Carcassonne Review

When a game truly defines a genre, I think it is only appropriate that I give it a try. And so, I wound up buying Carcassonne.

Carcassonne is the tile placing game. In Carcassonne, players take turns drawing and playing a tile. When playing a tile, it must be be placed in a "valid" position (which means that whatever is on the tile matches up with what is on the tiles next to it - no dead-ending roads, castles without walls, etc). After placing the tile, a player has the option of placing a meeple (yes, I believe Carcassonne also brought us meeples - wooden people shaped pieces) on the newly placed tile. Placing meeples is where much of the strategy of the game takes place, as it is what drives the scoring of the game. Meeples can be placed on roads, farms, cloisters, and castles. Whenever one of these things (other than a farm) is "completed" (the castle is completed, the road becomes a circle, etc) then the meeple scores points and becomes available for the user to re-place. Play continues like this until all of the tiles are placed. At this point, farmers score points, and so do all of the meeples on incomplete roads, cloisters and castles. Then, gasp, the player with the most points wins.

What's good and innovative about Carcassonne? Well, we will start with innovative - the whole game is innovative (to me). I had never seen a game where the actual playing of the game is based on placing tiles. Yes, there is a possibility of games before Carcassonne being based on tile placing (feel free to tell me about them in comments), but Carcassonne still managed to define the genre, as it brought it to the gaming market in a big way.

Now that I've told you that it's innovative - is it good? Well, I think that the best aspect of Carcassonne is that it is a nice, simple game. When you want to play a game but don't want to obsess about every move and debate whether it is the best strategy, Carcassonne is your game. It is easy to teach people (though I recommend not beating the snot out of them like what happened to me the first time I played), and can be played by almost anybody - gaming background or not. It is long enough to be engaging, without being so long that you get bored with it (though if you play too many expansions, you might argue that it gets too long).

However, though Carcassonne is very innovative and simple... it didn't click for me. I like to say that I don't care what genre a game belongs to, as long as it does that genre very well. Tile placement may be my exception. I have tried several tile placement games including Carcassonne, Alhambra, Architekton, and a few others. I haven't found any that I think of more highly than "they're ok." Carcassonne falls into this range for me. I can play it, but it's not really one of my preferred games - I would play it when friends want to play it.

Now, for a more objective con, I dislike the reactive nature of Carcassonne. Each turn you must draw a tile, assess the current state of the game, and then place it. There is very little that you can do to form a continuing strategy throughout the game. No matter how well you place things, if you don't draw the correct tiles to allow you to score, there is very little that you can do. I think that this does add to the lightheartedness of the game, and indeed many people will like this. However, this isn't an aspect of games that I am particularly fond of.

Overall, I give Carcassonne a 7.0/10. It is a respectable game that I understand why people enjoy. However, with that said, it appears to have defined a genre that I have discovered that I dislike.

So, admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of tile laying. So, instead of only reading my biased opinion, you might also check out Board Game Family's Carcassonne review, or another Carcassonne review on Games With Two. Or, if you're looking for other gateway games, you might want to check out Tsuro, Cargo Noir, Shadows Over Camelot, or 7 Wonders.


  1. I would recommend linking to your Tsuro Review also. Tsuro is even quicker and simpler than Carcassone so I could see if someone likes the tile style (that's way too rhyming) and they want to get other people into more complex games, starting with Tsuro (as I've never found anyone that didn't at least somewhat enjoy the game) and then moving to Carcassone for slightly more complex critical thinking.

  2. One of the ways we've played Carcassonne that you may like to try is to draw the tiles at the end of your turn so you being planning your moves while the others are playing their tiles to the table.

    In addition, to give you a little more strategic planning that you're looking for in a game - draw 3 tiles. This way each turn you'll have 3 tiles in your hand so you can choose which and when you want to play them. Try it and see what you think.

    1. teh three tile hand was a variation I thought of for our gaming seesionas as well, it works well, plus it shortens the game as players will have spent time before their turn deciding what to do aleady.

  3. Yeah, Carc just does nothing for me. I find the luck element aggravating (much like the luck in Settlers of Catan) and I never seem to get tiles I want that could help me with any ongoing strategy. I just have never seen the appeal. I'll teach an amazing gateway game like Ticket To Ride a million times before I'll grab a copy of Carc.

    As for fun tile-laying games, we've recently found Cable Car which is just fantastic and designed by Dirk Henn of Alhambra fame. The stock variant is exceptional and it's very simple. Blows Carc out of the water.

  4. I actually really like Carcassonne, but I might be biased. It was the game that FINALLY got the rest of my family into games. We played it at least twice a week until I moved away a year later--it was the most gaming I'd EVER done in my entirely life up to that point! They own ever single expansion (although they only use a few of the new rules--mostly they just like the new tiles).

    I think that the game has a sufficient depth of strategy if you're playing with enough tiles. My dad, for example, goes for a high-risk, high-reward strategy if making one or two MASSIVE cities. My mother plays very aggressively--she'll steal cities and farms, or, if she can't do that, she'll lay tiles to cut off your city or farm. I prefer a "nickel and dime" strategy: I try to get at least a couple of points every turn, even if I do so at the potential expense of a longer-term strategy.

    Is Carcassonne on par with the really great strategy games, like, I don't know, Twilight Struggle or Race for the Galaxy? Absolutely not. But of all the more commercial games I've played--games designed for a wider, non-"gamer" audience--it's my favorite.

  5. The best way of playing Carcassonne for me, is playing it as a 2 player game, with drawing 2 cards each turn (at each moment palayers have 2 cards in their hand, play one at their turn and take another one), and having the list of all tiles beside to be able to check it. Like this, it works for me as a very challenging and tense two player game.

  6. JOSH WROTE: "There is very little that you can do to form a continuing strategy throughout the game."
    GeneM replies: Very true.

    Seems like most Carcassone players change the rule about when you draw your next tile, or tiles.

    Carcassone does not make me look forward to playing it again. And the "farm" scoring is just so much tedious math.

    We all need to stop mentioning Settlers of Catan in the same articles with Carcassone, because two the games themselves have nothing similar to each other. It is just a stupid fashion to mention them together.

  7. Increasing the strategy of Carcassonne:

    1) 3 tile open hand.... See all other players hands as well as your own.... The open hand method, allows you to plan your tiles with respect to other players tiles. This increases the strategy a little.... Like closing to complete an opponents city off, so you force them to extend your city.

    2) Open hand method significantly increases in strategy when you have, "Traders and Builders", "Inns and Cathedrals", "Count, King and Robber" or Bridges Castles and Bazaars.

    3) Buying "The Towers", expansion changes the game quite a bit and increases the strategic nature by itself, to the extent that original Carcassonne players often find it too strategic. I like it....