Mists over Carcassone
- Designer: Klaus-Jurgen Wrede
- Publisher: Hans im Gluck
- Players: 1-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by HiG at SPIEL 2022
The short blurb from the publisher: “Mists Over Carcassonne is a co-operative version of the well-known tile-laying game Carcassonne. Working together, you place tiles and score points while trying to stop the spread of ghosts, contain haunted ground in cemeteries, and use haunted castles to your advantage. If too many ghosts are loose on the ground or you’ve collected too few points when the tiles run out, you lose the game. If you do manage to survive three days, you can adjust the difficulty level of the game to increase the challenge. Mists Over Carcassonne includes 45 meeples in two new types and 60 tiles that match the graphics of the 2021 edition of Carcassonne, and this game includes rules for how to incorporate material in a regular competitive game of Carcassonne.”
Wait…. Cooperative Carcassonne?! Yeah, that’s right. In this game, your team of players needs to appease the restless spirits that represent the souls of the Cathars. Many of the rules are the same as the basic version of Carcassone. If you are unfamiliar with the original game, it will not hinder your ability to enjoy this game, it might just take you a few more minutes to get all the rules.
The game is split up into 6 different levels, and your group will be tasked with completing all the different levels to win the game. The bulk of the game are the tiles; 60 in total – with roads, cities, castles, cemeteries and mist found on them in varying layouts. There is also a starting tile, which is much larger, essentially being as large as a 2×2 grid of regular tiles. There is a similarly sized Level summary tile which helpfully tells you which components are needed in each level and what your goal score is.
I’ll start by explaining how to setup and play the first level. Put the starting tile on the table. Discard the tiles with cemeteries and castles from the tile set; shuffle the rest and have them face down as a supply. Per the level summary, place the goal marker on the 50VP space. Each player picks a color and gets the 5 meeples in that color. These are not traditional meeples, they are called Guard Meeples, and have something attached to one of their arms. However, for the rest of this review, I’ll just call them meeples.
In general, the players work together to score the required number of points. However, if there are too many ghosts on the board or if the team is unable to draw any more tiles, they will lose. The team will have to work together to decide where is the best location to place each tile.
Each turn has three phases (which will likely feel familiar to you).
1] Tile placement. First, you draw a tile, and then you place it so that it is adjacent to at least one other tile on the table. You must match features on previously placed tiles.
2] Place ghosts and meeples. If the tile you placed has mist on it, place ghosts on the tile. You still have to match the feature seen under the mist (roads or fields) but you do not have to make mist match mist. If the mist area is complete – that is there is no way to further expand it, simply remove all the ghosts on it. Otherwise, look at the number of ghost symbols on the newly placed mist, and place that many ghosts on that tile – UNLESS you are expanding a mist bank, in which place you place one fewer ghosts than depicted on the tile. If you ever have a time when you cannot place all the ghosts you are supposed to place, the team loses!
Then, you may place one of your own meeples on the tile you just played. Make sure you are clear as to which feature on the tile you are placing the meeple. You can only place on an unoccupied feature; though it is possible to eventually have multiple meeples in a feature with clever placement. You cannot place a meeple in the mist.
3] Score points – Check to see if you have triggered any scoring – that is if you have completed a feature. You actually have two options. You could choose to remove up to 3 ghosts from exactly one tile on the board. Or, you could take points in the usual manner.
- Roads score 1 point per tile in the road per different colored meeple on the feature
- Cities score 2 points per tile in the city and 2 points per shield in that city per different colored meeple in the city
After you record the score on the scoreboard, take back the meeple on that feature.
The first level continues until the team wins by surpassing the target score of 50VP. The team loses if they have no more tiles to place OR they cannot place all the ghosts they need to place. Unlike the base game, there is no final scoring after the final tile has been played (if you go that long).
In level 2, you now play with castles. They act similar to the old cloisters. When the occupied castle is surrounded by 8 other tiles, it scores – though it scores differently; 2 points for each tile in the 3×3 grid which has mist on it.
You also play with cemeteries. Cemeteries score when the 4 orthogonal sides have tiles on them. When this happens, the cemetery is complete, and it requires you to bury a meeple. The team chooses any meeple currently on the board, and it is placed lying down in the cemetery. This meeple is essentially out for the rest of the game. You also get to remove any ghosts that are on the cemetery tile. Cemeteries gain ghosts each turn that a ghost is added to mist; when this happens, one ghost is placed in each open (incompete) cemetery.
In each of the successive levels, new features and rules are added… but I’ll leave you to discover those when you play!
Interestingly, the components of this box can also serve as an expansion to regular competitive Carcassonne. You continue to use the new super large starting tile, and all of the Mists tiles are mixed in with the base game tiles. Each player gets 2 guard meeples and 5 regular meeples in their supply. The 3 remaining guard meeples in each color are placed near the scoreboard and the ghosts are also placed near the scoreboard.
