Cartography is an abstract game in the style of the ancient Chinese game Go, where players try to outmaneuver one another on an expanding ‘map’ of pieces.
Players take a set of castles (wooden discs) of their own colour, and the triangular map tiles are placed on the table. Six plain tiles are laid out in a hexagon shape to begin the map, and then play commences. On your turn you do two things: first, you add a tile to the map, choosing from any of the available tiles: some are plain, and some have river sections on them. All have marks showing you can place a castle on them. The rules for placement are that the tile must join the map, and the edges must match.
Then you have the option to add a castle. The rules for placing castles are that when placing a castle you must have what the game calls a liberty – an adjacent space that your people can ‘escape’ to. Apart from that, it can go anywhere on the map.*
If by placing a castle you block off all the liberties for your opponent’s castle (or group of castles) you claim it or them for yourself: remove them from the map and keep them for end-game scoring.
*There’s an exception to the rule about a castle needing a liberty: if by placing a castle you claim an opponents castle (or castles) then you’re allowed to jump into a solitary spot with no immediate liberties, as you’re just about to create one or more for yourself by removing opponent pieces.
The game continues until either an agreed number of tiles (all of them, or less for a shorter game) have been placed, or both players have passed. Players count up captured pieces and the player with the most is the winner. In the case of a tie the player with the most pieces on the map wins.
I’m not the target market for Cartography as I don’t err toward abstract games, especially with a heavy ‘cognitive load’ – i.e. you gotta crunch those numbers, metaphorically or otherwise. I do like a challenge in a game though and Cartography certainly provides that – and it also plays a lot faster than its clear influence, the ancient game of Go.
The game is a battle, so fairly high.
Potentially high. For forbears such as Go and Chess, Cartography is a game that occasionally requires studious thought.
Again, potentially high. Some turns your best move stares you in the face, others and your cogs will be turning, trying to figure out a way out of a hole, or luring your opponent into one.
If you like Cartography then there's a huge amount of replayability. Some early editions only play two players.