Quick Look: Carnegie
Designer: Xavier Georges
Artists: Ian O’Toole
Publisher:Pegasus Spiele, Quined Games
Year Published: 2022
Find more info on Pegasus North America
Elegant and interactive management game from Quined Games. Inspired by the life of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-born American industrialist and philanthropist. In Carnegie, players will recruit employees and expand their businesses by investing in real estate, producing goods, developing transport technology, and creating transport chains across the United States. Perhaps they will even become illustrious benefactors who contribute to the country’s greatness through their deeds and generosity!
I have stated before, I am a fan of asymmetric game play; I always feel like I am trying to be better than myself and the last game I played. So, I was pleasantly surprised at how Carnegie combines asymmetric game play with social deduction and then throws in a bit of worker programming. The first time I played I was thinking there is no way I was going to be able to do much given the number and sequence of rounds, but the experience was quite different. I felt able to get my engine going and was able to make a wide variety of moves.
There are a number of areas on the board to which players will have to pay attention (the upcoming round indicators, the map, and donations) as well as their own player boards. You don’t have to work on each section each round, but ignoring one will most likely cost you the game. You will also do better if you can anticipate the choices of other players and plan ahead.
I have really enjoyed playing Carnegie, and will likely keep trying to get it to the table at game nights for the foreseeable future. This is a game well worth having in your game collection.
The rule book is laid out such that each section builds on the last. It walks you through the general setup of the game board, then through how each player’s player-board works, and finally how the game is played. This allows experienced players to easily run through the rules for new players simply by following the layout in the rule book.
The rule book is well written and provides a number of examples that clarify game play and are useful for any questions that may arise. The rule book includes a solo mode (I haven’t played this yet, but will likely be doing so shortly) where you play against an artificial player called Andrew.
The back of the rule book displays a quick reference guide that can easily be copied so each player may have a reference.
The set up may take some time, particularly with players who have not played the game before. There are a fair number of pieces to the game that will need to be explained, but it is not overwhelming and the information will be important since all of the areas of the board interact with each other. Once the initial setup and explanation is done, gameplay is fairly straightforward and should progress smoothly.
In Carnegie each player is in charge of their own company trying to make good decisions to make their company the best in the game. Players have 24 rounds to build their engine, expand their company, and improve their prestige (Victory Points). Players do this by making philanthropic investments in their own company, building up portions of the game board, or making donations. The player who has the most prestige at the end of the game will be, as the rule book states, “declared the winner, known forevermore for their philanthropic works.”
There are several mechanics in the game, but I believe the core mechanics are engine building, resource management, and a type of social deduction follow the leader. Throughout the game each player will need resources to accomplish the various tasks. This is done by increasing the ability to gain resources during parts of the game. A player with a good engine will be able to gain some resources each round, and hopefully the ones needed for the next round of play. This means resource management is key. The same resource may be used during different times in the game. If a player uses all their resources during one round, they may not have the resources they need for the next round, if they know what the next round may be. That is where the social deduction follow the leader part come into play. Each round the start player chooses which department and what part of the board activates. If a player guesses what will be chosen, the round could go well, if a player does not, the round could go poorly. Enough correct guesses may give a player the game.
Carnegie is played over 24 rounds. Each round the start player picks a department type to activate and places the Timeline marker on the next available position on that department’s timeline. Most often this will activate a region of the map on the board.
Beginning with the Start Player, either gains income (if a region is selected) or makes a donation (if a donation location is selected), and then activates all of their associated department tiles on their board. An associated department tile may be activated if it is staffed by an active employee and any needed resources are owned. Players with more than one department tile of the selected department type may activate them in any order, but each tile’s actions must be completed before moving to another tile and each tile may only be activated once. At the end of the player’s turn, the player may activate any inactive employees for the next round.
Once each player has taken their turn, the selected department’s action marker is moved forward on the timeline and the start player moves to the next player in clockwise order.
Each department’s timeline has 6 actions and there are 4 department types, so after the 24th round, the game is over. All final points are tallied and the player with the most points is the winner.
I really like the mostly asymmetric way in which the game operates. There is enough player interaction to not feel like you are playing by yourself, but there are very few instances where another player can completely mess you up. If you can make enough good decisions, regardless of what other players may do, you can be very competitive. The only real hiccup is when another player makes a decision about common items before you do, which may force you to change your strategy, but they can’t outright prevent you from doing something.
The designers of Carnegie have provided a good balance of things to do, whether it is earning money to finance actions, gathering resources to build the company, manage workers and worker actions, or making donations for future points. If you play correctly, you will be able to perform actions each round regardless of the department or location being activated.
The physical game design is really well done. Each player board holds the departments to be activated, but are double layered in order to hold the project tabs, which would take up a good deal of table space otherwise. Neither the player boards or the game board feels crowded, so moving tokens around is fairly easy and unlikely to be knocked around.
It’s going on my list of games to play when my game groups are looking for a good asymmetric strategy game.
Anticipation and planning are major elements of the gameplay. A player who is not good at guessing what other players may choose (when picking a department and location for everyone to play) or planning out moves and how they move their own objectives along may have a hard time with this game. I’ve had some players express frustration with not being able to get their engine going, but I’ve observed that they are not making good guess of what is coming next or how their current turn will affect future turns. Not getting things going makes a player feel like they aren’t part of the game and they don’t have fun.
The game starts rather abruptly. Players may feel limited by their initial choices, even though everyone starts with the same capabilities. The first few rounds everyone will have a department to activate, but may not be able to activate a location. For some players this may seem problematic; what is the point of choosing a location if no one can activate it. Locations, like the company, have to be grown, but some players may see the lack of resources in a location at the beginning of the game as a detriment.
I was pleasantly surprised the first time I played the game with how easy it was to pick up, and never felt like anyone was running away with the game. Happily the game has continued to be enjoyable. There is just enough randomness in the department/location layout and the available department tiles to make each game a new experience. I continue to try to get this game to the table every chance I get.
The game is not overly complex and could be an ice-breaker game, but for the best experience you will want to play with friends or a good gaming group. If you enjoy games with lots of possible actions and outcomes, you will like Carnegie.
Players Who Like:Engine Builder games, Asymmetric game play, risk vs reward, and company of philanthropic themed games in general
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I grew up loving to solve puzzles, play games, and have fun. In my younger years I had fun playing pencil games, enjoyed the creativity of playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, and generally hanging out with others. My favorite thing to do was to make puzzles of all kinds, mazes, word games, picture games, etc.
Sadly my career took me in a different direction, solving computer problems rather than gaming problems.
Gaming came back into my life, though, in a big way about 15 years ago, and I have held onto it since. I still enjoy designing games and have 9 published titles, which I did through my own game publishing company, Toresh Games, prior to the Covid pandemic. Sadly I was not able to sustain the company through the pandemic.
I highly encourage people to play games, make friends, and have fun. As a game enthusiast, I would love to see a return to games as the best social media platform for the masses.
All of Thomas Shepherd’s reviews can be found HERE.