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Carcassonne

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Published in 2000, Carcassonne is one of the more successful German game imports, with numerous expansions. In my opinion, the basic game remains the best. If your collection only includes a few games, Carcassonne should be one of them.

Carcassonne is a tile-laying game in which players build the board through the course of the game. Each square tile has a combination of elements, roads, green grass and city sections. Play consists of placing a new tile next to other tiles in such a way as to continue what has been previously played. So, roads must be played either on their own or to continue an already existing road, for example. The same applies to city sections and grass. When the tile is placed, the player may (but is not required to) place a pawn called a meeple (for miniature people or maple people) on an element of that tile. What element is selected is important: a meeple on a road would collect points for that road once the road is completed. The same would apply to a city. The meeples remain on the board until the road or city they occupy is completed, at which point they would score one point for each road section or two points for each city section.

The genius of the game is that players cannot place a meeple on a road or city that is already claimed. However, you can build on a part that has not yet been joined—like a small piece of unconnected road--and then try to connect it up in later turns. When something is closed and scores, all players who have the most meeples present score the full amount, so sneaking into something your opponent has built up before it scores is a key strategy of the game. Players have a limited number of meeples available, so it is important that things close and score, so you can use the meeple again.

Carcassonne has many things to recommend it. It plays very well with any number. The strategy is different with five players than with two, but the game is just as engaging. Because you are building the board anew each time, every game is different. The game also has tremendous replay value, which I can attest to after playing it hundreds of times.

Designed by: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede; published by: Rio Grande Games; 2-5 players; playing time: 20-45 minutes; ages 8 and older.