In this week’s issue of The Robot Plays, I want to talk about a classic that I’ve been playing for quite some time. It’s a game that manages to find itself on the table again and again and again, no matter who I’m playing with: Carcassonne by Z-Man Games (formerly published by Rio Grande Games).
If you’ve never played the game, I’d highly recommend you give it a go. It’s on my list of the top 10 games any gamer should own (I should definitely getting around to publishing that list on here soon!), and for good reason. It’s easy to learn and difficult to master, and it’s highly replayable. I’ve played probably fifty times at least, and it’s still as fun as it was the first time I played.
Players take turns drawing a random square tile and placing it onto the existing tiles, to create the countryside of Carcassonne. There’s a few rules about how you can place your tile (you have to line up roads with roads and cities with cities) and then you can decide if you want to place one of your seven meeples on that tile. (Fun Fact: the term “meeple” originates from Carcassonne!) Placing a meeple on a road, city, monastery, or field allows you to claim it – scoring victory points when that feature is completed (or in the case of fields, at the end of the game). Roads are completed by giving it a definitive beginning and end point. Cities are completed by creating a fully walled-off section with the city artwork. And monasteries are completed when they’re fully surrounded by any 8 tiles. And that’s pretty much it! There are numerous expansions to the game that add different mechanics, but the core of the game is 1) lay a tile, 2) place a meeple if you want to, and 3) score points.
The game is all about tile placement (obviously), but there’s a heavy element of press-your-luck. Do you go for smaller features (worth fewer points) that you’re likely to score easily? Or do you go for larger features (worth more points) that you may not wind up completing?
Carcassonne is a great beer-and-pretzels game, and it’s also a great family game – it’s simple enough for seven or eight year olds to grasp the core strategies. I would have devoured this game if it was a thing when I was a kid. And it’s not as stressful as chess! 😛
Carcassonne represents the best of the best of tabletop games. It’s a classic that never gets old.
Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,