So the Bruce article got me thinking about Carcassonne which is another Rio Grande Games title in which you build a french castle.
It’s a lot of fun but it shares some of the same quirkiness of Caylus or RoL. I’ve been through a ton of different strategies without really feeling like one particular strategy is the best.
Although I have found out that there is one worst strategy. I call it the “Jerk” strategy. I call it this because anytime I use a play from the “Jerk” strategy play book my wife tells me that I’m making her angry because I’m playing like a jerk. Jerk plays include things like:
[li]Posititioning tiles so that my wife cannot possibly finish the mega points castle she’s working on because there’s no tile that fits anymore.
[li]Taking over my wife’s castles by sneakily working in extra guys at the last minute.
[li]Taking over a farm by carefully getting extra farmers connected in.
[li]Making it impossible for her to finish a road or a monastery thereby preventing her from from ever getting her guy back.
[li]Boxing her farmers in to a very small area but cutting off connecting land/land routes with roads or castles.
[li]Getting the tile she needs and not putting it in the spot she needs it like a nice husband would do.
We’ve been getting in a lot of fights about this game recently.
I played Carcassone once or twice. While I’m not entirely clear on the scoring, it seemed to me that you had nothing to do while it wasn’t your turn. I couldn’t imagine possible words like you could on scrabble, and studying the gaming field didn’t seem to yield much profit.
I partially agree with this. Some opponent turns there really isn’t anything to do but it’s often very important to be looking all around the board a couple of moves ahead to see how you might work in an additional farmer or take over a castle.
My family absolutely loves Carcassonne. We definitely take advantage of all the “jerk” plays. It’s half the fun! However, unlike Monopoly or Risk (I know, I know, trying to convert them to better games), no one gets upset, overturns the board, or throws pieces. Even when its someone else’s turn, everyone stays involved by telling them what the best strategy is for placement of the particular piece they’ve drawn.
Cacassonne is definitely 2 player friendly. In fact I have no idea how it plays with more than 2 people because we’ve never played with anybody else. :P
I’d say it takes between 20 and 30 minutes to play and there’s nothing to set up really so that doesn’t waste time.
Contrast this to “Starship Catan” which my wife and I have played about five times since buying it a few months ago. It’s a blast to play but it seems to take us about 1.5 to 2 hours and there are a bunch of cards and tokens and woozles to keep track of.
I enjoy the jerk plays too to be honest. And I’m always helping my wife although sometimes when I’m contemplating a particularly clever or nasty move I refrain from giving her any advice for fear that regardless of what I suggest the next move will make it look like I was fooling her or something.
This kind of reaction to “jerk” plays is similar to how mad some people get in Ticket to Ride when you block them. If you play as though you can only make a play to help yourself, you’re only playing half the game. I’ve run into it in other games, too. Making a play that screws over another player (even if it’s clearly to your advantage) is sometimes seen as unfair in some way. I’m curious as to why this is.
Carcassonne never caught on in our group, but that’s probably because we don’t play that frequently, and when we do there are multiple other games we prefer. But it’s a good game, and very accessible. Even the scoring isn’t complicated if it is explained clearly. What hinders scoring is the need to visualize which farms serve which cities, and that can be hard with the way the roads are displayed.
The best two-player game, though, is still Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.
It’s the difference between gamers and casuals (heard this before? :). Gamers want to win and will figure out any legal way to do so. Casuals look at games as opportunities for friendly social interaction, and when you act like a gamer, they get mad.
When my (ex) husband and I were playing games with our (then) little one, maybe 7 or 8, it was all he could do not to crush the poor child into the ground because that’s how my husband plays. I had to continually remind him that the tables weren’t even.
And in a sense, this is the problem. Casuals don’t study games the way gamers study games. I read and re-read rules, put the board out before I play the game, try to figure out early opening strategies. A casual would never do this, and in fact could be intimidated if she knew you had done it. So when a gamer plays a casual, then the tables aren’t really even either, and casuals can feel taken advantage of by gamers.
Me and my friends had this in-house notion of the “bastard point.” This point was awarded to whichever player most recently screwed up someone else’s board position. It was worth one point during the game, and -1 point at the end (so that you couldn’t actually “win” by having it). However, it sometimes broke ties so that you were considered to be “in the lead” during the mid-game, giving you all of the associated benefits and drawbacks. Quite appropriately, we used a small LEGO figure of Jar-Jar Binks as the point marker.
The ‘jerk’ strategy is the only way to play and truely enjoy a game, otherwise you might as well be drinking coffee. Everyone has to be a ‘jerk’ though, or else someone is going to get their feelings hurt. But the best strategy I’ve seen is for a wife to get her husband to not use the ‘jerk’ play, and then use the ‘jerk’ play herself for the win. What’s worse is being the third party that the couple teams up on and knowing that the betrayal will come yet powerless to prevent it.
Turning on your best friends and loved ones is always the best strategy.
Carcassonne and Settlers are great games because they can balance the benefits of cooperation and backstabbing so well. Family Business is another great game that really brings out the vicious ‘jerk’ strategy, and when we play it, it usually generates the most laughs.
Carcassonne actually makes for a pretty clever drinking game. Just scatter your play surface with a variety of full shot glasses, and whenever someone wants to play a piece blocked by a shot they have to drink it.
To make it more exciting you can fill half the glasses with water and the other half with vodka or gin.
Very timely thread! I’m kinda setting up a pair of unmarried friends so set up a BBQ for Saturday. Figured board games are a good excuse for people to sit down and force interaction (that’s my metagame hehe).
The reminder that half will be casual players is important. It’s too tempting to sit down, study the rules, and steamroll to compete with the other “skilled gamers”. I think I have to lump the jerks (my best mates) into one group and keep them far, far away from the nice people.
Picking up Caylus as recommended in Compleat’s Strategist which is a gaming store in midtown manhattan. Googled for the address. This is presumably a paid advertisement:
It’s musky and a little dark in here. Men and a few women stand in the aisles and peruse rulebooks for their favorite strategy games–it all somehow makes sense in a place that decided to use the Old English spelling of “complete” in its name. You know the guy who owns the comic book store on the Simpsons? That’s who shops here.
CRUD! Okay Ticket to Ride it is. I asked a friend to go to Compleat’s instead as I’m stuck at work. Told him to find the “weird guy” and ask him for a recommendation for beginner games, just don’t get monopoly or something stupid.
We’ll play house rules where the three geek gamers have to be nice and can only jerk move each other. After all the metagame is to get the nice couple to talk to each other. Hah!
This is so true. Even online amongst a group of hardcore players, depending on the players, you can be completely castigated for making a “block” move that is clearly just a block and not also a move that helps yourself (which would be considered fair play). The unspoken rule is something like: “work on your own train lines and good luck to you but don’t stop me doing mine even if it’s clear I’m going to win because then you’re a jerk.”
Funnily enough, when I play with my 12-year-old daughter, she is all about the jerk plays, without me having to lecture her on why that’s a good thing. :) She just “gets it.” And she knows that I’m still having fun even when I’m the victim. I admire the cutthroat play–and it only helps improve my game.
(This said, if I find myself in a “carebear” online game–I am not the jerk who will play like a jerk anyway. I play nice. Errr, most of the time.)