Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (2020)

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Imagine if Carcassonne took place during the Stone Age. Pictured it? You’re thinking of Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers! This standalone game features the core Carcassonne mechanisms, but with its own twist. This is also a 2020 updated version of the original 2002 title, from Z-Man Games. If you’ve played Carcassonne before, you’ll know some of the features here. Your turn …
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-ZMG7869 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Same gameplay as original
  • Extremely fun

Might Not Like

  • Not much
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Description

Imagine if Carcassonne took place during the Stone Age. Pictured it? You’re thinking of Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers! This standalone game features the core Carcassonne mechanisms, but with its own twist. This is also a 2020 updated version of the original 2002 title, from Z-Man Games.

If you’ve played Carcassonne before, you’ll know some of the features here. Your turn consists of tile placement into a communal, ever-growing landscape. You can place one of your meeples onto that tile, with the aim to complete objectives to score it later. But Hunters and Gatherers takes place in a time before castles and monasteries. Instead, this is a land of forests, rivers, lakes and meadows – complete with wild animals!

On your turn you add one square tile into the expanding map. Terrain types have to match, like in regular Carcassonne. When you place a meeple on that tile, it represents different type of neanderthal. This is dependent according to the terrain. It’s a hunter when placed in the meadows, a gatherer if you put it in a forest, or a fisherman when in a river.

This isn’t a mere reskin of French countryside Carcassonne, though. Completed a forest that has gold in it? That lets you draw and immediately place a second tile – and it’s one of twelve separate ‘bonus’ tiles. Completed meadows, meanwhile, score you points per wild animal in it. (This differs depending on animal type.) But careful if a tiger enters a meadow! Tigers are predators and cancel out any animals in that meadow…

Rivers act a bit like roads (completed rivers score as many points as tiles they span). They differ though, because they also score points depending on how many fish sit within their lakes. And talking of lakes: players also have wooden huts, which they can place on rivers/lakes. They score you points according to fish at the end of the game.

You don’t need the Carcassonne base game to enjoy Hunters and Gatherers – you can play it on its own!

Player Count: 2-5 Players
Time: 35 minutes
Age: 8+

 

With so many amazing board games out there is it possible to single out a favourite game, something you believe to be greater than all the rest? I’m going to have a go at pitching my absolute favourite of all time and that is Carcassonne, specifically Hunters and Gatherers. Here’s why.

Why Hunters & Gatherers

Every single game is different. We have a tile-based game here. Either shuffle and stack the tiles or mix them up in a bag. Players take turns to lay a tile and the map builds out. It is impossible for 2 games to be the same and even changing the position of a tile can completely change the way the game builds out. It is impossible for 2 of the same game.

Multiple ways to score. After playing the tile you play your meeple, either on a river, a forest or permanently laying down on his side for a hunting field. There is also the hut token for fish in the river network. You only have 5 meeples (excluding huts) compared with 7 in the original Carcassonne. This creates far more jeopardy and risk on those meeples and future scoring. It needs a little more attention to the risk.

It’s fast. Turns are quick and play moves quickly making for an intense game with the score constantly and quickly changing.

A definite end point. This game never lags or takes a long time to finish. As soon as that last tile is played the games is done and count up the final scores. Usually 45 minutes and rarely past an hour.

It’s simple in rules but relentless in strategy and trying to outthink/out play your opposition.

It is a 2-5 player game. Gameplay is very different for the total amount of players involved. A two player is a totally different version of the game compared with playing against four other people and requires a different strategy.

I truly love this game. I think all the Carcassonne games are incredible but this one is my absolute favourite of all board games, not just Carcassonne. My box is so beat up as it has been used hundreds of times (and that really isn’t an exaggeration). It has been incredibly well used and now I look at the box thinking about all of the history of so many board games.

My History With This Game

I remember my introduction to it on a stag do in 2004. A more mature stag do which was a gaming weekend at a friend’s house who had the capacity to host about a dozen or so blokes. What a weekend and I really should try and get involved in another gaming weekend, albeit skipping the suicidal drinking involved with a team game of drinking chess. I stupidly, at 18 years old, decided to do all the heavy shots for the team. Not sensible or to be advised. That was Friday night. Come Saturday evening things calmed down and I got an incredible introduction to Hunters and Gatherers. 4 people playing in this instance and I was hooked. My copy ordered the following week. A person introducing a games can certainly say they’ve done a good job if the participants are placing their own orders the following week. Then on top of that I now deem it the greatest of all.

Moving along to the early 2010’s, my brother and I set up a rivalry head to head at this. Our family and a few close friends have set up a private Facebook group titled “Greatest moments from Board Gaming” used for the highly banter filled moments in board games. One thread within contained a snooker like score of our rivalry at this game. But with no end to it, just keep adding. It ended with my win at approximately 75-65. With life having moved on a few years after starting it seemed a sensible thing to do. We obviously still play, just no longer track the score and that was a refreshing thing to do. But what a series nonetheless.

