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Subject: Carcassonne - Iphone OS version, with many photos - [review] rss

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Carcassonne (iOS) » Forums » Reviews
Carcassonne - Iphone OS version, with many photos - [review]
Device: Ipod Touch 32GB, 3rd generation model.
iPhone OS 3.1.2
Carccassonne v1.0 (released as of June 2010)

screenshots to start off

title screen

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Normal Game --} Local Game --} New Local Game --} New Local Game
--|-- Join Game

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Normal Game --} Internet Game --} Register --|-- Internet Account (never made it here)


Manual --} (see below Normal Game and Solitaire Mode And Interface sections below)

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High Scores --} page 1 of 3 --|-- page 2 of 3 --|-- page 3 of 3


High Scores --} Local Players (page 2 of 3) --} (tap on a player) Player Details. The rows represent each type of feature in the game, but damned if I knew why the graphs were split in 2 like that. Complete vs Incomplete features? Would explain why the farmer only has on section of the graph





Normal game
This is Carcassonne the way it’s commonly played by many of us when we a physical copy gets broken out, with the following edition rules/variants used:
*football cities are worth 4pts each
*scoring is by fields, so each farmer touching a completed city scores
*a farmer scores 3pts for each completed city
*Just the single start tile to start off, as opposed to "The River" add-on/mini-expansion
*no expansions available whatsoever

The game has a written rules section you can read through, complete with some illustrations and examples. An interactive tutorial is also available. A near borderline, creepy sounding guy with a (British) accent dictates and helps you through the tutorial mode. It covers a solid deal about the interface, how to place tiles, certain parts of gameplay, and scoring. In the end, I’d recommend you go through the rules section to refresh yourself on the rules, and the tutorial to get all that you need about how the interface works.

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Normal Game Interface
The game only runs in landscape mode, but you can turn your Ipod Touch either way, with the power button on the left or on the right, and it’ll automatically orient itself correctly. Not a huge deal, but some lefties/righties like certain layouts. You have something I call the "banner area" which is like some sort of place where the flipped tile gets put out, and where all the menu options are. Settings, tile distribution count, and chat (this is grayed out in Local games, as opposed to internet games)

You can adjust music and sound effect volume in game by tapping on the small "gear icon" below the banner. Otherwise, you also tap there to pause or end the game.


The game keeps track of a lot of things... Player names (complete with mini-avatar) and colors they’re associated with, running scores (represented by the small circle), how many meeples each player has left (represented by that thing that looks like a meeple). An arrow on top of the player indicates it’s that player’s turn.

When it comes time to make a placement, all spots that are valid are marked with a shaded square. Interestingly enough, spots that have become dead zones (either because the appropriate tiles have been used up or due to all no tiles that could possible fit the bill, save for potential future expansions) will have an ‘X’ on it. It really takes the guesswork out of figuring this out yourself, although it will invariably create spoilers for those who like to track and figure this stuff out for themselves. Speaking of which, you are treated to a sheet where the distribution of all the tiles are available. This is dynamic too. As the tiles get used up, this distribution that you can bring up by tapping the "3 stacks icon" will get updated to reflect that. Another exciting feature or "dull-maker" is you can bring this list up to know exactly say" what 8 tiles are left when it gets to that point.

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The computer is able to keep track of it all. Why shouldn’t you?
‘X’ marks the spot where no tile will ever go... unless we can one day factor in expansion tiles.

