Reviewed by Jenny Bray
This game has been a huge hit in my house. I love it as much as my 3 children do. It arrived at the end of the week, so we had plenty of time over the weekend to test it out.
The game arrived well packed, so it was perfect inside. The box was sealed in plastic but that was the only plastic. The box and full contents are cardboard with wooden pieces. The box depicts a man and woman in a castle, looking over land with other features in the distance, which is an artist’s portrayal of the game. The name has the first C as the same style as the back of the tile pieces. The back of the box shows the actual game pieces and a brief overview of the game. It is suitable for ages 7 and up, for 2 to 5 players and says it takes around 35 minutes to play. The back of the box also has a picture of the designer, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, with a bit of background about him.
Carcassonne, for those that don’t know, is a French city known for its medieval fortress with various watchtowers and forts that became famous during crusades.
The game is a strategy one combining skill and luck. It is based in medieval times, with 84 land tiles with various things on including roads, parts of cities and monasteries. There are then lots of little wooden people, called ‘meeple’, 40 in total with 8 each in black, blue, red, green and yellow. Each colour also has one Abbot piece. There is also a scoreboard, for which 1 meeple for each player is placed to keep score as the game progresses. The instructions are across 5 full sides of near A4 size paper, although they incorporate illustrations to help you get the hang of the game. I definitely had to regularly check them at first! There is also then a further 2 sides of instructions for supplementary rules around farmers and for the rules around the 2 expansions included with this game; the river tiles and the Abbotts.
The meeples are quite small so this wouldn’t be a game that could be played where very young children could reach it. The main tile pieces are also cardboard so wouldn’t survive being chewed or sucked by smaller children or enthusiastic pets! This is currently the only slightly negative thing I can think of to say about this game, although I personally like that it is made of cardboard and wood so not contributing yet more plastic to the environment.
The concept of the game is to achieve the highest score by creating the largest cities, putting a meeple as a highwayman to score points for the length of road between features or placing a monastery and scoring points for landscape around it. It seemed quite tricky the first time we played it, and we weren’t quite sure what to do when cities ended up joining up with more than one person’s meeple occupying it. However, we all started to get the hang of it by game two, which came straight after game one. By game five, which also took place during the same sitting, showing how keen we all were to get the hang of it and how enticed my children were with it, we all knew what we were doing and how to score things.
There is a specific starting tile which has 1 road running from side to side and the start of a city on. The first player then picks a piece from the piles of other pieces. Once the tile is placed, they have the option to place a meeple to lay claim to a feature on the tile, which may be road, city or monastery. Play then continues with the next person picking a tile and deciding whether to place a meeple and so on from player to player until the tiles run out.
The key competition we encountered was in forming decent sized cities and completing them before the game finished to get more points for them. A city is only scored during the game when all walls are complete and continuous around the city. Scoring is then 2 points per tile with city on with an extra 2 points for each piece that also has a shield on. If a city is not finished by the end of the game, then the scoring is only 1 point per tile with a city piece on. There is only 1 piece which is a city piece with no edges so huge expanding cities cannot be made, they need to be of slightly odd, wavy designs.
Roads are scored once there is a feature starting and ending it and 1 point is scored for each piece of road once completed. Monasteries are scored with 1 point per tile directly surrounding it and 1 point for the monastery tile itself, so 9 in total if fully surrounded.
As mentioned, the biggest point scoring is the creation of large cities, especially if they include pieces with shields on. However, many city pieces also have road on them, and roads must continue to form flowing landscape above city formation. If a piece has a city on but no road, then it must also be used to assist an existing city and not used to start a new one. This led to lots of competition between us all!
Due to limited meeples you need to carefully plan where to use them. Once a feature is complete then you get the meeple back but until or unless that happens the meeple stays on the board and you may well run out.
We’ve had this game for less than a week yet have reached for it every day and I’ve already been looking at the various expansion packs you can buy to extend the game further as it’s been such a hit. I’m also pleased to report that, if you have competitive children at different ages like I do, it is almost as easy for the youngest (8 year old in my case) to get the hang of it and score well as for older children. I’m a huge fan of board games and using them for family entertainment rather than any form of screens. This game would make a brilliant present for other families who feel the same and still value the joy that a board game brings. I could equally see it being played amongst just adults. I’d recommend it for a slightly different and quirky Christmas or birthday gift. I can see it coming out after the Christmas dinner this year.
Rating: I therefore rate it 5/5
RRP: is £36.99.
However, there are various online deals available. This game can currently be purchased via Amazon for £24.99 here.