Recently, I’ve been working on a small card game called Compact Carnival (pictured above after a recent play test). You can read more about it soon in an upcoming blog post. Because of this, I’ve been playing a lot of small card games trying to deduce what makes them work, and what I can learn about them to improve my game. I’m going to give a mini review of five games here and what I did and didn’t like. A couple of these are only after one play, but the rest I’ve played a few times. Still, these are mostly first or second impressions from these, so the depth of strategy may not fully hit me just yet. Now, in no particular order.
Oh My Goods!
To be straight up, this is my least favorite of this list. I want to kind of get it out-of-the-way. I know a lot of people like it, but it’s just not for me. What I do like about this game, are the production chains. If I’m lucky with my card draws, I can get a nice chain going where I can turn one product into many more along the way, often increasing their value as I go. I’ve only had this happen once out of the two games I played, but I did enjoy how it felt to get it going. But I feel the card draws really impact what I can and can’t do, which I don’t want to be hindered by. I want to like this, but the card draw just prevents me from really enjoying it. I feel like if it was either a bit simpler to make combos, or was more involved with tokens or something I would like it more. But for now it sits in an odd limbo spot for me.
Fidelitas is a game I really enjoy. The maneuvering of cards is something I really like, and the race to compete over spots is enjoyable. The clever thing about the cards is that there are 9 guilds, but several of them have two cards of that color. Each of these cards does a similar, but different ability. So by playing a green card, you’re either moving a couple of cards to one location from around the board, or moving a couple of cards from one location to different spots on the board. How you play these cards and when determines how well you’ll be able to maneuver the board. The only thing I don’t like about the game comes from the Missio cards, which are how you score points. The gripe is that even though I can replace ones I don’t like by going to the tavern, I feel like if I end up with two Missio cards I don’t think I can complete, I find myself falling behind the curve as I spend a few turns to swap them out with new Missio cards which might not be any easier to complete. Because some Missio cards rely on rare cards in the deck, if I discard one Missio card and draw another Missio card that needs another one of those rare cards, I’ve wasted a turn. A simple solution might be to draw two and keep one, but I haven’t tried it to see how that would work, but that might fix my one gripe with the game.
This was one I didn’t expect to enjoy. I read the description on BGG, and it didn’t stand out to me. But before I could say I wasn’t interested it was out and cards being dealt. We only played with three players and my hunch tells me it’d be better with more. Still, it was a nice time waster. I wasn’t blown away by it, but I did enjoy the partnership aspects of the game which could prove to be interesting in a larger group. The ability to play the same card as an opponent, even if I could knock them out of the running right away with a higher card, proves interesting because I don’t potentially have to wait as long to discard my card. If I can team up with them, I can get closer to winning with lower risk. That kind of decision-making proves interesting, and also turn out to be how we all had a 3 way tie because we all had a 2 on the final round of the game. I’m not a big numbers on cards kind of gamer, but this one turned out to be alright.
This one I enjoyed as a set collection fan. The wagering of cards to the middle rows was a good psych out element that I feel really felt good with 3 players. There was one moment in the final round, that I stacked one row so perfectly that I was 95% sure no one would bother taking it, but it’s going to directly help me to do much better, and I was right. The mind games were fun. The scoring is what I liked the most. You choose three of your colors at the end of the game to score positive points and the rest score negative points. So I don’t want to get a lot of everything, I want to focus on getting just a lot of a few options. But even then, that’s hard to do. So stacking a row with what you’re willing to take in order to really benefit you can be good if you don’t want someone else to get it. Making it too attractive to someone else might not be good for you, but it could also give them something that they don’t necessarily want. I’d like to play it again and try that strategy out from the beginning instead of the end to see how well it carries throughout.
This one is my favorite of the list. I love city builders, so this is right up my alley, even though it’s not a city builder like Quadropolis or Between Two Cities. It’s more region building really. Still, I love spatial puzzles, so the challenge of where to place a card to get the most benefit is a mechanic I really like. I like the decisions of what card to play because it not only determines what order cards are chosen in, but who plays when in the next round. I find my plan with this is to always choose a card that I could use, but sometimes play a card that lets me get in early to choose something that might be better. If I’m going to play a low number and get stuck with something, I want to make sure it’s of value to me. That in the moment determination is what drives my card playing. Additionally, the other layer of which three cards do you pass to your opponent on the 4th and 10th rounds I find adds to the value of the decision-making. Something about this game just clicks with me and hits all the right buttons.
What can I learn?
So what can I learn from these five games to improve Compact Carnival? From Oh My Goods, that chaining of cards that when they’re played right, it all just works amazingly is a feel I want. When you’re placing attractions in your park, I want them to work off each other and flow well. Reward you for the cards being optimally arranged. But also not just punish you if the cards aren’t arranged to get that optimum flow either. Fidelitas has a little bit of take that when you steal cards from one spot you opponent wants them to be in, and put them in a place you want them in. The visual layout too of where everything is and what the board state is at is also key. Fuji Flush teaches some cooperation. Team up with small numbers to take on players with larger numbers. By providing ways for players to interact in a positive method, you can let players catch up to a player in the lead, or team up to bring someone onto a level playing field. Coloretto is a test of wagering. Where you can place your cards and chance whether you’ll get them. But also when to go for it and do something that might not be optimal now in order to wager for the future possibilities. Lastly, Honshu is a game where the spatial awareness of what’s nearby and what can interact with other features is going to be key to Compact Carnival success.