Hailed by many as a modern classic, Carcassonne is a game that alluded me for many years. My gateway into the medium was Dominion and my board game travels just took me elsewhere. Finally, the stars aligned and I got a chance to try it out.
Players are tasked with working together to build the town of Carcassonne one tile at a time. By the end of the game, the town will sprawl across your table with roads, cities, monasteries, fields and rivers. As each player randomly draws a tile and adds it to the town, they have the opportunity to claim a landmark on that tile by placing a meeple on it. Whenever a landmark is completed, such as a city with a full perimeter of walls, that landmark is scored immediately and the meeple is returned to the player. If all the tiles run out and certain landmarks are incomplete, they are scored as-is at the end. The player with the most points after everything has been tallied up wins.
I love the way in which the tiles interlock with each other to allow for cities that vary in look each time you play. It’s a very clever mechanism that I’ve seen ripped off before in Oceania. Unlike that game, however, Carcassonne doesn’t take place on a fixed board, allowing the town to grow in a more organic fashion.
This also lends itself really well to all of the unique ways that one can impact scoring. Tiles are drawn at random, but where they’re placed, the orientation of the tile when it’s placed, and if/where you place your meeple can greatly impact scoring. There are a number of interesting decisions to make as far as where you’d place your meeple in hopes of scoring the most points, where to place a tile to cut an opponent’s scoring opportunity short, or where to place a tile to prevent someone from scoring at all.
Many years after its original release, I’m glad to now have Carcassonne experience under my belt. The game is very clever in concept and execution, easy to teach and one that can easily be played again and again. I also love looking at the final town to see how much different it ends up being from the previous time it was played. The base game may have felt a little too basic for my taste, though I’m certain that the dozens of expansions for the game do more than enough to address that. This may be an oldie that shows its age a little bit, but it’s certainly a goodie in its base form.