Carcassonne – A Game of Luck and Strategy

Carcassonne – A Game of Luck and Strategy

2001 was a very important year for German board game designer, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. It was the year in which Carcassonne, his first board game, saw widespread commercial success after receiving two prestigious board game awards. So, what are these awards? And why was it important that Carcassonne won them?

The first award that Carcassonne received was the Deutscher Spiel Preis. This is another German board game award that is typically given to games with especially innovative or good gameplay.

The second, and perhaps most notable award that Wrede’s game received was the Spiel des Jahres (or Game of the Year). The Spiel des Jahres is a German award presented every year to a board or card game that promotes excellence in game design, usually given to a family-oriented game. Although it offers no prizes, a game that is awarded the Spiel des Jahres can usually expect an increase in sales. Some estimates say this increase may be tenfold, so a game that typically sells 1,000 units in a year would then go on to sell 10,000. Scott Tepper estimates that just a nomination will bump a regular game’s sales up from between 500 and 3,000 copies to 10,000, and winning the Spiel des Jahres will net them between 300,000 and 500,000 copies sold. Not bad for a game that Wrede thought of while on a holiday in southern France.

carcassonne city real

The real-life Carcassonne (image source)

Now, on to the game itself.

Carcassonne is a turn-based city-building game made for 2-5 players. Players begin by placing the “starting tile” down in the play area. Next players take it in turns to draw single terrain tiles from a bag and place them in the play area. Sounds simple enough, but each tile placed must match up with the tile (or tiles) it is joining. Roads must connect to roads, cities must touch cities, and fields must touch fields. In this way, the players build the board as they play

carcassonne tiles

Artwork for Carcassonne was done by Doris Matthaus (image source)

As players place a tile they may also place a small wooden figurine called a “meeple” on it, claiming a feature (a city or a road, for example). Once a feature is completed, the player with the most meeple on it earns points for every tile that feature takes up.

The game ends when all the tiles have been placed. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.

meeple

The “meeple” were designed by Bernd Brunnhofer (image source)

Carcassonne is what’s referred to as a “Eurogame”, or a “German-style board game.” Among other things, games that fall into this category emphasise strategy while downplaying luck, and don’t eliminate any players so everyone keeps playing until the end. Because there isn’t any direct conflict between players and no-one is eliminated before the game ends, eurogames are typically well-suited as social games.

While Carcassonne certainly has an element of randomness to it, there is emphasis on strategic placement of tiles and intelligent usage of meeple, and this is where the game gets interesting. Depending on who you’re playing with, the game could go in several different directions.

Everyone could turn the game into their own little city-building simulators and focus on building and completing their own features in solitude. This is somewhat boring, I would not recommend this playstyle.

You could have a very aggressive, cutthroat playstyle and use your tiles to block other players from completing their features, potentially trapping their meeple in a horrible, uncompleted city forever.

You can even play semi-cooperatively. If multiple players have an equal number of meeple on a completed feature, they share the points. There’s no greater feeling than teaming up with your friend to complete that huge city you’ve been working on all game, netting you both a tonne of points. Alternatively you can wait until your friend has almost finished a feature, then jump in at the end and claim the points for yourself! In my opinion, this is probably the meanest, yet most fun way to play Carcassonne.

our game of carc

A few turns into our game of Carcassonne.

Carcassonne provides you with such a huge variety in potential playstyles. The way that luck and strategy are blended together when it comes to drawing and placing tiles means that no one player ever has the advantage over another. Carcassonne manages to ensure that every game is a different experience, while one match may be brutal and competitive, another may be cooperative and peaceful. It’s no wonder the game has been so successful. It’s spawned numerous expansions and even has its own app.

This is definitely one of the better board games I’ve played, can’t recommend it highly enough. Go check it out if you can.

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Review – Manly Dam Walking Trails

Review – Manly Dam Walking Trails

The Nature Trail and the Park Circuit Track are bush-walking tracks around Manly Dam (pictured below) that can be done individually or together. Manly Dam is located in Allambie Heights, north-west of Manly.

manly dam map

Getting To Manly Dam

01

Driving

If you wish to drive to Manly Dam you will need to purchase a parking ticket upon arrival. There are four separate parking lots located near to the dam’s entrance. The gates open at 7am and shut at 5:30pm every day.

