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Messages - Whaleyland

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1
Correct. I’m originally from California and adopted an online persona of Darius von Whaleyland, Great Khan of the Illustrious Barbarian Horde, back in 2008 or so when I was deep into medieval royal genealogical research. I’ve mostly moved past that stage of my life but I still call all my video game characters Darius or Daria and still have the Barbarian Report.  :)

2
Ghosts and Carcassonne: what a novel idea. Mists Over Carcassonne seems like an out of left field Carcassonne spin-off. The fact that it also functions as an expansion means it has quite a lot in common conceptually with Wheel of Fortune, but the stand-alone aspect is something entirely different from the base game of Carcassonne and it is something that is the focus of this review. If you want to see my review of the game as an expansion, you’ve got to wait a while long since I haven’t actually tried it yet.

Perilous Puzzles
* Unraveling the Mystery – Mists Over Carcassonne involves ghosts, cemeteries, and haunted castles, and players work together to try and unlock the mysteries of this game. And what mystery is that? How it works! Seriously. I have played around 30 games of this now, but I have only played about 5 of those using the correct rules. Without a doubt, this game has to include some of the most poorly-organized rules in all the Carcassonne family. And even the wizards at Wikicarpedia have struggled to translate Hans im Glück’s poor structure into something that makes sense. Part of the problem is that there are six levels players can play at, some of which actually change rules. The other part of the problem is some important rules are either buried or not located in a logical place. For example, did you know that if you are playing with 2-3 players, each player should actually play as two separate colors? Alongside that, if players connect features, they actually score for each color! Oh, and if you score a feature—any feature—you can choose to either score the points or remove up to 3 ghosts from a single tile. Yeah, we learned each of these rules separately after playing the game wrong for many times. On the plus side, we now feel the game is too easy.
* Behold, A Castle in the Fog! – Carcassonne is known for its castles. I mean, some people call Cities ‘Castles’. Then there are German Castles. Oh, and you can’t forget Castles (from Castles, Bridges & Bazaars). So the addition of yet another Castle feature is rather uninventive. The rules for it are also rather underwhelming—surround the Haunted Castle and score 2 points for each adjacent tile with mist. Really? That’s it. Okay, so say I’ve trapped my poor meeple on it for most of the game and the tile is completely surrounded. I score 18 points. Woo. I could have scored more just by claiming a large City. The core of this game is really scoring large Cities with several meeples to gain points, and scoring small features quickly to remove ghosts. Haunted Castles serve no purpose and I doubt I’ll ever claim one in the future.
* Leveled Up – Undeniably, one of this game’s potential strengths is also one of its gravest weaknesses. This game scales like many cooperative games do. But where many co-op games increase difficulty by removing or increasing something, or adding an extra rule, Mists Over Carcassonne adds rules six times and also changes them. The game includes a little cardboard cheat sheet for these changes, but it is sometimes difficult to interpret and still requires players to know what the new rules are to begin with. The game begins without Cemeteries and Castles (Level 1), then adds them (Level 2), then adds a timeout mechanism (Level 3), then removes ghosts (Level 4), then changes Cemetery rules (Level 5), then makes each player fend for themselves (Level 6). It is a lot to take in, and explains why the rules are so hard to understand. Conceptually, the level system should work, but in practice, it is confusing and should have been workshopped some more. Established rules shouldn’t change between levels—better solutions can be found.

Crisis in Languedoc
* Reinventing the Wheel – One thing you have to credit this game with is that it truly reimagines Carcassonne in an innovative way. Turning the game into a truly cooperative game using many of the same core mechanics of the base game converts Carcassonne into a puzzle-timer game. The clock is always running down, with ghosts and tiles both running out, sometimes quite quickly. Teamwork is key to ensure that as many meeple as possible get onto potentially high-scoring Cities. But players also have to watch out for running out of meeples, creating too many mist areas and open Cemeteries, placing too many Ghosts, and creating incompletable features. It’s a very difficult balance and will take many games to get good at.
* Panicky Peasants — This game instills a strange sense of fear and panic that is both exhilarating and satisfying. As the ghosts enter the field, and especially when the first Cemetery comes out, players can feel the tension, as if the end is nigh and the game may just beat the players. It makes some decisions very tense, and there is a lot of gambling, especially since the tile draws are still entirely random like in the base game. But this feeling makes the game quite fun and victories are truly enjoyed by all players. The game also plays very fast. There often are few realistic choices for tile placements, so games, especially at Levels 1 and 2, can take only minutes in some cases. So if you lose, there is a strong desire to try it again; and if you win, you may want to push your luck and try for a second win.
* Doubling Up – Although this isn’t a review of this game as an expansion to Carcassonne, the fact that the game can serve as such is nothing short of wonderful. This game adds 60 new tiles (plus a gorgeous new 2x2 start tile) to your base game experience, with new features and the addition of ghosts. In sort of adds the long out of print The Plague expansion into the game in a new ghostly way. The new scoreboard is also fun. I consider this the Halloween expansion, which with the Winter Edition means Hans im Glück really needs to create an integrateable Spring expansion (or Summer if they want to claim the base game is Spring). And yes, Winter Edition can totally be mixed in with the base game—you just have to believe!!!

