Posted by: gschloesser | July 28, 2011

Carrousel

Designer:  Max Gerchambeau
Publisher:  Asmodee
2
– 4 Players, 10 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

Editor’s Note:  This review first appeared in Counter magazine. 

While attending the Queen City Confluence over Memorial Day Weekend, fellow gamer Valerie Putman was gushing with excitement over Carrousel, the latest offering from Asmodee.  She claimed it was her favorite game she played at Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends, and the best game of the year to date.  I was shocked, since I had never even heard of the game, and didn’t see it being played at the Gathering.  My curiosity was piqued, even more so when someone who loves games as much as Valerie is giving something such rave reviews.  I immediately ordered a copy. 

When the game arrived I realized one reason why I overlooked it at the Gathering:  the box is tiny.  I mean tiny:  3 x 3 tiny.  The round board is folded tightly inside, as are six plastic horse tokens and a diminutive deck of cards.  It certainly is a pocket game, easy to transport to any occasion.  

The thin board depicts a carrousel containing seven slots.  The five different colored horses are lined in a row, with two slots left vacant.  Players are each dealt five cards, each of which depicts a line of three horses.  Cards are openly displayed in front of each player, and the deck is placed within easy reach of all players.  You’ll see why shortly. 

The goal of the game is to maneuver the horses so that the first three horses on the carrousel match one of your cards.  You then place the card aside in a scoring area and draw a replacement.  The first player to successfully complete ten cards is victorious. 

There are a handful of legal moves: 

1)      Switch the position of two horses.

2)      Move the lead horse to the back of the line, OR move the trailing horse to the front of the line.

3)      Move two adjacent horses to the two vacant slots on the carrousel.

4)      Move a horse forward to another occupied slot, and move the displaced horse to the front of the line; OR move the lead horse backwards to an occupied slot, and move the displaced horse to the back of the line.  This is the most difficult for me to visualize.

Players may only move two horses and the first three horses in the line MUST match one of the player’s cards upon the moves completion.  If a player moves two horses and discovers that he did not match any of his face-up cards, he must discard one of the cards from his scoring area.  So, make sure you have a match before making a move. 

Oh, did I mention that play is simultaneous?  There are no turns, and players are free to grab the horses and make the moves whenever they spot a scoring opportunity.  This causes a palpable tension, but can also cause quite a bit of chaos as players often bump hands when rushing to grab the horses.  A bit of etiquette is required, allowing a player to make a move once he touches a horse.  Still, there will be times when players simultaneously grab horses, which can cause some confusion.

Carrousel is game involving strong puzzle aspects and mental gyrations.  It requires visualizing the effects of a potential move – and doing it quickly.  Dallying just a tad too long will often result in an opponent moving horses, thereby upsetting your plans.  Moving too quickly, however, can often cause mistakes, resulting in the loss of cards from your scoring area.  Proper timing combined with keen observation and quick reactions is essential. 

If you like this sort of challenge, then Carrousel will be a treat for you.  I, however, tend to prefer games with more organized turns and whose pace is less frantic.  Still, Carrousel isn’t totally off-putting, and I seem to be getting a wee bit better at visualizing the consequences of certain moves.  A plus for me is that the game is quick, playing to completion in 5 – 10 minutes.  If it lasted much longer, it would become intolerable for me. 

So, while Carrousel is not my preferred type of game, I do enjoy it more than I expected.  I am nowhere near as enthralled as Valerie, and it is certainly a long distance from being one of my favorite games of 2006, but it is passable.  I will probably keep it around awhile mainly due to its novelty and portability.

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Responses

  1. Frantic real time chaos. Everyone is rearranging the carrousel horses to match their cards. Plays great and is very cute but I can’t take the pressure. (6/10)


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