Buzzworthiness: Carrotia

Thanks to MAGE Company for providing a review copy of Carrotia.

Here’s a cooperative game that will be up on Kickstarter soon:

image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3
image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3

Carrotia is a game designed by Malte Kühle that will be published by MAGE Company.  It’s a cooperative game for 1-6 players that takes about 30 minutes to play.  The idea of the game is that carrot supplies are getting low, and you have to go out and collect more.

The game comes with 40 tiles showing paths in various configurations; 3 sand timers of time 30-60-90 seconds; 27 quest cards; 6 character cards; 6 bird tokens; 30 carrot tokens; 2 arrow tokens; a wooden rabbit; and 6 bird dice.  Each player will choose one of the six rabbit characters, which will give you a special ability for each round.

At the start of each round, you will deal a number of tiles to each person based on the number of players – 10 for 1 player, 5 for 2, 4 for 3, 3 for 4, and 2 for 5-6 players.  Once everyone has their tiles, draw the top card of the current quest deck (based on what round it is) and then start the timer.  Players take turns either adding a tile to the maze or swapping a tile currently in the maze for one in their hand.  For the first round, you’ll use the 30-second timer and create a 3×3 grid.  In the second round, you’ll use the 60-second timer and create a 4×4 grid (you don’t clear the 3×3 grid, you just add to it).  And in the final round, you’ll use the 90-second timer and create a 5×5 grid (again, not removing the existing grid).

If time runs out and the grid is incomplete, or you have bad connections (as with any good tile laying game, land features must line up), then you add a bird token to the maze to then add or swap up to four extra tiles.  Once the maze is complete, you add tokens based on the quest card.  This will include carrots (1 or 3 per token) and birds (which are chosen randomly and revealed at this time).

It’s then time for the movement phase.  Place the rabbit on the entrance tile (note that you are not entering from off the board).  In turn order, players roll the bird dice, then move the rabbit one tile, following the path.  You may not move backwards, in a direction you’ve already moved.  In the first round, you have ten moves to make it all the way to the exit tile (again, you don’t leave the board, just make it to the tile).  In the second round, you have 15 moves.  In the third round, you have 20 moves.  You want to pick up as many carrots as you can.  Each character has a special ability that can be activated once per round, and these can be done at any time.  Also, once per round, one player can pass their turn to add two carrots to the board.

After each move, it’s the bird turn.  Every bird on the board will move every time according to what you rolled before the rabbit move.  Four of the faces are directional, and will send the bird north, west, east, or south.  If you roll a carrot, the bird will fly one space towards the nearest carrot.  If you roll a rabbit, it will fly one space towards the tile where the rabbit happens.  Different things will happen, depending on the bird:

  • If the Owl finds a carrot, it will turn a 3-carrot token into a 1-carrot token.  If it finds the rabbit, it will reactivate your character ability if you’ve used it.
  • If the Hawk finds a carrot, it will destroy it.  If it finds the rabbit, it sends it to the entry tile.
  • If the Crow finds a carrot, it will pick it up and carry it.  If it finds the rabbit, it will give you all of the carrots its has collected.
  • The Seagull behaves exactly like the Crow.
  • If the Bat finds a carrot, it will turn it into the bird of your choice.  If it finds the rabbit, it sends it to the exit tile.
  • If the Sparrow finds a carrot, it will destroy it.  If it finds the rabbit, it will reactivate your character ability.

If you make it to the exit tile before your move limit is up, you keep all of the carrots you have collected.  If you don’t make it, you do not keep any carrots.  You then move on to the next round.  Once the third round is over, count the carrots you have collected.  If you have 20 (with 1-3 players) or 25 (with 4-6 players), you win.

image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3
image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3

COMPONENTS: This game will be up on Kickstarter next week, but MAGE Company already produced a few copies, so I think the components in my game are at least near final quality.  And they’re all really good.  The dice are very nice, as you see above.  The signposts on the dice have a clear bottom (that’s where the post is) so it’s easy to know which direction they point.  The map tiles are all nice and thick, and there’s a sufficient amount of tokens in the game.  The quest and character cards are all square.  The sand timers are fine, though mine all seem to be about a second short.  The box is a good size to hold everything and doesn’t feel overly large.  MAGE Company is well known for their high-quality bits, and this game reinforces that perception.

THEME: You’re a rabbit collecting carrots.  The title suggests that you’re living in some fantasy world known as Carrotia, but there’s no mention of that anywhere that I can see.  The theme is a little weak, but very family friendly, and I think that’s what they were going for.

Also…bats aren’t birds.  Just wanted to throw that in there.