Driving South: The easiest way to reach Manly Dam from the north is to drive south along Pittwater Road and onto Condamine St. Then follow Condamine St until you reach Manly Vale, here you will take a right turn on to King St. Follow King St all the way to Manly Dam.

Driving North: The easiest way to reach Manly Dam from the south is to drive north along Spit Rd. Stay on this road as it changes from Spit Rd to Manly Rd, then Burn Bridge Creek Deviation, and finally becomes Condamine Rd. Once you reach Manly Vale take a left turn on to King St. Follow King St all the way to Manly Dam.

Public Transport (Bus)

Heading South: If heading south to Manly Dam the best buses to catch are the 185 or the L85. Get off the bus at Condamine St near King St. Cross the road at the traffic lights and follow King St to Manly Dam’s front gate. This walk will take approximately 15 minutes.

Heading North: If heading north to Manly Dam the best buses to catch are the 178, 180, 185, and limited variants. Get off the bus at Condamine St near King St. Now follow King St to Manly Dam’s front gate. This walk will take approximately 15 minutes.

Do not forget to check the bus timetables on the day before you leave.

Nature Trail

The Nature Trail is the shorter of the two trails. It follows the southern hill and provides some great views and amazing scenery.

Location

A map of the trail can be found here. It stretches from the Manly Dam’s main gate to the P3 parking lot.

Length (and suggested time)

1.5 km.

Recommended time: 30 – 50 minutes.

This walk can be completed faster or slower depending on your walking pace and how many times you stop. If you’re stopping every few minutes to take photos it will naturally take longer.

Difficulty

This difficulty rating for this walk is: easy – moderate.

Although it is quite short and is fairly flat the path is also often uneven and strewn with rocks so watch your step! There are also several steep rises and falls you should be aware of.

What to Bring

  • Water. At least one 600mL bottle is recommended.
  • Food if you need it.
  • Sunscreen and a hat.
  • Camera.

Price

This walk is completely free!

Pets

Dogs are allowed on this walk as long as they are kept on a leash. They are not allowed on the lake, in the picnic areas, or in the car parks.

Additional Info

Once again, a map of the Nature Trail can be found here.

Be sure to check the weather at least a few days in advance, and on the day before you leave. If it rained a day or two before your walk the track will probably be quite wet and muddy in some places so choose a good pair of walking shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty!

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Manly Dam Circuit

The Manly Dam Circuit Walk (or the Park Circuit Walk depending on who you talk to) is the longer and more well-known of the two walks. This walk will take you closer to the water’s edge, take you past some picturesque waterfalls, and give you some spectacular views from both sides of the dam, as well as a truly stunning view from atop the dam’s wall to finish.

Please note that some sections are shared with the mountain biking track so be sure to look out for bike riders.

Location

A map of the trail can be found here. The Manly Dam Circuit can be started at the main gate or the P4 parking lot and ends at the dam wall. It can be walked clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Length (and suggested time)

7.3 km.

Recommended time: 3 hours.

Please allow enough time to ensure you finish your walk before nightfall. After dark the track can be potentially hazardous and you may have difficulty finding your way home. The dam gates are also shut at 5:30pm every afternoon, if your car is left inside past this time you may have to pay a fee to retrieve it or wait until morning.

You may complete this walk faster or slower than the recommended time depending on your walking pace and/or fitness level. This estimate does not take into account any breaks to eat or to admire the view, both of which are generally recommended.

Difficulty

The difficulty rating for this walk is moderate – hard.

This walk is more difficult than the Nature Walk due mostly to its length. There are also several fairly steep inclines and declines and at times the path can be quite rocky and uneven. The average walker will find this walk fairly tiring.

What to Bring

  • Water. I recommend taking roughly 1L total, two 600mL bottles is fine.
  • Lunch (or at least some snacks). There are several great spots with some spectacular views to stop for a lunch break along the track. Just remember to take all your rubbish with you when you finish.
  • Sunscreen and a hat.
  • Camera. To capture those spectacular views!

Price

This walk is completely free!

Pets

Dogs are allowed on this walk as long as they wear a leash. They are not allowed on the lake, in the picnic areas, or in the car parks.

Additional Information

Once again, a map of the Park Circuit Track can be found here.

Be sure to check the weather at least a few days in advance, and on the day before you leave. If it rained a day or two before your walk the track will probably be quite wet and muddy in some places so choose a good pair of walking shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty!

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