As for placing tiles, they made it work on a small screen for the Ipod Touch. The tile to be placed appears in that "banner area" at the top right. You drag it to a valid area. Once in place, you can tap on the tile to rotate it 90 degrees clockwise. If it can’t go 90 degrees clockwise due to mismatching features, then it’ll go past 90 degrees and stop to where it needs to be at the next valid orientation. If it can’t rotate at all, you won’t see that circular, background arrow indicating to rotate it. If you try to rotate it, it’ll just wobble in place to let you know that you’re tapping on the correct spot. You can drag the tile to another spot, or if you’re happy with placement, click on the meeple icon inside the banner to assign a meeple. The tile then gets enlarged to a quarter of the screen. Translucent meeples mark the many spots on the tile where your meeple can be, with a laid down meeple for farm spots. Once you choosen a spot, you can see how the meeple looks from a high level perspective. If you’re satisfied, you click the check mark in the banner to commit to your choice. Otherwise, click on the tile itself, and the meeple will be removed. If you have no meeples when placing the tile, or have no valid placements, all you can do is click on the checkmark to end your turn, or move the tile around instead.

You can zoom in or zoom out by pinching or "oppose flicking" the screen with 2 fingers, much like many other Ipod Touch apps, so it’s the usual" zoom in to look at tile details or how farmers will work out, and zoom out to get a better overall picture.

When fully zoomed out, the screen can fit 24 tiles going across if the right hand side is being blocked by that banner area, but it goes to 30 tiles if you use that area of space below the banner. You have 16.5 tiles to 19 tiles going down, depending on if you reveal or collapse that player bar at the bottom (kind of like the task bar found in Windows OSes, but this one has a small box for each player)

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When fully zoomed in, the screen can fit only 3 to 4 tiles going across (again, depends if that banner is in the way or not), while 2 to 2.5 tiles going down.

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AI
When the AI moves, it doesn’t take long to think. Not even on "evil" level difficulty, but I’d imagine that could jump a lot if we have a whole group of Evil and Strong level AIs all going at each other. My background with Carcassonne is I’ve played it quite a bit. Feel free to check my plays, but I’m woefully behind by at least 4 months. About less than half of those games are with major expansions (e.g. Inns & Cathedrals, as opposed to "add-ons" or "minor expansions" such as The River), but I still don’t fancy myself a particularly excellent player. Against newbies, I’m sure to win. Against average players, it may be close. I wouldn’t put any money on me winning if I’m going up against any given pro at convention tournaments. As for this game, I’ve only been able to play a few games. The Easy AI clearly missed certain opportunities to block my building up of a city, and for one example, he just extended his own road where his thieve was. The Evil AI OTOH, it can be proficient at creating dead zones. In fact, it managed to tie up one of my meeples as shown below...


Sigh, there’s one meeple I’ll never see again. “Evil” indeed, but I’m sure this AI has a lot more in store

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Many AI characters to choose from

I’ll update this if I get more insight to the AI levels.

Solitaire mode and interface
When you hear "solo" or "solitaire" for a boardgame, without any AI involved, you know it’s gonna be a puzzle. You vs the game, with no other players to outwit, it puts a fresh spin on things. Here, your ultimate goal is to hit all of the "requirements". At the same time, you’re trying to build the most compact city to keep your VP loss at a minimum. The game will end when you use up all the game’s standard 72 tiles, or when you finish out all of your "requirements".

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As far as the "requirements" go, they’re completing a road starting at length 2, and then eventually working your way down to progressively longer roads, with the end at completing a road at length 6 (or whatever would score you 6pts for a road in the normal game). Ditto for a city of 6 tiles in size (pennants printed on city tiles are ignored). This is done in parallel with hammering out the road "requirements". The game will put a flag in for when you complete these. For example, a ‘2’ gets put on the road feature when you have a completed road of length 2. Cities have a different shaped "flag". I don’t know if it was really necessary to force the player to have to complete them in sequence, but it certainly makes things harder since you need to complete a 3-size before a 4-size will count, and so on. On the plus side, you don’t have to manage meeples anymore. In fact, the focus of this mode is to build a compact city, so you have no meeples whatsoever (it felt a bit odd at first to have a Carc game without meeples).


