Carcassonne (2015)

RRP: £34.99

NOW £21.79
RRP £34.99

you could earn 2179 victory points

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Transport yourself to the old, medieval, hilltop town of Carcassonne, in this tile and worker placement game that has become an absolute staple of the board game world. Carcassonne is a game, suitable for 2-5 players, which sees players selecting a face-down tile from the centre of the table, and placing it to continue the landscape of the already-placed tiles on the table. This is …
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Awards

Spiel de jahres
Great For Two
Dice Tower
Golden Pear

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Quick, simple set-up.
  • Minimal components means it is easily portable.
  • Easy to understand and teach, and can be picked up in minutes.
  • High replay-ability.
  • Various expansions available adding to replay-ability.

Might Not Like

  • Some element of luck due to random tile draw.
  • No means to mitigate the luck.
  • It can become competitive with games being won and loss with the farmers.
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Description

Transport yourself to the old, medieval, hilltop town of Carcassonne in this tile and worker placement game that has become an absolute staple of the board game world.

Carcassonne is a game suitable for 2-5 players, which sees players selecting a face-down tile from the centre of the table and placing it to continue the landscape of the already-placed tiles on the table. This is the one key rule in Carcassonne. Roads must continue roads, castles must continue castles; you cannot cut off a feature. Then comes the key decision, do you place a meeple on one of the available features on that tile, that feature being anything from a road to a monastery? Or do you keep hold of your meeples and await another placement opportunity that may yield more points?

This dilemma is had by all who play Carcassonne and it is what makes this game so fiendishly fun. While the artwork and the general theme may be quaint and friendly, it is you, the player, who can turn that image around and become rather militant in your tile placing antics!

You may see that a player is about to complete a castle feature and score a respectable eight points. However, you see an opportunity to steal said feature and end up placing tiles away from the feature, joining it up and stealing it from right under their noses, as you will have placed more meeples on that feature than them! This is just one of the many strategies one can employ while playing Carcassonne and it is something that sets this game apart.

With its simple yet rich game mechanics and eighty-four tiles that can be configured into numerous combinations, Carcassonne appeals to beginners and veteran gamers alike. This edition is entirely redesigned and modernised and includes two expansions: The River and The Abbot. This easy-to-play, fast-paced, family-friendly game encompasses everything good about board gaming and will give you an experience you will cherish for many games to come!

Player Count: 2-5
Time: 30-45 Minutes
Age: 8+

Carcassonne is a tile placement and area control game designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and was released in 2000. It was the Spiel des Jahres winner in 2001 and has been nominated for and won several other awards and accolades since being published.

It has earned its place in many board game collections and has served as a gateway game for many non-gamers. Since its launch there have been many expansions to the base game that add various new tiles and gameplay. Carcassonne plays with 2-5 players in under 45 minutes, with simple gameplay and quick turns.

Overview

In Carcassonne players are creating, tile by tile, an ever-expanding section of southern France. These tiles can depict a combination of cities, roads, cloisters and grasslands. Each player has a number of meeples that can be placed on the tile to score points. Depending on the piece of landscape that the meeple is placed victory points are scored in different ways.

Gameplay

The set-up of the game is simple, place the starting tile face up in the middle of the play area. Place the remaining game tiles face down to the side and give every player a set of meeples.

On a player’s turn a tile is drawn from the face down stack at random. This tile must then be placed next to an already existing tile following a simple set of rules, i.e. roads connected to roads, cities connected to cities, grasslands connected to grasslands and so on. Once the tile has been placed the player can choose to place a meeple on that tile. Depending on the type of landscape a player placed their meeple will depend on how they score.

A meeple is classed as a knight when placed on a city space, a thief on a road, a monk on a cloister and a farmer on grasslands. The knight, thief and monk stay on the board until their respective area is completed, at which point they score victory points and are returned to the player to be used on subsequent turns.

Cities are completed once it is surround by walls and there are no gaps inside the city. Knights score two points per city tile or four points if the city tile displays a shield. Roads are completed when it has a start and end location represented by either a village or city or if the road connects to itself forming a loop. The thief scores one point for each tile that makes up the road. Once a cloister is surrounded by eight other tiles the monk scores nine victory points.

