Friday, March 02, 2007

Carcasonne: It's new to me

I had a lovely evening on my birthday: Tanya took me to a casual nearby restaurant, where she unveiled the game Carcassonne, and we played a couple of games on the spot.

Carcassone is one of the set of German boardgames that you see in the comics shops in recent years. I didn't know that it's kind of the icon of these games. The games have beautiful materials and neat abstractions; Carcassone is one of the simpler ones.

You can learn the rules in minutes, and my 7 and 9 year old were able to play. You're building structures (illustrated as cities, roads, and fields), but you do this by pulling a random tile from the face-down set. You place your new tile somewhere so that its sides match existing tiles. Then you can choose to place a marker on the tile, or not. Those are your only choices.

Your tile can have a field, cloister, city, or road on it. If you place a marker, you're claiming the field/cloister/city/road. If the tile has more than one of those, you've got to pick one to claim. When a road or city is complete, you can collect your markers and get the points for the structure. If it's a cloister you've claimed, it has only one tile, but is complete when it is completely surrounded.

If you place a marker in a field, you're placing a farmer, who stays in place until the end of the game, when you claim points based on the cities your farmer's field is contiguous with.

Okay, the farmer thing is a little complicated, but it's the only thing that is, and it's elegant. You want to place farmers near the end game, so that you keep markers available, but you want to claim fields that are open and reach many cities. It's a big part of the strategy.

When you've played a game you end up with a pretty structure of cities and roads and fields. Note that no dice are used, and turns go fast. The game can be played by two or more. It's notable in being a good two-player game.

This game has been around a while, but I'd never played it before. I love it; any game I can play with my kids and all of us enjoy gets points from me.

There's a page about the game at BoardgameGeek, and even a strange site devoted to the wooden people used as markers in the game, called Meeples.

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