The French medieval walled city of Carcassonne is the inspiration of this tile-laying game as you build cities and roads and lay claim to your territory. But take care that another lord doesn’t craftily muscle in on your turf! Carcassonne has been around for quite a while now and is one of the early popular so-called ‘euro games’ that helped kick off the modern board-gaming hobby. Well, at least it did for me.
How Easy is it to Learn?
Carcassonne is a 2-5 player game. The core game mechanic is straightforward – you lay adjoining tiles and optionally claim them by placing one of your workers there. It’s rated as moderately light on Board Game Geek (2/5), but that would have to do more with strategy than rules. The rules book is pretty easy to read, but it’s simpler to learn as you play.
There are three basic types of tiles – cities, roads and monasteries. Cities and roads are joined together and your score points based on the size of the city or the length of the road, while monasteries score points for the number of tiles adjoining it. You can also claim the field surrounding a city.
The trick is that you have to decide which of the tiles and features you want to claim with the limited number of workers (‘meeples’) you have. You can take back your meeples when you complete a city or road, or when your monastery is surrounded, but there’s no guarantee that this will happen. You could be left with no meeples in your hand when that sweet opportunity arises, or discover that the tile you decided not to claim cost you the game. While players can’t claim a city or road adjacent to another player’s tile, they can build from another direction and join up so that points are shared, or they even steal your claim by having more meeples on it.
How Easy is it to Play?
Set up is very easy. There is a starting tile, and the rest are shuffled and put in a common draw pile. Draw a tile, place it (or discard it if you can’t), and claim it with a meeple if you want (if you don’t, the tile goes unclaimed – you can only claim tiles you lay on your turn). That’s it.
The tiles are made of thick cardboard, so easy to handle, and the meeples are made of wood. Scoring takes place on a scoring board as you go, with some additional scoring at the end.
The skill in this game is in the strategy. It’s not deep strategy, but a savvy player will have a better time of it. I’m not a savvy player.
How Easy is it to Win?
There is an element of luck to the game in that you draw tiles randomly, but there is still a bit of strategy involved. If you’re familiar with the tiles (and the book tells you how many of each kind there are so that you can work it out during the game), you’ll know what’s been played, what’s still available in the draw pile, and be able to calculate your probabilities. Don’t play with a member of Mensa.
Is it Fun to Play?
Carcassonne is a simple game for newcomers, but with enough depth to keep experienced players coming back. It plays reasonably quickly, and you’re always keeping an eye on what others are doing so you can plan your next move, hope they don’t thwart yours or figure out how to stop theirs. There are also a swag of expansions which add new rules if you’re into that.
A typical game takes 30-45 minutes. Carcassonne is a popular game with Board Game Geek rating of 7.4/10.
Who Will Enjoy It?
The box says it’s for ages 8+ so it’s a very accessible game. It’s in no way a ‘kids’ game though – it’s my 20 year old’s preferred board game. It’s great for inexperienced gamers still trying out different kinds of games, and experienced gamers looking for something that’s not too heavy.