Inconclusion
Mists Over Carcassonne was not a spin-off that anyone asked for but it is certainly one that has proven its worth. As a cooperative game, it takes the Carcassonne family in new directions that are both innovative and fun. From introducing ghosts and cemeteries to ramping up difficulty, the game will prove popular as a warm up game in a familiar genre and setting. While it certainly has some issues, those are not insurmountable and I encourage players to work their way through them in order to actual get to the heart of this game, which is a puzzly, luck-based tile laying game with a surprising amount of skill and strategy hidden under the fun façade.

Playability: A-
Affordability: B+
Aesthetics: A
Learning Curve: C
FINAL GRADE: B+

3
Just a quick update: after 25 games at Levels 1 and 2, we finally played our first Level 3 game today only to realise that we've accidentally been playing the game at an even harder level than intended. We never noticed the rules that allow you to remove 3 ghosts rather than score points for a feature!

Why on earth did they stick this at the end of a section in the rules that explained that ghosts don't score anything? I've read the rules twice and my partner once and neither of us noticed this rule. It should be reiterated in every scoring section, not in its own nonsensical section crammed in after explaining how ghosts work.

I am super disappointed with how these rules were written and organised. They have caused us endless confusion. At least we finally figured out why we were only at about a 40% success rate at Level 2. Had we known about the removal option, we would have saved ourselves a lot of trouble.

In better news, we handily won our first Level 3 game with about half the tiles left and a few ghosts still sitting in the reserve. The second hound did nothing for us (none of our meeples were adjacent to ghosts) but we managed to score 64 points for a single 16-point feature by strategically getting all four of our meeple colours on it. After that, we only had 8 more points to win, which we achieved in three more turns. We didn't even end up using the meeple removal option. However, we did get lucky in that we only drew one Cemetery about mid-way through the game. Those things can get vicious if multiple are pulled early on.

I am aiming to play a few more games (with the correct rules) over the next few evenings and then I'll write a Barbarian Report next weekend. As a preview, one of the negative points will 100% be the rules booklet.

4
You are missing the point. Other meeples can also go in the Cathedral in the City, but the Abbot can only go in the Cathedral, since the features it can claim are only religious institutions (e.g., Monasteries, Gardens, Shrines). Therefore, the Abbot is restricted to the Cathedral, whereas other meeples can go elsewhere in the City (some with their own restrictions). A longer list of restrictions is listed later on the page:

Quote
The following figures can be placed in a district of the city of Carcassonne:
Normal meeple, the standard option (Base game)
Abbot, only in the cathedral (Base game - The Abbot)
Large meeple (Exp. 1 - Inns and Cathedrals)
Wagon, not in the market (Exp. 5 - Abbey and the Mayor)
Mayor, only in the castle (Exp. 5 - Abbey and the Mayor)
Ringmaster (Exp. 10 - Under the Big Top)
Phantom (The Phantom)

The reason the Abbot is called out twice is because it is included in the base game, so requires immediate clarification. The others are expansion components, so they are only clarified in their own expansions.

5
 Well, we finally seem to be over the Level 1 hurdle after much confusion. We played as the rules instruct (finally!) with each of us playing using two sets of 3 meeples (Red/Pink and Blue/Green). Rather than give individual session reports, I will simply report that the easiest strategy is indeed combining features—high scoring Cities to be specific.

We worked to restrict the Mist fields to two or three active ones at a time, closing them off whenever it was convenient. We did this in all three games and only once in Game 2 did it get a little close. Our main strategy that won us the first and third games decisively was to build one large City that had three different-colored meeples in it). In Game 1, this pushed us over the victory line by 4 points, and in Game 3, it pushed us over 11 points! Game 2 was won with two smaller Cities with 2 different-colored meeples in them, followed by a single-meeple 6-point city, which pushed us over the edge by 1 point.

Overall, we are fairly confident now with our Level 1 strategy, so we may try again with Cemeteries and [Haunted] Castles next time. Also, I reiterate what I said last time, that thinking of the game as a puzzle rather than as a competition against a computer makes the game experience more fun, at least for us.

