Tabletop University Play Report: Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a classic! If you’ve played board games for any length of time, chances are you’ve heard of it, chances are you’ve played it. You may love it or you may hate it, but it’s a staple nonetheless. Carcassonne is a tile laying game with very basic rules: you must lay a tile so that it connects to other tiles (roads to roads, cities to cities, farmland to farmland, and a few other variations). Points are scored during the game for completing cities, finishing roads, and enclosing monasteries. Points are also scored at the end of the game for incomplete cities, roads, and monasteries (all at a lesser value) and for farmland ownership. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Our merry group of meeples gallivanting in the southern French city of Carcassonne included:

  • Thane as the Blue meeple
  • Abi as the Yellow meeple
  • Corey as the Green meeple
  • Gregg as the Black meeple
  • Candace as the Red meeple

To begin with, our meeples started out following the River. The River expansion was included with our base set of the game, so instead of starting out with one initial base tile in the center of the table, we drew from the 12 river mini-expansion tiles first; piecing together a long, winding body of water until they were all placed.

From there, we started drawing and placing tiles from the base set of the game, adding on to the beautiful landscape. A couple of notes about the river:

  1. it provides tiles that allow for the start of cities, roads, monasteries, and farms, so the tiles aren’t lifeless; and
  2. it acts as a dividing line when it comes to scoring farms at the end of the game, so be aware!

Our meeples were exploring the land! We had meeples on the road, who were leisurely walking through the countryside, placing road tiles until they so chose to end their road, or someone ended it for them. A road may only have one meeple walking along it. During the game, when a road ends, the meeple on that completed road scores an immediate reward of 1 victory point per tile that the road happens to pass through, and the meeple is returned to its owner.

There were great cities being constructed! Our meeples had grand visions of funky-shaped, flag-ridden cities worth mass point values! Once a meeple has laid a city tile and claimed it by placing a meeple on it, other players cannot place their own meeples on future tiles attached to that city… UNLESS you are very strategic and can find a way to lay a city tile nearby, starting your very own metropolis, only to later JOIN your city with an opponent’s. Gregg happens to be very skilled at this feat…! And has gotten the “stink eye” from several players because of it. He not only finds a way to sneakily join the two cities, but goes even further by adjoining a third city, of which he is also the owner, so that now, you have a mega-city with Gregg as the majority owner. Guess what that means, folks? He gets all of the victory points awarded when that city is completed.

So, if/when a city is completed with 1 owner, that owner will be given 2 victory points per tile that make up the city, PLUS an additional 2 points per flag on any of those tiles because those flag tiles are extra special given their decorative flair. If a city is completed with 2 or more owners, but the ownership is equal, then each person with a meeple in the city is rewarded the total number of points. If a city is completed with 2 or more owners, and the ownership is NOT equal, then the meeple with majority rule gets all of the points. Also, once cities are completed, meeples are returned to their owners.

Corey’s Meeple Pyramid

Corey’s Meeple Pyramid

Monasteries are quaint, meditative tiles that require complete inclusion into the landscape in order to score full points. When you place a monastery tile on the table, you may place a meeple on it to claim ownership. If your monastery becomes surrounded by a total of 8 tiles (of any kind, per the tile laying rules) then you score a total of 9 points and regain your meeple.

Last but not least, and by far the most irritating part of the game (in my opinion), is the farms…. Throughout the game, when you place a tile, you may decide to lay a meeple on its back in the grassland, and claim that it’s a farmer. The meeple will lie there for the entirety of the game daydreaming of cattle ranches and crops. At the end, points will be awarded to the farmers based on how many completed cities run throughout their farmland to a tune of 3 points per city. Rules state that only one meeple can claim a farmland, so you have to make sure that you aren’t encroaching on another’s land BEFORE placing a farmer. Also, at the end of the game, based on the way that tiles are laid, multiple farmers will most likely end up on the same land, so in that case, equal ownership means that equal points will be awarded, just like in cities. Unequal ownership means that the meeple with majority rule will take all of the points. This is another feat that Gregg has mastered…. and again, it has earned him multiple “stink eyes”…

And, that’s the game! We built, we farmed, we meditated to our heart’s content, and Abi (Yellow meeple) WON the game!!! Congrats, Abi!

So, what happens when you add a catapult into the mix??? There are many expansions for Carcassonne, including Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, Hills & Sheep, Princess & the Dragon, and many others. We own several and had just recently purchased The Catapult. We decided to bring it to Tabletop University and give it a try!

The expansion includes 12 fairground tiles, 1 wooden catapult, cardboard tokens for launching, and a cardboard ruler.

