February 11, 2004

Weekend Family Gaming

by Susan Rozmiarek

I got a chance to play a few of our new acquisitions this past weekend:



Carcassonne: The Castle

This is a two-player variation of the game. Since the original plays just fine with two, I really didnít see the need for it. However, I was curious to see what new twists Reiner Knizia had added to the series so we bought a copy.

Ed started closing off things right away and zooming down the scoring track snatching those special chits. This made me mighty nervous, but I was finally able to score a few things and catch up and get a few chits myself. Toward the end, Edís luck started to fail while mine improved. I was able to use my 2x castle chit for 16 points. Then the very last tile I drew closed off a long road with a well and a castle. Plus, I had quite of few markets. Ed got a good number of points for having the largest keep, but was not able to draw what he needed towards the end to keep turning over his meeples for points. I ended up winning by a pretty hefty margin.

This still just feels mostly like Carcassonne to me. With meeples in short supply, you have to be able to close things off and get them back. Usually you gamble with your meeple placements and hope to get lucky and draw the needed tiles to make them pay off. The strategy of trying to sneak in and tie on a majority is the same.

There are a few new, interesting aspects in The Castle. The special chits force decisions between going for bigger scores or quick scores that will allow you to pick up a chit. The constrained playing area also gives it a bit of a different feel. Iím not sure if these new twists are enough to make it a worthwhile purchase yet. I need to play it a few more times.


This was an impulse buy. Occasionally itís fun to take a chance on a game. I hadnít heard much about this game but the few opinions I had heard were favorable. It sounded like something Kevin would like and I was right. Heís been begging to play this every night this week. So far weíve gotten in two games of it.

The game is basically a Stratego variant with a Samurai theme. Each player has ten warriors total with two different types, one with a little better movement options. What makes this game fun are some really interesting twists. Players have thirty weapon and armor pieces that they customize their warriors with. One of these is a scroll. Capturing your opponentís scroll is the object of the game. There are several weapons with different ranges. These items stack under the warrior, their identity visible only to that player, and are discarded as they are used. If a warrior is killed, the items he was carrying are left on the board and can be picked up by any warrior that moves on to that space. One interesting item is a booby trap that explodes when an opponent tries to pick up the stack, instantly killing him. Discarded items can be gotten back if you kill an opponentís officer.

The other neat twist is the action cards. Each player has an identical deck of cards and gets to draw one for each turn in which he kills at least one of his opponentís warriors. He can then play one of these per turn or, in the case of some of the cards, for defense on his opponentís turn.

On a playerís turn, they must chose one of their warriors and move it at least once. Optionally, they move a second time. Attacks are also optional, and can take place before and/or after either of the two moves, using as many weapons as the warrior is carrying and wants to use. There are, of course, some obstacles on the board that interfere with movement and line-of-sight. The game ends when an enemy scroll is captured or all of a playerís warriors are eliminated.

Kevin trounced me in our first game. The second game he won again but it was much closer. Kevin informed me that I was finally getting it and played much better. (Annoying child!). Despite my humiliating losses, Iím eager to play again. The game plays very quickly and with the custom set-up, provides many strategic options.

The start of Senjutsu.

Ranger Rabbit tries to get in on the Senjutsu action.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at February 11, 2004 10:09 AM

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