Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Spin-off - The Ark of the Covenant

Is it possible for a Christian-themed game to be any good?

Today I would like to introduce one of the oldest spin-off in Carcassonne series, The Ark of the Covenant. There is not many reviews regarding that since availability of this game is very low.

Game is based on Old Testament story. There are prophets, deserts and apparently, the Ark, which travels along the map. The game is targeted for religious market, but the whole theme is not overwhelming in any matter. I could be as well called "Carcassonne: Raiders of the Lost Ark".


All tiles are painted in yellowish colors, which represents deserts with sheeps and wolfes running around, separated by grey cities. It is good enough, the colors are vivid (as much as dessert can by vivid) and pictures are sharp. Standard meeples are used with the addition of the ark token. There are versions of the game with The Ark made of wood or token put into plastic stand.
This is only (that I know of) Carcassonne spin-of that do not have "C" symbol on it's back.

Standard rules

Tiles are laid out in turns in usual matter. There are 72 of them. The terrains we can see in this expansion are City, Road, Field and Temple. Tiles need to align in well known way.

All of the features and tile back (all of the tiles are sleeved)

Each player gets 7 followers (plus one on standard scoring track).Followers are placed after laying tile. Cities and roads are scored as in classic Carcassonne.

Additional or modified rules

Let's start with The Ark itself. It is a token, which is placed as soon as any city is finished. From this moment, any player which choose not to place a meeple at his turn, can move the ark 1-5 places, scoring one point for each meeple that it passes (for the owner of the meeple).

Each player gets one extra large follower, which represent a prophet. Prophents can be used only in cities and only once during the game. They still counts as one meeple, when determining who control the feature but this city is worth double point for prophet owner, in case he wins over this city.

Cloisters are replaced by temples. Meeple cannot be put on it directly. A temple is completed when it has tiles on the left, right, top and bottom of the temple tile in the form of the cross. Then, the player with the most followers or prophets on those adjacent cross-tiles, or on the temple tile itself scores 7 points.

Fields are scored by counting sheeps and wolfes. For each wolf in a field, a sheep is eaten by the wolf and that sheep is not scored. The remaining sheep in your field are worth 2 points each.

Ark token

Gameplay and strategy

With  simplified rules it is good for kids. With the addition of the ark even beginner players have chance to get points almost every turn. Fields are not a game changer any more, so the whole game is easier to grasp. It is fairly easy to lower score of some big field just by adding more wolfs to it.

Temples are not so important in multi player games as cloisters in classic Carcassonne, while they introduce nice strategic twist. Person who lays out temple tile do not have to get points for it in the end.
Prophets also add another level. Players try to maximize sizes of cities with their prophets, while blocking (or even intentionally completing) cities of opponents' prophets. I really like when Carcassonne introduce mechanics, where finishing opponents features may be beneficial.

Beginning of the game

To buy or not to buy

From technical point of of view this is good old Carcassonne. The graphic can be seen as a nice break from green fields of classic version.

As I wrote before, this one is hard to get, but still you can spot a piece every other month on ebay. Recently I even saw factory sealed for 50 bucks, but it hardly ever reach price this low. There is version with wooden ark, and other with carton one, which I have.

If you have opportunity to play it, you will have fun.  At this point there are better spin-offs on the market and I would recommend buying it only to hard core completionist like me. On the other hand maybe you are among people targeted by this expansion, religious. Well, there is no religious/educational value in this game, so you would have to make decision on your own. Those are only two cases when the contents of the game may justify it's price.

If you encounter any other reviews regarding this game, looks at it's date. Most of them were written over ten years ago. A lot has happened in Carcassonne world since that time.

Scoring track

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