Thanks to the power of Yucata, I have had a chance to try out Carcassonne: South Seas.
Like a lot of folks, I have a long history with Carcassonne. It was one of the first designer games I discovered when I first found out there was a wider world of board games out there. I distinctly remember seeing a game of Hunters and Gatherers for the first time and having no idea what was going on with the fish and tiny people.
However, I have to admit that I burned out of the expansions and spin offs a while go. I still play Carcassonne with the first couple expansions and get in regular plays of Hunters and Gatherers. There’s not too many games that I can say I still keep on playing after more than ten years.
The basic Carcassonne formula is that it’s a tile laying game where the players are building a map. You can use your tiny little wooden men to claim landscape features that will score points at the end of the game.
South Seas adds some genuine twists that changes things up. You are building islands and bridges and fishing areas. But, when a feature is scored, you don’t get victory points. You get trade goods. Bridges earn shells while islands get you bananas. Fishing waters will get you fish, which isn’t a surprise.
There’s a stack of trade ships, which is where the points come in. Four of them are revealed at a time, each with a specific set of goods that you need to fork over in order to get those points.
There’s more to the game than that, like trading posts and the ability to take a meeple back from the board. However, that’s the gist of it. You’re not trying to make giant cities and take control of the fields with farmers. You are trying to get the right price to buy them ships.
So, three years late to the party, Carcassonne: South Seas strikes me as a game that is distinct from other Carcassonne games on a fundamental level. However, it does this without sacrificing the relative simplicity and accessibility and depth that makes Carcassonne such a good game.