Carcassonne is a tile laying game. All the players are jostling for points as they jointly create a complex and colourful piece of countryside. The game has a simple mechanic of pick up and lay a tile next to an existing one and place a little wooden human on it - or not. That’s it. That’s the rules. It’s so simple that even non gamers can learn it in 5 minutes and enjoy a game.
Those little wooden people - what to call them? I’ve seen the word ‘Merson’ used, plural ‘Meeple’. I have no idea how universal this is, but it will do for here.
In Carcassonne, your tactics come from the fact that meeple are limited. Once placed, a merson will stay on the board until it’s terrain is completed and it can score points. So you are trying to keep a balance between long term, and therefore hopefully more lucrative scoring opportunities, and quicker cheaper short term ones. There are four ways a merson can be employed: as a farmer, as a robber, as a knight and as a monk. We’ll go through the options.
Farmers go in fields. Farmers are your long term points. Any farmer you place will remain stuck there until the end of the game when it might score points. In fact, we tend to find that farmers score very good points, so a lot of conflict arises out of farmers. (Typical rednecks.) Plenty of skill and cunning required to win the points relating to the biggest farm. My biggest gripe with the game is that the farms tend to all merge into one superfarm by the end which inflates the value of winning the farmers even more.
Robber go on roads. They score 1 point per road-tile on comp[letion or at the end of the game. They can occasionally do well with long roads, but more often they are an excellent source of a quick 2 or 4 points as you place a tile and robber that completes an otherwise unclaimed road and - this is vital - get your merson back.
Knights go in cities. They score 2 points per city-tile when the city is completed. However they only score 1 point per city-tile at the end of the game. You can cunningly hinder an opponent, by increasing the size of their city, if they never complete it.
Monk go in monasteries. They score 9 points when all the tiles that surround the monastery are laid. Or 1 point per tile at the end of the game. Monasteries are easier points that some other tiles.
This game has spawned a 1000 variations, an expansion pack and a stone-age version(!!). One variation that we use is to hand the monastery tiles out to players as it was deemed an unfair advantage if one player happened to get more than the others.
Overall, Carcassonne is a fun game that plays quickly and easily. Although it lacks the stategic depth of some more serious games, it has a lightness of touch and a relaxedness to it that make it a favourite.