There are some games that truly define their times and Carcassonne is one of them. Designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and gamesvega.com by Hans im Glück, it made a huge impact on the board gaming industry and brought many people who had lost contact with board games back on track. Now in 2012, after more than a decade, and with dozens of expansions being available, Carcassonne still shines and proves what good games are made of. Let’s take a plunge into its wonderful world.
Carcassonne is a small town in South France, renowned for its formidable fortifications that still stand and is part of Unesco’s list World Heritage Sites. It is encircled by a huge double row of fortified walls that run almost 2 miles long, accentuated by 56 watchtowers.
That was probably the inspiration for this game which evolves around building castles, roads, farms and cloisters in the area of the famous town. Carcassonne is a tile laying game for the whole family. There are 72 land tiles that depict farmland, roads, cities and cloisters. Each player starts out with 7 followers (meeples) which are his supply and can be used as farmers, thiefs, knights or monks during the game by placing them on a newly placed tile.
At the start of the game, each player places one of his followers on the score board to be used as a score marker.
The game begins by placing the start tile (the one with darker back) in the middle of the table. The rest of the tiles are shuffled and placed in several face-down stacks. Each player, in his turn takes a tile from a stack, reveals it and places it on the table, so that it has one common edge with an already played tile. Then he can decide if he wants to deploy a follower on that tile. Followers can be placed on road segments as thiefs, on farmland as farmers, on cities as knights or at cloisters as monks.
Whenever a city, road or cloister is completed, the player with most meeples on it scores victory points and takes all meeples placed on the construction back to his supply. That doesn’t apply to farms. Farmers are dedicated to their land until the end of the game, when each farm serving a completed city is scored. In the case that more than one players have meeples on the same road or city, then the player with most meeples gets all the points. When two or more players tie with the most thieves or knights they each earn the total points for the road or city.
The tricky part of the game is that another player can try and take control of your city, road or farm by placing there more meeples than you. Because no one can place a meeple on a city, road or farm with an existing meeple, that can be done only indirectly. That is by placing e.g. a knight on a tile near the city you want to take over, in hope that the two city parts will eventually merge.
The game ends when all tiles are placed on the table. Players score for their incomplete cities, roads, cloisters and last but not least farms are scored. Whoever has the most followers on a farm, takes all the points from that farm and other players that also have followers on that farm gain nothing. If the number of followers from each player is the same, all these players get the same points.
Opening the box of Carcassonne, reveals a nice bundle of beautifully illustrated cardboard tiles, some wooden meeples, the scoring track and a 6-page rulebook. The rules of the game are pretty straight forward and the illustrated examples help clarify any questions. Within a few minutes you can start playing the game, which lasts about 45 minutes. Playing the first few games was much fun for all players and I should note that most of us felt quite addicted and were eagerly inclined to play again (in order to pay revenge or refine our techniques). First impression, thumbs up! Since then I played the game several more times and here is my judgement on our usual scoring categories: