When I first saw the game my excitement sparked as I’m a big fan of Carcassonne and a raving one when it comes to Star Wars, so combining the two could only lead to an awesome game right?
Unfortunately after looking at a few reviews I concluded this was probably a cash-in on the Star Wars franchise making a game I like worse and decided not to get a copy.
I was therefore a little unsure how to respond when Jay, my gorgeous fiancé, handed me a copy as a gift during our latest outing to Stabcon – on a side note we had an amazing time at this event as usual; playing games with people we’d never met before and running social games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Setting my trepidation aside we broke out the board, popped the pieces, stuck on the stickers, checked we had the rules right and started to play.
At first it felt like regular Carcassonne - there were a few cosmetic changes; roads had become trading routes, cities asteroid fields, monasteries were now planets and our meeples were linked to Star Wars characters – and then there were a few non-cosmetic changes; there’s one larger meeple, fewer meeples overall and fields don’t exist, but as someone who regularly commits too many farmers I can’t say I was too upset!
So far the game hadn’t changed too much, but then an invasion landed in Jakku, a planet I’d already claimed and dice came out for a battle and I couldn’t have predicted how much this changed the game.
In case you haven’t seen it elsewhere there are two major changes to the rules in Star Wars Carcassone.
First whenever two or more players are claiming the same feature (trading route, planet or asteroid field) you collect dice: For each of your meeples in the location (two for the big one) and for each of your faction symbols (Imperial, Rebel or Mandalorian) you get one dice, up to a maximum of three. You then roll off and the player with the highest single dice wins, the loser removes their meeple/s and scores 1 point per dice they rolled. If there’s a draw you each score one point and roll off again.
Second whenever you place a tile where it would score for a planet (monastery) you may place a meeple on the planet instead, either triggering a battle or seizing an unclaimed world.
These two rules do a few things to the game that I think are excellent.
Every player now has the chance to score for planets (monasteries), not just those lucky enough to draw one and planets drawn while someone doesn’t have a meeple aren’t just dead tiles. Additionally because of the opportunity to steal it, everyone tries to complete the planet. In our first game four planets scored the full nine points and the others all had seven tiles around them at the end of the game.
It also results in ‘dead’ meeples coming off the table far earlier. We’ve all seen the sprawling city/asteroid field that everyone’s got at least one meeple on but there’s no chance to finish. Now when (for example) a player connects two of their meeples to an asteroid field where you only have one, you get a chance to maintain control for the points at the end of the game or you get your meeple back.
As your meeples come back so much sooner players were deliberately starting battles for the bonus victory points even when the odds were stacked against them and as a way to continue being part of the action when they got a relatively unhelpful tile.
I’ve heard complaints this makes the game a bit too random, but given the basic premise of Carcassonne is a random tile each turn I actually think this gives you a bit more control. While I’ll continue to teach and play many of the other versions we own this one is a welcome addition to the collection and a lesson to always trust Jay’s choices!
Why not come and try it out yourself at our International Tabletop Day event on April 30th?