Farmers work slightly differently to the knight, thief and monk as they stay on the board until the end of game and contribute to final scoring. The farmers make up the area control aspect of Carcassonne. As with the other meeples, only one farmer can be placed on connected grasslands at any one time. A field can consist of any number of continues grassland spaces that are not separated by roads or cities. At the end of the game each completed city that a farmer is connected to scores three victory points.

Play continues this way until all the tiles have been used. Each player adds to the same growing map and only one meeple can be added to any section of landscape at any one time. The dilemma comes when placing the meeple on the tile. As a player only has a limited number of meeples they can soon start to run short. The knight, thief and monk are not returned until the area is complete and farmers stay on the board until the end of the game. A player can go for quick points by completing roads, cities and cloisters or go for a more long-term strategy with farmers.

Although only one meeple can be placed on a location at any time, with clever placement of tiles players can compete for points on the same location. For example, one player can start a city and place a knight in it. Another player can start a second unconnected city also containing a knight. If these two cities become connected then the final completed city may contain knights from more than one player. The player with the most meeples at the point of completion will score the points.

This is the same for the thief and farmer. The competition of farmers can be serious as some big points can be gained by having the most farmers in the field, especially if the field is connected to many castles. Many games of Carcassonne are played trying to compete for the majority in farmers. There can be more than one field in the game as they can be segregated by placing roads and cities, effectively cutting off fields from other areas in the game.

Final Thoughts on Carcassonne

Carcassonne holds a special place in my gaming collection. I remember playing Carcassonne with a friend of mine before my interest in board games grew to what it is today. It holds a certain nostalgic value for me. The gameplay is smooth and simple; pick a tile, lay a tile, place a meeple. The rules are simple and easy to understand, the downtime between turns is minimal, even at the higher player counts and the game can play quickly.

Despite its minimal components and simple gameplay, the game offers some tough tactical and strategic decisions balancing short terms victory points with end game victory points. Each turn a player only gets a single tile and they need to place that tile to optimise every move. This is what I like about the game. There is not a complicated turn order with multiple options. There is a single randomly drawn tile and the player working out the best possible place to lay it.

The competition for farmers can be fierce and can often mean the difference between winning and losing. For new people to the game, the significance of farmers might be lost if they are not fully explained. The fact that that farmers are not returned once they are played means that placement of a players meeple is critical. Is it worth placing this thief now for a few quick points, or keeping hold of it until the right tile comes up to win the farmer majority? Is it worth placing a knight in this castle now hoping that I can complete the castle quickly and get my meeple back? Should I place a farmer here and lose a meeple for the rest of the game to secure my majority? These are all the type of questions that go through your head when playing.

The game has huge replay-ability. Yes, the tiles are the same but the order they come out and where they are placed will create a unique map and landscape to play on each time. At the end of the game I often sit back and admire the little piece of southern France that has been created. In addition, there are several expansions that add additional tiles and new meeples to the original Carcassonne game. This further increases the replay-ability of the game and adds a lot of variety in to which sets are played with.

Carcassonne is one of the best-known modern board games in existence. Z-Man Games boast on the box that Carcassonne, since its release in 2000, has sold over 10 million copies! It’s such a popular tile-placement game for one reason above all others: it’s so simple to play. Anyone can learn how to play Carcassonne. And, thanks to this tutorial, you too will have no problem teaching it at your next games night…

A game of Carcassonne lasts around 45 minutes. The aim? There’s a bunch of square tiles in the box, with different features on them. Roads, fields, monasteries and walled cities, like the actual medieval citadel. You’ll compete to build up the French countryside in a communal manner, but you’ll score your own completed features. Once the last tile gets placed, there’s some end-game scoring, and the player with the most points wins!

As of 2014, Carcassonne also includes two mini-modules in the box: The River, and The Abbot. Later in this post, I’ll going to teach you how to play Carcassonne with these variants. Firstly, however, let’s take a look at how to play Carcassonne in its original base game form. It’s a perfect ‘gateway game’ for board game beginners and younger players.

How to Play Carcassonne

Set Up The Carcas-zone

Give out the coloured meeples* to players. Place the score board on the playing surface within easy reach of everyone. Everyone places one of their meeples on the zero on the score track. You’ll each start Carcassonne with seven meeples of your colour. (There’s an extra meeple in each colour, ‘wearing’ a mitre hat. That’s the Abbot; keep those in the box for now. We’ll get to Abbots, later.)

