Carcassonne is an interesting game in my collection because I bought the app before I purchased the physical game. And I’ll admit that I like the app version a bit better simply for the scoring (because it takes care of it for you). Regardless, I think this is a great tabletop game for two players. (And yes, you can play it with up to 5 players but I’m rather impatient when it comes to waiting to take my turn.)
Carcassonne is named after the walled city in Southern France. In the game you’ll be creating a landscape filled with fortified cities, cloisters, roads and fields to make a lovely board dotted with little wooden meeples. The first time I saw the game it sort of reminded me of a little kid’s puzzle with the way the pieces fit together, but when I played I was really thrilled with the strategy involved.
The goal of the game is to have the most points at the end (obvious but important). There are 72 tiles in Carcassonne and each player is given 7 meeples in their color. A tile is placed face-up in the center of the playing area and players will build off of it. On their turn, players draw the top tile from the stack and add it to the board by placing it next to a tile to connect a similar feature. Points are awarded for completed cities, cloisters and roads during the game, but any unfinished features as well as all fields are scored at the end of the game. To claim a feature, a player can place one of their 7 meeples on a portion of their tile as they place it. They cannot claim an area that is already claimed by another player – but you can steal it over a few turns through clever tile placement. Once a city is completed, a player can remove their meeple and they collect two point per tile and plus two points bonus for any pennants. Roads are completed when they begin and end in cities or villages, and it is one point per tile. Cloisters are scored once tiles completely surround them and they score nine points, one for the cloister and one for each of the tiles surrounding it. Fields and all unfinished roads, cities, and cloisters are scored at the end once the last tile has been played. For fields, three points are awarded per meeple for each of the completed city touching the field. Cloisters and roads are scored normally but you only receive half the points you would for a city.
The scoring is the most complex part of this game – especially since the fields can cause some confusion for beginning players. It can be hard to see which fields connect and where they stop. Often fields become connected during the game, but the field is only scored by the player with the MOST meeples in it. Fields are really a key part to the game since once a meeple is placed in a field it stays there, but you can score big points at the end if you’ve got a few meeples in a field with a lot of cities.
Overall, I really enjoy Carcassonne with two or three players. I think it’s a lovely mix of strategy with a little luck in getting a useful piece at the right time. It can get a bit long with more than 3 players. (I can’t stand waiting for my turn but there are plenty of other players who are just fine with it.) I’ve also played a few of the extensions and while they add time to the length of the game I find that I rather enjoy adding one in if I’ve got the time (Traders and Builders is my favorite if you’re curious).
~$35 Carcassonne at Amazon and your local game store
Ages 8 and up