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This is a new board game I've recently discovered, and it's making a really refreshing change from the typical roll-dice-move-marker type of game we usually play. If you're looking for something different to play with kids or other adults, check it out.
The game is named after a French town, and the fundamental idea is to use map tiles to complete roads and cities in order to earn points. There is no dice or money, and there is actually quite a bit of strategy involved. Even so, you can play a less aggressive game with younger children to keep it more fun. My 8-year old daughter caught on to the rules after about 3 turns and loves it.
This is just a rough outline of the rules to give you an idea of how Carcassonne is played.
Each person choose a game tile at random and finds a place to play it. All tiles have to be used where they fit, so that any roads link up and cities don't end in mid-air. They generally work well together so there is always somewhere to put a new tile.
Once placed, you can decide if you want to "follow" any of the features on that tile. In other words, do you want to stake a claim on the road or city that you've introduced with your tile? You gain points when these features are completed so the more things you are following the better. But you only have 7 followers (little wooden men) so you can't spread yourself out too thin.
Only one follower is allowed per feature so if you add a piece to a road that is already being followed, you can't join in. Once a feature has been completed, you can tally up your points (you get more points for larger cities or longer roads). Points are marked on an included scoreboard. After you collect your points, you can take back your follower piece to attach to another part of the game on your next turn.
The strategy is to place your tiles in locations where you are following, while simultaneously trying to limit your opponent's construction efforts. And of course, you need to actually complete things in order to get the points. Having 4 half-done cities isn't as helpful as getting some of them finished. Watch which tiles have been played already so you can judge the likelihood of completing any certain features.
There is an additional element of scoring that comes from "farming" the open field areas. It's a little more complicated and we have left it out of our game play for now.
Overall, the game play is simple and it moves at a quick pace. We typically finish a game in about 45 minutes. When all of the tiles are played out, the game ends and who ever has the highest score wins.
The basic game is mostly about cities and roads, but if you enjoy the nature of Carcassonne, you can get expansion packs to provide additional types of tiles and new features. There are bridges, castles, bazaars, rivers and more.
This is just an introduction to this game, and I highly recommend it for any family who enjoys spending time with board games.