Spreading the love of board games one meeple at a time
Carcassone was pretty much the game that started my obsession with boardgames. Years ago I lent out my copy of Carcassonne to a friend, and, like many things lent to friends, I never got it back. When Krista and I decided to travel around Europe, I thought it would be a great opportunity to buy a new copy (travel edition, of course) and to review the game from the place that is it’s inspiration and namesake: the medieval fortress town of Carcassonne.
I’ve wanted to visit Carcassonne for many years, partially because of my love of board games, but also for my love of medieval fortresses. Carcassonne (the place) is a town that grew up around the fortress. The original fortress was created by Romans, and over the years was added to, fortified, captured, forgotten and restored until it because what it is today – a tourist destination.
The bizarre story of how Carcassonne got it’s name involves a pig. In the legend, when Carcassonne was under siege by Charlemagne, there was nothing left in the town but a pig and some wheat. The Princess Carcas took the pig and fed it all the wheat that was left in town and threw the pig over the fortress wall. When it fell to the ground, the pig’s belly burst open and showed all the soldiers the good wheat inside. When Charlemagne saw that there was so much wheat in the town that they were feeding it to pigs, he called off the attack. Princess Carcas placed the order for the bells to be rung after Charlemagne lifted the siege of her town, and the town people cried, “Carcas sonne” or Carcas rings.
The fortress is quite amazing and does have a pretty decent resemblance to the board game (other than that it’s just one fortress, not many, and I didn’t see any meeple hanging out…). When I visited the fortress and looked at the fortified walls, cobble stone streets and sweeping views I could really see the inspiration for the game.
Carcassonne (the game) is one of the few multi-player games that I enjoy as a two player game. Sometimes when games are sold as 2-5 players, they really mean, it’s possible, but not necessarily fun, to play with 2 players. This is not the case with Carcassonne. There isn’t a different set of rules for a 2 player game and I really enjoy the speed of play of having fewer players. This also means fewer people competing for my for fortresses, cloisters, roads, and farms – the 4 different scoring paths in this game.
The game starts with a single tile, the starting tile, placed in the centre of the table. The whole game consists of building the area around this tile by drawing, at random, the other land tiles to form your game board. This is done in turns as each player draws a tile and then places it in a way that fits with the other pieces already on the board. The game play generates a unique game board each time you play, which helps adds to the lasting appealing of this game.
On each turn when players draw a new tile they also have the options of deploying one of their followers. Each player has 7 meeples, that can be placed when the player lays a new tile. The meeples act as knights if claimed on a fortress segment, as thieves if placed directly on a road, farmers if dropped on any field, or monks if placed directly on a cloister.
The only rules governing placement is you can not claim a tile that already has a follower connected to it. However, if clever with the placements of the right tiles, players can make it so they can have more then one follower on any given road, farm, cloister, or fortress.
Meeples are returned to players once a segment (of road, for example) is completed. Once completed, points are scored immediately and then players are able to reuse those followers they placed and got back. The only execption to this is the farmer, which stays on the field until the end of the game, when points are tallied based on the number of completed fortresses in the farmer’s field.
Obviously, I really like Carcassonne, as I’m probably the only person to chose travel destinations based on my love of board games. It has special meaning to me as the first game that got me in to games, and as a two player game I actually enjoy. I would highly recommend the game at home, and the travel edition as it’s small and easy to pack.
As for the fortress? Krista and I enjoyed our day there and I was glad to see it. It was fun and neat to see in a quick visit. Although, unless you’re in the area already (which we sort of were), I wouldn’t suggest planning an entire vacation around it.