Friday, April 02, 2010

Miscellany: Carcassonne review

The best European-style board games tap into the intrinsic fun of building things. I guess there's just something fundamentally satisfying about laying your railroad routes in "Ticket to Ride" or plopping down cities in "Settlers of Catan." Some American games do have the same mechanic, but they also usually introduce an element of capitalist risk: you can go bankrupt and lose all your property in "Monopoly," for instance. With Eurogames, no matter how poorly you play, the things you set down usually persist.

"Carcassonne," designed by Klaus-J├╝rgen Wrede, is one of the most popular Eurogames, and it makes bulding the gameworld the central focus of play. "Carcassonne" won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award in 2001, and a seemingly endless tide of expansion sets, standalone semi-sequels, and spinoffs have kept the game at the forefront of the casual German-style board game community to this day.

The rules are pretty simple. Each player takes turns placing square land tiles. There are several possible landscape features - cities, roads, fields, etc. - and each new tile must correspond to what is already in play. After laying down the tile, you can "claim" it by placing a follower on it. Complete any terrain feature that includes a square with your follower on it and you get points.

In spite of its tactical simplicity and heavy dependence on luck, "Carcassonne" is fun for all ages because laying out the game's "board" is so tactile. The heavy cardboard land tiles look appealing and have a pleasing texture. The little wooden follower figurines (nicknamed "meeple") are cute and well-made. Even the game's scorecard is interesting - you place a token on a continously numbered track instead of merely jotting down your score:

"Carcassonne" is often cited as a "gateway game" to introduce newcomers to European-style board games, but it's fun in its own right, too. So, if you're in the mood for a (very) light strategy game that the whole family can play, you pretty much can't go wrong with "Carcassonne" or one of its many progeny.


At 12:15 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

a friend of mine has this game and likes it.

I also have Ticket To Ride.


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