Turn all the square tiles so they’re face-down. 13 – the minority of them – have dark backs. 12 of them are the river tiles. (Again, keep those in the box.) The thirteenth is the ‘start tile’. Flip this face-up in the middle of the table. Shuffle the light-back tiles into a few stacks, face-down. Pick a random first player. I use the smartphone app, Chwazi, for this. This person picks and looks at the top tile from one of the stacks. Now you’re ready to play!

*Did you know that the term ‘meeple’ originated in a game of Carcassonne? Shortly after Carcassonne’s release, player Alison Hansel created a portmanteau. When describing her wooden pawns, Alison blended ‘my’ and ‘people’ together – ‘meeple’. The term grew in popularity and is now a worldwide term for wooden silhouette player pieces!

Turns Are Easy As One, Two, Mee(ple)

Your turn in Carcassonne couldn’t be easier. You pick up a tile, and place it next to the tiles in the growing communal landscape. Whichever way you arrange the tile, the landscape must always match the neighbouring tiles. To start, you’ll place your tile next to the Starting Tile, along one of the four edges. The options will soon explode though, after only a few tiles get placed!

Once you’ve picked a spot for your tile, you can then opt to add one of your meeples from your supply onto that tile. It will either be on a road, city, monastery or field. Sometimes, tiles show a combination of two or more of these things! There are restrictions though, if an earlier-placed meeple sits on part of that feature. Luckily, there are clever and competitive ways to work around this, which I’ll also explain below…

Last of all, if you complete a feature, you have to score it. You move the corresponding scoring markers along the score track. Then you return the meeple(s) on this feature back to their owner(s). The game continues with the next player’s turn, in clockwise order. So, what’s the deal with placing tiles, then? And what’s the difference between scoring, say, a city and a road?

How to Play Carcassonne - placing a road

Place Yer Meeples: Roads & Highwaymen

If you have a tile with a road on it, this tile can sit next to another road tile, further elongating that road. Once placed, if you have a meeple in your supply, you can sit it on this road, as a ‘highwayman’. Only one highwayman can occupy each individual road. They like to operate alone!

If you have no meeples left in your supply, you cannot place one on this tile right now. This also means that neither you nor anyone else will ever get a chance to place a meeple on this tile later. It’s a one-time opportunity. On the other hand, you don’t have to place one of your meeples on this tile. You have a limited number of them – and herein lies the core decisions of Carcassonne.

Roads score when both ends of them get closed off. Examples of this could be when a road meets a T-junction, or a crossroads. Some roads terminate at city walls, or a monastery. When you complete a road, count the number of tiles this road stretches along. The meeple on this road scores one point per tile. (So a road that spreads along four tiles scores four points.)

At the end of the game, there are no penalties for incomplete, meandering roads. Highwaymen still score one point per tile their road passes through, regardless.

Cities & Knights – Wall-To-Wall Action

Many of the tiles have city walls on them. If you want, you could rotate and place this tile so that it connects to (or even completes) an earlier city segment. You cannot place this tile in a manner where it would intersect a road, for example. Neither could you have it so the city walls don’t align with adjacent tiles.

Once placed, if you have a meeple in your supply, you can sit it inside the city walls as a ‘knight’. Like highwaymen and roads, only one knight may occupy a city. Some city tiles have a coat of arms on them. These are worth extra points! If you can complete a city’s walls, you must score it. You get two points per tile that the city spreads over.

If there’s any coat of arms within that city, each one scores an extra two points. (So a city that has two coats of arms in it, which spreads over four tiles, scores 12 points. That’s eight for the 4x city tiles, and an extra four points for the 2x coat of arms.) At the end of the game, incomplete cities score half: so one point per tile, and one extra point per coat of arms.

How to Play Carcassonne - placing a monastery

Monasteries & Monks  – The Lost Jane Austen Manuscript

Some tiles are monasteries, surrounded by fields and sometimes with a road leading out of it. Again, when placing a monastery, you must align it to fit in with the surrounding landscapes. If you place a meeple into this monastery, it becomes a ‘monk’. Monasteries are only ever one tile in size.

