Base price: $40.
1 – 5 players.
Play time: ~35 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 26
You know, usually when I cover a game that hasn’t been released yet, it’s a game coming from, like, Japan, Taiwan, or Korea. It’s rare for me to get a game from Germany, but hey, I love Carcassonne. Thanks again, Matt! Essen releases. Love ’em. Anyways, I digress. What we’ve got here is the latest in Carcassonne technology, coming to the states sometime this quarter or next, probably. Heck, it might already be out by the time this review gets published! We will see! Let’s find out what awaits us in Mists Over Carcassonne!
In Mists Over Carcassonne, the villagers have honestly had enough. There have been dragons and rivers and volcanoes and mayors but … ghosts? That’s too much for them to keep trying to tear each other down. So they’ve decided to set aside their differences and try to get rid of these specters that are plaguing the countryside. Build cities, complete graveyards, and brave spooky castles to find these ghosts and kick them out before it’s too late. You’ll have some pups to help you, as well, though, so you’re not entirely alone. Will you be able to build the ultimate city, together this time?
I was originally going to write a full review, but it seemed weird since there aren’t any English rules available. I ended up using the Dized rules when I was playing, which say they’re approved by the publisher, so I’d recommend giving those the once-over. What you’ll find is a cooperative Carcassonne variant where players score together while trying to fight off ghosts over increasingly-complex levels. Along the way, you’ll find Castles (which score for adjacent tiles with mist), Cemeteries (which force you to inter a meeple for the rest of the game and either spawn additional ghosts or face-down useless tiles until you “complete” them), and Hounds. There’s a lot to like about Mists Over Carcassonne, but I’ll talk more about that soon.
Player Count Differences
The differences in player count tend to be a lot more noticeable in Mists Over Carcassonne. Playing solo or playing with two players, you use multiple sets of meeples of different colors, but fewer meeples of each color. At higher player counts, you use the full count of each set of meeples. While this means you have more ways to multiply your score at lower player counts, you also can run out of meeples a bit more quickly than you can at higher player counts. At higher player counts, it becomes challenging to quick-pivot to something new, since each player just controls their own meeples (though you can complete other players’ features, which still helps). You lose the extra flexibility that a two-player game has where they can choose which color meeple they want to place on a feature, for instance. I do like this most at two players, but that’s mostly because I feel like it’s much easier to coordinate and strategize when you can choose what color you’re playing, even if your meeple supply is a bit limited. It’s a great time.
- Live your best life and build a giant city. A monument to cooperation! Big cities are the way to get a ton of points all at once and potentially push through the point limit. The challenge, of course, is that you need to be able to complete the giant city in order to actually get the points for it, so make sure you don’t create a Carcassonne urban sprawl situation where you just don’t have any shot of finishing the city. Sometimes it’s worth taking fewer points!
- Generally, use your Carcassonne skills to try and hop on the same feature as other players; you score more points for completing a feature together. This is the real kicker. Under standard Carcassonne rules, you cannot add a meeple to a feature that’s already controlled by a player. However, if you connect two features and make them into one feature, you can split control with the player who already controls that. Each meeple might score individually, but they track their scores collectively, so having two different meeples on a complete feature is essentially worth 2x points. Maybe you can even get four meeples on the same feature!
- Honestly, a lot of times it’s worth forgoing some of the lower-point completions and just removing three ghosts from a tile. If you’re only getting 2 points from a road or 4 points from a tiny city, you might just consider opting to skip scoring those points and clearing three ghosts from any one tile. It keeps you under your limit and, frankly, in the grand scheme of things 2 points isn’t all that much. That said, sometimes 2 points is exactly what you need to win. So think about it!
- Try to connect mist banks together so that you can place fewer ghosts. Completing them is good too! Every time you place a mist bank connected to another mist bank, you place one fewer ghost, which is useful, but if you complete that mist bank, you get all the ghosts in that bank returned to the supply! Again, running out of ghosts is an instant-lose condition, so try to get your ghosts back as quickly as possible.
- As you progress through the game, it starts being worth having a few meeples on places that you don’t intend to score, just so that you can inter them in a graveyard eventually. Graveyards are the worst! They force you to bury a meeple forever once you complete them, and you have to take them from the board. This means that you should have some low-priority meeples in places that you don’t immediately expect to score (usually a road) that you can just glomp into a tomb everlasting, lest you be forced to remove a meeple from a more lucrative spot.
- Completing a graveyard as quickly as possible should be a priority. Graveyards also have the nasty “benefit” that when placing a set of ghosts, you must place one additional ghost on one incomplete graveyard, which is a nasty thing to have happen. As a result, completing a graveyard (four tiles; one in each orthogonal direction) should be top priority as best as you can.
- Castles are tough to complete, but highly lucrative if you can. Castles score two points for each tile with mist on it in the eight adjacent tiles (and on the castle tile itself). That means you can pull off 18 points off of a tile if you can swing it, but honestly, even if you can only get five tiles, a 10 point feature is pretty good. It sometimes makes it worth your while to place mist banks that you can’t complete, just to get them adjacent to the castle.
