Carcassonne for Android is a great adaptation of the popular board game regardless of its differences from the iOS version
I’d admit to being a bit nervous the first time I sat down to check out Carcassonne on my Android phone. I’m a big fan of the game, and have played more than a fair share of both the board game and the iOS version. On top of that, I routinely refer to the iOS version as one of the best examples of board game to touch screen conversion success stories. So with all those expectations and hope, it’s good news that the first thing I said after playing a game was “whew.”
I can say now, with a sigh of relief, that while the Android version of Carcassonne doesn’t reach quite as high as the iOS version it’s a perfectly playable and very enjoyable experience. I’m going to spend a ton of time comparing the two, but it seems to be an interesting situation all told. Both are officially licensed versions, but have been handled by different developers As such the games feel notably different.
A typical game is played between 2 and 6 players who take turns drawing tiles and building out the world of Carcassonne. Tiles have cities, fields, and roads in various arrangements, and can only be laid down in places where their sides match up to the tiles you’re placing them against. So if your tile has a road running off the left side of it, then that side can only be placed against another tile with a road that matches.
In addition to placing the tiles, each player is afforded a certain number of “meeples” who represent their population and determine scoring. After placing tiles you can place meeples on roads, in cities, etc to garner points for yourself. It takes a combination of skill at tile and meeple placement to walk away with a victory. For instance, you’ll need to make sure your city tiles are completely walled-in in order to maximize the points you’ll get for it.
The beauty of the game is that the city will look completely different each time you play. Roads branch off wherever, cities pop up here and there, all dependent on whose turn it is and what tile they manage to draw. Early games you’ll spend most of your time concentrating on your own strategy, but as you get good at the game you’ll see this whole other level at play, where often stopping your opponent from doing something is better than scoring points for yourself.
A game on the Android is hard to review objectively since the OS appears on so many different screen sizes and resolutions. I played Carcassonne on my HTC Thunderbolt, and its big beautiful screen made the game look, well, big and beautiful. The interface is super clean, granting the lion’s share of the screen to the tiles and the emerging city so no matter how small the screen you can see everything clearly.
While it’s a great single player experience the real meat is in the multiplayer game, and it’s here the title stumbles a bit. While it does offer a pass-and-play feature, it feels like less of a complete product without some sort of online multiplayer, just because the gameplay is practically begging for it. The other feature lacking when sized up against the iOS version (last comparison I swear!) is the iOS’ unique solitaire mode, which is completely absent from the Android version. I’m sure that has to do with the fact that it’s a different developer here on the Android that who we saw on iOS, but it’s still an element that gives the iOS release a distinct advantage.
It’s an exciting time to be an Android user. There’s a real feeling in the app store that we’re catching up to the breadth of titles available on our friends’ iPhones and iPads. It’s going to take quite a while to reach any sort of parity of course, but I’ll count any week where Android gets Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne a great step forward. Now let’s get some network multiplayer going here!