European games often offer a lot of strategy and many are much more complicated than many American games. That can be a turn off for a lot of families. However, Carcassonne makes a great family game. This is a tile laying game that was designed by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede and published in 2000 in Germany. It has since then been published by Rio Grande Games in English and is available for American families to enjoy. The game offers strategy that isn't bloodthirsty, is easy for people to understanding including younger people, and is lots of fun for the whole family.
Overall, Carcassonne is a pretty simple game. It has 72 square tiles that are printed with green grass fields, white roads, cloisters (monasteries), and walled in cities. Each piece has at least two of these features (fields are found on all the squares) and fit together like puzzle pieces. One of these 72 tiles is the starting tile. It has a city, a road, and fields and is marked on the back by having a dark background with white designs rather than a light background with dark designs.
You will get a score board which is a simple curvy road that counts 0 to 49 and is used to count your points. Finally the game uses “meeples” which are small people shaped wooden pieces. There are 40 of them total with 8 of each of five colors (red, green, yellow, blue, and black). It should be noted that this is a game you really want to play at a good sized table (especially if you add expansions) and not in a little space or one that isn't hard.
How to Play Carcassonne
To start the game of Carcassonne you will want to flip over the initial starting tile and place it in the center of the table. Make sure all other pieces are shuffled together and flipped over (so no one can see what they are). Stack them in piles and place them around the table to make it easy for all the players to grab one on their turn. You will then determine who is going to go first (the choice is yours though you can use a die or some other method of choosing).
The person who goes first will pick up a tile and look at it. He or she will then place the tile next to the starter tile in a way that the features fit together (it's very much like a puzzle that goes together). They can then choose to place a meeple on the tile. At the end of each turn you will want to score any points you will receive if you complete any of your features. One thing that most groups prefer to do is draw a piece right after they have laid their last one because this allows them to look at it and decide where to place it when it's their turn next. This can speed the game up a lot, especially when playing with younger players.
There are a few rules that must be highlighted:
- You can only place one meeple per tile
- You can only place a meeple on the tile you just laid down
- Only one meeple can control a feature. If there is a meeple on the road you just added to (whether it's your meeple or not) you can not add another meeple to it. However, if a feature is later connected and there is more than one meeple on it this is acceptable (and can be a great strategy)
How the Meeples Work
It may feel a little overwhelming at first. However, this is a game that the basic game play becomes really great. Your meeples can do any of the following “jobs” though only one at a time.
Your meeple is a thief when placed on the road. A thief will stay on the road until the road is finished with two distinguishing end points. He will then score you one point for each road tile. You can then remove him (and reuse him at a later turn). If the road is not finished during the game then he will still score one point for each road tile, but he will have to remain there until the final scoring.
Your meeple is a knight when he is placed within the city. The city is finished with the wall around the city is complete and you will get two points for each city tile and two points for each blue and white pennant with in the city. You can then remove him and reuse him at another time. If the city is not completed during game play then he will get one point for each city tile and one point for each pennant at the end of the game.
Monks are placed on cloisters. The cloister is finished when it is surrounded by the eight tile spaces around it. Your monk will get 9 points for the finished cloister and can then be removed and reused. If the cloister isn't finished then he will receive one point for his tile and one point for each of the tiles in the circle around him at the end of the game.
Of all the pieces you lay, farmers are the ones that are hardest to learn. They lay down on the ground in a field (green grassy area) rather than standing on his feet. He will not be moved or scored till the end of the game and therefore can't be reused at any point in the game. However, he can score three points for each completed city. Fields are separated by roads and sometimes cities. You want to find out which fields are connected when determining who owns a field.
While you can't place more than one meeple on a tile at a time, there are ways to end up with more meeples on a feature. For example, if one person is working on building a city and he or she has a meeple there and someone else starts a city near by where the two don't connect and places their meeple they are following the rules. If they then connect their city to the other one there are now two meeples in the city. Whenever there is more than one meeple on a feature they have the possibility of sharing the points or even taking them from the other person. When there are more than one meeple on a feature you will want to follow these rules before scoring.
- Determine who owns the feature. If one person has more meeples than the others on a feature than they are the owner of the feature. If more than one person has the same number (and no one has more) than they all own the feature.
- Score it. The person or persons who own the feature get all the points. They do not split the points, but rather each person gets to move forward the same total.
Whenever a feature is finished it is scored during the game play and the meeple gets to be reused. At the end of the game you can take turns scoring the leftovers. Often it is easiest to score all of one color at one time (except the farmers) and removing them from the board. Then figure out what farmers own what fields and then score them.
Carcassonne is a great game that can help you grow as a game player. It has a lot of strategy with a simple game play and can be lots of fun for players of all different abilities. You will develop your own strategies as you play and can spend hours laying down the pieces and playing the game!