How to Play Carcassonne
If you’re looking to move away from traditional board games and find something more challenging, learning how to play Carcassonne is a step in the right direction. In this award-winning tile laying game named after the famous and fortified French city, players attempt to score points by occupying farmland and constructing roads, cloisters, and cities.
Carcassonne has enjoyed a high level of success since it was designed by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede and published in 2000. Rio Grande Games publishes the English-language version, and the wooden “meeples” that represent followers have become synonymous with sophisticated games produced in Europe.
Numerous Carcassonne expansions, mini-expansions, compilations, and spin-offs have been released, and video game versions are available on the Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo DS, smartphones, the iPhone, and the iPad. While new players are encouraged to begin with the basic set, Carcassonne veterans will enjoy the opportunity to build inns and cathedrals, corner the market on new commodities, and even bring a pig into play.
This article offers an overview of how to play Carcassonne, and it also discusses a number of the most popular strategies and tactics for the game.
The basic box set comes with terrain tiles, a scoring table, 40 wooden followers (popularly known as “meeples”), and four sheets of Carcassonne instructions. Anywhere from two to five players can participate in the game, although user reviews indicate that it works best with two players. The average playing time for Carcassonne is 45 minutes, and it is suitable for players over eight years of age.
In order to win the game, scores are added up after the last tile has been placed on the board. At this stage, points are awarded to players with the most followers on each feature (such as fields, roads, cities, or cloisters). In case of a tie, players with a stake in a feature all receive full points. The player with the most points wins the game.
Since it’s often referred to as a “gateway game,” it should come as little surprise that the Carcassonne rules are easy to learn. In this section, we will provide an overview of the major elements of the game, although I suggest you read the four-page Carcassonne rules contained in the box prior to beginning play.
Before the start of the game, all 72 terrain tiles are shuffled face-down on the table. One of these is drawn and placed in the center of the playing surface to begin the game. On the turn of each player, another tile is drawn from the stack and added to the board. It must, however, be played in a way that matches the tile it’s joined to (field to field, city to city, or road to road). If the tile cannot be legally played, the tile is discarded and a new one is drawn.
After placing a tile, a player may then elect to place a follower there. While you will not be able to claim features controlled by another player, this option may allow you to share in the benefits of features claimed by opposing players.
Only one follower may be deployed per turn, and this wooden figure comes from the player’s color-coded pool. The follower may only be placed on the tile that was just played, although they cannot place a “meeple” on a segment if that segment connects to another tile or segment that already contains a follower.
Players may continue to place tiles after their pool of followers has been depleted, although they won’t be able to place new followers until followers in play are returned to their pool. This will occur when roads, cities, or cloisters are completed and scored. Farmers placed in a field are never returned during the game.
While luck does play a large factor in Carcassonne, strategy can also help you achieve victory. This section is devoted to some of the most popular tactics in the game, and beginning players are encouraged to experiment and find the strategy that best suits their style of play.
Manage Your Men - You’ll have more options when you have a pool of settlers to draw upon, but that also means you will have fewer settlers in play. Learning the proper balance of resources is one of the key components to succeeding at Carcassonne. Just keep in mind that there is no absolute right or wrong way to do it.
Trap Followers - By playing certain tiles, you can make it more difficult for your opponent to build cities or farm land. In the case of cities, playing a tile nearby with a settler on it may allow you to share in the points or take control of the whole city.
Use Settlers Wisely - Settlers are a limited resource in the game, so any decent Carcassonne strategy will take this fact into account. If you need settlers to accomplish a task, make sure you only commit the absolute minimum.
Beware of Large Cities - Building up large cities cost time and resources. Take a long look at the board before you decide to build a city that is larger than 11 titles; perhaps you can find a better use of your resources.
Farm Early - In the early stages of the game, make sure your farmers are dominant in at least one field on the game board.
Go After Cloth and Wheat - When it comes to commodities, cloth and wheat are more scarce than barrels. Go after these items as soon as possible (especially cloth), and see if you can corner the market.
Learning how to play Carcassonne will open up a new world for you. Instead of sticking to mass-market games like Uno and Monopoly, you’ll be able to branch out into a rich gaming world filled with challenging and fun products. Before long, you’ll be introducing your friends to such titles as Puerto Rico and Agricola.
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