All a Board — Carcassonne

In my last board game review, I shared a list of classic gateway boardgames. This time, I’m reviewing the board game that was my gateway into the non-digital gaming world. Carcassonne got me hooked on collecting board games. The game made my head spin, but that’s also one of the main reasons why I love it so much. I was plotting at every turn, and trying to determine the consequence of every action. It’s a game that forces you to keep track of every inch of the board. You’re consistently on your toes because your opponent’s actions could greatly impact yours. — That 7-tile, almost-completed city you just spent the last 20 turns building? Well, it’s never going to get finished now because your opponent just placed an inconvenient tile next to it. Too bad.

Carcassonne is a German-style board game designed by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede. I purchased the English version, which is published by Z-Man Games. This board game is tile-based and has no base board. Instead, users create the “board” themselves by placing a tile piece during their turn.

The version of Carcassonne that I purchased included a mini River expansion, which gives you extra tiles that form a river. In addition, each player also gets an abbot meeple.


A quick overview of the gameplay:

carcassonne-2

This game can be played by 2 to 5 players, or 6 to 8 players if you get one of the many expansion packs available. To start, each player gets 8 meeples, where 1 of them must be used as your score marker. All the tile pieces are shuffled and laid faced down.

During each turn, a player draws a tile and then decides where on the board he/she should place it. The placed tile must match the landscape of the tile piece next to it. The player then decides if they would like to place their meeple on a feature, which consists of:

  • a road area to build a road
  • a city area to build a city
  • a church to build a monastery
  • lay their meeple down flat on a green surface to build a farm

Keep in mind that players can only place a meeple on the tile that they just placed, and the feature cannot already be occupied by another meeple.

At the end of the game, everything is tallied up and the player with the most points is the winner.


My experience with Carcassonne:

I left out the mini River expansion during my first Carcassonne round, and found the gameplay to be fairly simple. I greatly recommend starting out without the expansion, in order to get a better hang of the game first. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the game play, it’s fun to add the River, which will increase the complexity to another level. After I included the River, I never played without it again.

This game can get extremely cut throat. My partner and I bought the game together by peer recommendation, and neither of us have played this game prior to purchasing. However, being extremely competitive individuals, the gameplay was intense and stressful from the start. We were constantly tracking each move, tile placement, and looking for ways to screw up the opponent. The box said 35 minutes gameplay time, but it takes us well over an hour each time.

Pros

– The replay value is great. Since you’re building a new “board” each time you play, the game is different each time. There are weekends where I’ve played this game multiple times in one evening. The first time, my opponent and I were focused on blocking each other from getting the biggest piece of farmland. The second time, we were focused on taking over each other’s unfinished cities.

– Even after having played the game dozens of times, I’m still discovering new strategies almost every time I play.

– It’s so easy to learn and the set-up time is minimal. All you have is a score board, meeples, and tiles.

– The game doesn’t cost as much as most other board games, and there are so many great expansions out there to add a different experience and level of complexity.

Cons

– Try to play this game on a large flat surface. Since you are building the board, you don’t really know where it will end up. I’ve had the board end up at the edge of the table because the tiles kept being added in one direction.

– The turn-based draws are random, and you never know which tile you will get next. This means that sometimes you may lose the game because of ONE. FREAKING. TILE. Like the time when I needed that one unique tile, but my opponent ended up drawing it and I lost out on over a dozen points. Darn.

Annie is the Online Community Coordinator for Link Magazine and a student in BCIT's New Media Design & Web Development program. She is also a BCIT 2014 grad in the Marketing Management Diploma program. Coming from a sales and marketing background, Annie has done work for start-ups and a major hotel company. Outside of school and work, she enjoys playing board games, yoga, cooking up a new recipe, trying out new craft beer, and trying to finish up a painting that's been in progress for nearly two years.

asheng@bcitsa.ca