, as with Dark Gothic and Marvel Legendary, you’re building a deck for a purpose in-game. So, rather than trying to buy cards with victory points in order to stand a chance of winning at the end, you’re building a deck to fight monsters, who are worth victory points. In a fairly unique move, this game has two distinct play areas – the village, and the dungeon – and you are fighting monsters in an attempt to find the fabled Thunderstone, which signals the end game.

Thunderstone

If all of this sounds complicated, then it really isn’t. Allow me to explain!

In common with pretty much all deck-building games, you begin with a basic deck, in this case made up of 6 militia cards, 2 daggers, 2 torches, and 2 iron rations (all shown above). At the start of your turn, you have the option of either going to the village, where you can buy cards depending on how much gold you have, or you can delve into the dungeon and fight monsters, depending on how much attack you have. Both of these mechanics are, I think, superbly done. Let’s take a look first at the village…

Thunderstone

The village contains eight different card types, such as items, weapons, allies and spells. It also includes four different hero types, who are also available to buy. These heroes are classic fantasy classes such as clerics, wizards, rogues and fighters. Each hero has three levels, with the weakest on top, and you have the option when in the village to level up your heroes. Remember the militia you start with? You can also level those guys up to level one of any hero currently available.

ThunderstoneHow do you level up, I hear you cry? Well, you gain XP when you defeat monsters; you can trade that in for the number listed in the bottom-left corner of the hero card to gain a hero of the next level. So for 2 XP, you can level up your Chalice Quester for a Chalice Defender! Militia cards all have a 3 in the bottom-left, and as stated, can be traded in for a level one hero (hero levels are shown in the middle-left, in the crossed-swords icon).

Thunderstone

Each village card has a number of symbols and icons on, showing how much it gold it can generate (the coin in the top-left); the weight (under the coin on, for instance, the Warhammer); the cost (the number above the description, so the above Lightstone Gem costs 6), and how much light it gives (the Lightstone Gem gives 3). The iconography in Thunderstone can take a little getting used to, I freely admit, but it is really quite straightforward. The thing you need to remember is that the game has a fairly strict sense to it – however, it makes so much sense, this isn’t really a bad thing. In fact, this is perhaps one of the most sensible games you’ll ever hope to play!

If you remember two basic things, this game begins to really shine. Firstly, heroes can only use items if they’re physically strong enough. Secondly, the deeper you delve into the dungeon, the darker it is. Makes sense, right? Let’s delve into the dungeon, and see how this is implemented!

Thunderstone

The game features monster groups, such as the above Enchanted and Doomknight Humanoids. These monsters have a strength value listed in the top-right; a Victory Point total in the bottom-right, and XP bonus in the bottom-left. Defeated monsters are put into your discard pile, and will later generate gold for you when you go to the village (coin icon in the top-left again). At the beginning of the game, you select three monster groups and shuffle them together – then, the Thunderstone itself is shuffled into the last ten cards, so you will always have to go through at least 20 monsters to find it. These cards are then arranged into the dungeon hall thusly:

Thunderstone

Dungeons are dark places, as I’ve said, and in order to fight these guys, you need to have the combat strength to do so, but you also need to see them! Working out from the dungeon deck itself, each monster has a light penalty which also needs to be dealt with, descending from -3, -2 and -1: so Lord Mortis, being in the first dungeon hall space (called the rank) in the above picture, has a light penalty of -1. However, monster cards often mess with this in differing ways, such as Lord Mortis’ additional -1 light penalty. However, you can overcome this penalty with sheer brute force – if you don’t have any light-giving items with you, but you do have enough strength to defeat both the monster’s health value and the light penalty, you can still defeat them. I suppose it’s like you’re just wildly flailing around in the dark in a blind frenzy…

Thunderstone

In the above picture, then, the Thyrian Squire is fighting Lord Mortis with a Flaming Sword. First of all, the Squire has a base attack of 2. His strength is 6, so he can easily carry the sword, which only weighs 5. The sword adds 3 attack, giving the Squire a total of 5 attack, while also providing one point of light. Lord Mortis has 4 health, but has a light penalty of -2 – he’s in the first dungeon position, but adds to the initial light penalty. The sword cancels one of those points, but there is still one remaining. Any remaining light penalty is doubled before you work out if you actually beat the monster, so in this example, the Squire doesn’t actually defeat him (unless you were to use his ability and discard one Food card for more attack points). So the hero is defeated (which just discards him), and the monster retreats into the dungeon, going to the bottom of the deck, and the other two move up the hall, with a third backfilling from the deck.

Thunderstone

When you defeat a monster, it goes into your discard pile and can later generate money for you. Some monster cards, such as the Pegasus shown earlier, have a little cog next to an ability – this is a bonus the card will grant to you when you play it on later turns. However, most monsters aren’t nearly so helpful, and feature Battle effects, such as the Knightmare shown above. These effects take place as the battle resolves – destroyed cards still contribute their attack value, but some effects will just decrease values, which take place before the battle is resolved. Always best to make sure you can defeat these guys before you go delving, though it can sometimes be a good idea to go up against them anyway, to force them to retreat into the dungeon. Especially if you draw some really tough monsters into the hall on your first go!

Thunderstone

Sometimes, however, it’s just better to go to the village. The above hand only generates 3 attack from the militia, plus 1 from the dagger, and 1 point of light from the torch. However, it also generates 5 gold if you go to the village, and in the early game it’s always worth buying stuff!

