Carson City Big Box First Play Thoughts
Carson City Big Box was a very successful Kickstarter in 2015 for Quined Games. Carson City itself was released back in 2009, to some modicum of praise and success, but never enough to get reprints here in the United States. So this work of Xavier Georges kept going up in price on the secondary market to the point where the ones who would really enjoy it, weren’t going to be spending that much to buy it. So along comes Quined Games, who I believe had a part in initial printings, and they create the Carson City Big Box, which included both expansions for the game and improved the bits in the box 100 fold all for about the price that some were asking for the original at that point. Being a huge Xavier Georges fan, Ginkgopolis is honestly either my number one or two game, just depends on the day of the week. Add on top of that the fantastic Troyes and Tournay and you know why Carson City was numero uno on my Grail List and is now thankfully in my collection.
So, first off, what exactly is the game of Carson City all about? Well, Carson City is really a mish mash of mechanics that I love, you have role selection at the beginning of each of the 4 rounds. You have worker placement, or rather Cowboy or Cowgirl placement. You have tile laying and even a little bit of Area Control and some dice rolling to help with the duels. That’s right I said duels, but more about those later. In Carson City, you are going to be using those mechanics to the best of your ability to build the city of Carson City. It takes hard work to build a city in the Wild West, and you need mines, ranches, saloons and other buildings, but you also have to be quick to claim the right parcel in order to best strike it rich from your careful planning.
In a round the players will start off the round in turn order choosing a role. These roles will determine the turn order of the current round, they’ll give the players a specific ability during the round and they will also limit how much cash they can carry over to the next round. After role selection the players take turns placing their cowboys or cowgirls on the action track to take specific actions, or place their cowboys on parcels of land to claim them, or they could even place their cowboys on other players properties in order to steal income from them. Remember those aforementioned duels? Well, in Carson City you don’t block others from taking actions by taking that spot, the other players are welcome to come in and try to take the right to that spot away from you in a duel. The winner of the duel gets to take the action and the loser goes home if they are lucky. The action spots allow the collection of income, the purchasing of plots and buildings and also the ability to turn resources into victory points. When you claim a parcel of land, you usually do so in order to build on it in the future. Building will produce income and score differently based on what surrounds them and what the specific building wants to be around, like the Ranch, which wants empty parcels all around it, or the mines that need to be built next to mountains. Over four rounds of this your version of Carson City will come to life before your very eyes, roads leading to new areas of the town, drugstores and hotels popping up in the busiest sections.
The first printings of this game had the mountains and buildings strictly as tiles, but in this new upgraded edition we get beautiful components made of wood, nice mountains, houses, roads, guns and even horses. The original game was still fantastic looking with tiles, but the wooden bits give it a bit of that something extra.
I really enjoyed my play on Saturday night, and I think that Brad and Kate did as well. Brad had a couple issues in the 3rd and 4th rounds due to not understanding something I had said about the rules and that in turn caused some bad planning to happen, but we re-wound the game as best we could and helped him fix it up. Still, he finished a distant third with his mostly mining company. Throughout the game I thought the duels would come more into play, but I guess with 3 players the duels may not play as big of a role, I think we had 3 total duels over the 4 rounds and none of us tried to steal income from a building and that really may have helped me get a bit closer to Kate’s score of 53. But as it was I lost by 10. I’d really love to see this one with the full player count, just to see how it goes, the town has to fill up quickly and you’ll be more likely to interact with everyone else I think. We played the game with the basic first play setup, roles 1-7 and just the basic buildings. Next time I think we’ll randomize it up a little bit, while the basic roles were fine, you kind of got the feeling that their is more to the rest of the available roles that we didn’t see, plus each role card is double sided with a more “complex” ability on the other side.
Kerensa and I will probably play this as a two player game next and we’ll utilize the River side of the board to cut the board in half. I do worry about the amount of choices causing a little bit of Analysis Paralysis with her, but I think after a game or two she’ll fly right through it. While it can be a bit of a complex game, the rules are really easy to grasp and once those sink into the background the strategies and everything you need to do should come to the forefront. We have a tendency to play two player games a bit solitarish so I do worry that Carson City may lose a bit of that flair because of that, but who knows, I’ll certainly have fun finding out!
Look for more on Carson City in the weeks to come!!