The first one – Carcassonne

What is Carcassonne?

This is the one that introduced me to tabletop gaming. At first glance I wasn’t convinced – the old fashioned-looking box and graphics just put me off.

I think I spent more time asking how to play than I did actually playing, but a couple of games in and I was hooked.

Carcassonne isn’t a new game, it’s been around since 2000, designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede who is apparently something of a legend as a result.

It’s part of a group of games known as European-style. I’m sure I’ll understand what this means as this blog develops. It’s also a great bridging game – something non or new gamers can play to introduce them to tabletop games without heading straight for an eight hour marathon with rule books to match.

Gameplay

Carcassonne is a deceptively simple game. In the basic game (there are many many expansions which I’m sure I’ll get to review later) there are 72 tiles which picture either fields, parts of a medieval-style walled city, a road, or monastery. Or a combination, for instance a road through a field, or a monastery in a field.

Players take it in turn to lay a tile, which forms part of the playing area. Tiles must be laid orthogonally opposite each other (you’ll read this a lot in gaming instructions) which basically means next to – not diagonal.

Once a tile is laid, you can place a little wooden character – a follower, or meeple – on it (the little red guy on my home page is a meeple). This figure can sit on a road, in a field, city or monastery and will stay there until a feature on the board is completed, and points are awarded.

Points are given for a completed road (it must start and finish, e.g. at a city or crossroads), city (a city must be completely encircled by walls), or a monastery (it must sit in the centre of a completed block of nine cards).

Fields are more complicated – players receive points at the end of a game depending how many completed cities sit in the area encompassing their field.

The strategy comes in making sure you win all these points rather than your opponents. So you can extend an opponent’s city or road but you can’t place your own meeple into a city or road which is already occupied. However, you can begin a second city nearby, and place your own meeple into it with a view to joining these cities later in the game. If there are two meeples belonging to opposing players in one completed city, you’ll share points. But the player with the most meeples in a city will steal all the points from his opponent.

Monastery’s can’t be stolen in this way, and fields are added up at the end in a similar way -so if two farmers end up in a connected field, they share the points and so on.

But is it good for two players?

It’s a great game, and very playable with two people. I’ve played it with four people as well, and there are simply different dynamics – more competition, and players giving ‘advice’ as the game goes on. It’s a genuine two player game, not just a game that happens to be ok with two players.

I really enjoy playing it and as there are so many expansions (get used to this word, as most games have them) it can be a constantly evolving part of your game collection and well worth investing in.

Further information

Currently published by Zman games, you can see the official website here.

Check out Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop playing through a game here.

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