Thunderstone

Especially when that 5 gold can net you a flaming sword!

Thunderstone

I really enjoy this game! It was actually my first deck-building game, before Dominion, before DC, and before Legendary. It’s particularly good for having nicely implemented ‘legitimate’ solo rules that pushes a new monster out into the village each turn, adding a timer mechanism to the game – at the end of the game, you compare your VP total to that of the monsters in the village pile. For years, I hadn’t come across these rules, and had been playing it ‘straight’, but have recently tried this variant and I must say, it has a whole new feel to the solo game, like you’re actually in a race to stop the bad stuff, rather than just trying to kill 20-or-so monsters while waiting for the thunderstone to just show up. Marvellous!

There are a slew of expansions for this game, too – some of them are promo packs that add a single new type of deck (heroes or monsters, predominantly), along with small box expansions that add new ways to play the game. One of these, Thornwood Siege, builds on this idea of monsters in the village in a really thematic way – I’ll be taking a look at these expansions in coming blogs, anyway!

The game is, unfortunately, out of print nowadays, and even the Advance game seems difficult to get hold of. Surprising, considering AEG are a pretty big company for games publishing (Smash Up is another of their games), though they seem to be focusing more on Legend of the 5 Rings nowadays. That’s a nice game, my friend Tony bought it recently and we tried it out, though it’s in the CCG model that I disapprove of!

As I’ve said, this game is one of the most sensible games I’ve yet encountered. The mechanic of strength and weight means you don’t end up with ridiculous things happening, and is fairly reminiscent of the hands mechanic from Arkham Horror. The light mechanic is where this game also shines (ha!), and something that makes complete sense. As such, these things add up to make Thunderstone a really immersive experience.

The game is not without criticisms, however. I think my biggest gripe about it is the fact that monsters go into your deck, which can often clog your hand with fairly useless cards. They grant gold, of course, and some grant additional abilities, but they can be really annoying at times. The mid-game often becomes a boring cycle of drawing and discarding, rather than the more adventurous feel to the early rounds! Such meta problems are not enough to turn me off, however, and I can still heartily recommend this to anyone if you can still find it!

The grandfather

Morning everybody!
Today I’m going to make good on something I’ve been talking about, it seems, since my blog began. I’ve been looking at a lot of my favourite games over the course of this blog, a fair few of which are deck-building games. Almost par for the course, one game has been mentioned in those blogs that I have yet to get to – but no more! For today, I’m going to throw the spotlight of awesome onto Dominion.

Dominion

This is the original deck-building game – the game that has spawned so many since:
Street Fighter
Marvel Legendary
Thunderstone
DC Deck Building Game
– Ascension
Dark Gothic
Arcana
Rune Age

The list goes on and on. All of these would not have been possible without Dominion, which first saw the light of day in 2008. The game is gloriously simple – you are trying to score Victory Points, which you get through buying cards. In order to buy these cards, you’ll have to buy other cards. From your starting hand, you have to build your deck to gain the cards you need from an available pool. When either three stacks of cards in this pool have been run down, or when the highest-scoring Victory Point card stack has run down, the game is over and the player with the most VPs wins. It’s very straightforward, but it can also be very strategic, and a whole lot of fun!

Dominion

Dominion

You start the game with a basic hand of seven Copper cards and three Estate cards, so the lowest score you will ever have is 3 VPs. The strategy comes from the Kingdom cards, which are the ones that allow you to do stuff to manipulate the basic flow of the game. On your turn, you can buy one card, you can play one action card, then you have to discard any unplayed cards and draw a new hand. Action cards can allow you to do other stuff, however:

Dominion

Being able to set up chains like the above is something that I love about this game:
– You use your action to play Festival, which gives you 2 more actions, as well as allowing you to buy up to 2 cards, and gives you an extra 2 gold to use;
– You play Market, which gives you another action as well as another buy and another gold, plus allows you to draw another card (3 gold/2 buys/2 actions left);
– You then play Village, giving you 2 more actions and drawing another card (3 gold/2 buys/3 actions left);
– You then play Smithy, to draw 3 more cards (3 gold/2 buys/2 actions left);
– You then play Woodcutter, which gives you one more buy and two more gold (5 gold/3 buys/1 action left);
– Your final action is to play Workshop, which allows you to immediately gain any card from the Kingdom costing up to 4 gold (5 gold/3 buys left).

Depending what gold cards you drew in your initial hand (with this sequence, you could potentially have four additional cards in your hand with this action chain resolved), you have a lot of options now!

Dominion

The other “strategy” that seems to be popular is the Big Money idea of buying up Gold cards as soon as you can, and trashing your Coppers. The idea being that you can then have a better chance of buying Province after Province and getting a high score that way. I put the quotes there, however, because this seems like an extremely boring way of playing – aside from missing out on the depth that comes from the various action cards, it just seems really meh. The other thing to remember, of course, is that the VP cards don’t do anything for you in-game, so if you go on a buying spree like this, you run the risk of clogging up your hand with cards that you can’t do anything with.

Dominion also includes player interaction, with certain action cards being attack cards. One of these, the Witch, gives your opponents Curse cards that are worth negative VPs at the end – having a Moat can help to ward off these attacks, however.

Dominion

Player interaction isn’t really what Dominion is about in the core set, however, as you’re trying to build your own domain rather than hindering others from building theirs. Later expansions do build on this, however, with more attack cards coming. And luckily, there is a whole slew of expansions for this game!

Dominion

I’ll be taking a look at these in another blog. I was originally intending to include them all here, but each expansion introduces new mechanics that, taken together, would create something of a monster blog. However, I will mention the next box in the set, Dominion: Intrigue.

Dominion Intrigue

This is basically a second core set for the game. While the expansions focus on adding new Kingdom cards, Intrigue does this but includes all of the money and VP cards you need to provide a self-contained game. As with pretty much all of the Dominion line, the experience is very much a ‘more of the same’, however there are some differences. Intrigue introduces hybrid cards that provide VPs as well as in-game effects, as well as focusing on cards that present the player with a choice in how they are used.

Dominion

The last box I’ll look at here is the replacement basic cards.

Dominion

This box includes new art for the base cards used in the game, some of which is really very nice, I have to say! The base cards included here take in those from the entire line, so we also have stuff from Prosperity and Alchemy.

Dominion

When I first came across this, I was a bit confused as I thought it could potentially undermine the need for the base game – getting this box and one of the expansions would allow you to play the complete game. However, it’s not really cost-effective to do that, as the core box is cheaper than two combined boxes. But anyway.

Dominion is a subtle and elegant little game, with a lot to enjoy about it. While I tend to vacillate in my enjoyment of it, as I sometimes find the collection of victory points a little less than stimulating, I nevertheless appreciate it for what it is. If you’ve never played a deck-building game before, you should definitely try it. Even if you’ve played one of the other games mentioned at the beginning of this blog, you should still take a look at the grandfather of them all!

Buy it from amazon:
Dominion
Dominion: Intrigue
Dominion: Base Cards

Saga Edition

Hey guys!
As always, Tuesday is Game Day here at spalanz.com, and today promises to be something…different. For months now, I’ve been posting about games on here, with lots of pictures of the components, and an overview of why I like them and whatnot, but today, I’m taking a look at a Role Playing Game. Indeed, the Role Playing Game – at least, the only one I’ve ever been able to play! Today, I’m looking at Star Wars: Saga Edition!

Star Wars Saga Edition

The first question I asked myself when I was preparing this blog was: Why am I doing this? All of the other games that have featured on my blog have been in-print, but Star Wars Saga Edition officially ended over four years ago. As such, it can be fairly difficult to come by – especially if you actually want a new book. However, one of the reasons I do these game day blogs is to talk about games that I love, and it would be remiss to not include this game, because I love it!

So first of all, let’s talk about RPGs. I’ve talked about RPGs before, of course, including this short description back in June:

For the uninitiated, Role Playing Games are actually really awesome. You need a good Games Master who is more concerned with storytelling and ensuring everyone has a good time than with the rules being correct, and you need a group of people who are somewhat invested in the story and their characters than they are in just goofing around, but all the same, when you get the right mix of folks around the table, it can be really magic. Prepare for a couple of hours of being lost in your imaginations! Ah!

Basically, a Role-Playing Game is a game where you play a character but, rather than moving that character around a board, you tell the story of what you are doing. In a very real sense, it is an experience akin to telling stories around the fire, or whatever.

I’m in charge!
One person in the group plays the Games Master, who is nominally “in charge” of the proceedings. Something that is very important here is that the GM is not the enemy. Yeah, he controls any enemies that you may face, but his role is better described as a referee. In short, the GM controls the world that you’re playing in. A good GM is one who is primarily concerned with everybody having a good time, and telling a good story, as I said back in June. He or she is responsible for everything that can happen, so you’ve got to be a hell of an improviser.

When I played Star Wars Saga Edition, I was the GM, and as much as I loved it, it’s also hard work. Being responsible for the world the other players are playing in, it’s up to the GM to create the adventure that you play that week. To a large degree, you need to be able to account for all possible avenues the game can proceed along, so it’s no use in preparing just a linear scenario where your players must do x to then be able to do y, but don’t have the option of being able to do a, b or c, as you haven’t got notes for that. I’ll talk more about my experiences shortly, but it really sticks with me when I first took up the mantle, and my group decided they wanted to do something completely different to the adventure I’d prepared. Gah!

So, as much as you’re telling the story, you’ve got to be prepared to let the story tell itself, also. Knowing your group will help enormously with this. It’s always best, then, to have a scenario prepared that you want to happen during the course of the session, but also have a host of notes on other stuff that could just as easily splinter off from that scenario. For instance, my first game involved the heroes having to make it off-planet in a ship, but they were completely disinterested in pursuing the option I’d prepared, which would make it easier for them to hire a ship, so I had to make my grizzled spacer captain into more of a pushy sort who was touting for business, and have him approach the heroes. Hardly a massive plot point, but without it the story would have never gotten off the ground (pun intended).

GMing is a lot of work, but it can be immeasurably rewarding, as well. And if those notes you prepared for potential side adventures aren’t used, they’re never wasted, as the situation may come up when you want them in the future. Always keep everything!

It’s all about the characters
The main focus of role-playing for many people, however, are the characters that each player creates. Character generation is one of the most fun aspects of this sort of game, and even though I was a GM, I used to create all sorts of characters just for the joy of it (and they never went to waste, let me tell you!) In any given system, a player will basically fill out a template of what his character can do. Basic stuff like name, age, species, gender, height/weight and so on flows into what skills your guy has – are your strengths physical or mental? Are you good on your feet, or are you really persuasive? There are usually six core attributes that RPG systems account for:

strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom and charisma

Each of these are scored, and from this your character becomes good at certain skills. There are two big influences on these attributes and skills: species and class. For example, in Star Wars, Wookiees are really strong and really dexterous, so have high scores in these two attributes. Classes denote what you do, with classic examples such as Mage/Priest, Cleric, Ranger etc, and these will also lead you down a certain route as regards your attribute scores and, subsequently, your skill scores.

