REVIEW – Carcassonne

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CarcassonneName: 
Carcassonne
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Type: Strategy, tile placement
Players: 2-5
Best with: 2-4
Length of Playtime: 35-75 minutes

 

Give It to Me Quick: Carcassone is simple to learn, and simply fun to play. Great game to introduce to new players and a light, fun game for others. You’ll be placing tiles and placing your meeples (pawns) on those tiles to gain points, all while building around what other players are trying to do.

 

Gameplay Summary

Carcassonne is a tile-placing game; the game board is built as the game goes on.

At the end of a completed four player game.

At the end of a completed four player game.

Play begins with each of the game tiles facedown. Players will draw tiles blindly from the collection of tiles and make a play on the board, building a larger and larger board. The tiles connect as common sense would dictate when looking at the tiles; roads must connect to roads, cities to cities, fields to fields.

Start of the game.

The building blocks of the city of Carcassonne.

After placing a tile, a player may play one of his seven meeples on a part of the landscape: roads, cities, fields, or monasteries. A meeple will not return to the player’s hand and cannot be used again until that part of the landscape is complete: the road ends, the city is enclosed, the monastery is surrounded.

These meeples are scored in different ways and drive different strategies. Full points for roads, cities, and monasteries are scored when they are completed during the game. Fields are scored at the end of the game. Partial points are scored for roads and cities at the end of the game if they are not completed during the game.

The four different ways to score: Fields, Roads, Monastaries, and Cities.

The four different ways to score: Fields, Roads, Monasteries, and Cities. Yes, the farmer is always sleeping in the field.

 

How many players is it best with?

Carcassonne is good from 2 to 5 players. As you add players, however, each player will be drawing less tiles and the luck of the draw plays a much bigger role. Playing with five players, for example, means that each player will only play 14 tiles (72 tiles in the game/5 players).

A game with 5 will naturally have more conflict between players — since cities, roads, and fields will inevitably bump into each other. However, even with 2, Carcassonne can be as cutthroat as you want it to be. Some people are content to build on their own side of the board whereas others will love placing a tile to make finishing your city impossible. The game takes the shape of your group of friends’ personalities.

 

Our Positives

We really like Carcassonne, particularly because of how easily it’s taught and learned. We’ve introduced it to several family and friends, including parents who caught on quickly. It has elements of more strategic games with a mix of chance and good old stab-in-the-backery (if you want to play that way). It’s fun to see what new landscapes you’ll create each game. It’s a light game that doesn’t require too much thinking, but it’s a step beyond the typical dice roll-and-move of previous generation board games. After the first playthrough, you’ll be set on all the rules you need to know.

Carcassonne also plays very well with two players, and scales to five easily. The strategy will shift as the player count changes, but the game still feels solid. You’ll get fun rivalries and partnerships created from one turn to the next — “well, I have this tile which will combine both of our cities, so he’ll certainly be trying to finish it along with me.” Of course, that could backfire when the other player sneakily adds another follower to the city and you’re locked out.

The end game final scoring is a lot of fun. While you can see how people are doing during the game, a lot of times the final point counts create a big swing the other direction (especially with monasteries) and someone will land a come from behind victory.

A completed road around two monasteries

A completed road around two monasteries

 

Our Negatives

What is the goal of any game? To win. By this token alone, how should you play Carcassonne? By playing tiles that make it impossible for the other players to complete their cities. The only problem is, playing like this or playing with people who play like this is not any fun. Really, Carcassonne is best played when everyone is content to build their own areas of the board apart from each other, and then every once in a while have a city or road bump into another players.

While there is some strategy involved in deciding where to build, when to finish a structure, or when to play a follower, the luck of the tile draw definitely plays a big part in this game. Sometimes in a large four or five player game I’ve been waiting for a finishing piece for one of my cities to come up for half the game while everyone around me is drawing the piece I need instead.

For as simple as the game concept is, sometimes you’ll be waiting around for your turn to place a tile. That’s helped by drawing tiles ahead of time so each player can think while everyone else is playing.

 

Accessibility:

playbegins_accessibility8

 

 

 

 

35_party for a Party Not particularly.
casual Casual Yes, Carcassonne is a classic “gateway” game that is accessible to all.
35_competitive Competitive Yes, it certainly can be. It’s as competitive as the group is.
35_strategy Strategic More of a turn-by-turn strategy since you don’t know what your next tile is until you draw it.

 

Final Thoughts on Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a great introductory game for those unaccustomed to modern board games. It’s also a lot of fun for family settings with more casual gamers; not too deep to lose some but also not too light to bore others. My wife and I have played it after dinner several times on a workday to help wind down. It’s a fun game for us to start off or wind down a game night.

However, it can be a little frustrating sometimes since a game with many players can end with a lot of unfinished roads or cities since there just aren’t enough tiles to go around. You’ll only play 18 tiles in a four person game and 14 tiles in a five person game. Strategic “decisions” are often just based on how many tiles are left rather than anything else.

Carcassonne does have a good number of expansions that add additional ways to score or build on the strategy. We have played Inns and Cathedrals, which adds more tiles, includes pieces for a sixth player, and introduces the concept of Inns (built along roads), Cathedrals (built in cities), and a “Big Follower” for each color (a meeple who counts as two instead of one).

 

Check out more reviews!

Carcassonne

8.325

Replayability

83/10

    Engagement

    80/10

      Game Mechanics

      80/10

        Theme/Fun

        90/10

          Likes

          • - Fun to build a different board every time
          • - Good two player game that scales well
          • - Quick and easy to learn
          • - Fits the group's competitive (or not competitive) streak

          Dislikes

          • - Depends a lot on luck of the draw

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