Carcassonne: The Discovery – Review

Carcassonne: The Discovery

I mentioned yesterday that I picked up two random games for my birthday, this was the other game.

Overview of Carcassonne: The Discovery

Carcassone: The Discovery is, in many ways, your standard Carcassone game with mountains, grasslands, and oceans in place of cities, farmland, and roads. You still draw one piece a turn and play one piece a turn and you still have little followers that you place on different aspects of the board to try to score points. The game is fast moving and can be taught to new players easily. The parts are all sturdy and the rules are fairly clear.

But What if I Haven’t Played a Carcassonne Game Before?

Okay let’s get back to the beginning. In the box for Carcassonne: The Discovery you get the following:

  • 84 landscape tiles
  • 25 followers (little wooden people) in five colors
  • 1 scoring track
  • 5 summary cards (this seems a bit silly to me)
  • 1 rule book

(One thing you don’t get is tiles with 50 on one side and 100 on the other. You got these in the original Carcassonne for use when a player passes the 50 on the score track and I was a bit disappointed that they had not included them here.)

Here are the game’s basics: A player, on his or her turn, draws a tile and then adds it to the board. The tile must be added in such a way so that it expands either a mountain, a sea or a grassland and it cannot butt up against the wrong types. In this way it plays like other Carcassonne games but even for those that have not played one before it is fairly intuitive.

Once a player has played a tile that player can either place a follower on that tile, choosing a specific terrain type that tile features to play onto, or remove a follower played in a prior turn and score. In the original Carcassonne players scored as soon as something was completed but in this version scoring only takes place when you choose to remove the piece. However, a player scores more points if the area is completed. Completed is defined as the terrain being completely surrounded by other types of terrain. (A difference between this Carcassonne and other Carcassonnes – specifically the original – is that there are ways for points to accumulate even when an area is “complete”.)

Scoring works as follows:

  • Grasslands = 1 point per tile in the grassland if the grassland is not completed, and 2 points per tile if the grassland is completed
  • Mountains = 1 point per Port City (a little city symbol appears on some tiles) in the mountain range or in the grasslands touching that mountain range if the mountain is incomplete, or 2 points per Port City in the mountain range or in the grasslands touching that mountain range if the mountain is complete.
  • Sea = 1 point for each Port City touching the sea if the sea is incomplete, or 1 point for each Port City touching the see and 1 point for each tile in the sea if the sea is complete.

This scoring system will take a tiny bit of getting used to for some Carcassonne players as it is slightly different than most. It also needs to be mentioned that all two-space terrain structures are scored as though they are incomplete even if they are completed. I assume this is done to prevent people from simply scoring on all small structures and making the game less interesting in doing so.

As in other Carcassonne games a player cannot place a follower in a terrain that already has a follower in it (his/her own or another player’s). However unlike in other Carcassonne games players cannot “steal” areas by having more followers in an area. Because areas only score when a figure is removed each player can simply score when they remove their individual follower. Likewise if a player ended up with more than one follower in the same area they could remove one follower one turn and another follower on a subsequent turn and effectively score the area twice.

The game ends when all the tiles are used and at the end of the game the players score for any followers still on the board as though the areas they are in are incomplete, even if they are technically completed.

How Does this Compare to Other Carcassonne Games?

I use to be a big fan of Carcassonne. My wife purchased the game and all of its expansions (even though a friend also had) it simply because she wanted to be able to play it more. We own every expansion for the game except the most recent and we never got that because we don’t play the game much anymore. The problems with it seem to be two-fold.

  1. As the game has been expanded more pieces have been added which automatically make the game longer.
  2. As more expansions have come out more ways to score have been added and some people find certain scoring systems or new rules in general disagreeable.

The first problem is fairly easy to solve by house ruling that a certain number of tiles are randomly removed every game but the second rule becomes trickier. For example The Tower expansion added a way to remove other players’ followers from the board. This gave ways to hurt other players in a more direct way which changed the feel of the game for some. However some people enjoyed the rule or at least what it did to the game (people needed to be more careful and cities did not get as large as often) which makes it more difficult to declare that those rules will not be used.

