Carcassone is a euro strategy game up there in the ranks with Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride. A store owner maybe even told you if you liked the former you would absolutely like this simple tile game named after the French city. This is a step by step guide to how to play Carcassonne.
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HOW TO PLAY CARCASSONNE – HOW IT WORKS
You can play with 2 – 5 players in Carcassonne, each player gets a color and 7 “meeple” figures of that color. There is a scoreboard that feels like a racetrack, and 72 tiles to put and build the board. The game starts with the “starting tile”. Always the same, it has the start of a castle, a road and a grassland.
Someone kicks things off, takes their turn by playing a tile and maybe putting a person down. The player to the left then goes and so on. Turns are taken separately, there are no actions on your turn by anyone else. A turn in Carcassonne consists of two simple things (1) You have to place a tile and (2) you may place a meeple on an improvement on that tile.
HOW TO PLAY CARCASSONNE – TILES
The whole game of Carcassonne is putting down tiles and building out this empire. The empire is for everyone. It is up to you to make the right moves with your meeples to take advantage of structures being completed and score points. A game ends when all the tiles have been put down. Each turn someone grabs from an upside-down stack to grab a random one. There are a few different types of things that can be along with the tiles – castle, road, grassland or cathedral in all sorts of different parts and configurations.
The important thing to remember is the only rule to your tile placement is that it has to make sense. The tile you just drew just has to match up with any other tile that is currently down on the board. You can’t have a road go through a city, or a grassland stopping a road flat. It will all make sense.
The strategy in Carcassonne is that you want to open up new structures you can then control or make what you already do control, bigger and hopefully closed so you can collect points. This will all make sense when we talk about the meeples, points and how you win.
HOW TO PLAY CARCASSONNE – MEEPLE PLACEMENT
So thinking about how to play Carcassonne you may be asking how do you win? It is all about those tiny people. After you place a tile, you then get to put a meeple on any of its features. A tile usually has many, like a road leading out, a piece of a castle and/or a grassland. The only thing that matters is that it doesn’t feed into another feature that someone else controls.
Everything connects in Carcassonne. Roads will build out longer and longer until they end on both sides being completed for example. You only need one person on a feature and then it is yours. If it is piece three of a road and someone already claimed it back on piece one, it is theirs and you can’t take it. You can claim your features more than once on different tiles, but that’s more for protection, not more points, which we will get into next.
Here is where it gets a little tricky. One of the biggest strategy moves, is sneaking into someone else’s structure on the Carcassonne board. Say someone has a castle and it is getting big, if anyone connects to that castle they can’t claim it. Well, if from another area of the board, you could put down a castle that will probably join up with that castle but hasn’t yet, you can claim that. Then, when it actually does join up, you both having controlling pieces of the same structure. This is where the fighting happens. If you tie (say you both have 1 person in it) you both get all the points. But if one person has more (say 2 versus 1) then the player with the most gets all the points and the other player gets nothing.
HOW TO PLAY CARCASSONNE – POINTS
You get points when you complete something. This is where your limited number of meeple figurines comes into play. You have to make a mix of long term investments with your people as well as short ones. If you put too many meeples out and you are not closing off structures, you will run out.
Cities close when all the walls are complete, roads close when they hit something on both ends and cathedrals close when they are surrounded on all eight sides. Grasslands never close so once you put your folks there, they are gone forever.
For each city in Carcassonne, you get two points for every tile it touches and two bonus points for each shield symbol. For each road tile, you get 1 point. And for each cathedral, you get nine (1 for each point all around). You gets a very similar amount of points at the end of the game for uncompleted structures, but its all about the quick turnover. Grasslands that are touching a completed city get 3 points for each tile at the end, so a very effective late-game move.
HOW TO PLAY CARCASSONNE – IN CLOSING
The person with the most points at the end wins. What seems like so so much is actually one of the simplest games out there. Once you understand how the tiles are scoring works, its nothing. There are so many options while you play that mastering the strategy is the hard part. This has been how to play Carcassonne.
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