by The Beast!
(Boardgame Beast HQ)
Number of players:
2-5 (six with expansion)
The Carcassonne game is a superb idea and is brilliantly executed. Lovely, tactile pieces and addictive gameplay will keep you happy for weeks. Meanwhile, you’ll spend happy times waiting for your turn by stacking your followers in acrobatic (and sometimes pornographic) formations!
The game and gameplay
Carcassonne is a superb, modern game design and suitable for most family members, though younger players (and some adults!) may be overwhelmed by the scoring rules.
There are numerous expansion packs available, plus some unofficial updates which occasionally surface on eBay, made by fans of the game for other fans to enjoy.
There’s a lot to admire about the concept, from the cute, watercolour-styled tiles to the chunky wooden “Meeple” follower pieces. It’s definitely one of the most tactile games we’ve played.
There is no board as such. A playing field is created as players pull tiles from a central fund (a bag is supplied in one of the expansion packs) and lay them down to create landscape features, including roads, fields and castles.
Tiles must be placed with like edges touching. So, for example, a full grass edge can only touch another grass edge; a road can only join to another road.As the player lays his tile, he can place a follower to claim any feature that has not previously been claimed by another follower. This feature remains under control by the claiming player, unless an opponent manages to share, or even wrest away, control by placing other followers to infiltrate the work in progress!
Many tiles in the Carcassonne game have multiple options, which is where the fun and strategy comes in. Should you build a new castle, or try to infiltrate an opponent’s? How about attempting to sabotage a castle in progress by laying a road tile leading into it, making it more tricky to complete?
Points are scored by completing features on the board. Features are castles (minimum of two tiles), roads and cloisters (which are special tiles completed by surrounding them on all sides, including diagonally).
When a feature is completed, any followers on it are returned to the player(s) and points are awarded.
The fields are dealt with using special rules at the end of the game. Farmers (followers placed on fields) serve each castle their field touches with food. There can be multiple farmers serving each castle, so the player with the majority of farmers earns points for each castle he dominates. Shared castles awards points to all tied players.
The basic Carcassonne game set comes with a single starting tile, which features one green edge, one road and one castle feature. Recent editions have included 12 extra tiles, originally sold separately, called the River Expansion. There are special rules for these tiles, but essentially it opens up the field of play much wider from the beginning.
For such a simple idea, there’s surprising complexity to the Carcassonne game. Players can choose many styles: co-operative, aggressive, expansive, short-termist or long-termist and others. As with all great game designs, many different approaches can be successful and no one way is guaranteed to triumph.
Tiles are finite resources. Tiles that share castles and roads, for example, are rarer, so placing a road in such a way that it runs towards an unfinished castle can create an impossible tile to find. This is a nasty tactic: be warned, you can fall out with other players if you’re too destructive for the sake of denying others.
One important aspect of the strategy is often overlooked by new players. Farmers can decide the outcome of the game, especially when there are many complete castles, so a crucial element is long-term planning for the fields.
A player who neglects the farms will end up being overtaken more often than not. The benefit of a farmer has to be balanced against the fact that the follower is tied up for the entire game and can never be released.
Expansion packs add other scoring options, but we’ll cover those in separate reviews.Pros and cons
Tile laying is a really pleasant change from more standard boardgame designs. The Carcassonne game is always different, as you’d expect for a randomly-generated playing field.
It’s a lot of fun, too. Initially you’ll be climbing a learning curve, as some of the rules take some time to fully grasp.
The design was designed in Germany and some of the English rules seem a little cumbersomely translated. There is room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation, which doesn’t help, for sure.
The components are very well-designed and made, though even thick card tiles will gradually wear out in time (Keep hot drinks well clear of the game!).
Depending on who you play with, the Carcassonne game can be a very frustrating experience. A purely destructive player is annoying at best. (Steve, we’re looking at you…) Some of the finest games are played in a kind of harmonious spirit of competition, which suits the Carcassonne game best.
While we have listed it as a family game, it’s still a little complex for kids under the age of ten.
The Carcassonne game is a fine design and is bound to appeal to a wide range of game players. Chance plays only a small part in the outcome and it can be a longish game, depending on your familiarity with the rules. Needs a large table to allow for its full expansion capacity to be enjoyed. Thoroughly recommended.