Friday, June 2, 2017

Carcosa Preview


Quick Look:

Info:
Designer: Nigel Kennington
Artists: Collin Briggs and David Franco Campos
Publisher: One Free Elephant
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 45-60 min
Find more info on:
One Free Elephant
WARNING: This is a preview of Carcosa. All components
and rules are prototype and subject to change.












Review:

Rules and Setup:
Keep the rulebook handy for this one. While Carcosa provides entertaining and unique gameplay, this requires a lengthy set of rules to govern gameplay and tile laying. To enjoy the experience read the rulebook through at least once before playing the first game, and be sure to keep the rulebook close to check for rule conditions as they arise in gameplay.

Setup is the easiest part of the game, with each player choosing a color of cultist and collecting them along with six ritual stones, a turn explanation card, and a chapter house card. Next, the Carcosa tiles are divided into piles. For a two player game they are divided into four piles, for a three player game five piles, and for a four player game six piles. Once each player places a cultist in the recovery room and asylum of their chapter house, one on the track of the cult mat, and their Prophet and three cultists on their sides in the middle of the mat, gameplay can begin.

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme of Carcosa is the occult, specifically referencing the King in Yellow from H.P. Lovecraft's lore. While the theme pervades throughout gameplay, it never distracts the players from reaching their goal- to summon the King. Obvious elements such as ritual sacrifices, and minute details on the tiles themselves help to bring the occult to this fantasy/horror game successfully.

Tile based board creation and resource management are the main mechanics Carcosa focuses on. Players build the board by connecting tiles together turn by turn, which requires immense strategy and forethought in order to avoid mistakes. Resource management is relevant as players can place their cultists on the board throughout the game, but are not guaranteed to get them back. In one of the playtest games, a player placed all their cultists and was unable to score any points until the tiles they were placed on were flipped over fifteen minutes later.

Game Play:
Basics for game play are outlined on the Forbidden Lore card handed out to each player in setup. They include recovering sanity, selecting a tile (and placing your prophet on top of the stack), the option to place a cultist, and resolving tiles. Players earn points by resolving tiles, which allow the cultists on the track of the Cult mat to move forward. Once a player has reached the end of the track, they must sacrifice three cultists to perform the final summoning ritual for the King in Yellow and win the game.

After the first play through of trial and error, the tile laying rules are intuitive and gameplay moves quickly. Player turns last anywhere from under a minute to over five, depending on whether they were able to flip tiles that turn or play a ritual stone.

As gameplay nears the final summoning, sabotage is the best way to ensure another player can't summon the King in Yellow before you. While the effectiveness of tile laying and the placement of cultists may seem to be random chance at first, there is a distinct element of strategy to it. Players can choose either to attempt to get themselves a substantial lead by taking risks, or sabotage other players to get ahead.

Artwork and Components:
Beautiful artwork is a huge perk for this game. The tiles at first appear to be dark grey to dusty blue with most detail shrouded in mist or shadow. Flipping tiles reveals a more lively side with tiny details, such as bloody ritual sites, that help to bring the land of Carcosa to life. The components of the game are high quality, built to last years of tile flips and sliding along tables. The wooden cultist figures are also highly durable, not to mention the bonus wooden figure included in every game: an elephant token, keeping the promise of the name of the game's publisher One Free Elephant.

The Good:
After you get over the initial learning curve, gameplay is simple so all of your focus can be spent on strategizing. The artwork and high quality components of the game make the occult theme come alive, and also mean that it will stand the test of time when it comes to durability. Focusing the theme mainly on the occult as a whole, while focusing in on the King in Yellow as a back story for the game allows it to be easily understandable even to players who may be unfamiliar with the mythos.

The Bad:
While the game is fun to play, if you fall behind by more than a few points you are unlikely to recover a loss. This may be frustrating to young and older players alike, as playing the game to its conclusion takes over an hour.

Final Thoughts:
If you enjoy a challenge and are a fan of the occult and the works of Lovecraft, this game is a unique power struggle to strategize through with a few very patient friends!

Players Who Like:
Arkham Horror, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Catan will enjoy this supernatural tile-layer.

I am giving Carcosa 8 out of 10 super meeples.

8 10

Check out Carcosa on:

     

On Kickstarter between now and June 30, 2017.

About the Author:


Sarah Johnson is a freelance writer and board game enthusiast. When she’s not playing games or writing reviews, she enjoys writing articles for food and wine magazines. Sarah lives in rainy Corvallis, Oregon where she studies writing, English, and communications.

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