See that guy at the left in the foreground? That's my buddy Mike.
Mike just realized how deep shit gets in the mechanically simple, but strategically elegant, game of Carcassonne
The premise is simple and cuddly: Each player takes turns adding new tiles to the growing medieval landscape. Once you legally place a tile, you have to decide whether you're going to use one of your limited supply of "meeples" (those little figures on the board) to lay claim to a pasture, monastery, section of city or length of road on the tile you just played. When and if the feature is completed, you score! When the tiles are out, the game's over!
Except, wait ... someone just started a city section near mine, which means they'll horn in on the points if the castle is completed. And some other smartass had a tile which wasn't of much use to them, but they dropped it in a spot which makes the thing I was building nearly impossible to complete. And did somebody else just sneak a farmer onto a currently unconnected piece of pasture? If they link that farmer to the main pasture area before the end of the game, my farmers won't score any points.
Because of this perfect balance between light ruleset and heavy scheming, Carcassonne
has proven a durable favorite and still heavily played in strategy gamer circles. The longer you play it, the more nuance you see in how you lay tiles and manage your supply of meeples.
But here's an extra layer of beauty: It's a cutthroat strategy game and
a great family game at the same time. Why? Because younger players can have a great time just placing tiles and helping to complete the landscape — like waterbugs skimming carefree on the surface of a deep, dark pool — while the older predators contend with the nasty beast beneath.
We got this game more than six years ago and it's still found the table more often this year than any other game we own. It's pretty on the table and simple to learn...and damn tough once you get to know it a little better. I can't think of a game shelf on the world where this masterpiece doesn't belong.
Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.