A Solitaire game in progress. So called “road requirements” would be indicated with a “flag”

As far as the VP go, you start off with 1000 VP. These act like a starting budget. The larger your settlement becomes, the more you lose. Each tile you lay down will cost you VP, except if it was one that finished a feature that goes towards completing a "requirement". Specifically, the cost is the perimeter of your settlement after you lay a tile down, NOT the area. So you’re better off with a 5x5 area settlement because that will only incur a cost of 5+5=10. A theoretical 25x1 settlement taking up equal area will incur a cost of 25+1=26 VP per tile placement! You can go into the negatives just fine. It won’t be game over in the traditional sense of video games where you run out of HP or life, but if really want some decent sense of self satisfaction, let alone compete online vs others who submit their scores, you’ll want to have this figure as high as possible as a testament to your puzzle skills and Carcassonne knowledge.

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No comment; ..... Needs improvement

When you start a new Solitaire game, there’s a name associated with each game, such as Gavioure or Aulontre. Each one is different in where the order the tiles come out is predetermined by what the city was choosen. Reminds me of the card game Freecell, where computer versions of it have you enter a specific 5 digit number, or have an option where you choose a random game/set # to determine what layout you get and try to solve.


Multiplayer
There are several paths to multiplayer mode... that is, to play vs fellow human beings...

There’s Local play where you Join A Game. The game trying to do this via wifi or Bluetooth, so I assume it’s trying to link up with another device directly, without going through the internet. I don’t have anyone else to join with, so I can’t even test this. The furthest I can get is to leave it hanging there, keep on searching for what it can’t find.





Then there’s the Internet. When I tried to initiate this, it asked for a username and email address. I don’t know if I was supposed to have my account set up ahead of time through a web browser, or if it’s asking me to register then. The button did say "register", but I kept getting network errors.

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Internet --} Register --|-- Internet Account (never made it here)


Will have to try these again when I get the chance, and come back with updates.

Tried and true is the game’s "hotseat mode". OK, the game doesn’t actually call it "hotseat mode", and you don’t actually click on a menu option that says "hotseat mode". What you simply do is start a new game via Local mode, and when it comes time to choose players, make sure all the players are human. Remove any AI players for the player slots, and fill them in with the desired number of human players. If you don’t have enough human players to choose from, you can create new ones on the spot.


Just plug in the appropriate # of human players here, or mix it up with AI players as well.


Last but not least, this should be familiar with a decent number of Ipod Touch/Iphone owners out there. It’s the notifications screen for Carcassonne app (In the OS home screen... Settings --} Notifications --} Carcassonne). I know Alerts are good for when you play through Internet. You’re notified when it’s your turn on a sort of "push email" notification basis.


Sound
Music is OK. It’s not spectacular, but it’s not god-awful either. At least IMO. You can always mute the music independently from the sound fx. Speaking of which, sound fx are nicer if that’s saying anything. You hear a unique sound of clomping hooves of horses when a road is completed. You hear unique sound of metal tinkering when a city completes.

My conclusions
WHAT I LIKE
--So far, at worst, the AI seems to be decent. I don’t think I’ll get ANY plays from internet/wifi/Bluetooth multiplayer modes. That’s enough amusement for me.
--Solitaire mode... I seems neat. I don’t know if this mode will have the lasting replay value that I’m hoping for, but at the very least, I’ll try it a few times
--Nicely polished game. It’s not as visually appealing as say... Carcassonne for Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. I mean, when you complete a city in that game, the city literally pops out from the tiles, and you see animation. Even when the tiles are 2d, it still looks better. However, the original artwork being used means it’s definitely familiar. IMO, the original artwork on the tiles isn’t that garish or bad at all.
--room for expandability. I hear expansions will be available as in-game purchases. If they keep the prices reasonable, I’ll spring for them. Unless they come out with some curveball pricing schemes, this’ll be MUCH cheaper than even the physical Big Box editions of the game, even if the expansions put together far exceed the price of the base game. This is the nice thing about not buying a game that everyone else already has. It frees your budget to get this cool
--Game saves the exact state of your game when you quit. When you open up this app again, it’ll resume right where it left off. Important for Iphone owners, as some games, when you get a call, you either take the call, or lose progress on the game you were playing
--You can have multiple games going at once! Whenever you decide to Pause a game while in the middle of a game, as opposed to choosing to quit a game, the game gets saved for you to access later on. And it works across all modes too, so you can have a 4p game vs 3 easy AI, a 3p game vs 2 nasty, Evil AI, and several multi-player games going on all at once. This is most flexible! You’re not forced to finish ongoing games in haste just so you can start new ones. In the future, I’d imagine you could have games with just the base set, one with The River, another with IC& + T&B, etc., on top of the existing combinations already possible.

