board game reviews

Carcassonne South Seas

A couple of weeks ago I went to Cafe Mox (my amazing local game library) with my boyfriend to have a night of tasty foods, excessive drink, and a bunch of 2-player games. It was much fun! And we were 2 for 2 on great games for the night. So, here are my thoughts on the first great game we played that night:

Carcassonne: South Seas
This game is a spin-off of the original Carcassonne (which has quickly become one of my favorite board games!). One of the great things about Carcassonne in general is that the game can be really different each time you play — you are assembling the game board as you go. It’s a tile-laying game where you try to complete various structures (islands, bridges, markets, and seas), but it’s complicated by the need to have claimed these structures in order to get points for them. Here’s an example of what the game board can look like:

South Seas game board

Clearly visible in this shot are the islands, bridges, seas, and the islands that are only one square (called markets). Thus far the description of South Seas is almost the same as the original Carcassonne, but here is where the two games diverge. You also must acquire resources (bananas, fish, or shells) to gain points, and all points are counted only at the end of the game. There are NO points counted throughout. In some ways this greatly simplifies things, because the need to carefully count points throughout the game (as in the original) disappears. You just do some pretty easy mental math at the end to add everything up.

Ultimately, much like the original, I think South Seas is a highly successful game. It’s straightforward enough to learn pretty quickly, but variable enough to be fun for a long time. Really good for 2-5 people, which means it’s quite flexible, too! I think I’m still partial to the original Carcassonne, and am a little disinclined ¬†toward all the extras that complicate it (like the need to collect/trade resources). I do wonder, though, if I had played this before the original if I wouldn’t feel differently… maybe I just get attached to whatever version I play first. Anyway! I sincerely recommend this or the original for a unique board game whose simplicity and variability make it a great and accessible game.

3 out of 5 stars.


New blog series; San Juan review!

Firstly: wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged! Since I last posted I’ve passed my general exam (and am now a Doctoral Candidate!) and applied for my first big girl grant (an NRSA through the NIH). And now that I am pretty literally counting down the hours until my official vacation it’s time to get back on the horse. And what better way to do that than by starting a new type of blog entry: board game reviews!

This may seem slightly esoteric, but I know a lot of people who enjoy games and cafes & bars that feature board games are becoming more and more popular. Well, that’s a made up statistic, but too bad. This will be fun, I promise.

San Juan:
This is a resource management type of board/card game that can be played by 2-4 players. If you’re wondering what ‘resource management’ really means, join the club. This is just what the clerks at my local game library call it (seriously, I won the jackpot by living a block away from this place). I think it roughly means there are different types of goods/resources you can have, and you must successfully manage them to win. WOW. Insight of the century.

Anyhow, the game looks like this:

San Juan: the game (not the city)!

Overall I would say I was a bit underwhelmed by this game, but I think resource management games aren’t so much my favorite. Here’s a quick and dirty summary of how the game works. The goal is to have the most victory points (aka points… that can lead you to victory!) at the end of the game (when someone has built 12 buildings). You amass victory points by constructing buildings, for which you pay by producing and trading goods, and collecting cards in your hand.

Although you are playing with/against others, your actions don’t much affect the other player. You can’t sabotage them in any way, really. This probably encourages more civilized play, but I really do enjoy a good sabotage (mostly when I’m not the recipient, of course). Anyhow, it’s a little more creative than some other similar card/resource management games. There’s some strategy involved, but it’s relatively straightforward to learn. And not too much lingo to acquire. Also, it is not too cumbersome in terms of space required, thankfully.

All set up and ready to go!

Random +1: They have these nifty score cards for the end of the game. Actually super helpful in counting up victory points because there are some sneaky/confusing ways to earn points!

Random -1: The slot for the cards in the box is oddly slanted so it’s hard to fit everything back into the box. Or I am just seriously spatially challenged. Or both, frankly.

Certainly worth checking out, but I wouldn’t add it to my wish list. (Unlike this magical gem, which I thankfully already own!)

2¬†stars (out of 5, I guess. I don’t know. Let’s go with 5.)