What you get: 72 tiles, 1 score table, 40 wood followers in 5 colours, 4 sheets of instructions.
Did you ever have a hankering to be a medieval county planner or maybe you have a yearning to be a landscape gardener? Well, yearn no more. ‘Carcassonne’ is the game for you. It’s also fun if you just want to play a fast and easy, entry-level board game of a rainy winter eve.
A German game in origin, it’s named after the fortified medieval town of Carcassonne in southern France. The object is to build a medieval landscape using 72 tiles. One tile is placed face up and the others face down. Each turn, players pick a random tile and place it next to any face-up tile that has already been placed making sure that fields go next to fields walls next to walls and so on.
Basically, the idea is to build roads, castles, fields, etc and ‘claim’ them by putting followers on the particular area of terrain in order to gain points. You are however limited to 7 followers, so you have to think carefully where and when you place them. Different completed features earn different points, for instance it’s 2pts per tile for a city and 1pt per tile for a road. Followers are also known at ‘meeple’, short for medieval people I imagine, but don’t quoth me on that, sirrah. Anyhow, whoever has the most points when all the tiles have been used, wins.
‘Carcassonne’ is a very easy game and can be played right out of the box, which is great for younger children. Even those as young as six or seven years old can grasp it with adult help although don’t you oldsters fret, you can play tactically and squeeze a little more game out of it if you’re into steeple-fingered strategising. It’s a co-operative none co-operative game, in that you have to add to the landscape at the same time as cutting-up your fellow players and attempting to limit their options while increasing your own.
Other than tile and follower placement, that’s about all there is to it, so it’s not a game where there’s much danger of friends falling out or spending hours poring over forums searching for the definitive of an ambiguously worded card. There’s always ‘Talisman’ for that, right? ‘Carcassonne’ is an excellent family game as it’s hard to ‘spoil’ it by the thoughtless actions of guileless children (so annoying) or overly competitive parents *ahem!*. Your schemes are limited to whatever tile you pick up and where you can place it.
As much fun as we’ve had playing it over the last couple of weeks, I’m sure that after a while it might become a little repetitive but have no fear, there are plenty of expansions such as Inns and Cathedrals (originally known as ‘Carcassonne: The Expansion’, ‘Carcassonne: Traders And Builders’, ‘Carcassonne: The Princess And The Dragon’) and plenty more that should keep any wannabe world builder happy for hours. The cards are nicely drawn and the wooden counters are simple but tactile. All in all, ‘Carcassonne’ is splendidly easy and an ideal way to introduce younglings to strategy games as well as entertaining adult players.
K T Davies
(original pub: Rio Grande Games 2000. Currently published by Z-Man Games. Price: £24.99 (UK))
Info: Players 2-5. Playing time: 40-60 minutes. Suggested playing age 8+
check out website: www.zm