Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 20 April 2017

On an Island in the Sun:- Carcassonne: South Seas

 GameCarcassonne: South Seas

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede


Carcassonne: South Seas is a 2-5 player tile-laying game in which you collect bananas, fish and clams by building a map of the islands then sell the goods to trade ships. If you have played Carcassonne then you will find South Seas very familiar, islands play like cities, bridges like roads, trade posts are like cathedrals and seas are a revamp of fields. However while the main gameplay is similar, the method of obtaining points is very different.

Tiles can have a combination of 4 symbols, bananas on islands, clams on bridges, and fish/fishing boats on sea tiles. Each turn you take a random tile and add it to the map, ensuring you match the terrain (Islands can’t suddenly stop and turn into sea). You then can place one of your workers on the tile you played. Workers can collect one the 3 resources or work on the market tiles, regardless of what they are doing they do not score until the area is complete. Though unlike regular Carcasonne you can take them back without scoring, should you need some workers to place in future rounds.

Fishing boats add a nice bit of variation to the fields of Carcassone, which many feel are unfair and confusing. When you place a fishing boat in a sea you can score it immediately (rather than having to finish an enclosed sea), take your worker back, take your fish, and cover up one of the fish symbols with a boat token. In this way the scoring of fish is kept fluid, and tempting seas full of fish can actually be completely emptied of aquatic life towards the end of the game. The fact that some tiles may have an island with no bananas, or bridge ends with no clams can actually lead to tactical choices where you finish your opponents island to prevent them from making a larger, and more valuable area which is a healthy change to the game.

Here the red player has a banana picker standing on the island and a clam collector on the bridge, some fishing has been done toward the north of the map.
Unfortunately the thing I don’t like quite so much in South Seas is the scoring, each round you may trade with 1 trade ship. Trade ships all have points values on them, they usually require 3-5 resources and reward you a suitable amount of points based on how hard it was to obtain these resources. While in theory this allows you to prioritise resources to get the best boats, what often happens is that one player ends up being “Banana king” and has a large stash of the yellow stuff ready for as soon as a suitable boat comes along. Victory can feel down to luck as to when the valuable boats come along. You can easily pick up a 2 point boat that you only bought out of desperation, only to reveal a 6 pointer that you could have afforded had you not just spend your resources!

Our map at the end of the game, there's no denying that South Seas results in a beautiful tropical map by the end of it.
Ultimately Carcassonne:  South Seas Improves upon several of Caracasonne’s flaws, however at the same time it introduces it’s own unique flaws. This results in a game that is just as good, but no better than the original. That may sound bad, but it’s important to remember that Carcassonne is a fantastic game that has shaped itself as a modern classic, if perhaps in the shadows of games like Catan and Ticket to Ride. South Seas won’t be staying on our shelves, we have the original with several expansions which makes them the obvious choice. But if you don’t have the original and have no intention of buying expansions, South Seas might be the game you’re looking for.


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