6
For the house rule, did you not have 3 meeple of 2 colours each already? We found that with 4 colours, there's often a chance to combine 2 colours in a feature.
God, there are so many little rules hidden in these rules. I'm less than happy with their design and even the Wikicarpedia people haven't entirely cracked the clarity and readability code yet. So no, we didn't play with the 2-player rules because I didn't even notice them. Ugh. I suppose our house rule was a slight variant on them, though I feel like three pairs of 2 colors per player would be better. We'll try the actual 2-player rules next time.  ;D

7
Thanks for making me re-read the rules, Challa007! We completely missed the terribly-written part that says a feature scores separately for all differently colored Meeples on it. That definitely changes gameplay quite a lot, at least conceptually. I don't know why Hans im Glück decided to explain that rule primarily through examples, which I regularly ignore since they're sometimes wrong and often unclear. The actual wording of the rule is poor and I must have mentally skipped over it.

In any case, we tired three more games at Level 1 today to better results. We made one quasi-house rule: each player gets one meeple of  :black1-meeple: :blue-meeple: :green-meeple: :yellow-meeple: :red-meeple:. This makes it much easier to place differently-colored meeples on features, elevating the game closer to what a 5 player game would resemble. In the end, it barely mattered though.

Game 1: Level 1
First attempt playing with the correct rules. We did successfully dual score for a Road and mid-sized City, and we also fought against Mist creep, but not well enough. We drew three 3-Ghost tiles in a row and promptly ran out of Ghosts. We even called a mulligan on the third tile, drew a fourth, which we were able to place, but then pulled another 3-Ghost tile, ending the game. Game lost.

Game 2: Level 1
We focused more on getting points this time and managed to get lucky with a merged 16 point City early on. We followed this with several Roads and smaller Cities. The Mist fields remained manageable and we decided to focus on narrowing Mist fields rather than knocking it out entirely. We were at 39 points when we realized we could score for two 6-point Cities, pushing us over the 50 victory threshold. GAME WON!!!

Game 3: Level 1
So, we got cocky and decided to try again for a victory since our previous game went so well. Clearly the game felt like putting us back in our place. We managed the Mist well enough early on and quickly got into the mid-20s in points. Unfortunately, we started to draw several 2- and 3-Ghost tiles that could not be placed anywhere convenient. A few of these were also CFFF and RFFF tiles, with Mists on all the Field edges, making it extremely difficult to contain the Mist spread. We fought valiantly but were unable to combine even a single feature due to crappy Road tiles and crappier City tiles. Game lost.

So, we still have a little ways to go before we establish a strong strategy regarding Level 1. This game does not mess around—that's for sure. And I think it may be more difficult at 2-player even with the house rule we used. The good thing is that the game plays incredibly quickly. I think the longest round we've played so far took 15 minutes. We played three games today in about 35 minutes. The fact that there are only 50 tiles in a Level 1 game, and that you are not meant to play all of them, means that the game is designed to be quicker. We are starting to see this more as a puzzle than a game against the 'computer', and I think that may be a better approach. It also makes losing less painful.

8
Reviews & Session Reports / First Mists Over Carcassonne Session Reports
« on: December 26, 2022, 04:11:45 PM »
Happy Holidays everyone!

So, I picked up the German version of Mists Over Carcassonne during the Advent event on CundCo and finally gave it a try today. Like most my Carcassonne playthroughs, it was just two-player, though I don't think that has a huge impact on this iteration of the game. In any case, I made the bold and, in hindsight, presumptuous decision to start at Level 2. That was a grave mistake.

Game 1: Level 2
Drew a Cemetery tile as the very first tile and promptly drew a bunch of tiles showing Mist that couldn't be connected together. We quickly ran out of meeples with our Cemetery in possession of 6(!) when the last ghost was placed. Game lost.

Game 2: Level 2
The first Cemetery came out a few turns into the game, but was quickly followed by a second Cemetery. This didn't impact much, to be honest, but the game was already feeling brutal. The ghosts were gone within a few turns and we felt like we could do absolutely nothing to stop them. Game lost.

Game 3: Level 1
We decided to switch to Level 1 to get a few victories under our belt before returning to Level 2. Also presumptuous of us as we soon discovered. We quickly ended up with an out-of-control massive Mist field and it was eating up our ghosts fast. We staved it off a few turns by drawing vanilla tiles and single-ghost tiles, but the latter just increased the size of the giant field even more. Game lost.

Game 4: Level 1
We immediately went in for a rematch and got what we thought was lucky by drawing a bunch of vanilla tiles early on. That eventually got us up to 44 points of the 50 we needed to win! But with barely any vanilla tiles left, all we had were ghosts, and we made the mistake again of allowing a single Mist field to grow to an unmanageable size. Our 6 points fled ever into the distance as we ran out of options. Game lost.

