by Josh Vollmer

 Carcassonne is a tile-based board game designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and published in English by Z-Man Games, who just recently acquired the rights from long time publisher Rio Grande Games. The game’s name is derived from a fortified town in the south of France which is known for its city walls and beautiful countryside. Since its release in 2000, its popularity has spawned well over a dozen expansions, mini-expansions and spinoffs, not to mention multiple digital incarnations on PC, iOS and others. Carcassonne is also available as an Xbox Live Arcade game.

Game play consists of two to five players building a countryside with the 72 tiles included in the base version of the game. Players take turns randomly selecting a tile and placing it adjacent to the starting tile, or one of the other tiles in play. Each tile has different elements on it such as city walls, roads, fields and chapels or cloisters. Players must orientate the tiles in such a way so they compliment any other tiles they touch, so roads have to connect to roads, fields to fields, and walls to walls.

Once per turn the player is also allowed to claim a feature on the tile they played, whether it’s city, chapel, road or field, by playing one of their tokens. Once that particular element is completed, points are scored, and the token comes off the board and can now be used again. Roads are completed by connecting two locations, and are worth one point per tile. Cities are finished completing a surrounding wall, and are worth two points per tile, three if there’s a pennant on the tile. Chapels are completed by being completely surrounded by eight tiles on all sides and corners, and are worth eight points. Tokens that are played on fields are scored at the end of the game, and cannot be recovered and reused, so token conservation is an important strategy to learn.

Although the game play is relatively simple, several other strategies will become evident as well after a couple of games. For one, there is a limited number of each tile layout so it pays to know the tiles, or to at least have an idea of what pieces are more likely to come out compared to others. Also, not every tile combination is represented in the game, so it’s possible to block your foes, or yourself, from completing a city or road, essentially stranding any tokens place there on the board for the remainder of the game. It’s also possible to share roads or cities. While players can’t place a token on a feature that’s already been claimed, it is possible to connect two claimed roads or cities with a well placed tile. Watch out though, if your opponent has more tokens in a field or city than you do, they’ll get all the credit for it.

Once the last tile is placed, the round is scored. Players earn points for any claimed elements, even if they’re unfinished. Roads are still a point per tile, but unfinished cities are only worth a point per tile, instead of two. Unfinished chapels are worth one point per tile surrounding it. Fields are only scored at the end of the game. If you control a field at the end of the game, you get three points for every completed city that field touches.

The game is a Spiel des Jahres award winner, which means ‘Game of the Year’ in German. It’s an award that mainly focuses on family style games, eschewing collectible card games, role playing games, and other complicated, or conflict based games. It’s easy to understand why Carcassonne is a stand out in such a field. In fact, its broad appeal and simple mechanics are two reasons why many consider Carcassonne to be an ideal ‘gateway game’ to introduce new players into board gaming as a hobby.

Come into Slackers today and check out Carcassonne and our selection of its expansions and spin-offs  If your cardboard allergy has been acting up, come in, pick up an Xbox Live points card and download the Live Arcade game instead. Either way you play, this game comes highly recommended.