The monk stays on this monastery tile until it gets surrounded by eight other tiles. At this point, you return the meeple to your supply and claim eight points. (One per tile that surrounded the monastery.) Top tip: if the tile gods smile upon you, try to place a monastery next to another monastery! That way, someone else (or yourself) contributes towards completing it.

At the end of the game, there’s no punishment for any incomplete monasteries. They still score one point per tilesurrounding them.

Fields & Farmers – High Risk, High Points?

Sometimes, you might get a tile that isn’t of much use to you. All the roads have highwaymen on them. Your city tile doesn’t fit in any legal spots. Don’t worry, because there’s always a get-out clause. And, if you’re smart with your tile placement, it can be a lucrative one.

You can always place tiles so open fields sit next to open fields. Usually you’d stand your meeple upright on a feature, claiming it as your own. But you can lay your meeple down in a field, where it becomes a ‘farmer’. Like the other meeples, you cannot place a farmer in a pre-occupied field.

Farmers work a little differently to other meeples. You never get to take them back, so they’re a game-long investment. They only get scored at the game’s end. Once the last tile in the game gets placed, you’ll check your farmers. You score points not for the tile span of the fields. Instead, you score three points per complete city within the border of that farmer’s field. Roads are the primary point of a farmer’s border, and in rarer cases, points where dual city walls meet.

Top tip: placing a farmer early game can be a risk/reward see-saw. It’s a permanent venture, but it prevents other players from jumping in on a profitable location. The risk is other players hem your farmer in with road tiles, and it scores few or even zero points!

Oust Opponents And Pinch Points

It’s possible to share points from high-scoring features. You can even oust opponents altogether! It’s legal to place a meeple on your tile when you place it, providing it’s not encroaching on a pre-claimed feature. If you then connect and combine this feature to a neighbouring feature, such as the same road, it becomes one long road. Upon completion, if two (or more), say, highwaymen sit on this road, you both score the points for it.

Beware: this can turn into an area majority game, if you’re not careful! It can get competitive (with farmers, in particular). If a player combines a feature with an opponent and one of them has the majority of meeples within, the majority alone scores it.

How to Play Carcassonne - river

The Modular River Set-Up

As promised, there are also a couple of mini expansions in Carcassonne. If you’re playing with beginners, the above instructions are enough for your first game or two, to ease people into it. But once you’re familiar with the flow of the game, you could add in The River.

Remember those 12 dark-back tiles? Ten of them feature a river, with the other two being the river’s source, and another being a concluding lake. You use these instead of the singular Starting Tile. The source tile becomes the starting tile instead. Shuffle the ten river tiles into a stack, and place the lake at the bottom.

Players take turns drawing a river tile and adding it to a snaking design. There’s a mixture of opportunities to place meeples on roads, cities, a monastery, or as farmers on this river. The only rule is that you cannot place two corners of the river back-to-back so it flows in a u-bend. The last tile is of course the lake, which brings the river to a close. Now you have a modular layout to begin placing the light-back Carcassonne tiles, as per the base game.

How to Play Carcassonne - abbot

Much Ado Abbot Nothing

The second mini expansion features the Abbots. Give one to each player in their colour. You’ll notice that square gardens sit on some of the tiles. They’re not a primary feature like a singular road or an entire monastery. However, you treat them like a monastery, for scoring purposes…

If you draw a tile with a garden on it, the only meeple you can place on it is an Abbot. (You can also place an Abbot onto a monastery, if you want.) Gardens score identically to monasteries: one point per tile that surrounds them. The difference is that, if you decide not to place a meeple on a later turn, you can opt to recall your Abbot and score the garden/monastery for its current worth. Usually a meeple gets locked into a feature until its completion. Sometimes, tile arrangement becomes super-specific to guarantee finishing a monastery, for example. The beauty of the Abbots is their flexibility. Running low on meeples? Recall your Abbot!

 

Now you know how to play Carcassonne, one of the most successful board games of the modern era! Can’t get enough of Klaus-Jurgen Wrede’s classic? Want to throw yet another expansion into the mix? Click here to read How To Play Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Quick, simple set-up.
  • Minimal components means it is easily portable.
  • Easy to understand and teach, and can be picked up in minutes.
  • High replay-ability.
  • Various expansions available adding to replay-ability.

Might not like

  • Some element of luck due to random tile draw.
  • No means to mitigate the luck.
  • It can become competitive with games being won and loss with the farmers.