Once you’ve got your character set up, and you have a fair idea of what he or she is good at, you’re ready to play the game!

Playing the game
Depending on how the GM decides to run the game, you can role-play anything and everything, or just the important parts. To give an extreme example, the GM may just tell the players “You walk into the cantina…” or he might say “You need to make a Perception check to discover the location of the nearest cantina. You then need to make a Dexterity check to see if you can open the door…”

Checks? I hear you cry. Well, this is where your skills come in. In order to do something, you need to check if you can do it. For example, in order to see if your character noticed something, he needs to make a Perception check. This is done by rolling a die – in the case of Star Wars Saga Edition, all skill checks involve rolling a twenty-sided die, or d20 – and adding your skill score to the result. If you equal or exceed the difficulty class (DC) of the check as set by the GM, you pass. As I said above, depending on how the GM is running the campaign, you might have to check for everything, or you might only have to check for certain things, such as when you’re in danger.

Star Wars Saga Edition

As an aside, I would often make my group make Perception checks seemingly at random – “You’re walking down the broad central street of the town. Make a Perception check. All done? Marvellous. So you’re walking down the central street…” – but a lot of this informs the GM on the level of detail you give to your group. If someone beat the DC of the check, then any subsequent attacks aren’t entirely a surprise, or whatever.

Perception checks are one of two checks that you’ll most often find your characters making in a RPG such as Star Wars Saga Edition; the second is the Initiative check. While Perception measures how much the characters are aware of their surroundings, Initiative determines the order in which things happen – most commonly, attacks.

Attack!
Good RPGs will have a mixture of intrigue skills, information-gathering, and combat. Even bad RPGs will still have combat, however. This is where your Strength and your Constitution attributes come into play – your Strength will determine how good you are at attacking, and your Constitution determines how much damage you can take. A wide variety of weapons is often available, and these will add bonuses to your dice rolls, as well as special effects such as being able to ignore armour and the like. Your basic Strength score will, of course, determine how good you are with your bare hands.

Attacks can be where people confuse the role of the GM with that of the enemy, as the GM is controlling any non-player character (NPC), most often these being your adversaries. While the players are rolling their dice in the open, some GMs can be quite maddening, making their rolls behind a screen, and constantly making little notes here and there. However, there is always a purpose! Mostly, it is to ensure the encounter runs reasonably as planned: if you intend for the heroes to fight a boss’s bodyguard in order to impress him into giving the players some information they need, it’s no good if said bodyguard kills all of the players in the first round of combat. As a GM, I have often fluffed my rolls in order to make a game run more smoothly. So we’re not cheating – we’re actually helping!

It’s all about the experience
When players successfully overcome challenges, whether they’re fights or something else, they most often gain experience points (XP), the amount being dependent on the challenge level (CL). These go to form a bank, and when a player reaches a set amount, he can go up a level. In Star Wars Saga Edition, there are 20 levels a player character can achieve, and each one comes with all sorts of boons, from simple bonuses to attributes, to increased options for skills and even classes. Especially in Star Wars, Jedi characters cannot learn certain Force powers if they are not of a specific level.

Levelling up your character is one of life’s true joys!

So that’s RPGs in a nutshell!


 

Star Wars Saga Edition

Star Wars has seen many incarnations of role-playing games, starting with West End Games back in the 80s. Saga Edition was published from 2005-2010 by Wizards of the Coast, who held the Star Wars licence from the late 1990s. It was their third iteration of the RPG, and the fifth version of Star Wars role playing to that point.

Wizards of the Coast are perhaps most famous for their Dungeons & Dragons line, which has just recently entered its fifth edition. Saga Edition is based very strongly on that game’s 3rd edition, so in that respect it is very similar to the Pathfinder RPG. Over the course of the run, fourteen hardcover books were published, giving the rules for different eras in the timeline as well as specific classes etc.

Star Wars Saga Edition

The game was initially quite heavily-supported by the company through online content, though as time went on this dwindled to a stop. It’s always a shame when this happens – let me tell you why…

You’ve hopefully picked up on the notion that RPGs involve a lot of written content, with the GM becoming something of a writer, producing characters and locations and encounters in order to create a successful game. In order for any of these to function in the game, they need stats – NPCs need stats to at least be able to fight the heroes; locations need stats to interact with the encounters that take place there, which in turn have DCs based on what precisely is going on, which all go together to produce XP for the players. Now, GMs can do all of this, sitting alone amid piles and piles of books, making sure they have all the information to hand to know exactly how effective Darth Vader is in combat. Or the game designers can just tell you how effective Vader is in combat, leaving the GM free to come up with an exciting story as to why the heroes come up against him.

It’s not exactly about just getting free stuff, though, but about a company producing loss-leaders. For example, Wizards released the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide in 2008, and accompanied it on their website with a host of additional content such as stat blocks for a variety of creatures and hardware that didn’t make it into the book. That stuff was made for free and, while the odds that a KotOR book wouldn’t sell well when the video game was still a hot property were very slim, it nevertheless creates something of a hype when a company has free stuff on their website, but you need to get the campaign book itself to make maximum use out of it. It creates fan goodwill, and increases the chances of people buying into the game if they can see that game is well supported.

