Carcassonne (360, XBLA) – Review

Carcassone - CoverCarcassonne , like Settlers of Catan, has made the jump from a popular tabletop game to Xbox Live in this version developed by Seirra Studios. The game does an excellent job staying faithful to the boardgame and has potential for future expansions. While the online version is lacking some features that Catan had, the result is still as good; a quick fun game that’s easy to learn but has many different strategies to learn.

Gameplay: A-

I’ve not actually played the original board game, but have talked to a few that have, and read up on some articles to understand some of the variations with the game. However, it doesn’t matter if you’ve played it as the tutorials in the game are good for a step-by-step instruction manual on what the game entails.

Carcassone - BoardThe game is primarily played as a tile-placing game. On your turn, you randomly select a tile and then place it on the board where it will fit. Tiles have parts of cities and roads or monasteries on them separated by fields. Thus, an edge with a city on it can only match another edge with a city, and so forth. After you place a tile, you have the option to put down a claim on any part of that title (city, road, field, or monastery) with one of a limited number of markers; you can’t claim parts of cities, roads, or fields that have already been claimed through adjacent tiles. When a road or city is complete, whoever has the most claims in it gets points for its completion; if a tie, the tied parties share the benefit; all claims are returned to the players. Monasteries require that all 8 tile spaces around it to have tiles to earn points. At the end of the game, the fields come into play, with the persons with the most claims or those tied for that getting points for each completed city adjacent to the tile. Unfinished cities and roads get points to at the end of the game, but not as much. In the end, the people with the most points earned through completing claims in the game and with the end-of-game scoring, wins. There are variations in the scoring such as discounting roads or monasteries, or only scoring your cities that border on your fields in the end score, but out-of-box, the scoring provides a pretty decent game. Currently, the game also includes “The River” expansion which starts with the placing of a river on the board that alters some of the strategy. The UI suggests that other additions will be made available as later downloads. A full game can take about 10-15 minutes if everyone is paying attention.

Implementation of the game on the 360 is very well done. When your turn is up, you’re shown the only spaces the tile can go, though you can also turn it if possible; when you place your claim, only the available spaces are marked as well with a hilighted region showing the area of that claim to help along. I understand that the board version of this can be tricky to make sure you don’t try to claim an area that already is claimed at times, so the automation helps. Everyone’s current score and number of remaining claims is shown at all times, along with how many tiles are left and time remaining if in a player match. You can zoom and pan around as necessary if the board starts to stretch too wide.

The game offers some decent AI, though not as well-done as the ones for Catan. The AI’s have 3 basic levels of difficulty, with the hardest ones being very aggressive. But just like with Catan, Carcassonne has several possible strategies to win the game. It would have been nice like the Live version of Catan to have AIs that follow different strategies and arranging the game to select these manually or randomly to make play much more interesting.

As with most Live games, you can play online with up to 4 others, including the use of AI to fill spots. Both ranked matches (based on Trueskill ranking) and player matches are available. There’s also a good handful of Achievements to obtain, none of them being too ridiculous to obtain. The game supports both voice chat and Live Vision (replacing your avatar in the scoreboard), but it would have been nice to have Catan‘s emote system as well, though again, there’s much less waiting in this game compared to Catan.

Value/Replayability: A-

Carcassonne is definitely worth the price; the base game is simple to learn but can take several games to master, and the online multiplayer seal the deal. Hopefully they will put out more expansions to the game as the game suggests to further mix up the play.

Graphics: A

The 3D game board is nice and clean, and very easy to see all the key elements of the board and make an assessment of where to play your tiles.

Sound: B

The background music tends to get repetitive, but most everything else about the sound in the game is fine.

Overall: A-

There’s a few things that I would have liked to see used in Carcassonne that Catan had such as AI with different strategies or some of the features of online play, but for the most part, the core game is well represented and easy to play on Xbox Live. Despite the simple rules, there is a lot of strategy for the game, and thus is one that you can easily jump in a play a few games at any time.

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2 Responses

  1. Nice box art. (lol)

  2. WOW! I need to buy a XBOX360.
    I have been playing Carcassonne [ the board game] for THREE years now. I play a few times a-week. I’d rather play the game then sit around watching a movie.

    From the sound of things, I guess you’re happy with the only play. Is there any talk about a buy able game? I own all the expansions so playing 1 game with 5 other people normally take 2-3 hours. How long do the games last on the Xbox?

    Happy playing and if you want the REAL challenge. If you don’t own the original board game version, go out and buy it.

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