Game Review: Carcassonne

Game Overview

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Carcassonne is one of those games that introduced people to high end gaming. That being said, it is one of the easier high end games to pick up. Tile floppers have always been a hit or miss enterprise, and Carcassonne is definitely a hit. While the art has not aged as well as the mechanics of the game, this is still a game that you may want to look at if you are looking to get people into high end gaming. It is not as strategy heavy as games like Settlers, but it is less luck driven that others like Ticket to Ride. Overall, this is a good game to pick up for starters, and a good game to hang on to as you teach the next generation how to play high end games.

This is a game I like to play with my niece to teach her the basic strategy of gaming.

For story, Carcassonne has one of the classics. You are a noble in the dark ages, and you are looking to amass as much power as possible (victory points). You do this by controlling roads (through bandits), cities (through knights), monasteries (through monks) and fields (through farmers). There is not much background, but just enough to give you a goal as you play through the game. Overall, the story for Carcassonne rates a 6 of 10. It is not an in depth story, and even before this granddaddy of a game came out, the dark ages plot had been done to death. However, since it is one of the first dark age themed tile flopper, it still rates better than average.

Art of the Game

The art of Carcassonne was from the silver age of high end game development in the firs decade of the new millennium. Since it came out at the beginning, the art is simple, but you can clearly tell what the different pieces are and they fit together well. The fact that knights, robbers, farmers and monks all look the same is as much about mechanics as it is about esthetics, which means that this should not be held against them. So, with only tiles and little wooden figures- Carcassonne rates as 6 of 10 on the art scale. It is by no means poor, but still not engaging.

Mechanics is where Carcassonne shines, rating a 9 out of 10. This is a simple game for mechanics and the synergy of the mechanics with the strategy really brings out a good game design. There are two mechanics in this game, where you place your times and where you place your workers. That is it. This means that you have to decide what you want to do, and apply strategy, which scores a 8 out of 10. The meshing of mechanics and strategy gives Carcassonne a chess like feel; you can learn it in minutes but it takes a lifetime to master. Whether you try to advance your score or block your opponent, each move you make will determine if you are the winner or loser at the end of the game. 

Novelty Level On Par

Finally, there is the novelty of this game. While the Dark Ages theme has been done a lot, as noted above, this is one of the first tile floppers in that genre. As a result, we score Carcassonne an 8 for novelty. When it came out, there was nothing like it on the market. If it had been released today, it would have gotten a low score, but in 2007 it was one of the foundational games that gave gaming a rebirth.

Overall, Carcassonne scores a 39 out of 50, so it is a good game to have in your collection. The price of the game matches up with where it falls on the gaming spectrum. It is more expensive than “starter games” like “Monopoly” and “Shutes and Ladders” but does not crack the bank like “Gloomhaven” or “Imperial.” This is a game I like to play with my niece to teach her the basic strategy of gaming. It is complex enough that it is challenging but forgiving enough that one mistake does not end the game. It is currently available from Z-Man games, though it was originally published under a different brand.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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