Carcassonne Playtest Review by Curtis Batt on 02/04/02
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
If you like deep yet simple games with great production values and fantastic playability, get Carcassonne.
Author: Klaus-Jurgen Wrede
Category: Board/Tactical Game
Company/Publisher: Hans im Gluck / Rio Grande
Cost: $20.00 USD
Page count: n/a
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Curtis Batt on 02/04/02
Genre tags: Historical
Carcassonne is an excellent strategy boardgame, though calling it a boardgame is a slight misnomer. The "board" is actually made up from square tiles that each player places at random, one at a time, on their turn. The game is over when the last tile is placed and takes from 1/2 to 1 hour to play. The nice thing about this, is that it is different every time you play it.
Each tile contains a combination of attributes, each beautifully, though simply illustrated. The attributes are road, city, farmland, and cloister. When you place a tile, it must connect to a tile already in play. The new tile can only be connected to an existing tile if the new tile has an edge which matches an attribute of an open edge on an existing tile. This is a little difficult to explain, but with an illustration it is readily apparent.
The object is to score the most points. Scoring is accomplished by placing one of your playing pieces, your "followers", onto the tile you just connected to the board. The points you earn depend on how you place your followers.
It's realy quite simple and can be explained in about 10 minutes. In fact, the rules pamphlet that comes with the game is only four pages and contains a very detailed description with illustrated examples of play. It took little time at all before we dove into our first game.
As with most good games, the simple mechanics are very deceptive. The game itself is quite deep and requires alot of strategy. Each player only has seven followers to deploy and can only deploy a follower on the tile they just played. As stated above, how you place your follower affects how you score points.
Followers placed on the grass portions of a tile are considered farmers. They don't score until the game is over, and remain in play until that time. Even though they score big points, deploying them early leaves you with fewer followers to take advantage of other developments. Followers placed in city portions are knights, in cloisters they are monks, and on the road they are robbers. These three types score points when certain facets of the game board are completed and are then placed back into your pool of available followers. They might not score as big as a well placed farmer, but they earn needed points during the course of the game and valuable partial points in the end-game.
Basically, the game boils down to resource management and contains an ample dosage of risk taking. The randomness is strictly limited to determining which tile you place on your turn, after that it is up to you to determine whether or not to place a follower there or to hold off for a better opportunity. A great game for those who are tired of fickle dice.
The only problem I have with it is that it can suffer from "analysis paralysis" where players can take a very long time trying to figure out what they want to do with the tile they drew. However, it is not as bad as some more complex games as the options are limited and this usually only occurs near the end game when each player is trying to maximize their points. Overall, it plays very quickly.
As for production quality, it is great. The tiles are made from heavy cardstock and the art is matte finished; they feel very satisfying in ones hands and scream "high quality game". As stated above, the tile art is beautiful and simple. It conveys the meaning, without clutter; very well done. The playing pieces are made from wood and look like squat little men. They have that nice "german game" feel and the five colors are red, yellow, green, blue, and black. A scoring track (score board) is also included and it is printed on the same stock as the tiles; it is also a very nice full colour piece.
Overall, this game is highly recommended. It will satisfy gamers and non-gamers alike. It's no wonder that it has won almost every major boardgame award. An excellent game indeed.