Reprints and reissues present both opportunities and challenges to designers and publishers. Normally a relatively new in-demand game doesn’t change much from printing to printing. But designers can and do take advantage of a new printing revisit and tweak rules and systems that have been battle-tested by the buying public. In fact, some designers (Ignacy Trzewiczek, Martin Wallace) are rather infamous for essentially using first editions of their games as betas, looping players into being playtesters and proofreaders–and paying for the privilege. Not unlike AAA videogame publishers (looking at you, Civ 5).
Similarly, publishers use reprints and new editions to rectify graphic design and production issues or, simply by changing the box-cover design, aim for different target markets.
But we owners of previous editions always experience a shiver of anxiety when we hear that a new edition of a cherished favorite is coming out. I don’t care about the goombahs who worry that their precious NIS “investment” which they’ve been waiting to flip is now going to plummet in value. To heck with them.
I care about the faithful and hopeful early-adopters, the ones who were excited about the game originally, played it a ton, and now worry that they have to “upgrade” their copy or else resign themselves to playing with an outdated or incompatible ruleset or inferior components when all the joni-come-latelies who get the new edition will get blinged-up pieces and “better” rules.
With all that in mind let’s look at Stefan Feld’s Carpe Diem, which came out at the tail end of 2018. A second printing came out in 2019 keeping everything largely intact. Personally, it wasn’t one of my favorite Felds. I appreciated it, but it didn’t float my boat. I prefer his bidding games (Strasbourg, Rialto), his Castle games (Burgundy, Tuscany), and especially his unique Oracle of Delphi–just so you know where I’m coming from.
Now publisher alea/Ravensburger has just released a third edition with significantly different artwork and one important rules change. Do you need to buy a new copy? Let’s take a look. If you want a detailed rundown of the original, our own Nicole H wrote it up here. This article assumes you’re familiar with the game, so make sure to check out Nicole’s article first if you need a refresher.
First of all, the box art has been completely overhauled in favour of a white marbled texture–makes it very easy to spot on the shelf, for sure. Component-wise, the problem with the backs of the tiles has now been eliminated. The game’s estate tiles are split into two groups, and in the original editions, the shades of green chosen to distinguish them were so close together it was essentially impossible to tell them apart–to the point that people were using Sharpies to mark them up. Happily, they are now either very dark brown or white.
But while the exterior and tile backs have been significantly brightened, the rest of the game artwork palette has been very much toned down and subdued. While aesthetically more pleasing, it has the unfortunate effect of making the forum cards and landscape tiles much more difficult to differentiate. The former isn’t such a big deal: the practical difference between the two types of forum card isn’t huge anyway. But constantly having to squint at three of the four types of landscape tiles (at least the bluish ponds are easy to spot) is really annoying.
On the other other hand, the decision to change the tile-drafting layout from a star to a circle was a no-brainer and thank you very much for changing it. While functionally it is exactly the same, the original version forced players to ping-pong back and forth around a multi-pointed star to plan their moves which was (a) thematically unnecessary and (b) visually confusing. I simply cannot understand why some on BGG are complaining about this change!
Which leads me to the one rules amendment which has some on BGG “distressed” (direct quote). In the original edition, when you moved your meeple and reached an empty space you could turn around and return to where you started, drafting your next tile from there. No longer: now you must continue moving in the same direction until you reach the next space with tiles and draft from there. If you want to stay in the same space, you now have to spend a bread tile.
Some are complaining this change “reduces the decision space by 33%”. This is nonsense. It just makes bread more important as a currency, which increases the value of the bakery and the granary and therefore makes for more interesting and varied decisions. I don’t know whether the decision was Feld’s or some developer’s, but I think it was the right one.
Aside from that my only comment component-wise is that both the box and the cards seem more flimsy than the earlier editions–which is true across the board for the latest Ravensburger releases. It’s a tradeoff I assume they’ve made to keep costs (and therefore sticker prices) down.
So does this new edition displace the old one? It then comes down to aesthetics and price. Component quality is a little lower in the new edition, and you’ll have a harder time telling some of them apart but an easier time sorting them when it’s time to put the game away. And with the new version on the market you might have an easier (and cheaper) time buying a used older copy on the secondary market. The one rules tweak is totally backwards-compatible with the first two editions–and I recommend using it.
This new edition of Carpe Diem does a good job of illustrating the advantages–and pitfalls–of revisiting a popular design. Still, if you just like tile-laying games and are looking for something several steps up from Carcassonne, then any edition of Carpe Diem will do you.
Thanks to Ravensburger NA for providing a copy of the third edition of Carpe Diem for this review.