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Flashback Friday - Carcassonne - Love It or Hate It?

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Carcassonne Board Game

Game Information

Game Name
Publisher
Players
2 - 5
There Will Be Games

Love it or hate it? Do you still play it?

Carcassonne, designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, was published in 2000. It won the Spiel des Jahres and the Deutscher Spiele Preis awards in 2001. According to this picture, it has sold over 7 million copies of the game and expansions. Considering how many expansions exist for Carcassonne...it is still an impressive number.

Hive God describes Carcassonne as "An assasin in clown paint."

"The 8,000,000,000 different farm-scoring schema make for bizarre parallel-dimension gaming where some people at the table have evil goatees and some don't, leading to the disastrous overlay of competing realities, some where farmers lie on their backs and gaze at duck-shaped clouds scudding by and others where you can only get promoted by stabbing your boss in the neck.

The sheer ruthlessness required to play the game competitively is entirely at odds with the presentation: cutesy li'l squares of bucolic cartoons, and the meeples themselves, adorable and nonthreatening, the very symbols of "points without pain" Eurogaming. If the package reflected the truth of it the art would be dark and violent: fields strewn with fresh grave-mounds, dangerous roads to nowhere festering with spleen-stabbing thieves, sprawling slums with gaping holes in the walls patrolled by gangs of baby-stomping kingsmen.

This is what you must do to win: sucker your opponents into fights that you either dominate or walk away from (leaving them overextended), place tiles to ensure their followers are trapped in projects that will never be completed, and never share points unless you are so far ahead it doesn't matter... and even then, hook yourself in for +1 at the last minute to steal the "joint effort" for yourself.

You must crush dreams, snap their bones and suck the marrow. You must be prepared to engineer fallen crests and hopelessness. I'll be honest: I felt like a complete jerk at first, as playing to win in Carc is really about making everyone else lose, and the constant pooping in the punchbowl can suck the fun right out of the party. But if you wish to do your best then that tile must be placed where it maximizes both personal gain and does the most harm to your opponents.

In the end the countryside puzzle we are constructing is a façade that does nothing to conceal the suffering of the nameless, numberless peasants who are too small to see from our lofty perches of intrigue."

What do you think?

There Will Be Games

Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie

Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie

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WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #306901 07 Feb 2020 09:18
Love it but I play it exclusively on the XBOX because scoring.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306904 07 Feb 2020 10:15
It would be impossible to do better than Hive God's trenchant comment on it except to say that it's so cutthroat, so knife edge and knives out, that ultimately I find it pretty abstract and just ok.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #306905 07 Feb 2020 10:48
I'm a big fan, but only at 2 player.
Legomancer's Avatar
Legomancer replied the topic: #306908 07 Feb 2020 12:13
Presents itself as a game of building stuff but the main strategy is to keep anything from ever happening, which is dull. Only own The Castle, which I like a lot and don't play any of the others anymore.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306909 07 Feb 2020 12:26

Legomancer wrote: Presents itself as a game of building stuff but the main strategy is to keep anything from ever happening, which is dull. Only own The Castle, which I like a lot and don't play any of the others anymore.


That's very insightful. I have not thought about it this way.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #306910 07 Feb 2020 12:27
I think it's a fine game although best as a casual activity to be enjoyed while having a conversation and a drink. I don't mind it with multiple people.

If playing with expansions I prefer to limit the tiles to about 15/player, randomly chosen from all tiles you're playing with. This has two laudable effects:

1. It controls the time. Carc is a fine game at 45 minutes but excruciating at 90+.
2. It keeps people from counting tiles, figuring that they have an X% chance of drawing the tile they need and adjusting their play accordingly. That is way too much effort to win a casual family game. (Alternately, just don't play with those people.)

My favorite version is the Ark of the Covenant.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306912 07 Feb 2020 14:18
Oh man, yes to the counting tiles problem if you were playing this truly competitively.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #306913 07 Feb 2020 14:33
I actively dislike Carcassonne. I find it painfully boring.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #306914 07 Feb 2020 14:38
Carcassonne is my favorite popular game that nobody ever wants to play.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #306915 07 Feb 2020 15:31

ChristopherMD wrote: Carcassonne is my favorite popular game that nobody ever wants to play.


