When comparing Carcassonne vs Race for the Galaxy, the Slant community recommends Carcassonne for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Carcassonne is ranked 10th while Race for the Galaxy is ranked 35th. The most important reason people chose Carcassonne is:
The rules are pretty basic for Carcassonne, with first time players being able to grasp its concepts quite quickly, making Carcassonne a great gateway game. Every turn the player draws one tile from the pile. They then must place the tile adjacent to a tile that has already been placed in a way that the edges match. There are four types of terrain on the tiles – roads, cities, monasteries, and grassland. After the tile is placed the player can choose to put a player figure, a.k.a. a meeple, on the tile to potentially score points. If a meeple is placed on a road, then the player will score one point for every road tile until the road ends in an intersection or a city. If the meeple is placed on a city, the player will receive two points for every city tile until the city is fully walled off. If the player chooses to place the meeple in a monastery, then they will receive one point per tile until the monastery is fully surrounded by tiles. Lastly, if the meeple is placed on grassland, then it’ll only score points at the very end of the game, giving three points for every city in the field. The player with the most points wins.
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Pro Easy to learn for beginners
The rules are pretty basic for Carcassonne, with first time players being able to grasp its concepts quite quickly, making Carcassonne a great gateway game.
Every turn the player draws one tile from the pile. They then must place the tile adjacent to a tile that has already been placed in a way that the edges match. There are four types of terrain on the tiles – roads, cities, monasteries, and grassland. After the tile is placed the player can choose to put a player figure, a.k.a. a meeple, on the tile to potentially score points.
If a meeple is placed on a road, then the player will score one point for every road tile until the road ends in an intersection or a city. If the meeple is placed on a city, the player will receive two points for every city tile until the city is fully walled off. If the player chooses to place the meeple in a monastery, then they will receive one point per tile until the monastery is fully surrounded by tiles. Lastly, if the meeple is placed on grassland, then it’ll only score points at the very end of the game, giving three points for every city in the field. The player with the most points wins.
Pro Detailed with polish
The board game pieces are highly detailed and colorful, be it lush grassland, a fortified medieval castle, or a monastery in the middle of nowhere. The game is themed after southern France in the medieval ages and the actual fortified city of Carcassonne and the landscape around it. There is definitely some forethought put into the polish of this game that makes much of it intuitive and a pleasure to look at.
On a more practical note, the back of the tile with which the game starts is in a separate color, so it is easier to find when starting the game.
Pro Simple, but allows for lots of thinking if you want
The game is very accessible to beginners, but it allows for quite a bit of strategic play when you get more familiar with the concept. You can either go for long-term strategies with farms, or for quick point-grabs; you can build your own cities in peace or try to mess with your opponent whenever possible. A lot of tactics come in the form of cutthroat play – trapping other players’ meeples, stealing cities, and getting to share points.
Moreover, the last turns of the game can also influence the outcome a lot – players receive some points for unfinished creations as well.
Pro Quick to play
In a regular expansion-less game of Carcassonne it can take 30 – 45 minutes to blast through the approximately 70 tiles.
The gameplay is dynamic, and everyone’s constantly engaged, managing their meeples and calculating which part of the board is worth fighting over.
Because of the simple rules Carcassonne is very easy to get back into even after big breaks and it’s great to teach to other people. This means that the people you play with can change without any problems and you can play the game with anyone – children, your parents, your friends, or your partner.
Pro Near-endless replayability
Carcassonne will pretty much never feel dull, there are so many possibilities and variables in the game not only because of the randomness, but also because of the simplicity and the variation count.
Carcassonne is going to be a different game every time because of the tiles you and your opponents draw and where you choose to place them. There are over 70 tiles in the base set, which amounts to a lot of possible combinations.
Carcassonne has been around for a while, and this has led to the release of many expansions throughout the years. Each of these provides more tiles, rules, and other variables to the game.
Lastly, you can even introduce many variations that’ll change up the game without owning any expansions, for example, instead of drawing one tile and placing it every turn, have the players manage a hand of four tiles.
Pro Great for quick gameplay sessions
A group of experienced players can play a game of Race for the Galaxy in 30-60 minutes easily. There are no complex boards or pieces to manage, and each game usually only lasts about 7-12 turns.
Pro Each round is different and exciting
At the start of every round, players each choose one action card from among a pool of their seven cards and place it face down on the table. After everyone has chosen, all the cards are flipped over and the round begins.
Any action chosen can be completed by all players. For example, if you choose to Explore, then everyone else may also explore on that turn. If your opponent chose to Produce, then you are also free to produce.