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--All those zany graphs......

Fun graphs, if not informative. I’ll have to digest this info slowly though



WHAT I’M NEUTRAL ABOUT
--An Ipod Touch doesn’t have "all day" coverage like an Iphone, so my options here are to find someone and hookup via Bluetooth. However, if I’m at a convention/usual game group and there are Carcassonne owners for Iphone/Ipod Touch, I’ll be tempted to try to convince 1 or more other people to get into the geek mode of trying this out, even though we could just as well whip out the physical board which will likely be available, + expansions.

If I’m at home with wifi coverage, I’d rather just hop onto BSW for a game of this.

WHAT I DO _NOT_ LIKE
--I wish the game supported portrait mode. It may screw up the formatting of the rules pages, but I mainly like to have that option when you’re playing the actual games. I find myself going more horizontal than vertical when placing my tiles to accommodate the viewing field. I guess this is also true for the physical game, where players have an unspoken or otherwise expectation that the size and shape of the table is the limit.
--can only have 1 Solitaire game open at a time

--Wish there was a way to take back one move, but I will acknowledge that would probably need to be disabled when playing vs human players. And it’d probably be too cumbersome to implement, at least given what else is to come with this game as far as features go.
--Taking the similar cue to the previous bullet point, one thing I like about electronic implementations of games is if there’s a way to go back to a save point, I like to experiment to see how things would’ve been different.



EDIT #1 for 6/7/2010 to 6/8: added more stuff in "WHAT I DO _NOT_..." and "Normal game" section. Formatting. Comment in "What I like" section commenting on Solitaire mode. High Score pics
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Jason Root
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Thanks for the comprehensive review. Looks like I'm getting me a copy from Mr App Store.
 
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Douglas Lesavoy
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Good Review. I'll agree with most of it, particularly that it's the most polished game I've ever bought from the App Store. Also, let me highly recommend the solitaire mode, it's addicting!
 
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Todd
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Good review. I picked this up the second I saw the post and will never look back. I can't wait for the expansions to get released.

I'd say I'm a decent player, but even the easy computer can surprise you sometimes. Evil and strong take any opportunity to grow into something of yours or block.
 
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R Hart
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I picked this up and its pretty snazzy. Anyone know where the scores are kept for the solitaire 'game of the week'?
 
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Carl Johan Ragnarsson
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Looks nice, but a small nit-pick.

Aren't tiles placed too far away from each other on the playing field? From the images, I believe that I would find that quite annoying if it can't be adjusted.
 
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ackmondual
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don corazon wrote:
I picked this up and its pretty snazzy. Anyone know where the scores are kept for the solitaire 'game of the week'?
Check the High Scores page from the title screen. Then tap the top right arrows to go to the listing of Solitaire mode scores. It's the 2nd page of 3 (they aren't numbered, so just count it out). Photo will be included soon


minismurf wrote:
Looks nice, but a small nit-pick.

Aren't tiles placed too far away from each other on the playing field? From the images, I believe that I would find that quite annoying if it can't be adjusted.


Personally, I don't mind it. It does look odd how the tiles don't fit flushly with each other, but I like how you can easily identify the individual tiles at a glance. I find they're still close enough that I can trace continuity from one tile to another, even when finding out what farmers are touching.
 
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John Earles
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Good review. I've been "rediscovering" Carcassonne via this application. I can't wait for a few expansions to hit the App Store.

