Saturday, April 2, 2011


Wendy and I are gamers. I’ve shown her a few video games and she’s shown me a few board games. My friends from college have always been into the more heavily tactical board games sometimes referred to as European games. I’m referring to games like Settlers of Catan, Diplomacy, Axis and Allies, etc.

I have never joined them in their love of these games, preferring Dungeons and Dragons or video games. But, I needed something to bridge the gap between games like Scrabble and video games for Wendy and I. I wanted something that wouldn’t take us eight hours to learn, was good for two players, heavy on strategy, high replay value, and more complex than typical family board games.

What I found was Carcassone.

The game consists of pulling tiles out of a bag and connecting them to existing tiles already on the board. You start with one tile on the board that contains a road, a field edge, and the beginning of a city. You pull your first tile and it could contain a piece of a city, an ending to a city, a road, a field, a monastery, etc. Each piece can only connect to an existing piece with similar features. A road can only connect to a road. A field can only connect to a piece with a field edge to it. A city piece can only connect to a city. Tiles vary in the fact that they can have fields, roads and city edges all on the same tile or they might only contain a road and field or only a city piece or a crossroads or even two separate city pieces. To add to the strategy, you have to claim each road, field, city or monastery with one of your “meeples.” These are little pieces of maple in the shape of a small person about half an inch high. (Maple + People = Meeple.) You place them on each city, road, monastery or field (farm) you want to claim. Each turn you draw another piece out of the bag and can end a city or road, getting one of your meeples back, or continue building onto a city, road, or farm.

The game takes about forty-five minutes to learn straight out of the box, or, if you are lucky enough to have someone that already knows how to play, they can demonstrate and explain the rules to you in about five minutes.

If I was smart, I would have looked on the web and found a video that taught us how to play, like this one…

This game has the perfect mix of easy to learn combined with hard to master and polished off with a dash of randomness that can lay waste to the best laid plans.

We loved this game.

I cannot stress this enough. We loved it. Each day we would finish work, play a few games of Carcassone and maybe watch some TV before heading to bed. On the weekends we would sit on our terrace, sip wine in the sun and play Carcassone. We played fifty games, then bought an expansion, played another fifty games, then bought another expansion, repeat another two times.

In addition to all that, it scales well with up to five people being able to play.

I would guess we played two hundred and fifty to three hundred games, some lasting as long as two and half hours with all the expansions added in before we finally had sated our lust for the game. We still play it occasionally, but are on the lookout for something new.


  1. I would suggest Smallworld as a direct follow on to Carcassone. And knowing that you loved Magic, I would also suggest Dominion and Yomi.

  2. I have some thoughts. My first is that you spend some time on BoardGameGeek. It is a fantastic site with plenty of GeekLists examining the sort of games you are looking to play with Wendy. Lists such as this:

    From which I can recommend Jambo, a game that Alice and I have played for years and still really enjoy. We've taken it on various holidays and played it loads.

    I would also recommend Carcasonne: Hunters and Gatherers which is better than the original in our opinion. We probably play Hunters and gatherers more than any other game as a family.

    I would hesitate with Dominion until you have seen it played. I find it lacking in player interaction and a bit 'soulless'. To me it's like a magic game where you are both playing combo decks, but opinions vary.

    Best of luck and keep posting about what you find and what you like.

  3. Carcassone was one of Cheryl's and mine's favorite games, too.

    If you've got the board game itch, let me HIGHLY recommend: RoboRally and super-especially Ticket to Ride. There's a bajillion versions of it, but I like the original and T2R: Europe, which I think is the best version. Seriously, get T2R, if you love Carcassone, you'll love this one.