Game Review – Carcassonne

This week I’m going to talk to you about gaming.

One game in particular, actually.

This game is my wife’s favorite board game, and it is one of mine, too. This game? It’s Carcassonne.

Originally published in the year 2000, it is still a regular sight on the shelf in your Friendly Local Game Store. It plays with 2 to 5 people and games usually run about 45 minutes.

The basic idea for the game is that you and the other players are building up towns, roads, monasteries, and farmlands in the medieval French countryside. Each of you is vying for power by building the biggest towns, the longest roads, complete monasteries, and the most bountiful farmlands. It may sound complicated, but the game is actually quite simple.

Here is the thing about Carcassonne – it is a board game where you build the board as you play. Each turn, you pull a random tile and have to place it strategically to get yourself the most points. Do you start a new city or build on one you’ve already started? Do you leave your neighbor’s city alone, or do you try to sneak in and share the points? Or, worse, do you try to take over the city? Or – most vexing for my wife – do you make the surrounding area so unusable that the player can’t even finish her city?

You only have so many ‘followers’ to use at any one time, so you can’t claim a new road, city, farm, or monastery every turn. Do you wait on that farmland? What if somebody snatches it up before you come back to it?

Maybe my favorite element of the game is the scoring. As you go through the game, it may look like there is a clear winner. The end of the game, however, triggers the final scoring that adds up everything that is unfinished (cities, roads, monasteries), and it finally scores the farmlands. It is at this moment in the game where I watched somebody in last place jump to first place and win the game. It isn’t like Monopoly where you go bankrupt and go watch TV while your friends finish the game.

Everyone is in the game until the very end.

If you’re curious, there are dozens of versions and expansions that give different kinds of gameplay. The base game is at rank 13 on’s Family Game Rank, if that tells you how fun this is. If you live in Marin County, you can easily get it through my favorite game store I’ve ever visited, Gamescape North, located on 4th St. (between B St. and C St.) in San Rafael. (No, I was not paid to include that in this post. I really do like that store that much.)

Have any of you played Carcassonne or something similar? What are your favorite board games?


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