Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cartagena II

Sat 19 Sep 2009, Carcasean boardgame cafe. I played Cartagena II with Chong Sean and Han. This is very similar to Cartagena, and in fact Chong Sean told me you can play this using the components from Cartagena. There are just some rule twists.

In this game, each player controls a team of pirates, and races to get all his pirates to a pirate town. The race track is made up of 5 modular boards. There are 7 types of icons on the race track, which affects how you move your pirates. You move pirates by playing cards. When you play a card, you move one pirate to the next empty space showing the same icon as the card. Sometimes a pirate can run very very far ahead if many of the icons are covered by other pirates (whether yours or your opponents'). You don't get to draw cards every turn. To draw cards, you must move an opponent's pirate forward (in the original Cartagena you move your own pirate backwards to collect cards). The opponent pirate moves to the next occupied space, and you get to collect up to two cards, depending on how many pirates there are.

So when you move your own pirates forward, you try to get them to move as far as possible. When you have to help your opponents, you try to help them as little as possible, while still trying to get yourself two cards if you can. When moving your pirates, you have to think about whether you are setting up the next player for an even better move. If you have played a map card to move a pirate very far ahead, the next player may also have a map card and may be able to move his pirate even further ahead, because your own pirate has just occupied the next most advanced map space. Another tactical consideration is breaking up your opponents' opportunities for big moves. If you see a whole chain of compass spaces being occupied, you may want to break the chain by moving one of your pirates who happen to be standing on a compass space, so that the next player can't make a big move by playing a compass card.

One twist in the game is the boat. The track is broken down into two sections, with a sea (river? channel?) in between. This forces a break-up of very big moves. There is also a mini area-majority competition on the boat. The player(s) who has the most pirates on the boat can move the boat for free. Else it costs one action. You get three actions on your turn. Also because you have 3 actions, there is some planning that you can do. Sometime you can do powerful combinations of actions, which is amazing considering how simple the game is.

The first section of the race track. The game is missing two yellow pirates, so Chong Sean has used some generic piece in their place. See th yellow pawn on the right.

This is the second section of the track, with a town at the end, and a pirate flag waiting to be hoisted.

Some of the cards, which I think are beautiful.

In our game, Chong Sean got off to a good start, since he is more familiar with the game. That turned out to be a bad thing, because it meant Han and I preferred to help each other because we were wary of him. Soon some good card combos put me ahead, and I never looked back.

I just realised that Cartagena II is actually a race game when I started writing this blog entry. Somehow when I played the game it didn't feel that way to me. Maybe it is because it is so much more about card management and planning. It didn't feel like the pirates were running very hard. It felt more like they were magically jumping ahead. This is actually a fairly abstract game. This game reminds me of That's Life, which also has a team of pawns moving along a track. Cartagena II is more about managing your whole team of pirates and how to use your actions effectively. It actually doesn't feel like a race game to me, where speed is most important. There is a lot of player interaction, because all your actions have implications to others.

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