The application has occasionally "bogged down" on me when try to reposition a tile, but if you exit the application and reenter it will place the last tile back on the banner.

Quote:
Then there’s the Internet. When I tried to initiate this, it asked for a username and email address. I don’t know if I was supposed to have my account set up ahead of time through a web browser, or if it’s asking me to register then. The button did say "register", but I kept getting network errors.


You don't need to set up before hand. Just enter the information for your account (username and email address). Were you connected to a Wifi network when you tried to register?

Quote:
--An Ipod Touch doesn’t have "all day" coverage like an Iphone, so my options here are to find someone and hookup via Bluetooth. However, if I’m at a convention/usual game group and there are Carcassonne owners for Iphone/Ipod Touch, I’ll be tempted to try to convince 1 or more other people to get into the geek mode of trying this out, even though we could just as well whip out the physical board which will likely be available, + expansions.


This isn't entirely correct. If you have access to a Wifi network you can play over the Internet. So if you are at home or in a Wifi hotspot you can happily enjoy Carcassonne with friends across the InterWebs. I've been playing a game a night with a friend from work connected via my home wifi network.
 
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ackmondual
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jearles wrote:
Good review. I've been "rediscovering" Carcassonne via this application. I can't wait for a few expansions to hit the App Store.

The application has occasionally "bogged down" on me when try to reposition a tile, but if you exit the application and reenter it will place the last tile back on the banner.

Quote:
Then there’s the Internet. When I tried to initiate this, it asked for a username and email address. I don’t know if I was supposed to have my account set up ahead of time through a web browser, or if it’s asking me to register then. The button did say "register", but I kept getting network errors.


You don't need to set up before hand. Just enter the information for your account (username and email address). Were you connected to a Wifi network when you tried to register?

Quote:
--An Ipod Touch doesn’t have "all day" coverage like an Iphone, so my options here are to find someone and hookup via Bluetooth. However, if I’m at a convention/usual game group and there are Carcassonne owners for Iphone/Ipod Touch, I’ll be tempted to try to convince 1 or more other people to get into the geek mode of trying this out, even though we could just as well whip out the physical board which will likely be available, + expansions.


This isn't entirely correct. If you have access to a Wifi network you can play over the Internet. So if you are at home or in a Wifi hotspot you can happily enjoy Carcassonne with friends across the InterWebs. I've been playing a game a night with a friend from work connected via my home wifi network.


I was on a wifi network at home when I tried to register. Not sure of the difference between joining in a Local Game, or choosing Internet, so that's what I thought the differences were.
 
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Christian Wilke
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Nice detailed Review and nice app.

Thanks.
 
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I've been playing this on the iPad and it is very good. I usually play the physical carc this with my young kids (4,6,9) and I never have the chance to play 'evil'. I really like to play the AIs because you can be 'evil' and not hurt their feelings!

Also, my kids never want to put the tiles away - i always get left to do that! Having instantaneous setup and pack away (and farmer scoring) is great - this will be especially true when the expansions become available. You can have a nice game in half the normal time.

At first I found the AI's pretty challenging, but after a few plays you get used to their style of play and they are quite beatable - especially if you play evil. I managed to get my ELO up above the Count after 20 or so plays (and I was certainly not trying too hard). The best way to win is to play evil and try and block opponents into features - the AI's fall for this all the time. This is especially true when playing multiple AIs - they tend to try and sneak into each others castles and there are many opportunities to block lots of meeples in a castle. The AIs have a strategy and stick to it, so once you learn their particular thing, they are easier to beat. For example I think that the count loves farms and the countess castles.

I have tried to play 3 internet games so far and each time I was winning and the other player left. Not sure if this was deliberate or not - does your ELO get affected if you leave the game deliberately - it should! There should be a penalty for deliberately leaving a game. Another nice feature would be a way to save a game and continue it later. Sometimes you get a phone call and cannot complete the game.

I'm not sure how you get matched with other players in internet mode - are you matched with players that have a similar ELO? It would be nice to have a little more control here.

