Games Gazette Logo

CARPE DIEM (Sieze the Day) is yet another game of classic quality from the game-designer's mind of Stefan Feld.
With so many tile-laying, worker-placement, resource management 'Euro' games to choose from each year many players tend to look first to the renown authors, people like Michael Riesling, Vlaada Chvatil and Stefan Feld. These are among the latest game designer superstars, the first of which, in my opinion was Reiner Knizia, who along with Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and Klaus Teuber were in at the beginning of the Euro Game phenomenom that continues today.

In CARPE DIEM 2-4 players aged 10+ can enjoy up to an hour and a half of Euro game excellence. This game genre is generally recognised to have one (each its own) somewhat simple game mechanic around which a complex web of tributary mechanisms and procedures weave the components into some of the most enjoyable past-times and challenges; tabletop board games.

CARPE DIEM's mechanic is certainly simple, Move your Meeple, Take a Tile, Place your Tile.

 

Each player has their own 36 square building board with one square displaying a Shovel. The border of each of these board is made up of 4 Jigsaw-style edge pieces that are randomly distributed. Each of these edges has 2 different Resource icons though because of the random deal out it is quite possible to have duplicated icons around the board; these may provide bonus points during scoring at the end of the game. When placing Building tiles you are wanting to position them so that a straight line (along an edge of the grid boxes) from the centre of the Resource icon goes through the centre (or along an inside tile if the Building is larger than 2 pieces) of a Building - this may work both up and down if you are lucky with the edge draw and you build the correct buildings - as you will score bonus points according to the number in the edge icon. Many things to think about when gathering tiles and positioning them on your board.

Player's boards have several marked spaces, apart from the 'Shovel' which give you a Banderole point when they are legally covered by the placement of a tile. It appears that during play-testing these were easily missed and so enough mini tokens have now been included in the game so that you cannot lay a tile on them and not notice; the mini token is removed from the game and the player scores a point.

There are small similarities with Carcassonne® in as much as you are positioning tiles in such a way that they complete buildings. Unlike Carcassonne the size of the buildings has no effect, though like it, to count they have to be completed without the luxury of using the edges of the board unless the tile played there has a grassy edge.

 

Played in rounds, each round 28 building tiles (with light green backs) are placed onto the 28 spaces (7 boxes of 4 spaces each) on the main game board. The players, having begun the game by placing their meeple (Patrician) onto one of the platforms attached to the boxes) take it in turns to move it one space to left or right (may not stay on same space unless a renumeration is paid) and then remove a tile from the box where they alight. This tile has to be placed onto their own building plan. The first is placed on the 'Shovel' space and subsequent tiles have to be positioned adjacent (not diagonally) to previously played tiles, pretty much like every other tile laying game.

Connecting 2 or more parts of a building and completing it generally rewards the player with a resource according to the type of building, eg. the Baker gives Bread, the Lake gives Fish and the Farm gives Hens etc, each of these, except the Bread, but including also Grapes and Herbs, are represented by wooden coloured shapes, Gold and Bread are cardboard tokens. Villas do not have immediate rewards but have the advantage at the end as they score according to the number of their chimneys (cross referenced on the chart found on the player's boards). 

 

The round ends when the last tiles are removed from the 7 box sections. With 4 players all 28 tiles are taken, with 3 players only 21 tiles are taken by players but when the third tile is taken the last tile is removed from play. Looking at what other players are collecting can determine which tile you take. With two players only 14 are used by players with two being removed from each when the second tile, of the four, is taken. The fact that tiles are removed in 2 and 3 player games gives those players an additional choice of strategy (over those in a 4 player game) because they can see the other players boards and if there are no tiles they particularly want for themselves they can sometimes take a tile that will upset another players plans.

However, it isn't really a good idea for you to have too many tiles that are of no use to you because, simply, they are of no use to you, and thus will not help you win by scoring points. Suggestion: balance your playing for, as to playing to damage, about 85% - 15%. Also it is usually quite good to build a Baker as early as possible as Bread can be extra useful.

