D*mn Little Town: All…Heck Breaks Loose in Carcassonne

Just your average town-building day--until evil erupts from the bowels of the earth.
Just your average town-building day–until evil erupts from the bowels of the earth.

The Basics

D*mn Little Town is a game for iOS and Android. It operates stunningly similarly to Carcassonne–so similarly, in fact, that the game makers’ put a little acknowledgement in the game to Klaus-Jurgen Wrede, of Carcassonne fame.

Inspired by, indeed.
“Inspired by,” indeed.
The version of Carcassonne I own. Toto, we're not in France, any more.
The version of Carcassonne I have. “Toto, I think we’re not in France, any more.”

As you might guess, I like thematic games; regular old Carcassonne was fine, but I found its (geographically challenged) younger cousin more engaging, in part because of some new mechanics. Also, because of the theme. European farming is so-so, to me.  Fishing the South Seas is a bit more exciting.

And doomsday prepping in a doomed city, well, you have my attention.

The Game-play

Theme may get my attention, but the game-play is responsible for keeping it.

I would have lost interest if the game had nothing new or different to offer other than the usual Carcassonne fare. I also can’t help but imagine that Mr. Wrede might have taken issue with that, as well.

Fortunately, there are some key differences.

1. You cannot claim roads.

2. In the second phase of the game, you can move your little meeples to attempt to escape the coming apocalypse (more on this soon).

3. You can wall yourself in as a last resort to keep evil out if your meeples cannot escape.

4. The board is confined to a grid of variable size.

These elements of the game do enough to differentiate the game from its source of inspiration, at least in the court of my opinion.

The Game in Action

I place a road tile. Note my red meeple bunkered in the center of the board.
I place a road tile. Note my red meeple bunkered in the center of the board.

As in Carcassonne, there is a central start tile; there are also temples on the four corners of the grid. Your goal is to evacuate the populace to the temples–or you can bunker down and hope for the best (hint: you want to escape to the temples; seriously).

Since I am placing a road tile, I cannot place a meeple, and the check mark with the meeple symbol is grayed out.

The interface is smooth, and a simple tap (I played the iOS version, just FYI) will change the direction of a tiles facing. You have to tap in the upper corner to confirm your move, which virtually eliminates the “oops” factor.

Players alternate turns placing tiles; the AI is a bit of a jerk sometimes, and will place tiles just for the sake of thwarting your best-laid plans (as it should).

How did that red portal get there in the upper left? I'm sure it's nothing to worry about...
How did that red portal get there in the upper left? I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about…

At a certain point in the game, these little portals appear. Vaguely color-coded by the type of diabolical spawn that will pop out, these portals appear near great concentrations of meeples, or so the rule book indicates.

Note how we are all trying to huddle around the temples; it’s not because their holy light gives off loving warmth to the pious. We are all trying to get out of town when trouble hits!

A pretty green portal. Ooh, shiny.
A pretty green portal. Ooh, shiny.

As the game progresses, the number of tiles left in the “deck” at the top of the screen decreases, and more portals appear. This green portal is uncomfortably close to my red meeples in the lower left corner.

When this deck is exhausted, or (if I understand) there are no legal placements left (the “X” on the blank tile right next to the lower left temple indicates that no remaining tile can fit in the space), then the game switches phases.

Evil bursts from the ground.
Evil bursts from the ground.

So, in the second phase, players are placing a different set of tiles: EVIL tiles. Lantern fish, snakes, bats, and skulls come out of the ground to prey on the unwary.

Similar to the original tiles, these EVIL tiles can only be placed adjacent to existing evil tiles. You can see  that the red highlights represent where I can place the snake tile I have the opportunity to place.

When I place the tile on another player’s meeple, a sinister chortle sound effect announces its demise. There can be some opportunity for revenge here, if someone blocked you during phase one of the game, then maybe you can return the favor by eliminating one of their minions.

After placing EVIL tiles, you have five moves you can make with your characters.

Moving through opponents characters and moving through undeveloped terrain costs you extra moves, which is why it is nice to have roads and buildings leading up to temples rather than patches of dirt, like that unplayable space in the lower left has turned into…

Overrun by evil!
Overrun by evil!

If there are no legal moves to escape, any remaining meeples still alive score two points, as opposed to five for those that escaped. Meeples that have perished cost the player points, as the game progresses.

I managed to win, but there were a few close calls.

Closing Thoughts

This game is really fun, and well-suited to being partly automated. While it isn’t that difficult to figure out legal moves and legal placements of meeples in Carcassonne, it is nice to have a computer do it for me.

Plus, I’d imagine the rules governing exactly where the portals to the abyss pop up would be a little finicky for a physical game. I don’t think they’d be unplayable, but the convenience factor is nice.

In short, for an inexpensive app with a high degree of entertainment value and a great theme, D*mn Little Town is a winner, in my book. With both pass-and-play (multiple players), and two-player online support, this game is fun with friends, as well.

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