Carcassonne is based on 2-5 players who are competing for the most points to be the winner of the game. On their turn, players will draw a tile from a selection of facedown options and they will then place this tile to adjoining laid tiles making sure that any features fit together like a puzzle. They then have the option to place one of their meeples to claim either a road, city, field or monastery if it is on that tile and otherwise unclaimed.
Cities and roads keep being added to until they are finished. Cities are finished when the wall encircles the encampment and are scored at 2 points for every section of tile in the city. Therefore a city built with four tiles would be worth 8 points. Roads are completed when they end at a city, junction or monastery.
Meeples placed on fields become farmers and remain on the field until the end of the game when they score depending on how many cities touch their field. Placing a meeple in a monastery converts it into a monk. It will score you nine points when you surround it in tiles, one point for every tile touching it.
Apart from athe farmers who don’t score until the end, whenever you score points, you get the meeple back into your hand to use again on other tiles. The game finishes when the draw piles run out and final scoring occurs.
Fun Fact: The now universal word ‘meeple’ was coined in November 2000 by Alison Hansel while playing Carcassonne, the fusion of ‘my’ and ‘people’ is now a synonymous term in the board game community for any small playing piece.
Back in 2014, Carcassonne added two mini expansions. The first expansion is The River. This gives you a selection of tiles that you must start with, each is a section of a river that spreads the map out nicely at the start. The other expansion is The Abbott. This is an additional meeple which is different to the others but only by it’s pointy hat. They can be placed on monasteries or flower gardens but cannot claim cities or roads. Flower gardens and monasteries score the same as a normal monastery. The benefit of an abbot is that if you do not place a meeple on your turn instead you can score the abbot. This awards a point for every tile the abbot is touching. A good way of getting some small quick points or neglecting an area that won’t be completed. You will find that you won’t often play without these two extra expansions and you would find it a rather different game if you play without them.
Carcassonne feels to me like a game you would play on the computer, and it would slowly get very addictive. I like the fact that this is a true old school board game and not extra and doesn’t rely on technology. It is very much like a gentle stroll through the French countryside. There is lots of luck in the tile you draw and how it fits but lots of choice to keep you engaged. Ideally keeping many options open is often a good tactic for the game and will result in the game lasting a long time if you don’t close it off too quickly. The game can pick up a gear if you choose to share cities and ramps up again as you can attempt to steal them from other players. This is often where the game often gets a bit feistier as your meeples can be swallowed up in a tit-for-tat battle. This tactic may or may not pay off, but it is worth a try if you are playing with veteran players as it keeps it fresh.
Although you score as you go, there is a final end of game scoring, so you can never be too sure who is going to win until the end. This keeps the stakes high as you will rarely be completely out of a game unless you let your opponent’s create a city.
The game is simple to learn but it does take a lot of decision-making. There should be little analysis paralysis when playing, so downtime is only due to the calm pace allowing for conversation. This is never a bad thing when introducing new gamers to the hobby.
The puzzle-like tile placement is very satisfying when you finally get that perfect piece, but it can be very disappointing if it doesn’t quite fit! Seeing the map sprawl in front of you gives this game real table presence. I would advise having a big space for this game as it can grow very big and very quick. Also, if you are playing with children / new players I would advise you don’t include the farmers as these can make it slightly more confusing, but it isn’t missed.
I wasn’t expecting to like Carcassonne but it is a great family friendly game. Without adding in the farmers, Ethan can play but he must concentrate so that doesn’t happen often. If you want a game that you can expand and play with all the family, then this would be up there with Monopoly and Scrabble.