Sunday, December 18, 2011

Carcassonne Review

I store my game and expansions in a tackle box
I purchased at Walmart for ~$5

  • Designed by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede
  • Published in the U.S. by Rio Grande Games
  • Plays with 2-5 players (6 with the Inns & Cathedrals Expansion)
  • Plays is around an hour, depending on expansions and number of players.

Carcassonne or “Carc” as I will now call it is an older game, published in 2000, which makes it old in modern game sense.  It’s commonly placed in the trio of “gateway games” alongside Catan and Ticket to Ride.  Carc is a tile-laying game, which is exactly what it sounds like.  On your turn you simply draw a tile, add it to the board and then you can place one of your meeples on a feature to score points on a future turn.  You play until all the tiles have been played, then you figure out who had the most points.
Meeples - Amazing.  If nothing else, you can stack them and do different things with them while you wait for your turn which is handy in a game.  The tiles are thick and great quality.
The tile bag, which comes with the Traders and Builders Expansion is great quality and holds just about every tile made so far.
Score - 10/10
Highlighting some of the tiles with Yellow on the city,
Black and Blue on roads and Red and Green on cloisters.
Game Mechanics

Stacks of tiles, the top left shows a volcano tile from P&D,
the stack below it a Tower, and the the right a tile from the
Games Quarterly small expansion
I talked about mechanics in the open, but to recap, you draw a tile, place it, then throw a meeple on that tile if you can.  Several expansions add to that idea in terms of features on tiles, but the basic ones are cities, roads, farms and cloisters/monasteries.  Cities, roads and monasteries score when they’re complete, while farms don’t score until the end of the game.  This leads to a good balance between in-game scoring and end-game scoring.  Players have to take to both if they want to win, because focusing on only one will usually lead to a loss. The mechanics aren’t that deep, but there is depth to the game, and the tile laying concept is best done in Carc, so for that my score for mechanics is a 9/10.

Player Interaction
My first instinct is to say that there isn’t a lot of player interaction, but then I realized that there actually is.  While you can’t add directly to another player’s feature, you can try to get in and either share, or take it over.  Of course someone is more likely to share if they have to as opposed to doing everything they can to avoid a takeover.  The way in which players go about sharing has a large impact on multi-player games.  You can also place a tile in a way that makes it difficult, or perhaps even impossible for an opponent to complete their city.  This is delightfully fun at times, but is also likely to have the favor returned.
I give it a 9/10 for a lot of freedom in how you interact.
The Twist
Not much of a twist to Carc.  Expansions certainly do some different things, but those add complexity rather than a twist.
Learning Curve - Short  
I’d say this is one of the simplest games to teach someone, since the basic rules are so simple.  Expansions turn it into a short-medium learning curve, but at that point someone has had a game or two under their belt.
Why I like this game
It’s a giant puzzle, and by that I mean that I enjoy creating the board.  It’s fun to see something develop.  It’s also fun to figure out how to share as much as you can while managing your limited supply of meeples.
Why I don't like this game
Some of the expansions serve only to lengthen the game, or add a lot of complexity without doing something for the game.
Expansion Talk
I’ve made reference to some expansions, but I’m going to collect them in this little segment.
  • Inns and Cathedrals is a must get for the game.
  • Traders and Builders is probably my favorite, though it’s diminished slightly.  It still gives an interesting twist in completing other player’s cities to earn the trade goods, which can yield up to 30 points at the end of the game.
  • Princess and the Dragon.  I really like the dragon once in awhile. It basically negates farming, but it leads to interesting maps.  The princess is really needy, like Rapunzel from Tangled, except without the endearing smile and character growth.  The princess throws meeples out of cities, which is just really annoying.
  • The Tower is one I’ve never played.  I think that it serves to prolong the game without adding anything that interesting to it.
  • The River and River 2 does a lot for the early game.  It gives you some actual choices to start, and speeds up the game overall.
  • The Count makes things a bit more personal, and it lengthens things out.

I could go on and on about expansions. If there’s a specific one you’d like to know more about, leave a comment, and I’ll respond.
The Dragon with a Red and Blue
Meeple running for their lives

I give the overall game an 8.5/10.
It’s a game I enjoy, but I don’t play much.  It’s tough to score it without taking expansions into account.  I’ve never played a game without Inns and Cathedrals, and as far as I’m concerned, the basic game should include I&C.

Will you like this game?
If you like puzzles, you should enjoy Carc.  Also if you’re looking for a fun game for two players that can play with more, this works well.  If you’re looking for a lot of theme in your game, it’s not here.
Final Thought
Carcassonne is one of the few games that I’ve been able to play with just about anyone interested in games.  It’s also served to get some of my family members interested in playing games, which is always a plus.
I think it’s something you should give a try if you haven’t played it, but it’s not like you’re missing an amazing game if you don’t play it.  That isn’t to say that Carc isn’t fun, I rather enjoy it and would gladly play a game with anyone who’s interested.

Want to buy Carcassonne or some expansions?

1 comment:

  1. I'd definitely be interested in trying out a game of Carc sometime just because it's so famous and sounds really simple. Good job with the plethora of pictures :-D