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Board Game Review # 9 – Carcassonne

2016 July 30
by Michael Schroeder
  • The following is a resurrected post. It was originally posted in 2010 but I’m refreshing it for those that missed it. The game is also now published in English speaking countries tires by Z-zman Games. The artwork has changed as well as some finer points of the game may have changed. It has been brought to my attention that farms now award 3 points, not 4. Thanks, Lance!

I’ve come a long way to become a master tile layer that matches up the pretty illustrations on the tiles! What am I talking about? The master of tile laying games…Carcassonne! A light weight, yet clever, tile laying game by Rio Grande Games – designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede.

Number of players: 2-5

Age: 8+

Playing time: 60 minutes

Carcassonne by Rio Grande Games

Carcassonne by Rio Grande Games

What’s the game about:

A description from the publisher…

A clever tile-laying game. The southern French city of Carcassonne is famous for its unique Roman and Medieval fortifications. The players develop the area around Carcassonne and deploy their followers on the roads, in the cities, in the cloisters, and in the fields. The skill of the players to develop the area will determine who is victorious.

Basic idea in my own words:

Carcassonne is a very fun, light weight game, that is easy for the entire family to pick up, while at the same time, having a good amount of strategy. As with most Euro games, Carcassonne involves limited resources and balancing what you have, to maximize the possible victory points. When I say balance, you must exercise restraint on laying down tiles and meeples, while knowing when to take action.

A little background on me and this game:

I’ve been somewhat purposely delaying the review of this game. When I first got this game, I absolutely loved it! And I still do. But as I progressed into the world of so many other great games out there, I don’t play Carcassonne way as much as I used to. I thought Carcassonne was the pinnacle euro game. But honestly, expand your horizons, and you’ll discover so many greater gems out there…IF you wish to challenge yourself more, and become involved in more complex games. Carcassonne is definitely a gateway game. Meaning it serves as a gateway for beginner euro game players. Think of it as your first car. I remember getting my first car, a 1991 Volkswagen Jetta. The thing was in crappy shape, I could barely drive stick at the time – but it was functional and served my purpose of getting around. But eventually like most things, we upgrade.

In saying that, I rarely play this game, but it’s funny, as I’m typing this, I’m actually in the mood to play it and maybe I will this weekend. But I’d only play with the expansions…that’s another story.

Back to the game itself.

In Carcassonne, you have 7 little people, or meeples, and an 8th, but that one is dedicated for scoring, on the score board. There are also a bunch of tiles, and on the one side of these tiles, is a nicely illustrated scene, be in, a city, farm, grass, river, etc. These tiles are randomly shuffled around and placed in stacks, or however you wish, face down, so you can’t see the illustrations.

Carcassonne Tile

A Carcassonne Tile

When your ready to start the game, you will take the 1 starting tile and lay it down in the center of the table. The first person grabs a random tile, looks at it, and decides where to place it. The tile must be placed flush, with another tile already down on the table. For instance, the above tile has a road on it. If the first player takes a tile with a road on it, they will most likely, place it next to the tile on the table, connecting the roads. This is a legal move. An illegal move would be to just have a road or city, connect to a grass tile. Essentially, a move is legal, as long as the illustrations line up flush with the tile(s) it’s connected to.

So when you place down a tile, what the heck do you do next? Well, you have a choice. Do you want to place a meeple down, or not. Here’s where even more decision making comes in. Do you conserve your meeple and not lay him down, hoping to complete that huge city that’s on the other corner of the table? Or do you lay him down now on this road, hoping to connect this road, with the road that started on the other side of the table? Those are some of the hard decisions you must make in this game – which makes the game fun!

In order to place or claim a spot on the tile, you can only lay a meeple down on a tile that you just placed down. You can place one on a section of road, therfore being a thief; or a meeple on a cloister, making that meeple a monk or sorts; or you may place a meeple down in a city section; finally, you have the option of laying down your meeple on it’s side, in a section of grass, making that meeple a farmer. The farmer is where the greater, and longer term strategy lies in the game. I say this because, as the game progresses, when sections of city, surrounding cloister, or road get completed, you immediately get those meeples back in your pile. But with a farmer, you don’t – those farmers must stay where they are for the duration of the game.

Carcassonne in action

Carcassonne in action

You can see in the image above, a better clarification of what some completed tile lays might produce. Notice the farmers laying on their sides. The tile closest to the bottom of the image is a meeple on a cloister (notice the monastery below him). Also notice standing meeples in the cities.

