It’s always nice when a game launches a bit earlier than its Wednesday release date. Last week, Cracking Sands appeared in the morning (facilitating our timely review the next day), and now Carcassonne from Exozet and Microsoft Studios has done the same. Are you ready for some board game goodness?
Carcassonne is a board game in which players take turns placing land tiles, trying to build cities, complete roads, and score the most points. There is a great variety of land tiles, allowing you to construct differently shaped roads, rivers, and more. The Windows Phone game includes an expansion called ‘The River II’ that adds extra tiles which can be used to create a large river. The game also teases a future expansion, which we can assume will be distributed as PDLC.
Each player gets seven human followers to place. Put a follower inside a city and then complete it and the city becomes yours, earning you mad points. However, other players can contest incomplete cities by placing their own followers on other parts of the city. In that case, the player with the most followers when the city gets completed gets it, plus a handy Achievement.
Carcassonne includes a couple of tutorials that will teach people unfamiliar with the board game how to play. Oddly, the confirmation button does not like to work during the tutorial. I often had to press it multiple times before the game accepted the press and moved on, even though the icon changed color with every press. During actual gameplay it didn't seem to be a problem.
Also, the tutorial mentions cloisters but doesn’t teach you what they are. You’ll need to know in order to earn a couple of Achievements. Luckily, the separate and more comprehensive Help section does explain them. Cloisters contain a single large building and may or may not have a single road. Check out the image above to see what both varieties look like.
Tiles with friends
Carcassonne supports both local and online multiplayer games (real-time, not asynchronous) for up to six players. In my quick test, matchmaking did not find any open games, but of course the game isn’t even officially out yet. One downside to the matchmaking is that it segregates players using the included but optional ‘The River II’ expansion from players not using it. I get the feeling that will make it harder to fill up public games than necessary.
To host a public game, choose Play Online from the main menu, Select players, tap at least one open player slot, scroll all the way to the bottom of the player list, and then set that slot to Open for public. Not the most intuitive system, but it works.
Carcassonne also comes with a free ringtone which you’ll find by swiping to the right in the Help & Options menu. Not a bad value for $2.99, especially considering how EA is selling the much simpler and less-skillfully coded Connect 4 for the same price. Get Carcassonne here at the Windows Phone Store.
Thanks to Mark Tepper for the tip!