Carcassonne has proved so popular that like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and a few others, it has made its way into the High Street shops.
The reason for that is it’s extremely accessible and great for all ages, from children who will enjoy the simplicity of building a landscape across the tabletop to older players who can appreciate the tactical aspects.
The game in essence is hugely simple – everyone is building a growing landscape of fields, roads and farms. On your turn, flip over a tile to reveal it, and then add it somewhere on the board following the simple placement rules. Then you may choose to place one of your workers on the tile you’ve just laid – it might go in a city, on a road, a church or become a farmer. When any of the first three elements are completed (a city’s walls must join up, a road has a beginning and end, and a church is surrounded by other tiles) these elements are scored and the player gets their worker back, ready to use again.
Farmers are slightly different: they are only scored at the end of the game – so once placed, they are out of your personal stock for the duration. Farmers score points for every city they ‘supply’ food to – that is, for every city they are adjacent to. However, it’s possible for Farmers to outscore each other: a player with two farmers supplying a particular city will grab the points off a player with only one farmer.
So Carcassonne is a balance of very simple tile-laying and shrewd strategy as to when and where to use your workers – you only have a limited supply, so choose wisely!
You can play it fast and loose and score points as you go, or, if in a group of adults, play more strategically. They might first seem like an afterthought, but the Farmers are often the key to victory, and you need to keep a close eye on where your opponents farmers go. Closing them off in no-man’s land might be a good idea…
It's possible to place a tile in order to stymie someone, either by making it hard (or impossible) for them to complete a city, road or church or by cutting off their farmer.
Next to none. You need to keep an eye on what the other players are doing with their tiles, so you're always involved. In fact the game itself advocates discussion over tile placement - though ultimately the decision is down to whoever is the active player.
Careful thought is needed at times for adding either your tile or your workers, but it shouldn't take an age.
Exceedingly simple rules, pretty tiles, and random distribution of them make Carcassonne very replayable. There are also a multitude of expansions to add variation.