Game review: Carcassonne

A lack of wargaming options over lockdown has led to me exploring other ways of getting a gaming fix. I’m really not a computer person, so video games were never going to be an option. My household is generally pretty busy, which ruled out big board games that take a while to get to grips with, let alone play from start to finish.

To that end I’ve been looking for what I’ve started to call quick games. To fit the bill they need to be:

Quick to learn – we must be able to understand the game mechanics within a couple of attempts.

Quick to set up – we must be able to get it out the box and ready to play by the time I’ve made a cup of tea.

Quick to play – it must be possible to go from deciding to play to back in the box on the shelf in around an hour.

There is also one more vital ingredient – depth. It needs to have something that will get the brain working and make you want to revisit it again and again.

For this review I’m looking at Carcassonne by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede, published through Z-MAN games.

According to the box it can be played in 35 minutes, they’ve sold a lot and its suitable for a wide range of ages (7+).

The set I’ve got includes the core game with three sets of additional rules and game pieces to play:

Fields

The River

The Abbot

Deep end first…

This is a fantastically straight forward, competitive, world builder. It’s for 2 to 5 players. It works well with 2, but definitely improves with the number of people around the table. The artwork is awesome and it’s an absolute joy to watch medieval cities, roads and monasteries grow in front of you.

The artwork is warm, making the game really inviting.

The scoring system is based on how big you can build your roads, your monasteries and your cities; and yes, there are opportunities to steal other peoples’ hard work (something no good world builder should be without).

The key to winning the game is completing cities (and not always your own), and the scoring mechanic makes it really interesting. As well as focusing on your own builds you might find yourself “helping” other players finish cities in the early part of the game to limit the points they can claim. As time runs down on the game you’re just as likely to “help” them grow their cities to stop them being completed before the end of the game, so destroying their value.

 The extra rules that come with the set are great. They fit perfectly with the spirit of the game adding easily understood rules and extra tweaks that steadily increase depth. The rules for fields increase the value of cities further, whilst the River and the Abbot introduce more options into the game and slightly differently shaped meeple.

Note on kids – the box recommends players are aged at least seven. Other than the rules there is no reading in the game. With some support learning the rules a younger child can pick this up and be no less ruthless than any of the adults playing!

This game absolutely hits the brief as a quick game and punches heavily in the depth category. The box says more than 10 million games and expansions have been sold – I believe it. The cherry on top is definitely a large range of expansions, which I’m always partial too. I have a feeling it won’t be too long before some of them also find their way onto the Wizard’s Bookshelf.

Quick to learn? 2 readings of the rules and 2 play throughs.

Quick to set up? Less time than it takes to make a brew.

Quick to play? No more than an hour.

Depth? If it was a Wizard’s Hat there would be enough space to hide a kangaroo in it.

All in all it definitely does what is says on the box.

Published by Eddie B

A blog about fantasy wargaming and literature.

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