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A fortress town (and world heritage site) in Southern France which has been inhabited since the Roman period, but most of the buildings in the old city now are medieval. As such, the inspiration for...

Great strategical BoardGame from Germany for 2-5 players. GameOfTheYear? 2001.
Sadly, the strategical factor decreases significantly with each additional player. Still nice, but Grumpf prefer duels.



About


The players together develop a landscape with cities, roads and farms. Each player tries to get the most points by placing their Meeples on roads, in a cities, on fields or in monasteries.


Gameplay


Players take turns drawing a new tile from the stack and places it next to another tile (borders must align). Then, that player has the option to place one of his Meeples on a structure displayed on the card, but only if the structure has no meeples on it. Structures are cities, roads, monasteries. Whenever a structure is completed, the player with the most Meeples in it receives points.  At the end of the game, meeples in fields are scored; farmer scoring is sufficiently complicated that later German editions simplified it, but RioGrandeGames? have chosen to keep the original version for English editions.

Strategy discussion


Usually, you have several options what to do with your tile:
Deciding on how to use your tile to the maximum effect and calculating risks and rewards is what makes the game fun.

"luck-factor" and learning curve


Players draw random tiles. Deciding how to play these to the best effect requires skill. An experienced player will win against beginners 9/10 times. If players are on a similar level, luck (defined as "drawing exactly the card you need") determines the outcome. Grumpf thinks he is fairly good at Carcassonne, and is still losing most games against the Top 5 masterminds.
If you have played other "risk vs. reward" games, you will get into the game quickly, especially if you play against better players. Optimizing your plays takes longer, because you need to get a "feel" for the concepts behind the game, as well as having to learn the tileset.

IME, Learning the tileset is probably the thing which makes the single biggest difference to how well you'll do, so much so that playing two-player where one person knows it and the other doesn't isn't really fun for either player. SGB

Extensions


All these extensions add extra tiles to the game, which can lengthen it from ~45mins to 2+ hours.

Inns and Cathedrals (1st Extension)


Grumpf usually plays with this Extension. Without it the stealing is next to impossible, and roads are annoying cards to draw.
we play without the new rules - I find the game degenerates into who-can-strand-whose-Big-meeple.  Roads can be the best tiles to draw if you're trying to out-farm someone --SGB

Builders and Traders (2nd Extension)


Grumpf doesn't like this extension because of the weird cards added to the tileset. They prevent <sheeting> blocking-in of opponents structures.
is "sheeting of" a euphamism for something similar ending with "on"? :-) I find the extra tiles with two city segments on very handy for stealing cities.  Can't stand the extra rules, though - we just treat goods markers as shields. -- SGB
sheeting is probably the wrong word for it. I looked up the word "verbauen" in an online dictionary and the result was sheeting. Please read the line again replacing sheeting with a verb for "preventing completion of that structure by placing tiles around in a matter that no remaining tile fits in there" (or "blocking") -- Grumpf
Right you are.  Yeah, it does prevent that... as I've said above, I only find the "aha, you now need a two-city-edge one-field-edge one-road-edge tile, and there aren't any" tactic fun if the other player(s) know it can be done.. having every tile theoretically possible means I can enjoy playing the game with people I've only just introduced to it.  Ellie and I usually pick 72 tiles from the 154 we have available, and play with those.. so you can still block people, but it's a matter of probabilities, not certainties. --SGB


The Princess and the Dragon (3rd Extension)


Have not tried it yet. Probably won't like it because you can do some random "meeple-killing" with some cards.

The Tower (4th extension)


Players can build towers, which scare farmers off.

Abbey and Mayor (5th extension)


Described on [BoardGameGeek] as three expansions in one. Three new meeples are added, along with abbey tiles. The abbey tiles enable you to finish awkard slots in the board. The new meeples are the mayor, the wagon and barns.
Nat & M-A have just got this but haven't played it yet as they've lent their basic Carcassonne to someone.
I rather like the two city-over-city tiles, even if they're a little implausible. How do the roundabouts work? --CH
They're just ways of branching a road without ending it. I guess it will help with wagon movement --Nat
How do they score? You have to finish all three forks and then 1-per-tile? --CH
Yep.  Including the roundabout (I thought it was called "well"). --SGB
They may well be. I'm just looking at the pictures. --CH

The River (Small Extension, no longer available but included with base game)


Players play ~10 special river tiles at the beginning of the game. Does not add much to the game, but nice-to-have.
Without it, you have to be careful at the start of the game not to get to a stalemate condition with just the single starting tile.  I think that was why it's now a part of the standard game. --M-A
What do you mean with "stalemate condition"? A situation where a tile cannot be placed on the board (probably an all-city tile)?. This happens every once in a while. The rules I know tell you to put that tile away and draw another one. I cannot think of other standstill situations. -- Grumpf
Yes, that's stalemate.  I didn't know there was a get-around built into the rules, though.  Anyway, the river still give you a nice spread-out starting point, and hence more choices/possibilities at the start of the game. --M-A

The Count of Carcassonne (Small Extension)


Changes the game fundamentally. You get an advantage by completing structures of your opponents. Very nice, but Grumpf prefers the original gameplay.

