Many tabletop games involve competitive dice rolling, fast decision-making, and grand strategy. This is not one of them! Sometimes you just want to play a nice, calm, relaxing game with friends that is low stress and leaves you all as cordial as you were at the beginning of the game. Below is my review of Carcassonne.
Designer: Klaus-Jurgen Wrede
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Time: 30-60 minutes
Carcassonne is a map building game for 2-5 players from Klaus-Jurgen Wrede. In Carcassonne, players work together to create a map of the French countryside surrounding the medieval city. Players do so in turn order by selecting a tile piece at random and adding it to the map already on the table. Using Meeples of their chosen color, players claim one of four resources after laying down their tile: roads, cities, cloisters, or farms. Each of the resources is scored according to a single instruction sheet provided within the box. Play continues until there are no more map pieces to be played, or there are no legal moves for the remaining map piece(s).
To set up the game, all tile pieces are randomly shuffled together, with the exception of the starting tile (noted with a different colored backing), and placed face-down in multiple piles around the table. Place the starting piece in the middle of the table. Set aside the scoring track. Players select their colored Meeples and place one on the scoring track, keeping the rest in front of them.
Order of Play:
The starting player is selected at random. The first player draws a tile and places it on the map according to different symbols on the tile. There are three different landmarks found at the edges of the tiles: cities, roads, and fields. Pieces can only be placed with the same landmarks together on all sides. After a tile is placed down, the player has the option of placing their Meeple on one of the features on the tile, but only if NO OTHER MEEPLE (including their own) is on that same feature. For example: if there is a city being built with one of the Red player’s Meeples on it, and I lay a city tile down connected to that previous city, I cannot place a Meeple within the city portion of the tile. That said, if multiple unconnected cities with Meeples on them grow together through the course of play, that’s okay. In that case, if players have equal numbers of Meeples, they all get FULL POINTS when the feature is completed. On the other hand, if one player has more Meeples than any other player, they get full points and everyone else gets nothing.
Most features are scored on a per-tile basis once they have been completed: 2 points per tile (and per shield symbol) for cities, and 1 point per tile for roads or cloisters. Once the feature is complete, the player takes their Meeple back to their hand. Farms are scored differently; at the end of the game, farms generate 3 points per completed city they touch. Because they are completed at the end of the game, farmers have to stay on the board until the end. This leads to a strategic consideration as to WHEN to place farmers and how many. Often times you will have multiple features growing simultaneously, making worker management an important part of your strategy.
At the end of the game, any un-finished features are scored at 1 point per tile (or shield). The player with the most points wins the game.
The artwork is beautifully done. At the end of the game, you really want to sit back and enjoy the map that you and your friends have created. The instruction manual is simple, short, and very useful. At two pages (printed front and back of a single sheet of paper), you don’t have to look hard to clarify a rule or scoring value. All tile pieces and Meeples are very good quality cardstock and wood respectively.
There are numerous mini-expansions for the game, including rivers, cathedrals, and many more. (See Boardgame Geek’s page for a complete list).
My wife and I love Carcassonne. If we are looking for a simple, fun game that doesn’t require a lot of mental effort (and will leave us happy with each other at the end), we pull this out. It’s also one of the few games we’ve found that works very well with only two players. This is definitely a must for any game collection.