Hans im Glück Klaus-Jürgen Wrede CARCASSONNE: Star Wars Edition
With STAR WARS: The FORCE AWAKENS causing a widespread buzz of excitement and enthusiasm the shops are filling (and emptying) quickly of Star Wars merchandise. Most of this is the usual, models, figures, books etc. but one item that is outstanding amongst all of these regular shelf fillers is an unexpected addition to the already superb range of Carcassonne games.
When I first heard that Hans im Glück were publishing a Star Wars edition of Carcassonne I was bemused almost to the point of disbelief. We have seen all manner of farmers, fishers, hunters, gatherers and explorers, rivers, meadows, and roads, so I really wondered how any of this was going to fit into the Star Wars universe.
Well, surprisingly, not only has the author managed to fit the Star Wars name into the game, he has also managed to include some of the most popular characters, introduce combat to Carcassonne and subtly change the Carcassonne rules to encompass a deep space universe.
It is this last statement, the subtle rules changing, which caught me out on our very first game and encouraged me to read the rules thoroughly for our next visit to a most enjoyable new member of the Carcassonne family. Being eager to play we skimmed the rules, set the game up as we would most any other Carcassonne game – located and separated the Start Tile, shuffled the other tiles and put them into a number of manageable stacks, chose our colour and took our pieces. A die was rolled and a start player determined, so off we went.
Now, being experienced and intelligent, we had already noticed that one of the Meeples was larger than the others, so a quick perusal of the rules booklet (which contains the rules in four languages) told us that this larger meeple gave us an additional die in combat rolls but otherwise was just a large meeple. To keep things moving in a nice easy and friendly manner combat only occurs as the result of a tie over ownership of an Asteroid Field, a Trade Route or a Planet, and then it is just a matter of rolling dice as required and comparing the highest valued die of each player involved, thus a 5 beats a 4 etc even if the player who rolled the 4 also rolled a 3 (single die not total result). The loser removes their meeple back to their supply, the winner scores the points depending on where the battle took place – these points are immediately scored on the track.
Now let’s go back to reading the rules thoroughly, or at least properly. As an experienced Carcassonne player I am used to building up roads (Trade Routes), cities (Asteroid Fields), Cathedrals (Planets) and Meadows (Deep Space) and so having glanced through the rules, noted the combat variant and the different titles (shown in parentheses), we started to play. On my turn I drew and placed a tile and then merrily placed my meeple into Deep Space (Meadows) going for the long game high score while my opponents were gaining quick points on short Trade Routes and small Asteroids. When it came to scoring at the end I had three of my meeples in deep space covering a myriad of tiles. This is when I realised that in Carcassonne: Star Wars Edition there are no meadows, or put more simply there is no score for conquering Deep Space. Boy did I feel stupid, but it taught me a valuable lesson; no matter how well you think you know a game system RTFM thoroughly before starting to play and do not assume (the old Ass of U and Me) that the designer has simply transposed his rules onto a different theme.
Having said that however, the basic rules are the same as you would expect (but not as I expected). On your turn you draw a tile and place it onto the table ensuring that at least one side is abutted to a previously played tile and that where sides touch the terrain must be the same; Asteroid to Asteroid, Trade Route to Trade Route etc. When you draw a Planet you are allowed to place a meeple on the planet itself. Also when you place a tile adjacent to a planet, in any of the 8 possible positions as diagonals count, you may place a meeple on the Trade Route or Asteroid as normal or you may place a meeple on the planet itself, even if there is already a meeple on it, thus multi-meeples on a mass of gas in deep space combat - the winner takes the planet.
As mentioned, combat always ensues when an Asteroid or a Trade Route are completed and there are meeples of different factions in conflict as the connecting piece if placed. Combat also occurs as soon as there are meeples of different factions in conflict, even if the Asteroid Field or Trade Route isn’t completed. Note that you cannot directly place a meeple in conflict but this will occur when two separate Trade Routes or Asteroid Fields join together, completed or not.
Each character in the Carcassonne Star Wars game belongs to a faction, basically Yoda and Luke Skywalker; Red (Rebels), Darth Vader and the Storm Trooper; White (Empire) and Boba Fett; Orange (Bounty Hunter). When counting the Asteroid Fields for scoring all faction icons on the tiles involved are worth extra points and the tiles are of 2 points value for each. Trade Routes score one point per tile involved in the Trade Route. Players involved in Planet scoring gain 1 point per tile (9) plus an additional 2 for the Planet’s faction icon. In combat the Faction icons give an extra die each to the combatants who are of the same Faction.
There is a 4-player Team Variant where the players join forces as 2 teams of 2 in the same Faction. Play is similar to the regular game except that team members may never combat each other.
Once I began playing without dropping my “astronaut meeples” into Deep Space everything was rosy.
I have always enjoyed playing Carcassonne, some versions more than others – I still thoroughly enjoy the wooden piece City edition – and Carcassonne Star Wars is now firmly amongst my favourites. STAR WARS and CARCASSONE two of my favourites are now THREE of my favourites.