Star Wars Saga Edition

Initially, then, Wizards were producing all sorts of stuff like this. The RPG also made efforts to cross-fertilise with the Star Wars Miniatures game, a skirmish game where players fielded armies of miniatures and basically tried to wipe each other out. When a new batch of miniatures was released, stat blocks would go up online to allow players to use the characters in their RPG games. Indeed, Wizards did originally seem to have in mind that people would use the miniatures and the maps to play the RPG, but that died a death.

Star Wars Saga Edition

Something really impressive about the level of support Wizards initially gave Saga Edition was the amount of new stuff that became available for free. I’m not just talking about new ships you can use, or new NPCs you can fight – they even gave us new species we could use. Character options like this are phenomenally useful!

Star Wars Saga Edition

They also gave us scenarios and campaigns on the website, including Irridonian Darkness as another KotOR tie-in. Luckily, a lot of this content has been preserved by the fans, as it is really top-notch, but when the gave up the licence to produce Star Wars games, they obviously had to cleanse their website of all content.

Star Wars Saga Edition

The jewel in the crown of all this, for me, is the Dawn of Defiance campaign. A 10-part campaign that was designed to take players all the way from level 1 to level 20, it first appeared in November 2007, and it was all for free.

Star Wars Saga Edition

Star Wars Saga Edition

Support like this  really impresses me, and makes me want to play in this system. And I’m not the only one, of course. Companies don’t always get it, and Wizards certainly lost their way towards the end of their run, but a well-supported game system will be well thought of by the fans, and attract increasing numbers to it. However, Wizards just seemed to lose interest in the licence towards the end of their run, something that particularly came out in the miniatures game, but also in the uneven quality of the last few books for the RPG.

I’ve expressed quite a lot of negativity towards Wizards over the years, all based on the way they handled the licence in their last year with it. Officially, they “ran out of ideas” as to what they could do for new content. A strange excuse for a creative company, but anyway. The miniatures line suffered, and the RPG stopped seeing web content. However, their final book, The Unknown Regions, was perhaps a fitting end for the run, as it gave GMs the tools with which to generate any sort of situation they could ever think of. So, while I have been disappointed in the past, I must admit to being really impressed by the way they ended the game.

I love role playing games, however, and can never let my feelings for how a company handled a game from letting that game speak for itself. Role playing games are just such a wonderful way of playing games, allowing you to exercise your imagination, tell stories, and even act out at times – it’s just so much fun! Star Wars is an incredibly rich and vibrant world, and getting to play in that world is just far too much fun sometimes. Getting to create your own character and living within that world, even if it’s just for a couple of hours a week, can be an amazing experience, and I can recommend it to anyone.

RPG communities are unlike regular game communities. They’re places of creativity, where people go to share ideas, as well as experiences. In this way, it’s also interesting to note that RPGs never truly die, even when the company has stopped supporting it officially. You can meet people all over the world who are still playing Star Wars RPGs using the West End Games version from 1987. Saga Edition has had a lot of support in the five years it was being published, and it still retains its place on my shelf even when I haven’t played it for months.

So there you have it, folks, my high-level view of role playing games in terms of Star Wars Saga Edition. More than ever, I’m keen to get back into role playing games, and have been looking at a few lately, notably the Warhammer 40k books from Fantasy Flight, but also the ‘new’ Star Wars RPG. I’m hoping that sometime soon I can convince enough people to try something with me – even if it means being the GM again…

If you don’t believe me on how fun these kinds of games can be, however, just watch this:

Runebound

The dark lords are gathering, ancient powers are awakening, and a chill has fallen across the land. Now is a time of danger and rising evil. Now is a time of fear for the innocent and the helpless.

Now is a time for heroes!

Hey folks! Welcome to my latest gaming blog! Today’s entry is a very special one for me, because it’s one of my all-time favourite games ever made. It’s a fantasy adventure board game for 2-6 people who have way too much time on their hands – it’s Runebound!

First released all the way back in 2007 by Fantasy Flight Games, Runebound is a high fantasy adventure game where the players take on the role of heroes trying to rid the land of Terrinoth from the evil of the Dragon Lords. The worst of them all, High Lord Margath, has been returned to the land by the evil of the necromancer Lord Vorakesh, and it’s up to you to stop him!

Runebound

The game is awesome. I first played it with the now-ex girlfriend in 2008, and was just bowled over by the amount of theme that comes out of it. The whole production is just fantastic, I cannot recommend it enough! The unfortunate thing is, however, it’s been out of print for a while now, leading to speculation that a third edition might be on the way (there was, way back when, an abortive first edition that didn’t make it past the first small expansion pack). If you can find a copy, PICK IT UP! And bask in its awesome!

(The thought occurs to me, now, that a lot of people probably won’t be able to find this game because of its rarity. I just want to say that this post isn’t meant to make people jealous, but rather act as a tribute to a game that I really, really love).

It’s a sign of just how much I love this game, I feel, that I actually own everything for it. Over the course of three years, a series of five big box expansions came out, alongside which came four sets of six smaller expansion packs, as seen above. The first set of these smaller boxes adds more items and allies you can purchase, the second adds more to the encounter decks, the third completely replaces the encounter decks, and the fourth are ‘character packs’ that bring even more of a RPG-element into the game, allowing you to level your chosen hero in all manner of ways.