I'm surprised. It seems like a lot of people still play it. Do you think it has fallen by the wayside in general, or do you think it is just your crowd that doesn't want to play it?
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #306916 07 Feb 2020 15:38
Like Dave, I also only ever play THE CASTLE in real life. It's gorgeous on the table and there is a lot of thinky stuff going on aside from How Much Can I Fuck You Up With This Tile from the regular game. That said, I didn't know how rough this game was until I played with some FATties in the iOS implementation. It was a gorefest of X's all over the board.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #306917 07 Feb 2020 16:04

ubarose wrote:

ChristopherMD wrote: Carcassonne is my favorite popular game that nobody ever wants to play.


I'm surprised. It seems like a lot of people still play it. Do you think it has fallen by the wayside in general, or do you think it is just your crowd that doesn't want to play it?


I don't have a crowd anymore but back when I did the game sat on my shelf for years with no love. I suspect its similar to Catan in that a lot of people burned out on it early in their gaming careers or just moved on to newer stuff in general and never cared to looked back. I happen to find the game relaxing (although i do play cutthroat) and I do jigsaw puzzles as well so looking for where a piece goes is my cuppa tea.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #306922 07 Feb 2020 21:28

Gary Sax wrote: Oh man, yes to the counting tiles problem if you were playing this truly competitively.


My box has extra tiles in it and damn that pisses people off on occasion. Entertaining as hell.
Disgustipater's Avatar
Disgustipater replied the topic: #306925 07 Feb 2020 22:46
It's the main game my wife and I play together. We play cutthroat. We use like 6 expansions but not the extra rules except for some of extra meeples like the builder and mayor. My wife just likes having a ton of tiles. She plays the iOS version solo all the time so it's one of the few games where we are mostly evenly matched.
Road Judge's Avatar
Road Judge replied the topic: #306930 08 Feb 2020 07:22
Played twice and disliked it twice. Scoring was confusing and it felt like we're just using up time that I could be playing a more enjoyable game. I've been going to a meetup and of the hundreds of games played its not hit the table once. It's been brought up as suggestion but usually people (one is usually me) will say meh, rather not.

If I want to lay tiles I'll play Alhambra. Or, even something like dominoes or Rummikub. I can score all three of these very easily and LOVE the tactile-ness and clinking noise the Rummikub tiles make. Make Carc with bakelite tiles I'll buy it.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306934 08 Feb 2020 10:02

Road Judge wrote: Or, even something like dominoes or Rummikub. I can score all three of these very easily and LOVE the tactile-ness and clinking noise the Rummikub tiles make. Make Carc with bakelite tiles I'll buy it.


If you like this, you should try Mah-jongg. It's one of my favorite classic games. I played a ton of it many years ago with my girlfriend and her two kids. We had all become quite adept at it and we used to play on this glass-topped bistro table that a roommate owned. Said roommate used to say that we were playing so rapidly, the click of tiles on glass made it seem like someone was playing castanets in the apartment.
HiveGod's Avatar
HiveGod replied the topic: #306936 08 Feb 2020 10:51
Ah, Crycassonne.

Saw the flashback, thought Oh, man—do I ever have a lot to say about this... ;)

My kids have been trained to play so viciously they've literally stunned their friends who never considered the hobnailed-boots version. I still enjoy it, but only with people who are interested in detailing the emergent narrative of how awful everything is.

Thanks for the shout!
RolandHemisphere's Avatar
RolandHemisphere replied the topic: #307163 16 Feb 2020 12:56
Carcassonne was the game that introduced me to The Hobby. A friend brought a copy by, taught my gal and I the game and we played.. twice. I immediately went out and bought a copy and over the next 5 or so years I played the game about 7 more times.

I like it, I will always keep it and it will reliably collect dust.
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #307244 18 Feb 2020 21:38
Will never ask to play it, but will always play if asked to.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #307246 18 Feb 2020 22:38
The very first date I went on with my now-wife, the conversation came around to our hobbies. This was right around the time when I was getting into board gaming, and I gave that sort of hedging answer that indicated she didn't need to ask follow-up questions if it wasn't interesting. But she got really excited and described a game she had played a bunch and really enjoyed where you made castles out of little tiles and put these little wooden people on it. And that game was, of course, Carcassonne.

It's still her favorite game now, and we play a few times a year. I like it best with the first couple expansions, which I think even out the tile mix and add some of those mechanics that ride the line between cooperative and competitive. I don't think I play it with anyone else, but I have a really strong affinity for the game just because of my time spent playing it with my wife.