As you play your tiles you may find yourself moving your score token along the track. At the end of the Round, when all tiles have been taken or removed, this is followed by another phase that uses the pre-positioned specialised score cards. These cards have a Green half which means you have to 'have' or 'own' the necessary required resources shown to gain the reward on the card, or a Red half which means you have 'pay' or 'spend' the resources required to gain the reward. Each of these cards shows a semi-circle in the centre of each of its edges. When the cards are butted up together then these semi circles become whole circles which players can play (actually players must play) one of their tokens after each Round of Building card gathering.

Placing your Token into one of these circles (you may never use semi-circles) gives you access to two cards and if you can you must gain the rewards from each of these. Failure to be able to fulfill a requirement results in you losing 4 points, thus if you are forced (by the play of the others or by your failure to look what the possibilities are) you can easily lose 8 points - this hurts a lot in the greater scheme of things (if you fail on all of the four visits you make to this area losing 32 points will not win you the game.)

 

Some tiles contain Fountains which allow you to take the top 2 cards from the Fountain card deck and keep one (face down) and place the other underneath the deck. Fountain cards are basically Quests, Tasks or Missions, whatever is your preference. They come into play at the end of the game and if you have been prudent with your Buildings should add some nice extra rewards. On our last game I can from virtually last place to second due to the bonuses gained from these cards, but of course by spending my time collecting them I wasn't doing a good job of harvesting the other Building cards. I won't try that tactic again in a hurry, but that's another good thing about CARPE DIEM, you can always try different strategies and tactics.

After the Scoring round the game is basically reset. 24 more light green backed Building cards are laid out, the tokens on the Scoring cards remain where they are, the scoring cards stay the same throughout the game (having originally been randomly drawn at the start) and the first player is now the next player clockwise. We (okay 'me') have read the rules several times, each time we have played in fact, and have yet to read what happens to the player's Patricians and so we decided that they stay where they end up. I should mention, though I don't wish to just write the rules out, that Patricians are moved around the 7 boxes one space at a time in either direction. They can be moved further if you pay for it to occur or if the spaces inbetween are empty. The only way they can stay where they are is to pay, always in Gold. As Gold is important as it counts for any resource using it to move to gain a specific Building tile is a judgement call.

 

Along the bottom of the main board is a row of special pieces, randomly placed there at the start. These are one Building only tiles and thus are 'end pieces' which you need to complete Buildings. You gain these by building the Green 'Craftsman' building. The tiles in this row have dark green backs and once placed will leave 24 other tiles with dark green backs. These 24 tiles are used for the last Round of building. Looking at the rules now I see that I am calling a complete game turn a 'Round' whereas the author states that the game is four phases of seven rounds each". I have split the harvesting of Building tiles by calling it a Round, seeing it apart from the Scoring card phase. It matters not! We still play the game as it is meant to be played, just my verbal description differs slightly.

The game itself is fun and keeps players interested throughout. The quality of the pieces are very good, but then it is an ALEA/RAVENSBURGER game so nothing less would be acceptable or expected. There is one thing that I am not happy with and indeed for a game from the aforementioned companies I feel is rather lazy, and that is the Buildings themselves. I realise they have to be certain shapes to meet the edge of the tile centrally for adjoining purposes but that's not the problem for me. It is the lack of imagination and dullness of the buildings that spoil the visual aspect for me personally, not everyone in my playing group agrees with me.

CARPE DIEM is a building and agriculture based game that is very good and we all thoroughly enjoy it. It should cost you in the region of £30.00 - £35.00 which is very good value, Someone on eBay.co.uk is offering it at £74.99 but I think they are in an alternate universe, although they do offer free postage or click & collect delivery. I will say that there is way more playability than in some games that actually retail at £75.00 and upwards but I would think that you are much better looking in your local game store for it.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015