So let’s take a look at this game.

Runebound Runebound

It’s an adventure board game, which means the hero character that you choose at the beginning travels around the board encountering various monsters, levelling up in order to encounter increasingly difficult monsters before the game is resolved by either beating the most difficult monster of all – High Lord Margath himself – or defeating three of the tough monsters. There are four encounter decks, with difficulty ranging from easy (green) to tough (red). As well as monsters, there are events that can either be good or bad, and encounters, which usually test one of your hero’s skills or act as a sort of mini-quest. The heroes all have three attributes: mind, body and spirit, which also act as combat stats (ranged, melee and magic, respectively). Heroes are usually good at one and not so good at the other two, to varying degrees. In addition, the hero has one or two particular skills which add bonuses to certain attributes during skill tests.

Truthseer Kel

The hero I’m playing above is Truthseer Kel, a promo hero not in the base game and for years one of the most difficult-to-find parts of the game. I’d wanted her for so long because of the absolutely amazing miniature. Anyway, the attributes are arrayed along the bottom of the card, with the larger number denoting the bonus to that attribute, and the smaller number the value of combat damage you inflict with that hero. In addition, there is a special effect at the top, and the skills in the middle. Kel’s life value is in the top right, and her exhaustion value underneath; heroes might be caused to take exhaustion which slows them down by making them roll less dice for movement.

Runebound dice

And what delightful dice they are, too! The icons represent the types of terrain your hero can enter on his turn; only one icon per die is chosen, and if you’re exhausted you roll one less per exhaustion counter. The icons for roads, plains and hills generally occur more often; the mountains and rivers, less often, and the swamps and forests, rarer sill. There are also nine town spaces on the board, the Free Cities of Terrinoth, and you can use any symbol on the dice to move into them. In towns, you get to heal, as well as buy items or the services of allies.

Runebound

But how do you get the money to do this? Well, you get gold from defeating challenges. Most will give at least one gold, though as you scale up, and some will provide other benefits along the way. To defeat challenges, you must go through all three phases of combat, though you can yourself only attack in one of those phases (there are items that allow you to attack in two phases, however). For the other two phases, you must defend; either way, you roll two d10 dice and add your attribute value to the result – if you equal or exceed the challenge’s value, you succeed. If you fail, you take however many wounds the challenge dishes out. In the above picture, Vorakesh’s Necromancers only deal damage in the magic phase – as I’m also attacking in the magic phase, I get to make my attack but if I don’t succeed, I take the damage as if I’d failed to defend.

Runebound

As it happened, I failed to defeat the Necromancers, and their damage equaled my life value, so I’m knocked out. I go to the nearest city and lie down, because I need to recover, obviously! The challenge card then goes along the top of the game board – the Undefeated Challenge track – and a marker is placed on the hex where that challenge is. In later turns, I can go back for revenge – which is exactly what I did!

As the game goes on, though, you get to buy stuff in the towns to help in your quest to defeat Margath. Items and allies range from the cheap, kinda-handy stuff to the more expensive, really useful stuff. It’s a good strategy to buy allies as soon as you can, because allies allow you to effectively attack in a second phase of combat. You can have a maximum of two allies (allowing you to attack in all three stages of combat), as well as two weapons (one in each hand) and one item of armour. Within the market stacks, however, there are also artifact items that don’t appear to count towards that limit. Such items include runes (given the game’s name, this might not be entirely unsurprising!), which do all manner of things, from buffing your attacks to healing you and your allies.

When I play Runebound, I usually like to play a magic user, just because that’s kinda my thing. When I’m doing this, there are certain cards that I will go after that can set up a tremendous chain of buffing my attacks, and have frequently allowed me to defeat really massive monsters in the ‘before combat’ phase (oh yeah, some cards have a ‘Before combat’ action, usually testing skills with adverse effects for failures that weaken you for the combat proper. However, there are also weapons and stuff that grant you Before combat actions too).

Runebound

The above cards are all pretty awesome! Combined with certain allies, you can often guarantee victory in the easier challenges before you have to go through the fight round proper.

Runebound

As a general rule, if you’re playing a magic user for instance, you don’t want an ally whose best combat value is his magic value. However, Runesmith Shan is an exception here because of his Before Combat ability, allowing you to make two magic attacks between the hero and the ally. However, as a magic user, you need to ensure you’ll actually live to see the magic phase. Unless you spend your time levelling up your other attributes to defend really well, you’ll want to get some allies. Cannon fodder allies are fine, but ones that do some real damage in either of the other two phases are the best. I’ve got Sir Loren here, but the best two – in my opinion – are these guys:

Runebound

I also think Jirta the Fierce is worth having as an ally simply because of her little quote there…

So what’s all this about levelling up? Well. You may have noticed that the game board is littered with little cardboard tokens? These are the adventure counters, and show a space where you will encounter something. When you end your movement on one of these, you draw the appropriate colour of encounter card and go through the combat stuff as outlined earlier. If you succeed, in addition to the loot, you get to take that counter, and flip it over, where it becomes your experience point total from the encounter. Some of the earlier pictures show Truthseer Kel with such tokens. When you get five XP, you can choose one of your attributes, or your life or exhaustion values, and take a corresponding token to level them up. (If you increase your life value by 1, you can no longer take on green challenges; increase it by two, and both green and yellow challenges are off-limits, etc). Runebound has been highly criticised in the past for this levelling mechanic, as it allows you to buff all of your attributes until you’re essentially generic. Furthermore, there’s no real in-built timer mechanism in the game, so you can essentially go through hours taking on green and yellow challenges, and levelling until all of your attributes are +20 or something, then just decimate the red deck and win.