King and Scout (Small Extension)


A few funky extra tiles (& rules) for the original version of Carcassonne, and a few funky extra tiles (& rules) for Hunters and Gatherers.  M-A & Nat have just got a copy, but haven't yet tried it out.
The longest road and largest city bonuses make it a bit more fighty, but not much.  The extra land tiles are quite nice; IIRC they're of the point-into-a-corner sort that make farmer-blocking slightly easier.  --SGB

The River II (Small extension)


Adds another dozen river tiles with a fork, and bits on the tiles from later expansions.

The Cathars (Very small extension)


Four "breached" city tiles; breached cities score half for knights, but double for farmers.
Suits me, because I generally go for a farming win -- SGB

Games Quarterly Expansion (Small extension)


Another ten tiles, using only elements from the base game, and two river tiles.  Eight don't exactly match any other existing tiles, but are either reflections or shield-toggles of existing tiles; the remaining two are a cloister on a crossroads and the best tile ever ([middle row, third tile in])

Official spinoffs


Hans im Glück turned evil (compare to WotC). After the great success of the original, they  thought "Hey. We did the game of the year. People will buy anything with 'Carcassonne' in its title". Started producing some boring spinoffs. These spinoffs regularly show up at "Spiel" convention in Essen but fail to wow the fans. Other people buy these games like crazy.

Carcassonne - Hunters and Gatherers



Interesting; I seem to recall that qqzm and JennyGell much prefer Hunters & Gatherers for 2-player play compared to the original Carcassonne. But I could be misremembering. I think I preferred it. (This was with no extensions except the river, which came with our set. --AC
Nat & I also much prefer this version to the original, partly because the fields work more intuitively. --M-A

Carcassonne - The castle


A 2-player game which drops most of the tile-matching criteria; as such, what you end up with is a lot less pretty.
The other key difference being that you're playing within a bounded area, and you can collect bonus pieces as you go along, which let you score extra for particular situations. --M-A

Carcassonne - The city


Grumpf never played it, but has heard disappointed "Almost a new game, but poor game design" judgements from Carcassonne fans.
Angoel has never played it either, but has heard happy praise from Carassonne fans.

Carcassonne - The discovery


Another Carcassonne variant published by a different company under licence.  Has the feature that you can remove meeples to score areas before the areas have been completed.  Played it, and it's cute, but not sufficiently different to be worth a purchase in a world with all the other Carcassonne variants.

New World: A Carcassonne Game


SGB bought this in Leeds last weekend, and accidentally left it up north, so hasn't played it yet.  Play starts at the east coast of America, and as features are scored, two 'scouts' move west, and meeples east of them are removed; completing a feature using a settler in the same column gives a bonus.  Farming is even simpler than in H&G, but other than that it's vanilla carc.

Unofficial spinoffs


Hexassonne


I've designed a hexagonal version of Carcassonne.  It works, it's a nice twist on usual Carcassonne ... but I'm not sufficiently convinced by it to attempt to get it published. --Angoel
OK, line that one up for next time we see you... --M-A

Carcassonne 3D


See [this image]. AFAICT this was jsut made for fun, rather than an actual game, but it looks cool. I wonder if a game could be formed around this idea? --AC

You'd need magnetic tiles and a metal pyramid board and meeples, but once you had that I doubt it would need too much in the way of rules tweaking. --SGB

York


(I note that York is the name given to [this]. --CH)
As I note below, "Yes, I know York is also a computer version of carcassonne, but mine has roses in it'', sort of." --SGB

