Create the Map. Build the World. Prioritize your domain and create your vast kingdom.
Total Game Play: 15 minutes
Designer(s): Reiner Knizia
Artist(s): Michele Mor
Publisher: Board Game Circus
There is something to be said about games that have a beautiful simplicity and sophisticated elegance. Chartae feels like one of those games for me. Over the course of the game, you are building a map and adjusting it to favor your domain: either land or sea.
You want to dominate the map by creating the longest stretch of one type. This effectively relegates the other domain to the edges of the map or pushes them into small subsections. This quick game creates a unique board which a constant push and pull between players.
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This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.
Chartae is a two-player game that plays relatively quickly. I have played a few times but only as the person wanting the sea domain. There is no difference or advantages between the two domains.
There are only nine tiles as a part of Chartae. And placing these nine tiles is the whole game. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to think about.
The game flows back and forth between the two players until all the tiles have been placed. There are no rounds, just player turns.
I think this is the easiest setup that I’ve ever seen for a game. There are only two steps! Step one, place out the tile with the compass on the center. Step two, shuffle and place the remaining tiles in a stack so only one tile is visible. That’s it. Couldn’t be simpler!
During a players turn, a player can one of two actions. They can place a tile (in any orientation) or rotate any tile 90 degrees clockwise. But! There are some caveats to each of these actions.
For placing tiles, the one restriction is the final form of the map. Since we have nine tiles, the final map is going to be a 3 by 3 square. When a side reaches three tiles, it can no longer be expanded. I struggled with this when we first started playing. Not because I couldn’t count to three but because I always wanted the compass tile to be in the center. This is not necessary. In fact, this could be disadvantageous depending on board state. It’s important to not limit yourself with tiles placements (you know, besides the one restriction). When you place a tile, the next tile in the stack is revealed.
For rotating tiles, I guess the game designers didn’t want the players to get stuck in a tile rotating loop. So, there’s a restriction to avoid the players only rotating tiles and never placing down another one. The rotation action cannot be performed more than two times in a row. If both players choose to rotate as their action, then the next player will have to place a new tile.
The game ends when the full 3 by 3 map is created. For final scoring, the greatest number of connected tiles for each kind of terrain is counted. This doesn’t have to be a perfect connection. It can be a large stretch of domain connected to a stretch half the size. But corner connections don’t count. I mean… they’re barely touching! If there is a tie, the player who played last loses.
Who Will Like it?
This is a great quick game for two players! There is an interesting strategy between building the map, finding advantageous rotations, and figuring out how to keep control of the game tempo. Honestly, I feel like this game could be great for anyone because you can overthink it or underthink it as much as you want! And it comes in a tiny box, so it doesn’t take up much space!
What I Think
I really enjoyed Chartae. There definitely is more to the game than I expected!
What did I like?
I loved figuring out the importance of tempo control and proper placement. While placing a tile, you must think about is this good for me now? What if my opponent rotated it 90 degrees? What if I rotated it 90 degrees? Place a tile may be strong but forcing your opponent to place a tile that may not be advantageous to them can be even stronger.
What didn’t I like?
This game is very tight and short so it can feel like there aren’t a lot of options. Or not a lot of obvious actions. Not knowing the stack order was definitely something that can be frustrating! Planning seems so essential to this game but then they limit the amount you can plan.
Chartae is great game for two players who have a little time on their hands but don’t want to play anything that takes a long time. Because this game is short, it’s very easy to play multiple games while creating a beautiful map!
Rulebook/Learning the Game
This rule book is very small and easy to understand. Even though there are only two actions, it does cover the edge cases and explains the game very thoroughly.
During my first play, I didn’t fully understand the importance of tempo. But to fair, I don’t think my opponent did either. The game went quick and both of us had regrets at the end of the game because we saw all the opportunities that we could have taken that were completely missed. But it was a great learning experience.
The next plays were a bit slower because both my opponent and I got into our heads about what the next action would be. And what the next ten actions would be. The games felt more tense but were no less fun then the first time we played.
I like this game a lot, but it feels a bit niche for when I would be able to play it. The player count is limited since it’s only for two players. And its light so it would either be played when there isn’t much time or between heavier games.
*See my rating scale Here