Carcassonne in review – more confusing to spell than play

I used to play a game on the PocketPC called Cities, which I took to be a stripped down version of Carcassonne, especially since the tiles were taken directly from the Carcassonne tile library.  While Cities would actually make a good mini-game for Carcassonne, Carcassonne has so much more to offer.  I never would have guessed that a tile based city building board game could be so strategic, but even the solitaire mode pretty much gets the best of me.  It’s especially compelling because there is no combat involved, which is unusual for what amounts to a turn-based strategy game.  The slow pace might be a bit daunting for some, but slow pace is right up my alley these days.

Simply put, Carcassonne is a game about building cities.  Unlike the trend of constructing buildings and keeping people happy ala SimCity, however, this game has finite resources and clear cut goals.  You start each game with 72 tiles comprised of city sections, towns, individual structures and roads.  In multiplayer mode you’ll use up all of the tiles, whereas in Solitaire mode you’ll use enough to accomplish your goal (which for me is usually just about all of them anyway).  The mechanics between the two modes are similar, the tasks are different, but the end result either way is to score as many points possible.

In either mode you score points when cities are completed (all sides of a city are enclosed by a wall) or roads are connected (the two ends of a road are terminated by a cross-section or a structure).  In Solitaire mode your mission is to build objects of increasing size – first a city and road with two sections, then one with three, etc.  If you’re on the fives you can build a city with two sections, it just won’t count towards your score.  You also lose points for each tile you use, so it’s in your best interest to complete your construction with as few tiles as possible.  Once you’ve finished a game you can challenge a friend to play the same sequence of tiles to see if they can get a better score.

In Multiplayer mode you can compete with either computer AI or live opponents via the developer’s private server.  In this mode you take turns laying tiles down, and as you place a tile you can mark either a road, city section or field as yours, depending on (1) if you have any markers left, and (2) if such an item is available to mark.  You automatically receive points for marked cities and roads once they are completed, and the markers are returned to you to be reused.  Markers on fields are not counted until the game is over, however.  In the end, the person who scores the most points from used markers is the winner.  If you’re playing against humans, be prepared to allot some time for the game, as you can take up to 90 seconds per turn.

The graphics aren’t “whiz-bang” or anything, but I like them.  I believe the tile images are taken directly from the board game, and the interface is easy to use and looks really slick.  The tiles also scale nicely, which means everything is still quite recognizable as more pieces are laid out and the board gets smaller.

There really isn’t much to the sound effects, though I do like the clap trap of horses’ hooves when you complete a road.  The music is nice and soothing, which may or may not be good for such a slow paced game.  It’s nice because it’s basically a guitar ballad, so it just suits the atmosphere of the game.

The lack of intense action in this game, coupled with the fact that even the multiplayer mode includes no combat whatsoever, means Carcassonne falls in a fairly niche market, even as far as strategy games are concerned.  I personally find it a nice change of pace from the usual strategy fare.  My one hope is that I can actually start remembering all the rules, because personally it’s a bit embarrassing playing this against a real opponent right now.

App Summary
Title: Carcassonne Developer: TheCodingMonkeys
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req:
Price: $4.99 App Size: 79.7 MB
  • Strategy that gives you time to think
  • Multiplayer against real and computer opponents
  • Simple to play, hard to master
  • Slow pace = not great for quick play


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