Famous for it’s well preserved, unique Roman and Medieval fortifications, the southern French city of Carcassonne is the setting for one of the best introduction to euro games in all of geekdom!
There are perhaps two euro games generally known to the public, Settlers of Catan (and all its expansions) and Ticket to Ride (and all its variations). Carcassonne seems to be third in this area (and itself has multiple expansions and variants, but I’ve never played any of them yet). It’s the game of city, cloister, farm and road building and most people’s first acquaintance to this funny little wooden character: the meeple.
Carcassonne is a tile laying game, meaning its major component is drawing random tiles and placing them strategically on the table, thus the board grows as the game progresses and it is significantly different every time you play. Each tile has a road, a city, a cloister or a combination of these on it. When you place a tile you must do so that it makes logical sense. So, a road must connect to another road and a city wall must connect to another. You cannot have a road run into a wall or a field out of nowhere! The idea here is to place them in a manner that potentially scores you and deprives your opponents of the most points. You do this with these meeple characters each player has; little wooden stick figure-like pieces that have (since this game came out in 2000 and won many awards) become quite iconic in the gaming world.
You can only put a meeple on a tile you just placed but you do not score until that city, road or cloister is completed, or when the game ends. So, for instance in the picture on the left the cloister on the left that’s claimed would (at this point) score 7 points and the road loop on the bottom would score 4. Farms only score at the end of the game and are the trickiest to understand and utilize and also the hardest to explain, so we’ll skip that and let you figure it out when you play it!>:p You only have a limited supply of meeples, so it is important to score completed areas so you can get them back and score them again elsewhere. The game ends when the last tile is placed.
The strategy comes in how you use the tiles you draw, where you place them, and when to claim a city, road, cloister or farm. Oftentimes it is a good idea to claim part of a city someone else has already claimed to get the shields and/or to nullify their possible gains there.
Personally, I am a big fan of tile games and this is no exception. It’s fun to see how the board builds out as well as how to act and react to the positioning of opponents. Though the randomness is a large part of the game, there is very little luck. A good player will consistently score competitively because they know how to place tiles and how/when to claim what.
So, Carcassonne may sound a bit confusing and difficult at first, but after a few turns, it turns out to be quite simple to play. A great introduction to euros, fairly quick and fun for the whole family. There are intricacies that can allure rookie and seasoned game players and plays well in both two and multi-player settings. Plus there’s those cute little meeple characters you’ll just want to go and bake a cake in their image!
(all photos courtesy of Boardgamegeek.com’s database)
Number of players: 2-5
Playing time: Around 1 hour
Suggested Ages: 8 and up