I've often wanted to do a version on PenroseTiles, with the cloisters on pentagons. --SGB
Heeheehee. PenroseTiles are superb fun. You should make that. Second only to ConwayGo in terms of geeky BoardGame crossovers. :) --AC
Ok, try [these] out.  They should print onto A4 at a sensible size.  The number tiles are so you don't have to worry about the different tile shapes; and I suppose cloisters will only be worth 6.
Wow, coool! Just in time for GamesEvening, too! Could you clarify what you mean for the number tiles to do? --AC
You pick from a pile of number tiles, then find the corresponding actual tile. Otherwise, you know which "shape" of parallelogram you're picking up in advance. --CH
Yeah, what he said. -- SGB
Umm... are the thin ones really the right shape? The thick ones seem to be precisely the "thick rhombs" of WikiPedia: Penrose_tiling (72° by 108°), but the thin ones seem rather significantly thicker than the "thin rhombs" should be (36° by 144°). It should be that the angle formed by two thin ones accomodates the narrow end of a thick one, but the rhombs in this file seem to have it that the angle formed by two thin ones accomodates the wide end of a thick one. Did something go wrong with the laying out of the thin tiles? --AC
nuts.  I think I put the cos and sine the wrong way round in the shear matrix.. I'll have to fix it tomorrow.  Yay for VectorGraphics?, though; it's nice to have a problem like that again :-) -- SGB
Fixed - also removed the phantom 79th tile.  Yes, I know York is also a computer version of carcassonne, but mine has roses in it, sort of. -- SGB
Cool! We'll get that printed out and try it at GamesEvening. The one worry I have is that along with the natural constraint on PenroseTiles, the additional constraint of lining up Carcassonne tile-edges might impair ability to connect up a large area. But I'll love finding out. Incidentally, [here] is an Excel sheet to replace Page 4 with a version that might be more useful in-game. --AC
Nice.. I like the idea of having a preview on the tile, and am going to steal it.  BTW, the fixed version only has 78 tiles.. I think I had skipped a number in the mid-teens. --  SGB
Stolen. --SGB
Nice. That page 4 is very cool and useful. --AC

So, how'd it go? --SGB
Twas definitely interesting. However, it suffered majorly from spaces becoming either such that very few remaining tiles would fit there, or such that no legal tiles at all would. The former would have been helped quite significantly by allowing the tiles to be invertible (playable upside down if the player wants). The latter would have been helped by us being better at remembering the no-parallelograms rule - we got two parallelograms early on without noticing, and they caused no end of vexation with being unable to legally place tiles near them. The pentagonal cloisters worked rather better than I was expecting, although I still think there may be some occasions when parallelograms will be inevitable around a cloister. There were also some occasions when the board curled around to have two appendages heading towards one another, making some geometrically-unfillable spaces in between them. The numbers on the tiles are vexingly small - I had to go over them all in pen in order for them to be at all legible on the printed-out tiles.
It seemed harder than in the normal game to finish a castle. There seemed to be a larger proportion of castle-extenders than castle-finishers: I think only 3 or 4 castles total were finished in the whole game. This is probably just an aspect of the difficulty in finding legal places to place the tiles.
Ultimately, the biggest problem is that the three different types of edge (field/road/castle), combined with the Penrose tile geometrical restrictions, make it very hard to find anywhere useful to play your tiles, rather more often than in regular Carcassonne. The game might benefit from a Carcassonne variation that I've used in the past with the normal game, where you have a "hand" of three tiles and can choose which one to play, although it'd likely fill up quickly with two useless tiles and the one you just drew. If we pencilled in the tiles on the back of the existing ones to make them invertible, though, I'd definitely be up for another game to see if that helps enough. --AC

Did you get into many situations where you couldn't place a tile at all, or was it mostly a case of "I can place this tile, but nowhere that will do me any good"?  If the former, the answer is probably to have the parallelogram rule relaxed if you can't place a tile legally.
Allowing reflections would make it very difficult to block someone on purpose; perhaps you could have a thick and thin version of each (quadrilateral) tile, and give the player the choice between the two?  It would be possible to more closely match the original distribution that way, too. --SGB
I really don't think it'd be too hard to block someone on purpose, even allowing reflections. It happened a couple of times in our game, but mostly it simply didn't need to! There weren't many cases where we physically couldn't place the tile at all, but many many where it wouldn't do any good (more than in normal Carcassonne). But I think relaxing the parallelogram rule would just lead to more shapes that can never be filled. (Although it would remove the rule that's by far the hardest to remember to follow.) However, there certainly were occasions when someone got the exact tile they needed, except it was the wrong thickness. That might provide a viable alternative. TBH, though, you lose enough connecctivity moving away from a square grid that I think even invertability plus choosing which thickness you want would still be a decent game. --AC

The more I think about it, the more the idea of reflecting pieces is growing on me.. it does restore exactly as many symmetries as the square-to-rhombus move breaks.  Choosing thicknesses should get you around the parallelogram rule... looks like I'll be doing another tileset soon. --SGB
OK, done. --SGB

Carcassonne: The Gathering


Make an MtG deck for each player - say 40ish cards - with no lands.  After the upkeep phase (if they still have that) have a tile phase, where you draw a tile and place it on the board.  Tiles have five types of feature - you can guess their names.  To gain mana, tap a meeple on the appropriate feature.  'destroy target land' removes a tile and any meeples on it; 'destroy all lands' clears the board; 'tap target land' taps a meeple.




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