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The Barbarian Report: The Cathars' Revenge (Mists Over Carcassonne)

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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!!!

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


Great review!

+1 merit from me.

The wording of English rules is awkward and riddled with mistakes. The wrong image explaing how you extend or limit the mist is mindblowing. Who did the proofreading? Nobody? It seems they sent the rules to press with no time to check them. I pity those players who may try to understand the game using only the rulebook. ( @PapaGeek can tell you his experience with a similar case with the printed rules for The Tower in C2. ) :'(

We still have to add some corrections and clarifications to WICA, based on the experience gained by some members like @Challa007. I count on her for this!

Great write up, as per usual!

We played levels 1 to 3 today during lunch, and they can be very quick games indeed. I also misread some rules in the beginning, and the English rules are just not good, but luckily, we got there in the end.
We'll try levels 4-6 later today. We've gotten to level 5 before, but haven't beaten level 6, which seems to have a very steep jump in difficulty

Hi @Whaleyland , thank you for this great review! +1 merit

I just realised that you have written many of those before.... amazing!
But why "Barbarian" must be a "down under" thing??!!  >:D

Concerning Mists over Carcassonne, I have now started to write checklists for all levels and all numbers of players.
For the moment, I still have only the German texts (which can be translated by Deepl and Co.  ;) ) but eventually all will be in English in this forum.
I hope like this, new players will not have to try 25 times like you.... great perseverance by the way!!  :(y)

Whaleyland is not from “Down Under”, he just lives there now. He is from the United States originally, if I remember correctly.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


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