We always like a good party and in Portugal the ‘Caretos’ know exactly how to do this. In some regions in Portugal it’s a longstanding tradition to dress up as a ‘Caretos’ with Carnaval. Once per year, these demon figures are allowed to come out and dance to try and seduce the village girls anonymously. Another activity added to my bucket list… In the Board game Caretos, they take a slightly different approach. In the extreme North of Portugal in a rough granite landscape, you can find a well hidden imaginary triangle. This region is known for it’s large sightings of supernatural creatures such as caretos, witches, werewolves, etc. It is their job to keep the villagers away.

How to Play.

The set up is quite easy. Place the board in the middle of the table with the right player count and randomly choose two monsters to play with. Take the monsters standee and matching card to see what actions they can perform. Place the two caretos on the places with the caretos symbol and choose a matching symbol to place your monsters on the map. Randomly place five villagers on each location with a villager symbol and place a campfire token near each group. The remaining tokens can be placed nearby on the table. shuffle the night cards into a face down deck. Note that the amount of cards used in the night deck will be different depending on the amount of players. Deal each player three cards and one final bonus card. Lastly shuffle the bonus cards in a face down deck with three cards placed face up and place the cauldron card near the game board.

In Caretos, you control the two monsters in front of you and your job is to scare the villagers and keep them out. The matching cards from your monster shows you what actions you can do with that monster. On your turn you must choose one of the night cards in your hand and place it on your personal discard pile. You can then choose to perform the action that matches with the symbol on one of your monsters. Like moving your monster, scare a group of villagers of jump to a different location for example. A lot of cards has a rune in the top left corner, if you manage to discard two cards in a row with matching runes, you may activate both your monsters for the matching ability. Return the cards of your discard pile to the box afterwards. Some cards also have additional symbol on the top, you must perform these before the normal action on the card. These actions can be gathering villagers for example, or moving the caretos on the map.

Every two or more villagers automatically forms a group. But if you scare villagers, they will run away in all directions (clockwise) and split up if possible. If new villagers come together, they automatically form a new group and get a new campfire token. To gather villagers, simply guide a villager who stands alone safely to a group. They must walk on a path with no monsters to a location that is not occupied with other then villagers.
The Caretos on the map, don’t belong to anyone. If the action on your monster or cards says you can move the caretos. Simply choose one of the Caretos standees, and move up to the number specified on your monster card or night card. If a Caretos enters a location with a group of villagers, they get scared, run away in all directions and the caretos stops moving. The campfire token is placed back in the common supply. If the Careto runs into a single villager, it captures that villager and may then continue moving. These same rules apply to your monsters. They can also scare and capture villagers by walking into them.

If a Caretos walks into a monster, it will also capture the monster into the cauldron. The captured monster cannot be activated until it is freed. Your monster can be rescued if another monster is captured, since the cauldron can only hold one monster. you can also spend three campfire tokens to set your monster free or play two of the same runes in a row on your night cards. If your monster is freed, the monster card will show you where your monster will respawn. Other then spending campfire tokens on rescuing your monster, you can also buy additional movement, extra bonus cards to gain more points by completing their goals, or activate both of your monsters at the same time.

The goal of the game is to have the most victory points. The game will end when the last villager is captured or the last night card is drawn. Each player will then take one last turn before the final counting. Each villager is worth one point, together with accomplished bonus cards or final bonus cards, this will be your final scoring.

Playthrough of the game.

I found out the hard way I’m not good in this game, and Tomasz is… In this game you have to think ahead and see where you need to go to split up the villagers in order to capture them. And for some reason, every time when I split them up, he already placed his monster there to capture the villagers running away, since you also capture them when they run into you. But even though I’m not good in this game and I yet have to beat him, we both still like it a lot. Every character has different actions on their card and plays different, and since you control two monsters, every game is completely different each time.

The art of Caretos is also awesome. My favorite part about the game is the transparent standees, they really bring out the characters. But the board itself and the components are also good quality and the designers spend a lot of time making this game look good. Even the different meeple colors have different standing positions.
Although the game is fun with two players, we did find that some combinations overpower other combinations which makes the game harder and less fun. If you play Caretos with more people, the game is more balanced and this doesn’t occur since there are also more monsters to catch in the cauldron.

Final thoughts.

Caretos is a fun light strategy game with awesome art. It has clear standees which really let the monsters stand out and bright components of good quality. Although it is already a lot of fun with two players, we found that some games can be a little unbalanced because all the characters have different abilities. Some monsters that pair up are just to powerful in a two player game. With more people this problem doesn’t occur and there is more chaos and fun on your table. We are happy to have this in our collection.

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