Shiny Happy Meeple: A Carcassonne Review

 What constitutes a classic? The Morgan is a classic car because of its history and enduring style. Citizen Kane is a classic film because of its great story and filming techniques that still seem fresh today. What about classic games? Monopoly? Chess? Carcassonne?

This needs to be on your shelf
Carcassonne is the fortified city in the south of France and is also a tile laying game that is deceptively simple to play. Each turn a player takes a random tile and flips it over to reveal its features. Each tile contains sections of cities, roads, farms or a single cloister. The player then places this down so that it fits with pieces already on the table. The player can then place down one of their followers; tiny wooden people often nicknamed meeples, onto one of the features on the tile. When the city, road or cloister is completed the player scores points based on the number of tiles used and the follower is returned to the player. Farms are scored a little differently with players gaining points at the end of the game based on the number of completed cities the farm connects to. A player can’t claim a city, road or farm that has already been occupied by another player but with careful tile placing two features can be joined to steal locations off opponents.
Carcassonne’s rules are simple enough to make it a great family game but there’s enough depth to build deeper strategy. Farms can be fenced off with roads, cities can be blocked by an awkward road location and both features can be stolen. The game plays between 2 and 5 players and it tends to work best with 3 or 4 players. At this level there is a good balance of strategy and randomness and more chance that the opposing players can screw up you plans. At 2 players you can end up doing your own thing at opposite ends of the table and with 5 players things can be a bit crowded. More players also mean more downtime. Carcassonne is a game that can lead to a lot of analysis paralysis; the dreadful situation that exists when players stop and think carefully about their move causing the game to grind to a halt. The more players you have the more this becomes a problem.
The game comes with a handy scoreboard for, well, keeping score obviously.

The most contentious issue with the game is the farm scoring system. Farms are the most strategic mechanic in the game, only 3 points per city seems like a meagre amount of points at stake but if you can connect a farm to a lot of cities there are a lot of points up for grab. The concept itself isn’t complicated but scoring farms at the end of the game is prone to errors. It relies on players visually inspecting the entire board and tracing the network of road and cities that act as barriers. You may want to ignore farm scoring for a simpler game and this is strongly recommended for younger players.
Early in the game and some one has left that big city on the right unclaimed, crazy fools!

The components have a classic enduring appeal. The basic tiles are sturdy and thick and the meeples themselves are wooden, a material that always adds a touch of class to the game. What is lacking is some form of draw bag for the tiles (though one is available in the Traders & Builders expansion).
A typical game of Carcassonne will last around 45 minutes to an hour, an almost perfect game length for a game of this depth. There are a lot of expansions available for Carcassonne and these will be covered in more depth in later reviews but it’s worth noting that all the expansions add extra tiles, which in turn make the game longer to play. Too many expansions and Carcassonne loses the brevity that makes it a great game.
If the correct tile is used to join the two city tiles black can grab reds points, how cunning.

Carcassonne is a classic game. Like all the best games the rules are simple and easy to learn but offer a depth of strategy that give the game longevity and interest. Its quick to play and completing high scoring features is a gratifying experience.

•    Simple game mechanics…
•    …with deep strategic options
•    Quick to set up and play

•    Farms can be tricky to score
•    Suffers from analysis paralysis especially with more players
•    (Too many expansions can turn a quick simple game into a sprawling behemoth)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment