We would like to thank Mage Company for the review copy of Carrotia used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
Carrotia is launching its’ Kickstarter campaign on August 15th, 2016 and it will run until August 30th, 2016. The copy of the game used for this review may not be final and is subject to changes before the final version is released. The game seems close to the final version or may even be the final version so I felt I could review the game instead of previewing it.
How to Play
- Shuffle the quest cards into three decks based on the number written on the back of the card.
- Shuffle the tiles and the bird tokens and place them in draw piles face down.
- Each player starting with the youngest player gets to pick the rabbit character of their choice.
Playing the Game
Carrotia is played in three rounds. Each round consists of two phases:
- Building Phase
- Movement Phase
In the first round players begin building the map/maze. Each player is dealt a number of tiles based on the number of players:
- 1 player-10 tiles
- 2 players-5 tiles
- 3 players-4 tiles
- 4 players-3 tiles
- 5-6 players-2 tiles
The players draw one of the quest 1 cards and turn it over. Before placing the first tile the players turn over the 30 second timer. Players take turns placing tiles on the table trying to build a 3X3 grid. Players are trying to build a set of paths that connect the spaces on the quest card that have carrots on them with the start and exit spaces. When placing tiles similar elements must touch (road touches road, grass touches grass).
Instead of placing a tile, a player can swap one of the tiles in the grid with a tile from their hand.
When the timer runs out, all players must stop playing tiles. Players place the red and green arrows to indicate the start and exit. Players also place the carrots and bird tokens in the grid as shown on the quest card.
If the players were unable to fill in all of the spaces of the grid or they placed a tile incorrectly (a road doesn’t meet a road, there isn’t a path from the start to the finish) the players will have to take a penalty. They have to add another bird token to the map (on a space of the players’ choice) and then the players can change up to four tiles to fix their maze.
Before beginning the second and third building phases you clear all bird and carrot tokens from the map. The players then draw a new quest card for the corresponding round (quest 2 for round two, etc.). Players draw new tiles as mentioned above and add them to the tiles in their hands not played in the previous round. In rounds two and three players add to the maze they created in the previous round. The players flip over the timer (60 seconds in round two and 90 seconds in round three) and begin building. All other building rules from the first round are followed.
After each building phase the players will move the rabbit through the maze they created. The goal in this phase is to move around the maze collecting carrots and eventually making it to the exit. In the first round players have 10 moves to do this. In the second round they have 15 moves and in the third round they have 20 moves. While moving players take turns in the order indicated on the quest card. The rabbit is unable to move backwards. Whenever a player moves onto a space that contains a carrot the players pick up that carrot and put it aside face down (even if the carrot is currently being held by a bird). If the players escape the maze within the allotted amount of moves they get to keep all of the carrots that they collected. If they don’t reach the exit in time they lose all of the carrots they earned that round.
After moving the rabbit the player rolls the dice of the birds on the map (same colored dice as the border of the bird token). The birds move based on what was rolled. If a directional arrow is rolled, the corresponding bird moves in the direction indicated on the die. If this would push the bird off the map, the bird does not move. If the carrot is rolled the players decide which stack of carrots that the bird will move to. If the rabbit is rolled the bird will move to the space that the rabbit is on.
If a bird lands on a space that has a carrot or the rabbit on it, the following happens based on what type of bird it is.
- Carrot: Turns a three carrot token into a one carrot token.
- Rabbit: Re-activates the current player’s special ability.
- Carrot: Destroys the carrot token on the space that the hawk is on removing it from the game.
- Rabbit: Moves the rabbit back to the start space.
- Crow and Seagull
- Carrot: Steals the carrot token from the space it lands on and brings the carrot with it.
- Rabbit: De-activates the current player’s special ability.
- Carrot: Turns the carrot token into another bird token. The players get to choose which bird.
- Rabbit: Moves the rabbit to the exit space.
- Carrot: Destroys the carrot token on the space the sparrow is on removing it from the game.
- Rabbit: Re-activates the current player’s special ability.
At the beginning of the game each player gets to chose a character card. This character card gives the player a special ability that they can use once during each movement phase. When a player uses the special ability they flip over the card to indicate that the special ability has been used.
The different special abilities are as follows:
- Vampire: You can move two spaces on your turn.
- Mummy: Negate the effect of a bird.
- Old Sailor: You can move one step backwards.
- Ghost: You can move to any tile of your choice.
- Bandit: When you collect a carrot token you get one additional carrot. This ability is a passive ability and is not deactivated when it is used.
- Clown: You can move one bird to the start space.
End of Game
The game ends after three rounds. If the players can reach the required amount of carrots (20 carrots for 1-3 player games and 25 carrots for 4-6 player games), the players win the game. If they don’t reach the required amount of carrots they lose the game.
The first thing I would like to address with regards to Carrotia is the rulebook. A lot of the early reviews of Carrotia talk about how terrible the rulebook for Carrotia is. Having played the game using the original rulebook I have to concur with those reviews. Carrotia had one of the worst rulebooks I had ever read. Rules were all over the place and some of the game’s mechanics were not explained well. Mage Company has since revised the rulebook. After reading the new rulebook I have to say that it has been significantly improved. The rules are much more straightforward and a lot of questions I had about the game have been answered. There have also been a couple slight tweaks to some of the more confusing rules. I still wouldn’t say that the rules are perfect, since some things are still not fully explained, but it is much better than it used to be. In the situations where you are not positive about a rule, you can usually make a pretty good educated guess to fill in what you aren’t sure about or you can make up your own house rules.
Outside of the problems with the rulebook, I am a little conflicted about Carrotia. There are things I thought were pretty good about the game but there seems to be something missing from the game as well.
