Released 9th September 2010, Developed by The Coding Monkeys, £2.99
Never do I appreciate my iPhone more than on long plane journeys; halfway-across-the-world odysseys where I don’t want to watch the ‘family friendly’ in-flight films or eat the radioactive plane food. These are times when one wants to just zone out.
Times like these require a board game to enjoy with your co-travellers. Not something as sickeningly long as Risk or as outright trivial as Monopoly, but something a little quicker and cleverer. Cue Carcassone – an iPhone port of a ‘German-style’ board game that’s apparently all the craze in Europe. I’ve never heard of it before, but willing to try something new I digitally-handed over my £2.99 to the parasites at the App Store.
Carcassonne consists of building a world of roads, towns and fields using the game’s 72 tiles. Each player takes it in turns to put down a tile that fits into and expands the world. Points are gained by placing figures called Meeple, of which you have 7, on the world’s structures. If you successfully border off a city or finish a road (the bigger the better) with a Mee-person in/on it, you gain points and get to re-use the person. When the tiles run out, the game’s over and you add up the final scores.
Now that I’ve finished the obligatory task of skimming through the game’s rules, I can say that Carcassonne is fun and irritatingly addictive. The touch controls are simple and intuitive, while the graphics are functional if a little uninspiring.
Carcassonne really shines when you begin utilising the game’s strategic potential to employ various Machiavellian tactics. I get perverse pleasure out of latching onto an enemy’s city rather than building my own, or placing tiles obstructing enemies from completing cities. Yes, this makes me a twat, but that’s fitting to the nature of Carcassonne. It’s a game of glory by underhand means, and that’s reason enough to like it.
While the single-player mode is good for practice, Carcassonne is really made to be played with other people. Up to 6 people can play in a single game and this can be achieved by Bluetooth, WiFi or online, with each mode being easily accessible.
The game also features a detailed High Scoreboard, which in my case is a kick in the balls since I’m ranked lower than the easiest Computer setting (the servant), let alone any human being I’ve played. Nevertheless, it’s a nice touch if you’re actually good at this game and get spurts of pride from seeing yourself ranked highly.
For those seeking a less cut-throat take on the game, there is the Solitaire mode. This is a kind of Logic game where you build designated structures of increasingly larger sizes until the points counter reaches zero. The better you stick to the target structure size, the slower the points run out. Some may find this mode more therapeutic, but I prefer the stress, anxiety and thrills that the Normal mode provides.
Carcassonne is a refreshing iPhone board game that is a good alternative to the usual options. Beneath its no-frills look and charming rural-French presentation, it’s a game of cunning and calculation. The fact that a single session takes no more than 20 minutes is tailored to modern-day attention spans, but some may be put off by the relentless AI difficulty (it’s no easier online). Carcassonne is tough, but its sly-potential and intricate learning curve makes it one of the better, more challenging board games on the iPhone.