Carcassonne: The Way of the Meeple

by Bret

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!

carc

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.

carc1 carc3

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!

meeple cake (all photos courtesy of Boardgamegeek.com’s database)

Number of players: 2-5

Playing time: Around 1 hour

Suggested Ages: 8 and up

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6 thoughts on “Carcassonne: The Way of the Meeple

  1. This is SO our favorite. Many a night in grad school, up late playing this with friends. Expansion packs as well!

  2. I love Carcassonne, in all of its variations. Although there aren’t the rich extensions available for it, my wife and I like the Hunters-Gatherers version best.

  3. All photos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com? I coulda sworn that shaggy-haired, chubby-cheeked, tile-placing boy was Sherman. All the same, I figure if a kid sitting in a Tigger chair can learn this game, maybe I could figure it out too! I’m curious — exactly how did the term “meeple” originate? I’m guessing some variation on “people”? Or is there no logical explanation whatsoever?

  4. Personally, I’ve been holding out on a good deal for the Big Box but even that is low on my wish list. So many games, so little disposable income!

    Amy,
    As far as I understand, the term originated with Carcassonne (and is an icon of euro games now) but is now often referred to for many shapes and sizes of wooden playing pieces for all sorts of games (animeeples, vegimeeples, etc)

  5. Sounds like maybe WE should get this one for a new family game—we love “Ticket to Ride!”—then you wouldn’t have to, Bret! (Well, at least until YOU have a shaggy-haired, chubby-cheeked boy of your own that you want to play it with! 🙂

    Amy: funny you thought that was Sherman, but not only is the hair not dark enough, but we don’t have a Tigger chair either, of course… (so what are you saying about my kids and their shaggy hair?? Or is that the quickest way to tell between MY kids and Ang’s kids with their buzz-cuts?!)

  6. Yeah, Carcossonne is a fun game. I like playing it because of the randomness at each juncture. You can balance sabotaging your opponents with scoring points for yourself. Stealing points, sharing points, and targeting other players for frustration can make this game LOADS of fun. You can change your strategy at will, and games only last 30-45 minutes, so you can rush through them at the end of the night instead of playing another game for hours.

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