I haven't read this whole thread, so this may have been pointed out. But in 2007-2008, when I was buying games with every paycheck, the most tempting thing about Carcassonne was its $25 MSRP. We really need proper board games at that price point to keep on getting new people into the hobby. According to CSI, Carcassonne's current MSRP is $35, which is awfully good for 2020's landscape. I'm glad it's still affordable.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #307289 20 Feb 2020 04:54
I posted this last year at the other place:

One weekend, not long after my first child was born, we had a relative and her husband come and stay with us, from interstate, and from the country at that. We lived in Sydney at the time. Sin City. The Big Smoke. And it was their first time visiting, so I was happy to play tour guide. Nothing beats playing tour guide in your home town, after all, especially when you have a love/hate relationship with it. “Let me show you this little cool out of the way place oh they ruined it.” “And that’s where the murder happened”. “We could do that but it would take like 5 hours to get there”. “Look at this small hole in the ground. It sold last week for 2 million dollars.” Anyway, I asked them, what did they want to do? Opera House? Harbour Bridge? Manly Ferry? And the husband says, “Well, what I really want to do is visit a game shop. A board game shop”.

I racked my brain. An image formed. I recalled my old geek friend. The one into Warhammer. Ohhhhhhh. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I used to sometimes wait outside Games Workshop while he went in. I think I’ve seen some of those kind of places around still. So I directed the husband off to where I thought there might be something suitable, in the city; I think they went while I did something else, I can’t really remember. At any rate, that night, he said, “Alright, time to play”, and pulled out Carcassonne.

So, that’s it then. We all know how this goes. If the standard games-cupboard games in their oblong boxes I had grown up with had planted seeds in their own little ways, then this was the rains coming in. I immediately saw that this game was on another level to anything I had experienced before. It had simplicity, a nice tactical bent to it, it looked different to anything else I had seen – the aesthetic was really pleasing to me - , it made a pleasing little map, the turns were quick, the GAME was quick. I was impressed.

A little niggle formed pretty quickly. I did not go crazy. I did not go out and find the shop this item had come from, or hop online immediately and order the top 50 BGG games to be delivered to my house. But the niggle was there. And, eventually, sitting at home, staring at the television for another night, I thought, you know what, let’s do something different.
-I want to play a game instead.
-Um…. Like, Mario?
-No, I mean like, a board game or a card game.
-Monopoly?
-No….

But, that, and a pack of cards were pretty much it in the house, and no, I didn’t feel like another round of world domination on the computer either. I wanted something that my partner and I could do together (like so many others before me!). And that maybe one day, the kid, and potential siblings, might enjoy too.

Of course, I was thinking, Carcassonne. Has to be!

So next time we were near a gamestore – I knew the address of one now - , I said. -Oh, look, we’re near that gamestore, I think…. I should pop in and see if they have Carcassonne.
We walked past it a few times, missing the sign. It was through a single door, and occupied the big room at the top of a narrow flight of stairs in an old Victorian terrace, itself sandwiched between Vietnamese bakeries and Indian grocery stores. Most of the space was given over to tables and Magic players. And a distinctive odour. My partner looked at me.
-I’ll see you downstairs, she said.

I looked at the shelves. Multiple things were clamouring for my attention, but I knew what I wanted, found the big C, and got out of there.

It’s still on the shelf of course, and I’ve added expansions to it over the years, into the same box– I’d say my first few purchases were actually expansions for the base game, rather than other boardgames. Inns and Cathedrals, the River (I bided my time on ebay and eventually got lucky), Princess and Dragon, all of them added something a little extra and kept us going on Carcassonne for quite a while. Those expansions, or researching them, prompted me to find get online and start looking at other games as well I’m pretty sure.

The same things that appealed to me the first time around still do; the simplicity of it, the tactical nature of it. The tactile nature of it – reaching in to the box to grab a tile, turning it over, putting it down. I’ve come to appreciate how it can be both a quiet, non-confrontational thing, or the most vicious game I own (Uncle mc used to stay up past midnight playing Cut throat Carcassonne!). I like the gamble that is the farmers. The bluffing you can do with a clever placement, when it looks unassuming but is really part of a larger plan. I like that I could introduce this to my kids when they were really little, just by removing the farmers, and that something like the Princess and Dragon enabled them to develop their “kids assemble, bash Dad” sensibility deliciously early.

It wasn’t 100% successful though; I discovered it wasn’t enough to make us play games every night. So, I obviously needed to have another option or two, and I had a few ideas about that. Plus, on top of that, my partner developed an aversion to gamestores.

-I might have a look in the gamestore.
-Oh, do you have a date with your nerd friends? Are you sure you’ll be welcome? You showered this morning…..*

*conversation recorded last week
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #307293 20 Feb 2020 07:55
I like the expansion that adds little triangle half tiles. They lead to some harsh blocks or clutch finishing previously unfinishable things. I do tend to prefer The City these days though.