When comparing Carcassonne vs Descent: Journeys in the Dark, the Slant community recommends Carcassonne for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Carcassonne is ranked 8th while Descent: Journeys in the Dark is ranked 47th. 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. Even the kids stay engaged since the winner is usually not obvious untile the very end.
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 Blends competitive and co-operative game play in one game
The premise is pretty unique in that one player takes on the role of an overlord while all other players act as the heroes who attempt to clear the dungeon. The overlord and the heroes play against each other in a turn-based setup.
The overlord is the one responsible for controlling the monsters and other pitfalls that the heroes will face. The overlord also has access to many powerful spell cards which can be played during their turn. The heroes work together to clear the dungeon of monsters and work towards the victory condition for their quest.
Since the main evil force is player controlled, it creates some really interesting situations not often seen in other boardgames such as monsters being able to play strategically and dealing with spell effects that aren't random.
Pro Accessible and easy to learn game systems
While the actual rule book may not be the most organized manual in the world, the gameplay systems themselves are very simple to grasp, even for new players. Thanks to being both intuitive and easy to follow, anyone can join in on the fun.
Descent uses basic dice rolls for most actions, and how many actions you can take per turn are clearly defined based on your hero class. Movement along the board is handled in a grid like fashion with each tile denoting a certain distance. There is never any second guessing of whether or not you're in range to help a friend or attack an enemy. If you can roll dice, follow a tile based board, and understand a few simple rules, you can easily play this game.
Pro Engaging and replayable full campaign mode
Each 60 to 90 minute game consists of a single quest, however there is a campaign mode where heroes can take on a series of story quests while also learning new skills along the way. This is a great mode for that true epic adventure feeling. If you find a hero you enjoy, you can grow and develop this character over time similar to a standard RPG game. Additionally, no two campaigns will ever be the same. There are 8 different classes to select from, and you can pick and choose the quests you do, which adds a lot of replayability.
Pro Appealing, clean presentation
Everything is laid out cleanly on the board so it's easy to keep track of the action. Each player has their own cards with all usable actions and skills neatly presented. All heroes and monsters have game pieces that can be moved around the board, so it's easy to be aware of your surroundings and plan your next attack. The health system uses special token pieces that are used to keep track of your health. Being able to see your health physically raise and lower to keep track of your damage taken is a nice touch.
Pro Can play solo with the mobile app
There's a mobile app called "Road to Legend" that lets you play this game solo. The app works by taking over the overlord role. It even has multiple difficulty settings so you can get as much of a challenge as you crave. It's a great way to play when you have no friends available for a gaming session.
Pro Bitesized quests for quick fun
Each short gaming session consists of one quest with its own victory condition and two encounters. They are quick to play when you're looking for something fun to do for an hour or so.
Pro Lots of expansion packs to keep the fun going
The makers of this board game have added over ten expansion packs which feature new monsters, quests, campaigns, heroes, and re-balanced mechanics. Even after you've extensively played the vanilla game, there's plenty of ways to extend the fun and keep playing a game you enjoy.
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 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 Physical quality isn't the best
The game cards and board are flimsy and wear down rather easily. After only a few games, the wear and tear will be noticeable.
Con Disorganized rulebook
It's usually easier to find the information you need with an internet search since the rulebook itself is tough to navigate. It's arranged alphabetically by rule rather than organized in a manner that would align with the game flow.
Con Rules can be confusing
While the game systems themselves are rather easy to pick up and learn, some phrasing on the cards and within the rulebook is a bit cryptic, which may result in confusion when first starting out.
Con One player will always have to be the "bad guy"
Unless using the mobile app, which may very well ruin immersion for some, there is an evil overlord role that needs to be filled by a player. This is the player that makes decisions and takes actions for all the monsters. As such, this can be the source of many arguments. It can get especially bad when someone feels like they are being constantly targeted or singled out by the overlord.