Sunday, March 9, 2008


In my 36th year on planet Earth (I'm not telling how many years I've spent elsewhere) I have finally played that stalwart of board games Carcassonne.

The crowd goes wild.

Yes, I am no longer a Carcassonne virgin.

The crowd goes wilder.

And you know what? It wasn't as good as I thought it would be.

The crowd suddenly goes deathly quiet. Them's fighting words.

Maybe I was expecting more. No, I take that back. I was expecting more.

I never expected Carcassonne to be so...simple.

The Giggling One and I joined in a game of the original Carcassonne with Ian and René. The latter was a Carcassonne veteran. The rest of us were noobs ripe for pwnage. And pwnage is exactly what we got.

Carcassonne is one of the most popular board stategy games around. Along with Settlers of Catan it is seen as one of the more friendlier strategy-lite games - more of a gateway game to the titles with more depth.

The idea is cleverly simple. Taking it in turns, players place a square tile on the table. One or more sides of the tile must touch the sides of at least one other tile. This effectively forms a grid.

Each of the four edges of a tile is made up of one of three things: farm land, a city, or a road. When you place the tile, it must match the tile(s) you are connecting to. So if you place at the end of an existing road, you must connect the road on your tile to that edge.

In this way, you can build roads and cities of various sizes, with (sometimes extensive) farmland surrounding them.

There are also cloister tiles that allow you to place, well, a cloister which sits in the middle of a tile.

The idea of the game is to score as many points as you can until the tiles run out. You score points by placing little followers (known colloquially as Meeples) on the tile you've just put down, though whether you place a Meeple on your turn is up to you.

If you place the Meeple on a road or a city (and you can't place one on a road or city which another Meeple already occupies), he (she/it?) will score points for you when that road or city is completed. The number of points you get depends on the number of tiles the road or city stretches across.

You score 1 point per tile for a road, and 2 points per tile for a completed city (though only 1 point for a two-tile city), with 2 bonus points per banner in the city (as some city tiles include a banner).

If you place a Meeple on a cloister, then when that cloister becomes fully enclosed by surrounding tiles, the Meeple's owner scores 9 points.

You can also place your Meeple on farmland where it remains until the end of the game when it scores points for the number of completed cities that the farmland borders.

While you can't place Meeples on features where a Meeple already sits, it is possible to have two or more Meeples on the same feature if they are later joined.

As you have limited Meeples, you have to choose where to place them, though you get them back once a feature is completed. One of the key strategies is recycling your Meeples to rack up the points.

At the end of the game, when the last tile is placed all uncompleted features are scored, along with the farmer Meeples that score for every adjacent completed city.

I'd love to give Carcassonne, or one of its expansions, another crack, if only to learn some of the strategy and not suck so badly as I did in that first game. Even the two other noobs beat me, and that's a crushing blow.

I must have my revenge. I just wish I didn't keep having to say that.

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