The Brilliance

The random element to this game is truly exceptional in tile drawing. I probably know all the tiles available now within the game and what is potentially available in the game as it plays out but that takes nothing away. The element to sabotage your opponent’s game is also incredibly high. Cutting off their ability to claim back meeples reducing their opportunity to score is always satisfying (so long as it doesn’t happen to you so care is needed there). Not always a guaranteed win either. I still scratch my head over this one, but I had cut off 2 of my opponents meeples last time I played and I figured I had the game in the bag (maybe that was my downfall?) but my opponent continued to score and beat me by about 10 points at the end. I couldn’t believe it. I also believe that this game is never over until it has finished. I’ve seen some ridiculous comebacks in the game. All down to luck of the tiles drawn followed by strategy in how you place them to get the best score out of the game. The game has a funny way of levelling itself out.

The game has come on holiday with me to Mexico, Spain, Italy, Scotland and up in the Alps on a skiing trip. We’ve sat with it in assorted hotel rooms around the UK, caravan parks, in bars and even in the waiting rooms of car Garages and a Sainsbury’s cafe. It has put in the miles with me for sure and will continue to do so for many more years to come.

The Art

The classic style of Carcassonne put into the rural forestry and rivers of the natural environment. It looks stunning for me but others may see it as quite simple. I would say there is a lot more detail in this game over its original predecessor. Plus, the bonus tile adds some additional quality detailing.

The Future

I also thought the game could not get better. A few years ago, Z man games released this as a second edition. I thought it would be identical to its original and so no need to purchase it. It was only in a board game cafe that I realised my error. We got it out and had a game of Hunters and Gatherers. It wasn’t the same game and some subtle adjustments have been made. I couldn’t believe it been made even better than the original. Now I have the constant dilemma of buying it (I know who from when I do ;-D ). I cannot bring myself to part ways with my original set which I love so much and has brought me so much joy and frustration all at the same time. I also don’t feel I can part way with it when I believe it to be the greatest game of all time. So 2 copies it will no doubt be.

That’s my pitch and review of my greatest board game (Carcassonne Hunters and Gatherers), if you have never tried it please have a go.

I have played Hunters and Gatherers hundreds of times and that is no exaggeration. I love this game. My all-time favourite board game and one I have already reviewed for Zatu. This isn’t a blog to explain the basics of the board game and teach you how to play. I’ll need to assume you already know the rules as I am going to explain my experiences of how to really play this game and give you a much better chance of winning at the end count. I do give an overview of gameplay in my review, so perhaps go back to that and read that blog before continuing here.

I’m not sure why I feel the need to give away my game secrets, I won’t be sharing them in my gaming circles. But if you are a fan of Hunters and Gatherers like me you will likely benefit from this. So, my views on the best chance of winning this game.

Complete The Forests

This should be your first objective when playing this version of the game. You must try and complete (laying the closing tile) as many forests as you can and gain as many of the 16 bonus tiles as possible. These bonus tiles are extra turns and usually have a better than average points value attached with them. Lots of fish, bigger animals to hunt, or another special rule. If you get the majority of these tiles, you will have had more turns with the prospect of higher scores. My experience, particularly in 2 player games, is that whoever gets the majority of the bonus tiles usually (but not always) comes out on top.

Combine Your River Network With Your Hunting Fields

Where forests present regular quick scores, this is your longer play for scoring at the end of the game. When I’m looking to place a hut, start a river network, I’m also looking for the potential to create a hunting field along side this. So, I’m looking to build river pieces that have animals on them for hunting. At some point I will lay that meeple on his side next to my river network with a hut in it. Subsequent pieces laid then will add fish to my final score there and animals to my final hunting score. As my river network builds I’m also playing meeples to have the quick scores on the fish network. This can create three avenues for scoring in the game making full use of every tiles potential when being included.

Never go too early though on this strategy in Hunters and Gatherers, ensure you have at least a couple of routes for your fish network to grow and space so your hunting field doesn’t get blocked off.

Block Your Opponents Meeples

I love Hunters and Gatherers for having far less meeples than the standard game. Only 5 to begin with. If you can successfully block in an opponents meeple so that they cannot score it, making it trapped, you have instantly knocked out 20% of their scoring potential which is big! You make it that much harder for them going forward and so this tactic can prove so useful.

Protect Your Own Meeples

You must take care of your own meeples. Like, I just said about blocking an opponents meeple in, try and ensure you do not allow yours to become trapped. Equally, you don’t want to play loads of Hunters early on in the game because you completely limit your opportunity for quick river and forest scoring and you need that scoreboard to be ticking over regularly. In other versions you can be a little cavalier but not in Hunters and Gatherers.

Merge & Steal Opposition Points

If your opponents are developing larger forests and rivers, it can be a great tactic to sneak in before they complete to share the points. If they have laid four or five tiles and you just laid one or two tiles to share the score you come out on top here as you haven’t used as many turns to achieve that score.

Furthermore, if your opponents have built up a large river network or hunting field. Merging in to this late on in a game can be devasting to their final outcome and highly prosperous for you. If you can merge another meeple or hut in to gain full control you are laughing and in a game with 3 or more players this can prove to be of huge advantage.

Always be aware of what others are doing as sometimes focusing just on your own game will not be useful or, critically, high scoring. Sharing other peoples scores can very much keep you on top and is one of Carcassonne’s best features.

Final Thoughts

These are my key strategies to winning Hunters and Gatherers. I cannot guarantee it will win you every game. Adopting some of these plays will significantly enhance your chances of taking the W. I hope you find them useful.

 

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Same gameplay as original
  • Extremely fun

Might not like

  • Not much