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It seems as though the game Carcassone has gotten a boost recently not only from the growing popularity of “games you can’t buy at WalMart” (most notably, Settlers of Catan), but also because of its recent translation to the iPad. While there are several expansions for the base game, like the river expansion or the inns and cathedrals expansion, I never hear a lot of talk about the Carcassone spinoff “Carcassone Castle.” And that’s a shame, because it’s a really fun two player game that’s familiar enough to Carcassone players to pick up with zero learning curve, and different enough to make it a distinct game.
For those unfamiliar with Carcassone, Carcassone Castle is a tile laying game. Pieces consist of tiles that have partial pictures of roads, houses, keeps, and markets on them. As players randomly draw tiles, they lay these tiles on the table by lining up these partial pictures (e.g., a road section next to a previously laid road section) next to a tile that is already on the table. Players also have the option to place a “follower” on one of the tile’s assets (road, house, keep, market). Placing followers is how players score points to win the game – followers claim that asset for your point total when it is “complete.” Players must be careful though, because the pool of followers each player has is limited.
So what are some of the differences between Castle and Original Carcassone? The most obvious difference is that Castle is expressely two player. The second (and most drastic) difference is in how gameplay progresses. Carcassone starts with a single tile, and as players play new tiles, the game area expands. However, Carcassone Castle has an outer boundary “wall” that the players start from, and work inwards. So, as play progresses, the area in which to lay tiles shrinks. Because of these boundaries, strategic tile laying is more important (and easier to do) in Castle. The final major difference is the presence of “bonus” tokens. These tokens are laid on the scoring track at predetermined intervals, and if a player lands their scoring marker on one, they get to take it. These bonus tokens allow players (among other things) to double the score on certain assets, score incomplete assets at the end of the game, and take two turns in a row. The placement of these tokens on the scoring track adds another layer of strategy, as players have to decide whether they want to try and “hit the target” to take as many of these tokens as possible.
Even though Carcassone can be played with two players, whenever my wife and I want to play a Carcassone game together, we usually reach for Carcassone Castle. If your game night is going to consist of only two people (or if two people show up late, and you’re in the middle of a game) Carcassone Castle is a great choice.
- Game: Carcassone Castle
- Players: 2
- Time: 30-45 min
- Type: Tile laying strategy