Game Length: 45 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 2 cutthroat players, or 3-5 players who want a lighter game of co-operation
Carcassonne is a tile-laying game where players take turns putting together a French countryside, building roads, cities and monasteries and gaining points upon their completion.
Carcassonne is one of the most iconic modern board games, and we owe the modern concept of the ‘Meeple’ to the game. For the uninitiated, a Meeple is essentially a two-dimensional silhouette cut from wood to make a playing piece – usually representing people, but sometimes representing resources, animals or all manner of other things. Meeples have taken the boardgaming world by storm since Carcassonne, and it is common for games originally featuring plain cubes to have upgrades available that replace those cubes with Meeples.
In Carcassonne, players will take turns drawing a tile from the bag, then choose a place connected to the existing tiles to place the new tile. Upon placing the tile, the player may also decide to put a meeple on one of the features of the tile – such as a road, city, monastery or field. Once the meeple is down, it cannot be taken back up again until the feature has been fully constructed. If you put too many meeples down on projects that don’t finish (and fields never finish, only being scored at the end of the game), you risk being unable to put down meeples on later tiles that you draw from the bag – preventing you from gaining points.
However, you can’t just put your meeples down anywhere. You can only place a meeple on a feature that is not already claimed by another player. There’s nothing stopping two meeples from being on the same feature if they happen to grow together though, and in that case the players who own the most meeples in that feature both gain the points for completing it.
Carcassonne is a delightful, light game but also has a cutthroat side. You can position tiles such that another player will never be able to complete their monastery, trapping their meeple for the rest of the game. You can edge in on someone else’s city and share their points, or outright take them away by getting more of your meeples in there. These tactics are much more prevalent in a two player game, where you are playing to prevent your opponent from scoring as much as to score yourself, whereas in 3-5 player games it is more likely that two or more players will team up to complete a large city.
Carcassonne also has a huge range of expansions available. Some of these can detract from play but others add considerably, and it is generally recommended to play with the Inns and Cathedrals and Traders and Builders expansions once you understand the basic game, as these add tactical elements that give the game extra depth.