It was with great interest I read the suggestion the game of Cartography. It is a contemporary mind game, or abstract strategy game, a fusion of Go and Carcassonne.
The idea of a game combining elements of Go and Carcassonne is one that would mean a game that could be quite outstanding given that Go is likely among the top-10 games of all time in terms of pure simplicity, depth, and longevity.
Carcassonne is also a great game, maybe the most widely known of the tile-laying games.
But does Cartography live up to its suggested heritage?
Well, the 2015 released game by designer Jon Adams from publisher Playford Games is certainly one that is worth delving into as a game for two to four players.
To begin with Cartography has a bit of an historic theme pasted on, that I suppose gives it a little added mystique but doesn’t necessarily make the game better.
“China 168 – 280 CE; You have unearthed the pieces of an ancient Chinese map. As you piece the map together you are drawn into the turbulent times of the Han dynasty. Take the role of the legendary warlords, found in Luo Guanzhong’s epic tale, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” Capture lands and build castles to extend and defend your kingdom,” details the rulebook.
Of greater consequence is the game play.
“In Cartography, the game’s objective is to extend your kingdom by building your castles on more lands than the other players. Castles are placed on the land you claim or capture, and whoever has the most castles – those they place on the land and those they capture -- wins,” notes the rules.
Players start by selecting tiles to create land and extend the map, which changes the landscape as the game goes on.
In planning your strategy on where to build your castles, you must carefully choose between expanding and consolidating, and between attacking and defending.
Set up has players “Place six open land tiles and join them on the table to form a hexagon.
“Decide the number of tiles in play. There may be up to 21 tiles each for two players, 14 tiles each for three players and 10 tiles each for four players. This determines both length of play and degree of challenge. Beginners can start with four tiles each to get familiar with the rules.”
With the board growing the element of placing pieces (castles), on the board comes into play.
“When a player places a castle on the only unoccupied adjacent hill of another player’s castle or castle group, he surrounds the opponent and captures them. Captured castles are removed from the land and count as points for the player who captured them,” explains the rules.
“The game is over when all players pass consecutively. The winner has the highest number of their castles on the land plus the opponent’s castles he has captured. In case of a draw, the player who went first wins.”
While not on a level with Go or Carcassonne, Cartography has some interesting game elements to explore.
This is not a game that is easily grasped, the rules are straight forward enough, but understanding the approach to be successful takes some study. That is not a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.
Playford as a company has some solid games to its credit, Journey Stones, Capere, Illios and certainly Cartography is worthy of that list too. This one is worth a look at for the dedicated gamer.