The most interesting part of the game is the building phase. I actually really like the idea of having to use tiles to build the map/maze each round. I think this has the making of a good mechanic. It is actually quite simple but still has some strategy as you want to place tiles to build an efficient path to get as many carrots as possible. I like the idea of having a time limit since I don’t think the mechanic would be very fun if you could just spend as much time as you want building the maze. The game would be way too easy as well.
While the idea behind the mechanic is interesting, the execution could use a little work due to one simple fact. You don’t get nearly enough time to build the maze. I played the game with only three players and the game was way too chaotic. I am generally good at speed based games and yet our group was never able to get the maze completed in the amount of time that the game gives you. You need to move quickly in order to get the maze done in time especially in the first round. It does get a little easier in the later rounds since you get more time. I am guessing the more you play the game, the easier it will be to finish the maze in time. This is not the game for you if your don’t like to be rushed though since there is very little time to waste between playing tiles.
I like the idea behind the time limit but it just doesn’t work in its’ current state. I think the time limit should be tweaked in one of two ways.
First you could just give yourself more time. You could either use a larger timer or flip over the timer twice before the round ends. Having some additional time would make the game a little less hectic and give you a little time to plan out how you wanted to play your tiles. Actually having a little time to think should improve the game significantly. You can’t give yourself too much time though or the game will become too easy.
The other option would be to allow all of the players to place tiles at the same time. I think I like this solution more than just adding more time. Playing the game in this way allows for more interaction between the players. Players can work together to build the maze instead of hoping the next player plays the right tile that doesn’t end up messing up their plan. The problem with having everyone wait for the next player to play a tile is that so much time ends up getting wasted. You really can’t plan ahead since you don’t know what the previous player is going to do. This would also resolve an issue of players not having any tiles that could actually help since currently they have to play a tile that doesn’t help at all or skip their turn (the rules don’t specifically say whether a player can skip their turn).
Another problem with the building phase is even if you had enough time to build the maze, you might not actually get the tiles you need to complete the maze. Sometimes you just don’t get the tile you need to actually make a maze that doesn’t break one of the building rules. In one of the rounds our group wasn’t able to actually finish the maze even with the additional tile switches from the penalty. Since you randomly pick tiles, there is always the possibility that you won’t be able to finish the maze.
While the building phase is quite hard, especially at first, the movement phase is actually the opposite. I think the game gives you too many moves to make it to the exit. Unless you do a terrible job building your map or you have terrible luck with the birds, you should have no trouble getting most of the carrots and making it to the exit. There really isn’t that much strategy in the movement phase as it is usually quite obvious what you should do at any given time.
Even though the movement phase is pretty easy, if you fail to reach the exit in time and don’t get any carrots in a particular round you are going to have a very hard time winning the game. There is barely enough carrots between two of the rounds to reach the required number of carrots so it is crucial that you reach the exit by the end of the round.
As far as the birds, I really don’t have a strong opinion about them in the game. All the birds do is add luck to the game but they don’t seem that bad. Some of the birds even help you by bringing carrots to your location. In one round the crow was nice enough to gather up two or three carrots and brought them to the exit for us. I usually don’t like luck elements that are added to a game but I don’t really mind the birds because they don’t seem to play a big role in the game. The only ways they will really mess with you is when they remove carrots from the gameboard or they send you back to the start when you are almost out of moves. This could happen occasionally but I don’t see it happening a lot. I kind of wonder what the game would have ended up like if the game kept some of the mechanics the designer originally came up with.
Just like with the birds I didn’t have strong feelings either way about the different powers/characters players choose from at the beginning of the game. Some of the abilities seem significantly more powerful than others so it is likely that some characters will always be chosen. The ghost, mummy, and bandit in particular seem to be the most powerful and should probably be used each game. The abilities can be very helpful but you don’t really need to use them all that much since as I said earlier it is quite easy to move around the maze and collect all of the carrots you need to win the game.
Despite being a game that looks like it is for younger children, I don’t think Carrotia will work that well with younger children. The game has a recommended age of 8+ and I think that is about right. Nothing about the game is particularly difficult but there are a lot of things to think about as you are placing tiles. Add in the time limit and I think younger children could be overwhelmed by the game. If you play with younger children I would probably recommend coming up with a variant that either gives you a lot more time or eliminates the time element completely.
Being a game that is going to have a Kickstarter campaign in August, I can’t guarantee if the copy of the game I received was what Kickstarter backers will eventually get. The components look final or close to the final versions though. Overall I think the components are pretty good. The cardstock is pretty good and the cardboard components are pretty thick. The artwork is nice and the cards and tiles are laid out well so it is easy to find the information that you need. Also how could you not love the wooden rabbit meeple. My one concern with the components is that it looks like the symbols on the dice may start fading off after extended use.
When I first played Carrotia I didn’t care for the game that much. The first rulebook was bad but has been improved significantly. Carrotia has some good ideas. I like the idea behind the maze/map building and that it is timed. I don’t think the game gives you enough time though which means until you play the game a lot, you will likely have to take the penalty most of the time. Meanwhile I found the movement mechanics to be a little on the easy side since unless you make a big mistake or get really unlucky you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting enough carrots to win.
Carrotia is not a perfect game but it has some good ideas. With some tweaks/house rules I think you can enjoy the game. I think you need to either extend how much time you get in each building phase or you need to let all of the players play tiles at the same time. I also think a little more challenge needs to be added to the movement phase. If you can come up with some good house rules to fix some of these issues, I think you could improve Carrotia quite a bit.
If you like the concept behind Carrotia and don’t mind tweaking some things with some house rules I think you can enjoy Carrotia. You can check out Carrotia’s Kickstarter campaign here. The Kickstarter campaign for Carrotia will run until September 12th, 2016.