App O’ The Mornin’: Carcassonne

Among Eurogame-to-App conversions, Carcassonne now leads the pack. I still have some serious Catan-love, but there’s no denying that Carcassonne is the most feature-rich and wholly satisfying port of a classic design.

The feature-set reads like a wish-list of everything you’d want in this kind of App. There are 8 different AI players, a new solitaire mode, local network play over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Internet multiplayer via live-gaming sessions or email, a matchmaking service, an Elo ratings system, and in-game chat. If it added app-to-Facebook support (a la Scrabble) I’d probably never stop playing it.

This is precisely what every game should offer: a full suite of single- and multiplayer options, smoothly integrated with the game and the device. It works like a dream. You can connect to someone with a local device, or someone who’s on the internet. You can even hop into the lobby and it will match you with another player, often in less than 30 seconds. This is awesome squared.

The implementation of the game itself is also quite strong. Carcassonne was always going to be one of those games that challenged the small screen of a mobile device. Its tendency to spread across the table makes it though to fit in a small space. The App version does a fair job of managing this, by zooming in and out, and clearly marking any block where tile placement is legal. Each fresh tile appears in a little banner to the right of the screen, and after it’s placed you have an option to put a follower in any legal space. Tile sprawl simply never seems to be a problem, since you can view the board at different sized, and easily move the screen around.

Players new to Carcassonne won’t have any trouble learning it from the App. There’s a complete rules set for both standard and solitaire versions, as well as narrated interactive tutorials. The initial release is still plain-vanilla Carcassonne, but there’s no reason at all that the multiple expansion packs and variants couldn’t be added at a later date. I’d pay for them. (Well, some of them: you can keep Catapult.)

The App was developed by The Coding Monkeys, and you can bet I’ll be looking for anything they do in the future.

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