We're certainly not delusional enough to think that we're the first to come along and review Carcassonne, Rio Grande Games' tile-placing, city-building, meeple-playing, game released in 2000. But since this game consistently resides in my personal top 3 list, for a number of reasons I thought we should give it a look here at TOG. The mechanics of the game are simple: Draw a tile, place that tile, and choose whether or not to place a "meeple" or follower on it. Each tile features one or more different features—a portion of a city, a road, a cloister, or farm land. Not every tile has every feature, though. Each feature represents a different way to score, and presents multiple strategies to employ throughout the game.
Who Might Like This Game? If you're a person who likes to plan 4-5 moves in advance, this may not be the game for you...or is it? Most times you'll find yourself thinking about 4-5 moves in the future for 3 different strategies that could come into play, depending on what tile gets pulled and where it gets played. With the randomness of the tile pulls it's best to not put your eggs in a single basket.
There's plenty of discussion going on around the Internet about strategies, and when to place a follower or not, when and how many farmers you should commit, and so forth. Personally, I think the game is won and lost at the farmer scoring, but the tricky part about that is that they don't score until the game is over, so playing too many farmers too soon will leave you with no way to score points during the game.
What Makes This Game Stand Out? The ingenious mechanic that really makes the farm wars (and city wars, for that matter) so competitive is the creative gyrations one must go through in order to overthrow another player and take control of a city or a farm. Once a player has control of a city or a farm, you can't simply place a tile adding on to that city or farm and then add one of your followers. Once it's claimed, it's claimed; the only way to overtake it is to perform a maneuver my friends and I have affectionately termed "cracking in." That means placing a tile nearby with one of your meeples on it and hoping that you pull the right tile to connect your follower into the feature before your opponent pulls one that locks you out!
I know, I'm making this game sound like a thrill a minute, but once you get a few turns in you'll start to see the competition for control of cities and farmland heat up—and witness the painstaking agony of watching someone else pull "that one tile" that you REALLY needed!
Who Can Play This Game? This game is really about as family friendly as it gets; I've played it with my 6-year-old several times (the game is suggested for players ages 8 & up; I like to believe that my kid is a genius). There's no violence, or malevolent nature behind the game; you're taking on the role of builders creating cities, farms, and so forth. You aren't building brothels or dungeons or anything off-kilter; it's just a solid, fun game that will make you think and strategize, a lot!
We'll be taking a closer look at some of the many expansions available for Carcassonne in the upcoming weeks. Make sure you check back—or subscribe using that handy button on the right there...
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