I have also played Hunters and Gatherers and had a similar opinion to it that I have to The Discovery. Both games play a bit like the original with only minor alterations and both tend to be a bit more fun than the overloaded original. The concept behind Carcassonne is a fairly simple one and it’s fun to watch the board come together as the game goes on.

For Example: In Carcassonne I would often drop a guy on every tile I played. Until they added expansions and gave you other things to do with your turn there was really no reason not to. Your stash of guys was so large you rarely ran out before you were able to complete something else and get your follower back. However in The Discovery you really need to decide if a tile is worth playing on since your only have four followers to work with.

The idea of playing a follower or removing a follower presented in The Discovery is an interesting one. It may provide a bit of a challenge to players familiar with the old game as the automatic removal of a follower from a completed area is so built into the mind of those that have played a lot of the game but it does provide an interesting twist and makes some decisions far more interesting.

Who will Enjoy Carcassonne: The Discovery?

I think anyone who is a fan of Carcassonne in general will enjoy this version of the game. Some people may find that they are less interested because the cities look cooler than mountains but I have seen over at The Geek that some people prefer the look of the mountains to that of cities. So it really is a case of personal preference.

I think most commonly people who are interested in a casual friendly game enjoy Carcassonne and its variants. Some games can be decided by a player getting incredibly lucky with their tile draws and since you only have one tile at a time there is little planning ahead. (Note: A couple optional rules are provided in The Discovery and one is that all players start with two tiles and keep replacing. This rule could lead to more planning ahead should a group find this more to their liking.) Still, while the game does depend on luck there is a certain amount of strategy to the game and being able to see the best place for a tile will certainly pay off as much as, or more than, simply getting “good” tiles all the time.

My Opinion on the Game

I like the game. I find it fun and simple and fairly quick. I like watching the board come together and I like the fact that it removed the screw-over-other-players aspect of other Carcassonnes. From what I have seen of The Discovery there are few huge scores to be had and generally it seems players will stay close. One complaint our group always had since the beginning of he original game was the Cathedrals. These tiles double a city’s value and forced all players to try to get into that city. This always made the city even larger and often resulted in whichever player or players failed to get into the city being shut out of the game.

In the end The Discovery is still basically a Carcassonne game. It’s not highly strategic and it doesn’t try to hide its randomness. If you like Carcassonne you will probably enjoy this game. If you are sick of the original Carcassonne I suggest you check this out (or Hunters and Gatherers for that matter) and get reacquainted with why you got the game and started buying all the expansions in the first place. Then maybe go back to the original game, remove a couple of the rules and maybe a pile of tiles and see if you can still enjoy it.

If you’re playing the original Carcassonne (with the expansions) and enjoying it, you probably will not be interested in this game. It will feel too simple and limiting since there are far fewer options of what to do on a turn than Carcassonne with all its expansions.

Conclusion

As always I would love to hear some other opinions on this game. I am sure that it isn’t for everyone and I know some people find it too simple after having played the much larger more complicated compilation of Carcassonnes. Some people have gone so far as to call this Carcassonne Jr. or Carcassonne for beginners. I don’t think this is at all a fair assessment but I would say if you don’t feel like sorting out all the pieces from your other game when introducing a new player you could play this game so that they get the generally idea before they need to learn how pigs, towers, dragons, fairies, The Grimace (The Count of Carcassonne), portals, etc. work.

Again, feel free to sound off no matter what you think of the game!

  1.  
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    ojiepat Says:

    After having played this a few times, I have to say that if you don’t draw enough cities, you can’t win. it would be easier, and much faster, to just flip over tiles and whoever flips the most cities wins.

    I give this a thumbs down. I think the original, unexpansioned, Carcassonne hid the luck a little better.

    -Patrick

  2.  

    While I don’t think that the Port City problem is as bad as Pat does, I have seen this complaint elsware and have to admit is genuine. I still enjoy the game however and wonder if there are ways to get around this “luck” factor with more experience.

  3.  
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    Scott Says:

    The “remove a follower to score” mechanic sounds neat. I’d probably try it just for that.

    Though I have to admit I was not a big fan of the original Carcassonne, even before lots of expansions; mostly that while there existed luck and strategy in the game, the luck seemed to outweigh the strategy.

    Give me Settlers instead (not the same type of game but it feels like both occupy a similar point in my gaming timeline).