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Carcassonne

In the ongoing discussions of what the United States should do with the Mexican border, I can’t help but notice that a vast number of people actually believe that walls cannot keep unwanted people out in any circumstance. While the closest thing to a castle which I’ve personally seen would probably be some military fortification or maybe a prison, those walls seem to be more than effective.

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The heavily fortified town of Carcassonne (located in Southern France), is the inspiration for Sierra Online’s Live Arcade game, based upon a German board game of the same name and concept. Reaching into the historical grab bag of the town, you’re given randomly selected squares of which connect in sequence to one another.

Turn-by-turn, up to 6 players (CPU or Human) will wage geographical warfare, placing their given tile to match another piece’s border. Each player is allotted ten followers that are used to claim land in their name. For example, once a road is secluded within its intersections, the player with the most “bandits” placed on said road is attributed points for their number of squares making up the path, as well as the highwayman occupying it.

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Often times, monasteries were built in the center of a fortified community so they would be harder for an invader to reach. Monasteries in Carcassonne offer a nice reward for completion, with the pre-requisite that they’re surrounded immediately by other pieces on the grid. In every game, you’ll notice little holes reveal themselves as the seemingly co-operatively built town expands. Placing a border in a difficult location on the map can make it impossible for the opposing lord to enclose and thus finalize that 15-square field of dirt they’ve been trying to sculpt into a city for the majority of the game.

Stipulations can be made in the form of rule-sets and expansion packs. Either International or U.S. rules can be applied; however, the U.S. rule set offers fewer points for finishing select land types. I assume that’s because we do not understand the value of walls. For the same price as the base game, two expansions can be downloaded. The King & Baron pack rewards the player with the longest road the title of “Baron”, and the player with the biggest city, the title of “King”. Both titles add bonus points, but the player with the most completed landforms almost always wins anyway. What’s the point? The River Expansion allows the game to start off with a winding river, establishing some breaks in what might’ve been an even build of the city and some opportunities as well, via new pieces, which are only more important than those found in the King & Baron expansion because of the dramatic visual distinction of a river, bridges over rivers, etc.

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Carcassonne is a game anyone can play although the field of depth it will offer is so limited that you’ll experience most of its niceties within the first match you play. Continuing past my first impression that the game seemed an electronic version of a board game with grating audio – I would come to find reassurance that my purchase was justifiable for the Xbox Live play, if nothing else.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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