Cards, pens and a blank map to be wisely reclaimed for Queen Gimnax. The Cartographers board game is a flip and write game from the rollplayer genre. As a cartographer, everyone tactically opens up their unknown stretch of land in the northern realms. Who increases his fame the most?
The Cartographers board game by Pegasus games is a so-called Flip and Write game: We uncover cards, make a decision and draw the result. In the Flip and Write game, cards replace the dice of the well-known Roll and Write game.
In the Cartographers board game, the basic idea of the game is simple: we are cartographers who open up their map depending on randomly revealed landscapes. You can play the Cartographers board game with a theoretically unlimited number of players as well as solo players.
In the last two years, the game genre of Flip and Write / Roll and Write games experienced a real hype and many games of this kind came out such as Patchwork Doodle and Roll for Adventure. In these games, chance takes on an important role and they are in the field of family games. In contrast, the Cartographers board game was published as a connoisseur game. Is the tactical level really higher here?
Does the Cartographers board game live up to the claim of delighting experienced game connoisseurs from the start?
Is this flip and write game so well thought out that the appeal does not fade away even after several rounds?
We answer these questions here from our perspective, present the most important game principles and evaluate the game in the conclusion.
Transparency note: Pegasus Spiele-Verlag kindly provided us with a review copy of the Flip and Write game The Cartographers. However, this review is unpaid and reflects our honest opinion.
At the beginning each cartographer gets a map with 11 x 11 squares, which are empty except for mountain squares, matt printed ruin squares and possibly wasteland squares. The location of the pre-printed mountains, ruins and wastelands of the maps differs from each other – so each player maps a different piece of land of the northern empires.
Now lay out cards: 4 decrees in which Queen Gimnax announces which landscapes she particularly appreciates at the moment, below each of them face-down piles of 4 score cards and next to them piles of 4 season cards. Now place a well-mixed pile of exploration cards next to the seasons and a pile of 4 ambush cards on top. This completes the game setup.
One by one, the 4 seasons are revealed, each of which states which of the Queen’s decrees are in effect for that round. The decrees proclaim which landscapes score particularly high in that season. You should memorise them well. Now the exploration starts by revealing exploration cards, each cartographer simultaneously grabs a pencil, decides on a landscape or shape, if necessary with a coin, and draws it on his or her map. The shapes are reminiscent of Tetris and you can rotate and mirror them while drawing them in.
Among the exploration cards, the first card contains an ambush card with a monster. When this is revealed, each cartographer gives his or her card to a neighbouring player, who is then allowed to draw monsters on the map in the given shape. There are also special exploration cards such as ruins, which become more difficult to fulfil as the map becomes increasingly full.
Each season announces with a number how many exploration cards will be revealed until it is over and the round ends. After each round, it’s on to the scoring, with the final scoring coming after winter. Points are awarded for completing 2 decrees each, coins in the treasure chest and minus points for empty spaces next to monsters, which are added up. After the winter ended, the cartographer with the most glory points wins.
In the solo variant, you don’t award yourself a title but, depending on how glorious you were, you get a title from Queen Gimnax. If you uncover an ambush, you are told exactly how to draw it in yourself. Apart from the calculation of the final high score, the gameplay is otherwise no different, and in terms of gameplay, the solo mode hardly differs from the multiplayer variant.
The game also includes a mini-expansion with skill cards. With them, even more tactical possibilities are available.
“It’s like Tetris!” Yes and no. In fact, there is a bit of a Tetris feeling as each cartographer examines his map and considers which of the given shapes (polyominos) and landscapes he should best draw where on the 11 x 11 boxes. But there is more to consider: chance plays into the cartographer’s mind as an invisible decision controller, and drawing in the monsters brings unpredictable interaction into the cartographer’s mind.
However, we would not play the game with more than 8 players. It simply becomes too confusing on the table. The optimal number of players is 1-6.
The cartographer board game does not need a large set of rules, is entertaining and you really get into the game quickly. Every game is different because of the random display of the cards and the different maps. No player is likely to draw the same kingdom twice, and it’s a lot of fun. The draguls that other players let invade their own landscape also add a little interaction to the game. Because of course the nasty monsters spread out on the map exactly where you need them least. It is quite possible that a fellow player’s monsters will throw a wrench in your tactics and you will have to change your strategy in the course of the game. This adds to the fun of the game.
Each player takes on the role of a cartographer and gives himself a name, a coat of arms and a title as well as a name for his province. These lovingly designed details distinguish the entire game. It is very well thought out and includes a mini-expansion so that the game’s appeal is enriched with additional random choices and the options do not quickly exhaust themselves.
The Art Work is beautifully designed and the cards are made of high quality material. Everything you need, including 4 pencils is included in the game. It is really hard to find fault with this game. It would have been nice to have pencils in different colours instead of pencils to draw the landscapes in different colours. But you can add them yourself if you want 😉
For frequent players like us, the cartograhers board game is a real discovery. The many possibilities, different games and quick rounds make the game really fun and it will end up on the table at many game evenings. The basic rules are simple and even beginners can start playing immediately!
Interaction, a well-designed game with drawing fun and tactics, for which chance redistributes the cards every round. An entertaining game for in between that is nevertheless challenging and brings tactical depth. A clear buy recommendation!
Flip and Write and Roll and Write games are totally your thing? The Legends of Andor might be just what you’re looking for. In our Game Tips we regularly review new games and worthwhile discoveries. On Abenteuer Freundschaft there are also lots of ideas for activities with friends, activities to discover with children or as a couple.
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