However, I have mentioned in the past (I think) being a theme-player, and personally I like to level only once or twice in the subsidiary attributes, focusing my main objective on increasing my main attribute. If I’m going to be a magic user, I’m gonna be one kickass wizard!

So you go through the green to the yellow challenges…

Runebound

…and from the yellow to the blue challenges…

Runebound

…until you’re ready to take on the red challenges…

Runebound

…and once there have been three red Dragon Lords – or Margath himself – defeated, the game ends!

It’s an excellent game, the high fantasy setting and theme are just amazing. While it says it’s for 2-6 players, it is entirely possible to solo this game because, basically, it’s a race game. While there are rules for PvP combat, most players will be focused on the task at hand and attacking other players is largely unnecessary. As such, perhaps the greatest criticism of the game is the amount of downtime between turns. Two people playing is usually fine, three is possibly the biggest number you’ll ever want to play with. Simply because you take your entire turn in one go, so you move, you encounter etc without the other players doing anything. The more people you play with, the longer you’ll have to wait for your next turn, and it can make it quite boring. I played it once with four people and we quickly ended it by going for the higher coloured adventures just because it was dragging on so much. While a solo game might sound a bit dull, I have to say I find it really immersive, as you can really get into the RPG feel of the game, reading the flavour text on the cards, and really tell a story of your hero and the fight against Vorakesh and Margath. To this end, I have one or two house-rules to make the game more thematic, my particular favourite being that heroes can only level up in cities. Like they’ve gone there for training or something.

Runebound

The expansions for Runebound all add so much more to the game. I feel like I want to write more blogs on each one, so I won’t go into vast detail here, but suffice it to say, they’re awesome! Each big box changes the location, so we have an island (with sea travel!), a desert, an ice world, and a jungle world. There is also the Midnight expansion, which is a sort of cross-over with the Midnight RPG setting – basically, evil has won, and you play sort of refugee heroes operating in the shadows. Of all the expansions, Midnight differs the most wildly, as it features one player against the others – the Night King. Consequently, it’s the most difficult to play solo, but I have done it a few times. There are all sorts of cool mechanics involved in this one, such as making sneak tests to get into the towns and whatnot. But like I said, I’ll probably cover each of these in future blogs, because I love them all so much!

Runebound is quite simply my go-to fantasy game. No matter how often I play it, I always enjoy myself – even when playing with just the base game, as I did in order to write this blog. It’s tremendous fun, I only hope we haven’t seen the end of the game yet!


Post script
Unfortunately, though, I feel that we have, in fact, seen the end of the Runebound game. For about two years now, people have been clamouring over on the official forums for a third edition, or just revised second edition. But I don’t really see anything happening there. Terrinoth is a Fantasy Flight Games creation, and they have set a number of their other games in the universe, notably Descent: Journeys in the Dark, but also Runewars, a sprawling war game; DungeonQuest, which has recently had a revised edition announcement; Rune Age, a deck building game that is another of my favourites, and most recently, BattleLore second edition. All of these games come emblazoned with ‘set in the Runebound universe’ on their boxes, but there has been no move to keep this ‘parent game’ in circulation.

Furthermore, the new second edition of Descent, which has been expanding at a rate of knots since it was released in July 2012, has significantly moved the setting away from the tales of Vorakesh and the Dragon Lords. While some enemies persist, Descent has shown us new evils that have arisen, notably Zachareth. Runewars and BattleLore have shown us that Terrinoth is now faction-based (resurrecting the Battle Mist game), rather than hero-centric, and it would be difficult to imagine where a new version of Runebound would fit.

Furthermore, in a more meta-based approach, games like Runebound have themselves begun to fade into legend. None of this subsequent paragraph is meant to sound elitist whatsoever, but unfortunately, it probably will anyway. In the past, it was quite common for “serious” board games like Runebound, or Arkham Horror, to last between 2 and 4 hours. In recent years, there is a distinct move towards quickening the pace of such games, perhaps as gaming has become increasingly mainstream and to entice new faces who might be scared off by being around a table with bits of card for so long. While Arkham Horror’s recently arrived sibling Eldritch Horror has, on paper, the same playing time as the elder game, I find it does in fact play significantly quicker than AH. Battlelore plays in half the time of Runebound, etc etc etc. Perhaps, then, reflecting a trend in general for people to be less inclined to focus on one activity for such a length of time, board games are also shrinking their playing times, but unfortunately there isn’t (to my mind) any way to shrink Runebound down without significantly altering the game so as to be virtually unrecognisable. Perhaps, then, it is this reason that is preventing a new edition from coming.

Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong, and there’ll be new Runebound for everyone to enjoy soon. It’s getting on for four years since there was last anything new for this game, though, and I do find it increasingly unlikely as time goes on.

Hm. I don’t want to end this post on such a downer. Runebound is awesome! If you can, play it now! It’s awesome! 🙂

Runebound

 

Carcassonne

Yay, it’s another post! If you read my tagline above, you’ll see that one of the things I love is board games, but before I start talking about that in any great depth, I thought you’d all love to know a bit about my very first experience with this world. See, the board game world that I enjoy so much isn’t the standard fayre of monopolys, clue(do)s, and whatnot. It’s more what I jokingly call “serious board games”, the sort that require a massive amount of capital to support, not to mention whole rooms given over to store them. That’s not to insinuate there’s any sort of snobbery going on – I enjoy a good murder mystery, or race to buy up London, as much as anyone – but rather I just enjoy games that have more immersion involved.