Since you never know what actions the people around you are going to choose for that turn, it's possible that any or all actions will come into play that round. This keeps things fresh and exciting on a per round basis as you never know (except for your own choice) which actions will be 100% in play.
Pro Many different ways to win
There are seven different actions that can be taken each turn such as Produce, Explore, Develop, etc. Each of these actions will then influence which cards you can play from your hand, and also the points you get from all active cards already in play. There are are an almost unlimited amount of possible scenarios and ways to accumulate the most points. No one strategy will ever overpower another thanks to so many random factors and paths to victory.
Pro Organized rule book makes locating rules convenient
The rules may be complex, but the rule book itself is incredibly well-organized and contains clear instructions, diagrams, and pictures. Each page contains a handy summary section with a quick overview of each rule. There's also a detailed glossary that contains the description for each and every symbol that appears on the game cards. When you inevitably need to look up anything mid-game, the information is at least easy to locate.
Pro High quality, durable cards
All the game cards feature high quality artwork of planets, ships, and various sci-fi technology. They are printed on durable cardboard that doesn't bend or tear easily. When properly used and stored, they should stay in good condition for a long time.
Pro Setup is fast and easy
There are no complex boards or game pieces to deal with. Each player simply chooses a home world and is given seven action cards and dealt some play cards. Then, victory tokens are placed in a pile (12 per player). Thanks to a small amount of pieces and very little preparation, this game can be setup and ready to play in under a minute.
Pro Deep and strategic
Race for the Galaxy is deep and offers plenty of room for customized strategies, so those who enjoy more advanced games should really enjoy it.
For example, you may put together an intelligent play by trying to predict which phase your opponents are going to choose on any given turn. If your opponent controls an area that allows them to trade resources for cards, they might choose the Trade Phase that turn. Since all players can participate in any other player's chosen phase, you may want to counterplay with the Settle Phase so you can join the area and take advantage of the trade too.
There are hundreds of scenarios like this. The amount of sheer strategy and paths to victory combined with the random nature of cards can create plenty of interesting and deep gameplay sessions.
Con Risk of accidental tile moving
If the game is not played on a flat surface or if you accidentally apply more force to the tile when you're placing it adjacent to another, then everything can shift, which can be annoying to fix.
Con Small official scoreboard
The official scoreboard that comes with the base game only stacks up to 50 points, but proper games of Carcassonne go way past that mark – a game without any expansions can easily reach over 100 points. If you add expansions to the equation, then the points can stack up even past 400, but some expansions feature scoring tokens that help resolve this issue.
Con Highly random
As is typical for a game with a drawing mechanic, almost every action in the game is influenced by whatever tile is drawn and where a player has chosen to place it, so it’ll benefit him the most. The randomness is enhanced by the fact that the players only draw one tile at a time, so you must take what you get.
Con May be a little light for hardcore boardgame players
The game itself is not very deep in design or play, which may be a turn off for the more hardcore of boardgame players though can be good for newcomers.
Con Iconography can be difficult to learn
This game relies heavily on a variety of symbols to indicate what each card does. This can make it very difficult for new players that don't yet understand what each symbol means. These symbols range from different colored shapes like circles and diamonds to shapes with various icons inside them. It's not always intuitive what they mean, so expect to consult the rule book quite often while learning.
Con Strict, complex rules ruin some of the enjoyment
It can be really hard to enjoy the game when you're more focused on the rules than having fun. Having to consult the rule book several times per turn can get old after a while, and may turn new players off completely.
Con Steep learning curve
This is a difficult game to learn. Not only does each card contain symbols which need to be memorized, it has very complex rules in general. Each turn is defined by a very rigid and detailed ruleset.
Con Not much player interactivity
The cards you play have an influence what your opponent can and cannot do each turn, but it all feels so random and impersonal. There's little to no communication required among the group. Everyone just scrambles to get their points without really worrying too much about what the player sitting next to them is doing. This issue is fixed in the expansions, but those who only own the base game are out of luck.
Con Expansions are nearly mandatory
In order to get the most out of this game, buying the expansions is considered mandatory in the board gaming community. The gameplay itself doesn't quite feel complete without all the additional rules and cards. The base game is fully playable, but most of the focus on player interactivity and balance went into the expansions.
Con Different rules when playing with only 2 players
It is highly recommended to play with 3 or more players, but there is a rule set available for when only 2 players are available. However, this requires learning an entirely modified set of advanced rules. This can be especially complex and frustrating for people who are still struggling with the standard rules.