There are some games that have made such an impact on the gaming industry that we often use them as a reference for some type of bit or mechanism. If someone says that we place our units “settlers-style” at the start of a game, then most board gamers will understand what that means. If someone says that a game contains meeples, then most board gamers will also understand what that means as well, thanks to Carcassonne.

meeple (plural meeples)
A small person-shaped figure used as a player’s token in a board game.

Carcassonne is also the first game most people think of when talking about tile laying games. I have no idea if it was the first game to feature that mechanism, but I do know that most people will describe any game where you place a tile next to another with shared attributes as “Carcassonne-like”.

CarcassonneCoverCarcassonne was designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and was first published in 2000. The game will play up to five players, but I like playing with two or three. The rules are very simple and you can easily play with younger gamers. I think my daughter played this when she was seven. A game of Carcassonne will take less than an hour, unless you are playing with someone who is really slow. Throw your meeples at their head until they complete their turn, if this becomes a real issue.

Inside your Carcassonne box, you will find 72 land tiles, some meeples in the five player colors, and a scoring board. My copy also included an expansion called The River, but I don’t think they put that in the base game anymore.

The rules are very simple. On your turn, you take a tile from the stack of face down tiles, or from the messy pile of face down tiles if you are too lazy to put them in stacks, and then place that tile down on the table with the edges next to regions that match.  In the base game of Carcassonne, the edges of a tile will be grassland, a city, or a road. When you place a tile, you have to place it such a way that all edges match with like edges.

Carcassonne tiles on table
Farmers get tired I guess.

Your next decision is whether or not to put one of your meeples down on the tile you just placed. Your meeples are what allows you to eventually score victory points. Meeples get placed on tiles and remain there until the feature is completed, or until the end of the game if your meeple is a farmer. It is important to note that you may not place a meeple on a feature that is currently occupied by another meeple. Apparently, meeples have a very strong union.

If you place your meeple on a road, then it’s a thief, and will score you a point for every tile that makes up the road from start to end. If you place your meeple in a city, then it’s a knight, and will score you two points for every tile that makes up the city once it’s completed. You also get two bonus points for every shield in a city region. I like to think of these as pubs. If you place a meeple on a cloister, it develops a severe case of male pattern baldness, takes a vow of silence, and becomes a monk. This will score you nine points once all of the tiles that surround the cloister are placed.

You may place your meeple on its side in the grassland area of a tile and designate it as a farmer. A farmer will not score until the end of the game, so you have to be careful how many of your meeples you put out as farmers. When I first bought a copy of Carcassonne about six or seven years ago, the rules for scoring the farmers were different than they are now. I didn’t like the old scoring rules that came with my copy anyway. They were confusing and difficult to explain to the kids. The current rules are written so that a farmer will score 3 points for every city that touches the farm. If there is a tie, then both farmers get the points, and yes there are situations where there are ties on features because areas that were once separate can merge together due to tile placement.

I really enjoy playing Carcassonne. It’s a very relaxing game for some reason. I suppose that some people can be cutthroat about where they place their meeples, but I prefer to just let the landscape grow without a lot of conflict. I am a kind and loving Carcassonne player, not an evil butt-face Carcassonne player. Regardless of what kind of player you are, you should have a copy of Carcassonne in your house for those rainy afternoons when you just want to relax with a good game and a cup of tea.

spiel_des_jahresThis is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 2001 winner, Carcassonne, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.


  1. I think some folks have a blah reaction to this one, but I feel it’s one of our modern classics. As in, this one is going to be around a long while. It’s got that winning combination of (mostly) intuitive rules, attractive production, and straightforward gameplay…with opportunity for serious competition if you want it. With some folks it’s almost like a group jigsaw puzzle, and with others it’s a cut-throat 2-player contest.

    I don’t have much use for the expansions and spinoffs, but the original design (ok, maybe with the first expansion, Inns & Cathedrals) is elegant. It was a brilliant bit of game design/development to NOT give each player a hand of several tiles. Just one.

  2. Great article, with nice use of humour to touch on all aspects of the game. I think the game is great for two players as it takes a bit of thinking to prevent an opponent from stealing features. I am not overly familiar with the expansions, but I find Traders and Builders to be great in that it creates an incentive to complete cities, which I find very true to the game’s core theme of city building. I’ll have to read more of your articles!

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