Game 5: Level 1
We decided this game that our primary goal was to make small Mist fields and avoid a monster field. We also were going to aim for more smaller-scoring features than large features like big cities. The problem is that we kept drawing Mist tiles with lots of ghosts on them. Against our best wishes, some of these fields merged and made awkward holes that we weren't able to fill. Game lost.

Game 6: Level 1
Attempting the strategy again from the previous try, we went for small Mist fields and small features. We had some luck early on and managed to get up to 26 points, but the small point gains weren't increasing fast enough and we kept drawing Mist tiles with awkwardly-arranged Roads on them. We had some luck fending these off initially but then we suddenly stopped drawing more Mist tiles with Roads, which meant we couldn't complete any of the Mist fields. The Roads were killing us slowly but surely. After some truly terrible draws of those insidious three-ghost tiles, we lost our sixth and final game of the day.

Recap: Mists Over Carcassonne is no light-weight co-op game. Just getting good enough to attempt Level 2 is a challenge. Like all Carcassonne games, luck is a major factor which can make or break the game, but there really is a lot of strategy in this game too. Honestly, we're not huge fans of co-op games in general and I mostly bought this game for the Ghosts, Castles & Cemeteries expansion. Having lost the co-op mode six times in rather rapid succession, I am not sure how much more we're going to try it. My partner really hates losing games, and when nobody wins multiple times in a row, she gets even more jaded. I think we'll try the expansion next and see how we like that. I would be willing to try Mists Over Carcassonne again, but my advice to anyone playing it for the first time: it is much more difficult than it appears!

9
Official Rules / Re: The 20th Anniversary mini-Expansion rules
« on: December 25, 2022, 11:58:19 PM »
Welcome to the wonderful world of Hans im Glück refusing to consider or account for people playing with multiple expansions. They began doing this with promotional expansions back around 2012, but now both the 20th Anniversary Edition and Mist Over Carcassonne's "Expansion 11" Ghosts, Castles & Cemeteries also have the disclaimer you mention. Officially, that just means you have to figure it out on your own. However, previous rules clarifications, official combining expansions rules from Expansions 1-10 (excluding 7), and a few other sources allow people to figure out many of the potential conflicts.

I recommend you check the expansion on Wikicarpedia: https://wikicarpedia.com/. Members here and elsewhere have already done most of the work for you. And if there are still unresolved issues, you can ask them on the comments for the page.

10
General / Re: About C3 expansions
« on: November 20, 2022, 09:45:16 PM »
It’s the Big Box 2021 that has different backs and it’s just a slight discoloration. Well within the range of the tile backs with other expansions. Some people just don’t realize that the color of tiles (front and back) differ print run to print run.

11
News and Events / Re: Spiel ‘22 tile at Cundco this Friday (the 18th)?
« on: November 20, 2022, 03:44:33 PM »
Interesting how last year the Spiel '21 tiles sold out within a few hours of release, yet this year they are still available a few days after launch and the supply doesn't seem to have been impacted at all by the second game fair a few weeks back. This suggests to me that Hans im Gluck has finally increased the print runs of these rare and highly-sought annual tiles.

On a personal note, now I'm a little bitter that I had to wake up at 5:00 am on Saturday when I could have just ordered them when I woke up. At least I will retain a complete set of Spiel '22 tiles, even if my credit card bill is crying from the purchase.

12
News and Events / Re: Spiel ‘22 tile at Cundco this Friday (the 18th)?
« on: November 18, 2022, 12:57:56 PM »
Finally ordered everything from the past several months! I can breathe a sigh of relief that they still had the Ukraine stuff in stock. The only thing I wasn’t able to order was a set of 50/100 tiles in the current art style. I wanted to get it for my 20th Anniversary Edition, but they’re out of stock for some reason.

Because I bought two maps and Mists, my shipping was always going to be in the €50+ category, so I got as much as was reasonable. Total order was $140 USD, so quite a haul. Hopefully I don’t need to order anything from them again until next year.

13
You forgot the Little Buildings!

There are also several elements within expansions that can be used without tiles, such as most of the wooden figures (Big Meeples, Builders, Pigs, Mayors, Wagons, Shepherds) and the King and Robber Baron.

14
News and Events / Re: Spiel ‘22 tile at Cundco this Friday (the 18th)?
« on: November 14, 2022, 09:15:20 PM »
And for those of us too lazy for Google Translate: “Starting November 18th, you will have the chance to receive a 2022 Essen tile through us.”

15
Considering they ran out after only a few hours last year, I’m definitely worried they’ll run out. I’m 11 hours removed from Germany so they are quite liable to launch the Advent event in the middle of the night here. Hopefully they give us a good estimate regarding when it starts.

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