I like the ELO feature as it gives you more incentive to play and gives a rough measure of your performance.

In general, this is fantastic value for money at the current price and definitely the best board game port to the iPad/iPhone I have seen so far. If you have one of these devices and like Carcassonne then go ahead and buy it - you will not be disappointed.
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ackmondual
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djinnaster wrote:
I have tried to play 3 internet games so far and each time I was winning and the other player left. Not sure if this was deliberate or not - does your ELO get affected if you leave the game deliberately - it should! There should be a penalty for deliberately leaving a game. Another nice feature would be a way to save a game and continue it later. Sometimes you get a phone call and cannot complete the game.


Well, in the case of people leaving online games to avoid rating plummets, you do need to address the concern whether or not people are dropping b/c they really are avoiding the penalty, or their connections were spotty to begin with (e.g. the wifi network they're on goes out all the sudden). As for saving games, I do like online games that have that feature.... board games, video games, what have you not.
 
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Jason McClean
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You certainly get an ELO increase when your opponent leaves before the game is over... even when they are winning!

It's happened to me several times. It usually pays to stick it out and complete the game.

Also, I would like to add to the chorus of "This app is incredible!".
meeplemeeplemeeplemeeplemeeple
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Jerry Hsu
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A little more on the internet play.

There are two modes in internet play, Quick Match and Play with Friends. Quick Match is a 1-on-1 mode with 60 seconds per move against a random opponent. If you run out of time, you automatically lose. You're supposedly paired up with people of approximately equal ELO level for this mode.

Play with Friends is an up to 5 player game with no time limit. You can have multiple games of this type open and if someone has to go away or suspend the game, the game will wait until they return. The game supposedly will try to send notifications when your turn has come.

I have yet to try this mode so if anyone would like to play, drop me a geekmail with your email and I'll send you an invite.

Minor addendum.
App plays great on an iPad in 2x mode. The developers are going to make the app univeral so there will be an iPad native mode coming, but the iPhone version in 2x is really good already.
 
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Gabe Alvaro
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Just want to add to the chorus of praise for this game.

Just excellent all around, with only a few minor nitpicks like portrait mode and just two vicious crashes that I had. All apps crash, but this one caused a full phone reboot for me. Not sure why that was but I'm not too worried about it since the game states were saved.

 
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AlexL
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Excellent review. I have this on my iPhone and iPad, and it has been a nice stable app with none of the problems mentioned above. The AI is good enough to have given me a nasty shock - I hadn't played the game for a couple of years, and was very thoroughly beaten by the Count and Countess in my first games (I also called my ithingies some very rude names indeed).

The AI players are aggressive, trying to build into your cities and enthusiastically playing blocking moves - the only near-weakness I've seen so far is that they don't seem inclined to fight for farms. According to the high score stats (these are superb), the Count has only scored 9% of his points from farms, whereas that's where 26% of my points have come from. True, he's still 101 Elo points ahead of me, the swine.

The whole implementation is very gracefully and neatly done, with lots of nice little touches. The Small World app which I bought at the same time is ok, but looks merely adequate by comparison.

Highly recommended, and looking forward to the expansions being released.
 
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Rob
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Is it just me, or did they change how farms are scored in the latest Carcassonne iPhone/iPod version 1.2 update? It happens so quick it's a bit hard to see what it's doing, but it seems as if farmers are getting points that shouldn't...?
 
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ackmondual
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Mecandes wrote:
Is it just me, or did they change how farms are scored in the latest Carcassonne iPhone/iPod version 1.2 update? It happens so quick it's a bit hard to see what it's doing, but it seems as if farmers are getting points that shouldn't...?
I've played a couple of games since the update. I haven't noticed anything amiss, at least yet if they're there.
 
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Pete M
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Anybody up for a game?
 
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Fotrich Trucks
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For all who want to play a solo-variant similar the the i-phone-version with a real board game: check this thread:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/777253/solitair-variant-on-i...
 
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