A to Z Gaming: Carcassonne

On to the Cs in our A to Z game shelf play-through! Progress! The first C game we played was Carcassonne.

Basic Info: Carcassonne
Players: 2-5
Time: 30-45 Minutes
Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Artist: Doris Matthäus, Anne Pätzke, Chris Quilliams, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Publisher:  Rio Grande Games (our copy)

 

 

Carcassonne is a tile-laying game where you are building a landscape full of roads, villages, and cloisters all surrounded by pastures. Each turn, players draw and play a single tile, following a couple of simple rules – the newly-laid tile must match at least one side of another tile and the specific landscape features must match. So, city must match city, roads must match roads, and pastures must match pastures.

Each player also has a set of followers – meeples in their player-color. As players lay their tiles, they have the option of playing a follower on the newly-played tile. Thieves haunt the roads, knights protect the cities, monks hang out in cloisters, and farmers work in the pastures. You can only place a follower on a location not already occupied by another follower (from any other player). It’s possible that a location with two different followers will join-up later, and at that point, you want to have the most followers (or tie for the most) to claim the points.

Thieves, knights, and monks can return to your “hand” once a road is completed, a city is completed, or the land around a cloister has been laid. They are then available to become whatever you need for future tiles you play. However, farmers remain throughout the game, and only score at the end.

We tried out one of the expansions as well – traders and builders. This adds a two new meeples – a pig and a builder. The pigs add points to what the farmer earns in the same field, but only if the player has the majority of farmers (as with the normal game). The builder is a way to get to place an additional tile on your turn. Also added to the game are new city pieces with the symbols of either wheat, cloth, or whiskey. The player who *completes* a city gets pieces matching each trade symbol in that city – it doesn’t matter who has their knight in that city. (The knight scores as usual.)

Carcassonne is one of the first games we ever purchased, and, really, one of the first board games we played that wasn’t Monopoly, Pictionary, or the like.

I especially enjoy the challenge of deciding when and where to put followers. The thieves don’t score a lot (one point for each tile that makes up the road they are on), but they can come back to your “hand” quickly, since it’s fairly easy to finish a road. The knights score more, and some cities are easy to finish, but if a city gets too large, or the surrounding tiles to require just the right thing to finish a city, they could be stuck until the end of the game.

The farmers…well…you need to get some out early, since you can’t put them in pastures already occupied by another farmer, but you want the most in any given pasture. Your farmers are then stuck until the end of the game, but they have the potential for a lot of points.

Finally, you want to make sure you have one follower available if you pull a cloister from the bag – they are worth up to 9 points, which can be huge.

The draw-and-play mechanism for the tiles themselves is a bit frustrating, since you can’t really plan ahead. I’ve heard that some people play with a variant where they hold a hand of a few tiles, then on their turn they draw one and play any of the tiles in their hand. I keep meaning to try this, but often don’t remember until partway into the game!

Despite having this game for over a decade, though, it was the first time we took out the traders expansion (!). It added an interesting element, in that it gives you an incentive to close a city, even if you don’t have knights there, since the majority of each trading good at the end of the game is worth 10 points. On the other hand, we didn’t feel like it was a necessary expansion that we’ll play all the time. Maybe it would be different with more players, so perhaps we’ll pull it out the next time it comes out on game day.

How is it as a 2-player game?  Carcassonne is okay as a 2-player game. I find that in our 2-player games, we tend to each have our own side of the “board” that we concentrate on. With higher player counts, there is a lot more interaction with others and “fights” over pastures.

How about the art and component quality?  The components are nice. The tiles are a heavy cardboard, the meeples are well-made. Our score track got warped somehow, but I think that’s on us, not the quality of the component itself. The art is also nice and all of the pieces are thematic, including the expansions that we have.

Will this stay in my collection?  Absolutely. We like this game. And our copy has been played a lot, often at our game nights. That’s in part because we like the game, but also it plays more than 4 players.

 

 

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