09 February 2023
A rollocking exercise in competence
It’s a funny word, competent. A word that should be a compliment has a patina of mediocrity. It has a whiff of the pedestrian and, yet, it is competence that ensures this fragile society that we all depend on holds together. We are seeing what incompetence can result in in real time so I think it’s high time we put competence on the plinth it deserves to stand on.
Saying all that I know full well how this is going to sound but, Carnegie, from Xavier Georges and Quined Games is absolutely competent and this is meant as the highest praise.
Eurogames have burst into the 20s in a blaze of mechanisms and bling. I have the impression that designers feel like they have to keep up with the screen printed meeples and the metal coins so they keep stuffing things in. This can work out as it mostly does with Vital Lacerda or end up like a bloated David Turczi design that doesn’t know where to stop.
Carnegie is a modern eurogame that chooses competence over bloat and while it certainly has a lot of stuff in it, it deploys that stuff to deliver a game that works.
In Carnegie, players take on the roles of petty bureaucrats running the businesses of the eponymous industrialist. On your turn you will choose one of four actions: Human Resources (a phrase so devoid of compassion and humanity that it makes my skin crawl whenever I hear it), Management, Construction and R&D. Some of these deal with your office which is your player board and others with the map laid out before you.
A player chooses an action and the other players are compelled to take that action with the goal of making enough money to parlay into acts of philanthropy that generate the points that will win you the game. Fantastical depictions of capitalist munificence aside, this central engine of the game results in an experience that is knotty and engaging.
The fact that players are compelled to perform the action that you choose on your turn makes for some intriguing double-think. It ensures that your decisions have a direct impact on the other players and your awareness of that can guide your play. There are few things as satisfying as choosing an action only for the whole table to groan because you chose to go there two turns before they were ready. It adds an above table tension that keeps your cerebrum ticking over.
Then there is, of course, the battle you play with yourself and your own incompetence. Making sure your company runs as efficiently as possible and can weather the storm of your opponent’s selfishness.
Carnegie balances these two aspects beautifully and keeps you present throughout the whole play experience.
Modern eurogames differentiate themselves from their forebears by focusing on plenty rather than the spartan ethea of a Knizia or Kramer. Carnegie is full of stuff but it is deployed in an admirably elegant way and is a fine example of board gaming’s silver age.
All in all Carneigie is a perfectly competent game and this is why I would recommend you play it.
PLAY IT? YES
This offers all you would want from a silver age euro game.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Teothuacan: City of Gods
Or any of the “T” games. They feel similar but you’ll have a better experience.
Designer: Xavier Georges
Publisher: Quined Games
Time: 2-3 hours
What’s in the box?
- Game board
- 16 Project tabs (4 per player)
- 4 Company boards
- 4 Action markers
- 8 Timetable tiles
- 4 Action choice tiles
- 60 Employee figurines (15 per player)
- 120 Player discs (30 per player)
- 1 Start tile
- 1 End tile
- 4 Player aids
- 40 Goods cubes
- Timeline marker
- 90 Banknotes
- First Player marker
- 32 Department tiles
- 25 Solo cards
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