Carcassonne has the two features that I think makes a great game: the rules for play are very simple, and there is a lot of strategy involved. Learning the game takes less than a minute, but mastering it can take a lot longer.
Each turn you draw a tile at random and join it somewhere (as long as it fits) to the tiles already down, constructing cities, roads and fields in the process. You can then place one of your meeples on the tile you picked as either a Farmer (in a field), a Knight (in a city), a Thief (on a road) or a Monk (in a cloister), depending on what the tile allows. When placing a new meeple it is not allowed to be part of a city/farm/road that someone else is on – however, once the meeple is placed they can be joined up by subsequent tile placements by you or someone else.
Each type of meeple scores differently; thieves get 1 point for every tile that is part of the road they are on, monks get 1 point for the cloister and then 1 point for every surrounding tile (so the maximum is 9 points), knights get 2 points per city tile for a completed city and 1 point per city tile for an incomplete city, and farmers get 3 points for each complete city in their field. If multiple players have meeples on the same city/farm/road then the points are either shared in the case of equal numbers of meeples or the person with the most meeples gets all the points. You only have a limited number of meeples and once placed you can only get them back if the city/road/cloister is complete (you never get farmers back). This can lead to people purposely sabotaging things you are working on, forcing some of your meeples to spend the rest of the game in an unfinished city or on a patch of grass destined to never join up to larger pastures.
Trying to get in on other people’s cities or fields is a common tactic in most of the games I’ve played, usually resulting in 2 or more players getting into a meeple arms race, sacrificing more and more of their meeples to take over a particularly large city, or full field. There can be a fine line between risking everything on a huge city or field, or getting lots of little points with small cities or roads. Luckily there doesn’t seem to be one strategy that always works , so much of it depends on which tiles you and other people get, and everyone can see what you’re doing making it impossible to keep anything good to yourself for long.
On the iPad
Carcassonne works just as well on the iPad as it does in real life . It is not a case of a quick port to make money, there has obviously been a lot of effort put in and the app has been tailored for use on the iPad. There is support for 5 human players just like with the normal game and if you’re a bit short on friends there are multiple computer opponents of varying difficulty . The easy opponents are good for a quick game, but the AI can really give you a run for your money on the higher difficulties. There are two in-app expansions based on real expansions for the game, the River and Inns & Cathedrals, and there are whispers of more of the expansions being added later. I’m not usually one for spending much money on apps, but this was £6.99 well spent.
The OCD part of me thinks it works even better on the iPad as the tiles can’t be moved by clumsy players and are always perfectly aligned.↩
Simple, easy and strong are pretty self explanatory but there are also weird opponents that play in a very confusing manner, and evil opponents that will do anything in their power to screw you over.↩