So anyway. The game that got me started in all this was, as it most likely was for a lot of other folks, Carcassonne. It’s a simple and elegantly beautiful game from the German designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, where you place tiles to essentially build the game board, scoring points as you complete features in the landscape that you have claimed using your meeple. When the last tile has been placed, the game ends, and the person with the most points wins. That’s pretty much all there is to it – no snobbery involved here! Rather than go through any complex rule explanations with pictures or whatnot, I thought I’d let Wil Wheaton show you, in his awesome TableTop webshow:

Pretty awesome, I know!

Carcassonne got me insta-hooked on tabletop gaming, and since then I’ve been sinking untold thousands of pounds into the hobby. It’s something I enjoy, so what the hell, right? But why Carcassonne? What was so special about that game that tipped me over the edge? Well, I don’t know. Highly unsatisfactory answer, I know, but still – I don’t! It’s a really elegant game, with perhaps the perfect balance of strategy for me to enjoy it right out of the box. If you watched the whole video (and if you didn’t, shame on you!), you may have picked up on how easy it is to either play confrontationally, messing up other peoples’ plans and muscling in on their farms or cities, or equally you can just have your own little corner that you can make your own, and hope you have more features at the end. I’m sometimes a lazy gamer, and I don’t want to have to sit through half an hour of strife and torment while I try to continually adapt my plans for victory, sometimes I just want to put some tiles down and score some points, y’know?

Carcassonne

There are a lot of expansions for Carcassonne, which adds greatly to the depth of the game without really being all that complex (I think). I think we’re currently looking at the ninth “big box” expansion coming out this year, but there are also a whole host of smaller boxes, right down to single-tile expansions. Unfortunately, I don’t have all of them (to my lasting shame!), but I have a damn good selection, let me tell you!

Carcassonne

If I had to pick my absolute favourite, I’d probably say it was Inns and Cathedrals. It was the first large expansion for the game, and basically added more tiles, including tiles with inns and with cathedrals on. Genius, right?! To add to the main game shown above, the inns appear on road tiles, and their presence on said road makes it worth two points per tile when completed (though still one point at the end of the game). Cathedrals are full-tile city tiles, and when said city is completed it makes each tile worth three points – however, at game end, if the city was incomplete, it scores you nothing! The potential for adding cathedrals to an opponent’s incomplete city near the endgame is always sooooooooo tempting! Muwahahahaha! (I’m not actually a jerk like that – I like to think I’m a really considerate gamer, anyway!).

Carcassonne Inns and Cathedrals

The smaller expansions all add something, well, small to the game – my favourite is the Cult, six tiles which work similarly to the monasteries, though if you get a cult piece and a monastery together it becomes a fight to see who completes the feature first! Whoever loses gets no points for their own feature.

Carcassonne Cult

A lot of the Carcassonne mini expansions have been made available through Spielbox magazine, which is a German game magazine that does a lot to promote tabletop gaming. Published in German, with an English-language version also available, it’s definitely worth checking out!

Carcassonne Cathedrals of Germany
Carcassonne latest addition, the Cathedrals of Germany!

As well as expansions, there are ‘re-imaginings’ of the game released, the first being Hunters & Gatherers, a Stone Age version; Discovery; Winter Edition, and most recently, South Seas. All of these use the basic mechanics but with subtle twists. I’ve only played Discovery and Winter Edition, which are both as much fun as the regular game, though without the same level of expansion (all except Discovery have had some form of expansion to them).

Carcassonne Discovery
Carcassonne Discovery

Carcassonne Winter Edition

Carcassonne Winter Edition

Carcassonne South Seas
Carcassonne South Seas

Which leads me on to another point. I’ve played Carcassonne a whole load of times, in large groups and one-on-one. It’s an experience that is always changing, and always fun, and the level of expansion incorporation can make things as easy or as complex as you like. Personally, I enjoy at least a couple of expansions being involved. There are two small expansions of River tiles (River and River II) which have become practically ubiquitous to the main game, but in addition to these I would usually involve at least Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, the Cult pieces and the King expansion. There’s just enough going on with these that I feel the game is in a constant flux until the end. (I also have the ‘mini expansion’ of twelve tiles published in Games Quarterly magazine mixed in with the base game tiles, and while usually expansion tiles have a watermark telling you which set they came from, this one doesn’t, so I can’t split it off. Just thought you ought to know). Playing with all the expansions can be a bad idea, as there is so much going on – not to mention, so many tiles – that it can slow the game down. I’ve done it once, and covered the dining table with the game.

Carcassonne River II

In case you’re interested, the Guinness World Record for the longest boardgame play was for a game of Carcassonne in Germany in 2006, which lasted nearly 43 hours and used nearly 4200 tiles. The winning score was 4703 points! Sheesh!

Carcassonne was the game that got me into this delightful mess, and it’s always fun to get it out every once in a while.

As always, I’d love to hear what other people think of Carcassonne – including favourite expansions! Drop me a comment!

Carcassonne Count of Carcassonne
The Count of Carcassonne expansion brought the actual citadel of Carcassonne itself to the game!