Context of the review – I have no idea how many times I have played this game solo and groups but it’s plenty. The copy of the game is the reviewers own.
Sometimes I find myself criticising a game like Eldritch Horror for being too in-depth, other times I just want to sit and play something super simple like Hive or Friday. But I find more and more that this is what I like about the hobby, that I can still engage with it whether I am spending 3 hours playing a Euro or 20 mins playing a quick card game.
Some of the most recent hits have been roll (or flip) and write games, games like Welcome To… and Ganz Schon Clever. The premise is that you roll some dice, or flip some cards and then put the results on a scoring chart where you are trying to maximise your points. While I have seen this to be criticised in the hobby as too simplistic, or relying on luck, I have actually really enjoyed this trend – don’t get me started on how many games of Yahtzee I can play in a row on a flight.
I don’t want to go into how to play the game too much, but I do want to talk about how I have experienced it. I know that my family loves to play Catan over the Christmas break, but there is a problem with this in that it tends to take a long time and it excludes a bunch of people – the younger who can’t play and the older who don’t have the patience. So I thought that I could offer a few more games that people would be able to play during this period.
After vigourous research I came up with some options with Cartographers leading the charge, so I took the plunge and ordered it. Any criticisms of a game really go out the window when they get to the table and they can spark joyfulness in a range of people. Throughout my Christmas plays of Cartographers there were laughs about how someone couldn’t draw trees, there was the occasional person who (somehow) started their map upside down and there were teenagers admonished for eating in the non-eating games room due to them being too eager to start up a new game.
There were groans as people realised they had sat next to a competitive person who would draw monsters in the middle of a map and there were giggles as kids realised that grandpa had drawn a single tree instead of a block of four.
Sometimes I think that we get too caught up in whether a game is perfectly balanced and whether it provides enough ‘decision space’ or ‘crunchiness’ and we forget that games, for millenia now, are a way for groups to bond and relax. This is what I got from Cartographers, a game with a simple ruleset, minimal setup and a great deal of interaction and map-peeking. The games that I played ranged from 3-8 players and had players in the ages from 6 to late-60s. It’s for this reason that games that are light or fillers will constantly form a mainstay of my gaming, because for me gaming is meant to be an inclusive hobby, not an exclusive one.
Oh and for those of you who care for big words: Cartographers sits in the niche of flip-and-write, which allows both seasoned and new players to engage. There is a wide range of decision space in the game and the number and order of cards allows for a great deal of variability and replayability. The solo mode sees you playing against your own high score and plays within less than 30 mins.
Have you played Cartographers or if not, what are the games that come out for you with a wider audience?