MAGE Company. 1-6 Rabbits aged 8+ 30 minutes a game Designed by Malte Kühle
This is a co-operative game (especially if you play it solo) where players take turns to lay forest track tiles to form a pattern as described on the randomly selected Quest cards and against a timer. There are three hourglasses within the game and each is different from the next by 30 seconds, so we have Timers for 30 seconds, 60 seconds and 90 seconds. These are used for Quest 1, Quest 2 and Quest 3, each Quest being to build a larger map and having longer time to do it.
The first thing to do is to select characters from the 6 available: the Bandit, the Clown, the Ghost, the Mummy, the Old Sailor or the Vampire. Each of these are Rabbit characters has a special power that can be used once per turn, so selecting the characters should be done as a group rather than randomly or even by taking the one you best like the look of. The players then take on the role of their character by helping guide the Big Red Rabbit through the labyrinth, collecting Carrots en route and dodging the wrath of the Birds. Players win together if they score enough Carrots to see the Rabbit and his bunny buddies through the Winter and lose if they either do not collect enough carrots or do not finish the map/labyrinth in time.
The Quest cards are set into three decks, 1,2 & 3 and determine how the labyrinth should be built. The first Quest always requires a 3 x 3 grid, 4 x 4 for the second and 5 x 5 for the third. Each Quest map shows an Entrance (a Red Arrow) and an Exit (a Green Arrow) plus positions where carrot and bird tokens should be placed. Each carrot token shows 1 or 3 carrots, each bird token flips over to show a different species of bird (it includes the previously unknown Bat-bird species). Each bird has 2 different abilities that can help or hinder the players.
The players are dealt a number of Labyrinth tiles prior to the beginning of the first Quest depending on the number of players. They take turns to play a tile and must lay it next to a previously placed tile (except for the first one of course) and the rules for laying are Bush adjacent to Bush or Road adjacent to Road - there can be open roads on the outer edge. The map grid has to be completed withion the time limit. If the players are successful the next part of the game is to run the Rabbit round the track beginning at the Red arrow and collecting the carrots. Each step (from tile to tile) costs a movement point and characters may use their special abilities once (in each Round) to help the Rabbit - so it's good to have your Mummy with you as her ability is to negate a Bird token's power. The Rabbit has 10 MPs in the first Quest, 15 in the second and 20 in the third. Each Quest the Rabbit must enter through the Red Arrow tile and exit through the Green Arrow tile within the time limit without retracing its steps or going backwards (other than if a Character's ability allows it - the Old Sailor being the character required).
If there are Bird tokens on the grid that bird (or birds) die (or dice) are rolled and the result will be either a movement arrow, Carrots or the rabbit. Each Bird does two different things and it is up to the players to decide how to act and react when the birds fly.
Most games ask you to suspend belief and accept the rules as they are, but also generally there is some kind of sense, some chrome or theme such as an historic theme, a fantasy theme, even an abstract theme, that holds the whole thing together. The CARROTIA theme isn't expressed as well as maybe it could have been, and I don't think this can be based on the translation into English. The tale is short and simple; supplies (of carrots) are low and the brave rabbit has gone out to the wilds to find food. Overhead the birds are circling and looking for easy prey. Okay that sounds fair enough and the map/grid is the forest/farmland and carrots grow in the grounds, but what of the characters and where do they fit in ? Why are there Rabbits who are a Bandit, a Clown, a Ghost, a Mummy, an Old Sailor and a Vampire ? Also if the Birds are looking for prey (and Rabbits are prey) why do none of the Bird tokens have an ability that allows them to catch and/or eat the Rabbit ? Instead they can steal, destroy or move carrots, one even collects carrots for the Rabbit and the Bat-bird will even carry the Rabbit to the exit point for free.
CARROTIA is a complex mess and as it currently stands is seems to be somewhat incomplete, a game in the making perhaps, as there is not really enough of a game here at the moment. There is no incentive for the players to want to win. The characters, by their very occupations, have no empathy for the Rabbit, and there is nothing to say they are friends or why they should be. Building the grid against the clock is fun, but simply counting (there is no reason why each player has to move it one square as all players discuss the journey it will take prior to movement beginning) the Rabbit through the maze you have made is not an interesting concept. The young players we have played with weren't interested in playing again, core gamers showed disdain and even non-regular games players could find no enthusiasm. If ever a game needed a kick up the backside to emerge, this is it.
On the bright side I honestly believe that a game can be found within the pieces ans the basic idea, it just need cajolling out of hiding, pulled from its rabbit hole and brought into the light. The component pieces are of good quality, thick Labyrinth tiles, specifically designed sand-timers and hardy card counters amongst them, but players of Mage Company games would probably have expected a detailed model of the Rabbit and perhaps similarly detailed character figures and maybe more of a purpose for those characters.
I can't say I didn't like it because that would mean I would never play it again; plus there are a couple of good ideas that could be exploited. As it stands the write up is interesting and exciting but the game doesn't reflect that. It is neither themed nor abstract. It doesn't give any satisfaction and that's a necessity for any game. I have played it with several groups varying in age and experience and it failede to register a positive response from anyone.
I have not given up on it yet though and hopefully I will find the time to devise some house rules to turn it into a game we would play again... and enjoy.