MECHANICS: This is a tile laying game where players are working together to build a maze. This first part of each round works pretty well.  It’s in real time, and players are taking turns either laying down a tile or picking one up.  It’s an enjoyable puzzle, and it’s nice that they built in a way to correct any mistakes through the addition of birds.  My biggest issue here is with the sand timers.  In order to keep that real time feel, I can understand their necessity, I just question the order in which they are used.  The 30-second timer is used for the first maze, and that is a REALLY short amount of time to lay a 3×3 grid from scratch.  Conversely, you are also laying nine tiles in the third round, but you’re adding to an already constructed maze and you have 90 seconds.  A full minute longer.  I would think that, for the purposes of amping up the difficulty from round to round, you’d want to start with the 90-second timer and progress to the 30-second timer in the final round.  But honestly, I think using the 60-second timer on all three rounds would be sufficient.

The second half of each round is moving the rabbit through the maze, and this part is a little awkward.  Players take turns moving the rabbit, which seems strange since you’re all moving the same rabbit and you’re only moving it one space.  It’s important, however, for some of the bird and character powers.  Originally in the game, you rolled the dice after the rabbit moved rather than before.  This extra step was implemented in the most recent rules update so that you know where the birds are going before moving the rabbit and can plan.  Also, the carrot and rabbit sides originally sent the bird directly to a target rather than moving towards it.  This rule, more than the other one, really corrects my biggest problem I had with the game, and that was the random chance that a bird would fly directly to a spot and wreak havoc.  Especially the destructive ones like the bat, the hawk and the sparrow.  Knowing where the birds are going to move is nice, but I don’t mind a little unpredictability in my games.  Keeps you on your toes.

Speaking of the birds, they’ve done some tweaking on their abilities since the first ruleset I got.  They’re a little kinder and gentler now, though I hate hate HATE the bat.  It’s not even a bird.  Movement rules have not changed, and I have to say that not being able to go backwards is VERY frustrating.  There is a character that can let you move backwards once per round, but I wish that limitation wasn’t there.

Overall, the game is a little clunky, but it works.  There is no method to track how many turns you have taken, so you’re going to have to rely on your memory or on note taking to make sure you’re within the limit.

STRATEGY LEVEL: It’s difficult to strategize during the first half of each round as it’s in real-time.  There’s more time in the third round, but that first round is pretty much bam-bam-bam-you’re done.  In the second half, you can come up with a plan together for how you want to move the rabbit.  If you’re the kind of person who likes to complain about alpha gamer syndrome (which I’m not), there’s definitely a potential here for that.

ACCESSIBILTY: Carrotia is a fairly light game, and one that will be good for families playing together.  I don’t know that hobby gamers will necessarily find this game particularly exciting after the first few plays, but I think it definitely fits in that family niche.

SCALABILITY: The game is for 1-6 players.  I have not tried it with all player counts, but I would imagine that there’s not much variation in the amount of time the game takes.  There’s a time limit on the first round, and all players take turns moving a single rabbit.  My issue with scalability comes with the way they tried to scale it by saying that 1-3 players have to collect 20 carrots while 4-6 players have to get 25.  There’s no real extra challenge in a 4-6 player game.  I imagine that this is to accommodate the fact that more characters are available, but there aren’t additional carrots.  Quest cards all have a variable number of carrots, and I think the minimum available with the right card draw is 25.  This means that you have to make use of the Bandit (who gets +1 carrot when collecting a carrot), use the pass ability to add some carrots, and really hope that you don’t have problems with the bat, hawk, sparrow or owl messing up the carrot count.  Also, 5-6 players only get two tiles to put in the maze (as opposed to 5 with two players), and depending on seating order, may only get one turn in the maze building.  So I think I’d suggest playing this with smaller numbers of people so you can get a fuller experience.

REPLAYABILITY: With kids, I think this game will be played many times in a row.  It’s easy to pick up, and it’s fun building the maze.  For more seasoned gamers, I don’t think you’ll want to play this that much.

INTERACTION: There is a lot of communication that is necessary in this game.  You have to plan out your path, talk to others about what you want to do, and make sure everyone is on the same page.  It’s cooperative, so everyone is working together, but everyone still has to do their part.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? This game has a lot of problems, but I still really like it.  I have gotten two rules revisions since I first received the game, and that tells me that MAGE Company is aware of the issues and is committed to making the best product they can.  Overall, the game is fun, and I think it will work well with families.  The maze building is a cool aspect, and the puzzle of moving through that maze works well.  So this is a game I can recommend, but it does need some more tweaking.

The Kickstarter will launch on August 25, and you can go check out a preview of the page here (that link will update to the real page when the project launches).  Thanks again to MAGE Company for providing a copy of this game, and thanks to you for reading!


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