Carnevale is a skirmish wargame from TTCombat with a strong narrative focus and features dynamic acrobatic movement. It’s set in the canals and alleyways of a dark fantasy Venice where factions of thieves, underwater creatures, plague doctors, vampires, the nobility, and religious enforcement battle it out. We've checked out the Carnevale Intro Set, and also produced a Carnevale Guide, but we wanted to get a better understanding of how new players can get into Carnevale, so we caught up with Bart, a veteran player, and TTAgent, a volunteer who runs demos and tournaments on behalf of TTCombat.
TechRaptor: Hey Bart, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us a bit about your gaming background. When did you start playing, what have you played and what do you play now?
Bart Dalemans: Well, I dabbled in Warhammer 40K in my teens, but I got sucked back in a couple of years back with Star Wars X-Wing and Armada. Then a friend gave me a demo of Battlegroup, and down the rabbit hole I went. Today I mostly play historicals and smaller skirmish games. Battlegroup remains a favorite and I made a board for Zona Alfa and we had a Dracula’s America campaign going at the FLGS. Spectre Operations is all ready and painted to go, and I’m finishing up some Landsknechts now as well as some Dropzone Commander. Carnevale is my main game now, and there’s some MDF that needs some paint as well. I’ve got an Instagram where I semi-regularly post updates on the stuff I’m working on.
TR: When and how did you start playing Carnevale?
BD: I participated in a demo at Crisis Antwerp back in 2018. It was still in the Kickstarter phase back then, but TTcombat put up one of their event special Venice boards, and I was captivated. I didn’t pull the trigger then, but after following up online and getting a retail starter set in 2019 I was sold. The underlying brooding horror of the background fluff, simple but engaging and deep gameplay, and you actually use all that terrain, it’s not just a bunch of los blocking filler. Frankly, it’s a unique setting that I hadn’t really encountered till then. Next edition of Crisis I went all-in on the exclusive board and got it ready for demo play at Warcon, a local convention.
I’ve been giving demo games and playing since then, but most of my games are by remote at the moment. I’m also a TTAgent, which means I help playtest new stuff, and give demo games at conventions and local game stores. I also get to peek behind the curtain about what they’re working on, so that’s a nice perk.
TR: Which Carnevale factions do you play and why?
BD: I love the Gifted Commedia dell’Arte models, so that was the first expansion I bought. Aside from the Vatican and the Doctors, I have almost all the boxes from the other factions. I’m leaning heavily towards the Guild and Patricians. I can always include a few Gifted models as well. I’m painting up some Strigoi at the moment, because who doesn’t like Draculas.
TR: If a new player was looking to get into Carnevale, how would you describe each faction's playstyle?
BD: These are in very broad terms, with additions to the range you can actually play as a sub-faction from the main gangs. If you want to go all-out rampage with Pulcinellas or sick modified crocodiles and flying apes on your opponent, that’s perfectly possible.
- Guild: the regular human faction, with not a lot of magic support. You can run elite gangs with some serious parkour potential that dominate the rooftops or go for a swarm-style citizen mob.
- Rashaar: The “water” faction, and boy do they get around in the murky canals. They’re incredibly fast and deadly in water, have big monsters, and a decent helping of magic.
- Doctors: Magic users that bring mayhem. Constantly tinkering or weaponizing animals, they have a fine selection of weaponry. They also have a flying gorilla, which I would consider a plus.
- Patricians: Like the Guild, they lack dedicated magic users, but they do pack a wallop. A very elite faction with the best fighters in the game. What they lack in numbers they make up for in firepower. Also, ladies with kitchen utensils to wallop monsters with and foreign nobles out and about stalking the canals.
- Vatican: Tanky, defensive and a lot of damage dealing. They do have some options for rooftop action as well, but not the fastest faction around.
- Strigoi: Fast, deadly, but they need to balance their buffs and time the attack because they go down quickly if you’re not careful.
- Gifted: With the commedia dell’arte box you can run them as a gang, but it’s a balancing act as you’ll have few models with abilities that don’t always sync up. But it’s the most diverse range out there so you can assemble some sort of 1800’s A-team.