Meeple Laying Rules:

  • You cannot lay a meeple down in an area already containing another meeple. So if someone else, or yourself, already has parts to a castle claimed, AND the illustration on that newly placed tile is directly connected to a previous tile, having a meeple there – you can’t place a meeple there. So what’s the point of laying that tile down? A few reasons. You may want to lay it there to finish your castle or “close it off.” If your meeple has that castle claimed and you don’t think you’ll get the tiles to make it bigger, into completion, then close it off. Then you immediately get your meeple back, and you claim 2 points per tile with that city on it. Also, if there’s a crest on a particular tile, you receive 2 more points. If, the castle is incomplete, you will only receive 1 point per tile, and crest. Big difference. Another reason for wanting to lay a tile down there, is to close someone else’s claimed area off. Say you don’t want your opponent to expand, well cap it off. Say you want to screw another player over. There are many times, especially near roads and city pieces, that you could screw your opponents over. If they have a city claimed and opposite that tile is a spot that could help or not help you, and that tile has a piece on it, where you think it will render that open spot unplayable, well, place it!

Tile laying rules:

  • Pretty simple. The illustrations must match up with adjacent tiles.
  • No Diagonal placements. All placements must be orthogonally placed.
  • Note that, the edge of the board is a border, as well as corners of cities, roads also act as barriers, and roads can be disjointed into more roads by junctures (e.g. shrubs)

Strategies:

  • Claim a farm early on, but not too early. This will ensure you have at least one farmer out. I would have many more farmers out by the end of the game. Farmers get you 4 points per farm that’s connected to a completed city. When I mean, don’t do it too early, I’m saying this because you don’t know how the lay of the land is going to be until the game progresses a bit. Someone, including yourself, if not careful, can screw you over and enclose your farm in a road, and that meeple is wasted for the remainder of the game.
  • Keep the tile reference sheet handy. The game includes a reference sheet for what tiles and the quantity of them, that is in the game. Use this to your advantage when playing the odds, hoping someone doesn’t get that piece you need, or if you need it, or even realizing that your efforts for a tile may be wasted, as that tile has been played.
  • Be conservative with your meeples. Don’t use them all up as soon as you can. You’ll end up having none left and won’t be able to secure new points until farming time (if your farmers don’t get trumped).

Farming:

I find farming to be a huge determiner of the winner in this game. While this is dissolved a bit with expansions, in the core game, you MUST farm. Farming gets you the most points in the game. To farm, you lay your meeple down on it’s side, in any grassy area. But you must look and make sure that on the same farm, nobody else has a farmer. This game can get a little intense and tight if your opponents are fighting for a farm with you. The game can have plenty of farms, but most people will be going for the areas near the most completed cities. So a good strategy is to have a farmer out, and during tile laying, you lay another meeple down on another farm, and then attempt to connect the two farms. This is completely legal, granted the meeples are already laid. The same goes for terrain of any type (roads and cities). As with roads and cities, you may have a fight over an area. The winner of an area is whomever has more meeples in this area. So I have 3 in this farm, Fred has 2. Fred’s meeples do him nothing!

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Game end:

The game ends when the last tile has been laid. Then which, all opponents will count up their score. Whoever has the most victory points, wins!

Expansions:

I have never seen a game have so many expansions. Carcassonne has tons of them! From small ones with 10 or so tiles that cost around $5, to larger ones with more meeples, pigs, resources, new scoring tiles, etc etc etc. for around $10 dollars. These expansions make the game more fun and competitive and are especially good for such a simple game, that can certainly benefit from being expanded.

I would not play with any expansions initially, when playing with first timers. Give them a break and go easy on them and don’t have it be too overwhelming. With all the expansions, you can really have a huge city of Carcassonne, and the game will take much more time. I have only about 4 expansions and when I play with them all, a 2 player game can start from 30 minutes and blow up into 2 hours!

If you’re interested in purchasing this title, visit my store at Meeple Village! We throw in an extra goody in each order and the more you purchase, the more discounts you’ll receive!


Component quality: 4/5

The game includes many cardboard tiles that has a good thickness to them, and they are very slightly rounded at it’s edges it seems. The illustrations on the box and tiles are great. The manual is easy to understand and in full color. The insert houses everything nicely.

Theme: 4/5

The theme works well with the game. Again, with euro games, you can slap pretty much any theme into these mechanics, and it is that way with Carcassonne, but the idea of building up a french city of Carcassonne works.

Instruction manual: 3/5

No frills, full color manual. Easy to read.

Luck factor: 4/5

Heavy luck in this game, with the nature of drawing random tiles.

Strategy: 3/5

Not too heavy a strategy game, it’s a lighter game. But it certainly has a mid -easy level of strategy in it.

Overall feelings: 4/5

I love Carcassonne. A year ago, I would have given it a 5/5, but there are so many other great games out there. But Carcassonne does it’s job. Acting as a light weight, strategy game. I had so much fun with this game. I consider Carcassonne a staple game, that all euro games must own. Even more so than Settlers of Catan.

Buy Now

One Response leave one →
  1. March 18, 2011

    Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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