Imagine if Carcassonne relied on placing your meeples to collect goods and then using those goods to buy ships that are worth points. Then imagine it with a tropical island theme and coming with some wooden food tokens. If you can imagine that, you’re thinking of Carcassonne South Seas.
I actually had never heard of South Seas until I saw it in my friendly local game store, but seeing how much we love Carcassonne, I figured I’d pick it up on an impulse. Plus, I’m a sucker for meeple tokens in different shapes, which in this case are bananas, fish, and scallops.
Carcassonne South Seas plays very similar to the original Carcassonne. Instead of roads, there are bridges, instead of cloisters there are marketplace islands, knights are replaced with banana collectors, and farmers are now fisherman. You place them the same way as you would with the original version.
However, you don’t actually keep score as you play. Once your island is completed, you collect the bananas on it (1 for each banana icon). If you’ve surrounded all sides of your marketplace island, you get to take the highest-point ship (more on this later). Compelted briges allow you to take a shell for each scallop icon, and when a boat tile is placed, it completes your area of ocean and you get to collect the fish. One interesting aspect of collecting fish is that a boat token gets placed over the fish icon to show that portion of the ocean has been fished out.
You collect as many of these goods as you can in hopes that you can purchase a ship token. Each ship token varies on what it costs to purchase and how many points it awards you for the final score. For example, you may need 3 shells and a banana for a 4 point token, but only 2 fish and 1 banana for a 3 point token. The game ends when either the ship tokens or the land tiles run out, so you’ll want to buy ships fairly quickly.
Again, if you surround a marketplace island (i.e. cloister), you get to take the highest-point ship without paying the goods fee, which is pretty powerful. Once a ship token is purchased, it gets replaced by another one from the supply.
Another way that this version is different is that you can use a turn to take a meeple back and put them in your collection. If you begin to sense that you’re not going to complete a road or island, you can take a worker instead of placing a worker. This is very handy in the game and allows you to never be meeple-less for too long.
Overall, if you’re familiar with Carcassonne, but want to add a new style of scoring and gameplay, you’ll really enjoy this. Also, if you’re new to Carcassonne, you may really enjoy this too, as you don’t have to worry about scoring as you go along and there’s no leaving meeples as farmers until the end.