Developed by: TheCodingMonkeys
Latest Build: Version 1.1 – June 24, 2010-06-28
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch
Price: $4.99 USD
Summary Judgement: Sweet Salty Jesus! It’s Carcassonne! And it’s on my iPhone! And it plays like a dream on my iPhone 3G! There’s internet play with ranking and matchmaking! I’m sorry, I’m so happy with this I’ve just soiled myself. Carcassonne!
For reasons that I can’t quite understand, my girlfriend has put up with me for nearly three years. In that time she has played two games of Carcassonne. To be fair, I think she only played the second game because I was depressed after my house burned down. It’s hardly a sticking point in the relationship but it serves to demonstrate the difficulty faced by all devotees of German tile-based board games. Namely, once you finish explaining the premise of the game, with its strategic placement of tiles to build roads, towns, cloisters and farms set against the backdrop of medieval France, most people are midway through a Halo 3 death match or gone off to have sex. With the iPhone Carcassonne app, a fellow nerd is but a tap away.
The Carcassonne app faithfully reproduces the board game down to the smallest detail. With its voice acted tutorials and ladder ranked solitaire modes, there are ample opportunities for newbies to develop their game. Carcassonne also features various AI opponents who range in difficulty and tactics. I haven’t dared to challenge the Witch and Warlock AIs, but I’m batting 500 against the Count and Countess. Some hardcore players might not appreciate that the app keeps a running tally of the remaining tiles. However, I found that the extra information added a further layer to the game’s overall strategy. While I would appreciate a tournament mode that would allow an option to turn off tile tracking, its unobtrusive presence in no way detracts from the game.
As good as Carcassonne is in single player, it glows like a supernova in multiplayer mode. The game has options for local matches via wi-fi and Bluetooth, as well as a more conventional pass-the-iPhone variation. Although, if you’re going to play pass-the-iPhone, then you might as well stand-down from uber dorkdom and play the board game. Internet matchmaking utilizes ladder rankings to pair you with opponents relatively equal in skill level. A built in chat feature gives you the option to socialize between moves and trade contact information for future games. After a mere two days of playing, I had three Carcassonne friends in my contact list. The oracle-like design team of TheCodingMonkeys spared no effort to include other in-game convenience factors. Pausing the tile dropping action lets you stop a game for supper and resume it at four in the morning when your Carcassonne friend from Australia decides that he needs a break from writing the script to his all-nude remake of Mad Max.
With the promise of future expansions as the game is prepped for its iPadd release, Carcassonne’s seems like the perfect mobile application. Carcassonne is even gentle on the crappy iPhone 3G battery. After two games over wi-fi and one over 3G, my year old phone still had about three-quarters of its charge. I can safely say that it is probably the best fiver I’ve ever spent on iTunes. TheCodingMonkeys have stated in their development blog that the iPadd release will come with a price tag of 9.99 USD. A price increase for what is essentially the same game but with shiny resolution seems a bit steep, especially so if you don’t have a 3G capable iPadd. My hope is that TheCodingMonkey’s will throw in the Rivers Expansion as a carrot for iPadd users. No word yet on expansion pricing for early adopters. For now, I’m content to play classic Carcassonne. Meanwhile, my girlfriend is ecstatic to know that she’ll never again hear me whining for her to play.
Overall Score: 93%