TR: Carnevale has 2 great sets with the 2-player starter set and the Escape From San Canciano set. Would you advise new player to pick these up if they wanted to get playing quickly and what would be the next purchase afterward?
BD: Definitely. It’s actually kind of hard to recommend one over the other, as they both come with great stuff. The new San Canciano set has some nice little scenarios to get a feel for the game, and enough to get you started and give it a tryout. The bigger box has enough scenery to fill out a 3x3, and two complete gangs, so it’s almost like a board game in that regard. To be honest it’s one of the best starters I ever unboxed. I’d advise the smaller starter for people who want to get a taste and a feel for the gameplay. The bigger starter is ideal if you want to dive straight into the canals and get the full package. If you like one or both factions, as it will give you some nice variety for list building.
As for a next purchase, there are no broken units or bad options, and the team behind Carnevale listen to feedback and adjust points and rules in the online builder. So if you like the look of a faction, just get a box and see how they play. Most boxes add up to around 75 ducats so if you add a Gifted character you’re quickly at that sweet spot of 100 ducats, which is good to play most scenarios.
TR: Scenery plays a huge part in Carnevale, any tips for new players on how to get a lot of scenery quickly to pay their games over?
BD: The cardboard buildings are a great way to get started on a budget. I played a couple of games using just those and some random scatter and that works just fine. Or simply the Venetian District cardboard tiles with some MDF buildings are a good way to add some verticality to your games. It helps that the MDF kits don’t break the bank either. The white boxes that TTCombat release are a good and cheap way to fill up a table.
I constructed and painted my event-exclusive board at breakneck speed, so I would suggest getting some buildings you like and slowly build up your collection. The range now includes dilapidated buildings as well, so you can choose to go for fancy palazzi and clean streets where Patricians stalk the night or construct a sunken sestieri of Venice.
Keep in mind that you also don’t need to fill out a 4x4 or a 3x3 from the get-go. You can easily fill-out a 2x2 for some vicious and frantic games. The board I have at home is 2,6x2,6 feet and can accommodate most games.
TR: Any tips for Carnevale list building?
BD: The meta is in a bit of a weird place right now for me, as it’s obviously hard to get games in now and test stuff out. That being said, that will always be a bit of a hard question to answer as you can fit your list to the points value and scenario you play. That way you can tailor a list easily, and really go for the objectives. I’m not going to hand out lists right now, as I’ll probably get tabled in real life at some point with one of my clever combos and I’ll never hear the end of it.
What I have noticed is that Gifted adds a lot of options to your lists, especially if you play higher point scenarios. The harlequin is one of my favorites to include when playing Rashaar because he adds a lot of mobility and can counter rooftop shenanigans. Fadhila can bolster the buffs of the Voice of Dagon if you want to go super tanky with your monsters. Check the general playstyle when constructing a list, then have a good look at the Gifted. They can break the mold and give you an edge your opponent might not expect.
TR: Is there anything you wish you knew about Carnevale when you first started playing?
BD: Well, I wish I backed that Kickstarter. There’s a couple of models that were featured in the LS and haven’t been released yet, so I’ll have to wait for a Mask Maker to arrive to the tabletop. I like games that have simple and straightforward rules but use model and faction abilities to differentiate play styles. So I missed getting in on the ground floor so to speak.
That being said it’s still a relatively young game, and it’s exciting to see new models and terrain come out to explore the canals. The same goes for list building and constructing gangs. There’s a hefty range of models and playstyles to explore.
TR: Do you have any hints or tips that could help a new Carnevale player?
BD: I’d recommend getting one of the starters, as they have enough stuff in them to get going. Other than that, it’s a very cinematic game more than competitive (no tournaments or tournament-style play), and the online community is very welcoming and active. Seriously, check out the Facebook group because there’s some amazing stuff there, and the official Discord.
The other thing is that it’s objective and scenario-based. There are a ton of scenarios, objectives, and mini-campaigns in the big rulebook, so a game rarely devolves into a slogfest where you just roll dice and hit things. You have to be flexible with your list building.
TR: Thank you very much for your taking the time to answer our questions Bart. We're looking forward to getting some more Carnevale games in this year.