- Making a mist bank impossible to complete isn’t the worst thing. You can sacrifice scoring small features to just clear ghosts off mist banks that you can’t complete. Later in the game, you can also use the Hounds to clear ghosts from nearby tiles, as well, which can help clear mist banks that you can no longer finish. I wouldn’t recommend making a mist bank impossible to complete and then just leaving it.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- A cooperative Carcassonne is kind of my dream. The more board games that I play, the more hyped I get for good cooperative experiences. Something about playing a game and solving a problem together, rather than just fighting each other and hoping for the best, is pretty nice. I already really enjoyed Carcassonne, so having a cooperative version is super up my alley. I’m really hoping that this is the start of series, because I want to play more Carcassonne cooperatively.
- I actually think this is a pretty good way to teach some Carcassonne strategy, as well. I was playing this with a friend and we got significantly more cutthroat at standard Carcassonne after our first few games of this, since we got a good sense of how to connect buildings and steal features from other players. I think you can learn a lot about how to play Carcassonne here, and it’s a pretty safe environment (especially at the lower levels) to try out new stuff.
- Plays pretty quickly, especially if you lose. You can lose pretty fast if you’re not careful! But otherwise, it’s pretty easy to just reshuffle the tiles and start again. It helps that the starting tile is massive (2×2), so it’s not like that’s going to get mixed in, but in general I find that Carcassonne plays pretty quickly.
- We keep calling this “Spooky Ghost Carcassonne” because … it’s funnier and a fairly accurate description of what the game is. It’s Carcassonne, but now with spooky ghosts! The ghosts show up and try to haunt everything, so you gotta bust ’em! We love the theme and it’s a bit silly, so that all makes it kind of fun. “Mists Over Carcassonne” makes it sound a bit more ominous!
- I do like the leveling of the game quite a bit. I appreciate that the game gradually introduces new concepts and challenges. I kind of feel like it could have been better if they had framed the leveling with more of a campaign system, but what can you do. I just kind of would like some narrative to the levels.
- The Hounds are a fun mechanic! A lot of people like dogs, for one thing, but I also like that the Hounds must be attached to a meeple that’s already in play, they clear ghosts that are present, and they give that meeple extra points when they’re scored (1 point per ghost currently on the board). It’s just a fun little module to throw in.
- If you’re not into cooperative play, this can also be used as a fairly-aggressive competitive expansion for standard Carcassonne, which is probably nice for some of y’all. The ghosts can be used to scare your opponents’ meeples off of features, which is a good time. It’s probably about the same level of aggressiveness as The Princess and the Dragon, so if you’re into that, you can still use the game as a competitive expansion. Plus, there are some of y’all who hate cooperative play.
- The various components are very fun. I really like the little ghosts! I wish they glowed in the dark, though; that would be the ideal outcome. Then again, maybe I could paint them.
- Thematically, this is also just a very entertaining game. Kicking ghosts out of Carcassonne? I’m all in on this, thematically. I love it.
- I would really like more granular ways to set the difficulty, like adding or removing ghosts or changing the size of each stack. I imagine you can house rule that, but I hate recommending house rules in a review unless it’s critical. It just seems like Mists Over Carcassonne is missing a more granular way to modify difficulty for each level beyond “there are levels”, so I’d love to see a way to toggle the difficulty to make the game more approachable at each level.
- It’s not always clear that the difficulty is balanced across player count, either. The two-player Round 6 seems significantly more difficult (each meeple scores separately, rather than all players scoring as one) since you only have access to three meeples of each type. This might be how the rules were translated, but that confused me. I think it’s supposed to compensate for the fact that players can, in a two-player game, choose which meeple to put on a feature, but that doesn’t seem like it properly compensates for having fewer meeples than the higher player count.
- A couple of the levels (4 and 6, mostly) feel pretty arbitrarily difficult. There’s not a whole lot you can do if you get bad luck on cemeteries early on in Round 4. In Round 6, the difficulty spikes, so it’s just a question of how easy it is to get tiles that let all of those meeples score on their own and together. The problem is that since the tiles are drawn randomly, it doesn’t always feel like this is a skill gap as much as it is a luck gap based on what tiles you get. Having a starting set of tiles to mitigate this somewhat would be nice.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I thought Mists Over Carcassonne was a blast! Honestly, I really loved playing it (hence the 26 plays or so prior to the review), and it just makes me want more. It’s a cool basic concept, but I think the core thing it’s needing is some fine-tuning. I love finding the sweet spot where a cooperative game becomes the perfect difficulty level for my group. That difficulty, of course, is different for everyone, and having highly-granular toggles for difficulty allows you to get there! Mists Over Carcassonne is a bit more coarse-grained. It has six levels of difficulty, but even then, part of the challenge is that if you have bad luck, you just aren’t going to win. I’d love to see expansions or follow-up games that add a bit more planning or skill to those later levels so that I can still make it difficult, yes, but attainable without a particularly lucky draw. In the meantime, though, there’s a lot to like about Mists! It really does package a whole Carcassonne experience into a cooperative game in a cool way, it adds some new concepts to the series, and even if you’re not into cooperative play, it can also serve as a competitive expansion for standard Carcassonne! I’d love to see ways to incorporate other existing Carcassonne content into Mists (I’m a sucker for a cooperative game), but that may depend on how well Mists Over Carcassonne lands. I’ll be interested to see what comes next in the series, but for now, I’m mostly just thinking about how to get Mists to the table again. If you’re intrigued by a cooperative spin on Carcassonne, enjoy tile-laying, or just really hate ghosts, I’d highly recommend checking out Mists Over Carcassonne! It’s a fantastic spin on one of my favorite games.
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