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Subject: A Simple Yet Enriching Gaming Experience rss

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Jason Rider
United States
New York
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Score: 8/10

Sometimes you can feel the hype surrounding a game long before you ever play it. Such was the case with Carcassonne, a staple among Rio Grande’s catalog since the year 2000 and a game that has spawned literally dozens of expansions and spin-offs. If all of these facts weren’t quite enough to hint toward a winner, the game comes decorated with a host of awards it managed to earn along its storied decade of existence.

Written originally by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede, Carcassonne originally came into being in Germany by a firm called Hans Im Gluck and like most Rio Grande Games, was translated into English and reintroduced to the North American market shortly thereafter. The illustration credit goes to Doris Matthaus and Jay Tummelson rounds out the roster as the man behind the English translation.

Consisting merely of 84 cardboard land tiles, a single cardboard scoring track, 40 wooden pawns and a color rule sheet, I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. It turns out that the reason for the game’s near-legendary status among hardcore fans and casual gamers alike has more to do with simplicity in its game mechanics and a highly addictive formula that’s nearly subliminal to learn but limited only to the imaginations of the players involved.

The system, which is deceptively simple, works like this: Players begin by shuffling then stacking the 83 land tiles then place the start tile in the center of the table. They then take turns drawing a tile from the stack and placing it immediately, in other words, no one ever has tiles in their hand. Laying the tiles is quite intuitive in nature as the only rules to follow are to make sure the roads connect. The strategy comes in the form of the scoring mechanic, which is derived at by when and where a player decides to place his pawns. Pieces in the city segments are labeled knights and score 2 points per tile, pieces on the roads become thieves and earn a single point per tile. Pawns placed in the cloister (monks) can earn 9 points and farmers can make oodles of points depending on how many nearby cities they supply with goods.

About the trickiest part is of course learning the scoring method/ point breakdowns (some pieces are scored immediately then the pawns returned to the player’s inventory while others, like the farmers, aren’t scored until the end of the round). The game comes to its conclusion once all of the tile pieces have been placed. Since there is an east-to-follow scoring card included, the need for a calculator or scratch paper is pretty much eliminated entirely.

Rounds take around 45 minutes but that time seems to decrease to closer to a half hour as players get into the swing of things. The recommended requirement of ages 8 and up seems pretty on par but, and as I’ve discovered is the case with many games, much of this has to do with the way the rules are presented in the book/ grasping the game for the first time. It would appear that teaching the game to others once an adult has a firm grasp on it could very well open up the game’s playability to children of nearly all ages as the mechanics are brilliantly simplistic.

The art itself is nothing too fancy or elaborate, which most certainly contributes to the game’s user-friendly charm. Pieces are all easy to identify and it really doesn’t take long before the table is just completely occupied by sprawling cities and villages. An additional bonus to tile-laying games like this is that it is literally a new game each and every time it is played. Since there is no permanent game board, there are no patterns to learn or unfair advantages for veteran players over beginners.

In all, I find the game to be quite enjoyable and almost relaxing in its mechanic. Never does it feel like a direct competition between players so much as an opportunity to create various landscapes while earning points in the process. While the core game supports 2-5 players, this is one of few titles that can truly boast intuitive couple-play. In other words, playing with just one other person never feels like a scaled down version of the "real" experience.

Like so many timeless classic board games before it, Carcassonne’s greatest strength and most enduring attribute would have to be its clever simplicity. It can be enjoyed by players of nearly any age and level of experience, doesn’t grow old quickly, and offers up enough strategy to keep players coming back for more. It’s hard to imagine a more successful formula than that!
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Mike S.
Netherlands
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Great review ...

but there's 1 thing ...

JasonRider wrote:

Consisting merely of 84 cardboard land tiles


Are you sure about that ?

Both of my copies have 72 land tiles
 
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Atte Saunamäki
Finland
Helsinki
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71 land tiles + 1 starter tile + 12 river tiles (River I). Total 84.
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Mike S.
Netherlands
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Ah ok, I didn't see him mentioning the River expansion, but the tile count would make sense
 
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Dan C
United States
Florida
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Quote:
Laying the tiles is quite intuitive in nature as the only rules to follow are to make sure the roads connect.


Actually, features on all sides have to connect to like sides (road to road, city to city, farm to farm).

That description does apply, however to Carcassonne: The Castle
 
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