The placement of tiles is the same as in the cooperative Mists; that is, you must match features, including those UNDER the mist, but you do not always have to match mist to mist. When you place a tile with mist on it, you will get to place ghosts:
- For each mist bank that you expand with your tile, you place a ghost next to an opponent’s regular meeple (you can never place a ghost next to a guard meeple)
- For each mist back that you limit; that is you place your tile so that the mist on it borders a mist-free side on a previously placed tile, you must place a ghost next to one of your OWN regular meeple.
- It could happen that you do both of the above cases with a single tile placement
Whenever a meeple has three ghosts next to it; both the ghosts and that meeple are removed permanently from the board!
When you score, the base rules are used. However, for each ghost next to a scoring meeple, there is a -2VP penalty. It could turn out that you score negative points for a meeple! After scoring, return the meeple to the player’s supply and any ghosts with it to the general supply.
The cemeteries here are placed like any other tile, though they have a different function here than in the cooperative game. When placed, a meeple can be placed on them to serve as a cemetery keeper. The cemetery will score, like a cloister, when it has 8 tiles around it. When this happens, you do not score any points, but you do get an extra guard meeple in your color from the supply. Therefore, you will have one extra meeple to play with for the rest of the game. Castles just score like cloisters.
Finally, field scoring still happens, but it should be noted that mists act as borders to fields just as cities do. Additionally, regular farmer meeples can be scared away by ghosts; though guard farmers are not affected.
Final scoring happens as in the base game, though every ghost next to one of your meeples gives you a 1 VP penalty.
My thoughts on the game
This game gives games a really Interesting twist on the classic game series – instead of competing tile laying, players work together to achieve goals, and with the progression of rules in each succeeding game; there are always new challenges to face and figure out how to solve.
Do you need to play through all 6 levels in one sitting? No – I don’t think so. In part, I think that the levels help introduce the new rules in stepwise fashion; making sure that no one gets overwhelmed all at once with the changes. The levels do seem to get harder incrementally, so you might find a level that suits your group, and you could stick with that… (Or, honestly, if you played this a lot, you could simply track your scores and make a house rule to change the target score for any level to create whatever level of difficulty that you want).
The addition of the ghosts makes the game work. Once the game gets started, there is almost always tension on the placement of the ghosts. As there are only 15 total ghosts to be placed, you will quickly find out that you are running short on them in the supply. Once you add cemeteries into the mix, you’ll be placing at least 2 each time you need to place ghosts; and let me tell you; it’s sweaty palms time pretty quick then!
Is there a risk for quarterbacking? Yes. Completely. This “cooperative” game could be played by just one player as well – and in the end, the most vocal player could certainly direct all the tile placement. Is that going to be a problem? Well, not in my group, as we definitely make sure that no one does that. But if you have an issue with that in other cooperative games; there really isn’t anything here to prevent it. That being said, it sometimes helps having multiple people look at the map to figure out what the best play is. There is also some nice cooperative scoring when you can get multiple colors in on a completed feature.
The only other big change that the cooperative nature causes here is that you really must wait until the start of your turn to draw a tile. When we play standard Carc, we usually let people draw a tile at the end of their last turn so that they can already be looking at the board to decide where they might be able to place their next tile; and this tends to speed up the game a bit. Here, you can’t do that as you wouldn’t want to have any advance knowledge to the future tiles to be placed… It was never an issue for us, other that I had to remind people at times to not draw a tile as soon as they played theirs – again, mostly out of habit from our base game house rule.
Overall, I like the way that the cooperative nature changes how to play a game that I’m already intimately familiar with. Will it be something I’ll want to play over the base game? Long term – probably not. The base game is one of my 5 all time favorite games, and this does not replace the base for me. But… it is definitely a nice change, and as cooperative games have become more prevalent – this may be yet another way to get people interested in this great family of games. While the tension isn’t quite as high as Pandemic or Ghost Stories, you still get a lot of the highs/lows from close calls with the ghosts and what not.
The ability to use this box as an expansion to base Carc is also an interesting twist. The scoring is a bit different, and it certainly is a more cut-throat version of the game as you can now force meeples off the board. This certainly encourages people to close off features as quickly as possible; or to judiciously use their guard meeples to give them some protection against this move. The other big change with this expansion is that farmer scoring at the end of the game is much less significant; mostly due to the fact that fields aren’t as big (as they are shut down by mists AND cities). There is definitely a bit of targeting here, and if you’re in the lead early on, you’ll certainly get plenty of ghosts placed next to your meeples – and this pretty much is a guaranteed penalty. Once placed, they will score you negative points or will force your meeple off the board. It’s a bit too cut-throat and targeted for my liking; but I can certainly see that some of my gaming friends would love this addition to the normally docile and friendly game of Carcassonne.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson: My two solo plays were both enjoyable… and possible since you can play the cooperative game as a single team.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
The cooperative game
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it. Mark Jackson
- Not for me…
The expansion to the base game
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale Y
- Not for me…