The rules from the base game apply to this expansion as well. The only difference, obviously, is if someone draws a fairground tile, they get to place the tile on the landscape, and then choose from one of 4 fun options:

  1. Knock Out – use the catapult to launch the appropriate token at meeples currently on the landscape. If the token touches or knocks over any meeples, they are returned to their owners. Be careful! If you accidentally hit your own meeples, they too must be removed from the landscape…
  2. Seduction – use the catapult to hurl the appropriate token at meeples currently on the landscape. If the token slides off the landscape, then it has no effect. However, if it ends up on the landscape, then the players must determine which opponent’s meeple is CLOSEST to the token, using the ruler, if needed. The person who hurled the token may then decide whether to switch places with that opponent or not. If the player decides to switch places, the opponent’s meeple is taken from the landscape and returned to its owner. The player may take a meeple from his supply OR may choose one of his meeples that is currently on the landscape to take the opponent’s place.
  3. Target Hurling – use the catapult and the appropriate token, take aim, and try to land your token on the recently laid fairground tile. The player whose token lands the closest to the newly placed tile immediately scores 5 points!
  4. Catch – place the ruler in the middle between yourself and your neighbor to the left, then use the catapult along with the appropriate token to launch a tiny piece of cardboard at said neighbor! If your neighbor catches the token OR if you don’t launch the token past the ruler, then your neighbor earns 5 points. On the other hand, if your neighbor only touches the token, but doesn’t catch it, you will receive the 5 points.

While the player who drew and laid the fairgrounds tile gets to choose which of the four options he’d like to play this round, EACH player will take a turn at that same option. So, each time a fairgrounds tile is placed, everyone must be prepared to use to the catapult!

It was really funny, at first, to hurl the cardboard tokens around the table! As we continued drawing and placing fairgrounds tiles and using the catapult, we realized just how difficult it was to AIM the tokens at all…. Good luck! We had tokens flying off the board, backfiring, and shooting up into the air duct…. Thankfully, the token that Gregg fired into the air duct made a loud DING and then shuttled back down toward the table, AND was caught by Corey!!! Corey should’ve gotten bonus points just for the catch!

Each player ended up drawing one or more fairgrounds tiles, though throughout the entire game, I called them carnival tiles and hummed some generic carnival music each time one was drawn. The other players begrudgingly humored me by humming along! And, we were able to try out each of the 4 catapult options! My favorites being #2 – Seduction and #3 – Target Hurling

The catapult rounds provided a break from the task of laying tiles, but almost so much so that it seemed like we were playing two different games. Adding a dexterity element to Carcassonne is a great idea in theory, but I think it was the general consensus of the group that the catapult was too unpredictable (skill or no skill, that wooden apparatus had a mind of its own….), that there were way too many fairgrounds tiles (12 was overkill, maybe give us 6 instead), and that using the wayward catapult to steal other meeple’s hard-earned property, farmland, monasteries, etc. didn’t feel very satisfying….

At the end of the game, I was so wrapped up in calculating points that I forgot to get a picture of our finished landscape with all of the meeples on it… So, here is a pic of our finished landscape sans workers….

Congratulations to Gregg (Black meeple) for his win of Carcassonne with The Catapult expansion!!!

To finish out the evening, Abi and I pulled out Carcassonne: Winter Edition. It’s a really pretty, snow-capped version of the original Carcassonne. It is a standalone version of the game with the same rules, same mechanics, just a different theme. Our Winter Edition came with a mini-gingerbread expansion, but we did not play with it even though it was a big reason why I wanted to purchase this particular version in the first place!!! After the catapult, Abi and I decided just to keep it simple!

We had a fun time looking at all of the wildlife included on the winter themed tiles! We found foxes, boars, bears, crows, and a winged reindeer…. why was there a winged reindeer on one of the tiles??? Not sure? Does anyone know?!?

The tile laying was going along swimmingly, and then something EPIC started to take place! There were some gaps in our landscape… Abi and I pondered how lucky and lovely it would be to draw monasteries and place them in those gaps, hence automatically earning 9 points per monastery. AND IT HAPPENED!!!! We had a zigzag cloister of monasteries in the center of our landscape!!!

I also wanted to show off my little unintentional, heart-shaped village of Carcassonne! So proud of its cuteness!!!

And last but not least, a photo of our completed winter landscape! Congrats to Abi for her second win of the night! Despite all my tough trash talk, she still wiped the floor with me…. and her hand sanitizer…. :)

Everyone caught on to Carcassonne very quickly and very easily, which makes this a great game to introduce to your non-gaming friends, to ease them into the wonderful world of tabletop! The straightforward rules and mechanics, the replayability, and the various themes make it a repeat at our gaming table at home. It appeals to our young children, to us, and to our parents, so it works for all ages!