The medieval French city of Carcassonne is ripe for development -- perfect for your followers to build roads, construct castles, inhabit cloisters, and work the fields. Too bad others have the same idea. This is the basis for Carcassonne, a strategic and clever tile game.

Each player starts with seven followers (plus one used to keep track of points on the scorepad). On a player's turn they first draw a random tile and place it adjacent to a tile or tiles on the board; placed tiles must continue features, so a road must connect to another road, a castle segment to another castle segment, etc. A player can put a peasant on a road, castle, farm, or cloister as long as another player doesn't have someone on that feature.

Next is scoring. If a road is completed (two if its sides end at a castle or intersection), the player gets their follower back and gets a point for each tile in the road. If a castle is completed (fully sealed on all sides), the player gets their follower back and gets two points for each castle tile, plus two points for each pennant on the castle tiles; a two-piece castle only scores two points, but the player gets their follower back immediately. If there are tiles on all eight sides around a cloister, the player gets their follower back and scores nine points. Followers stay on farms for the whole game -- but they score three points for each complete castle on the field at the end of the game. When the game ends (no more tiles to choose from), players score the aforementioned farms, plus: one point per tile for an incomplete road; one point per castle tile and pennant for an incomplete castle; and one point for each tile around a cloister, plus one for the cloister itself.

Players can also join, or even steal, roads, castles, and fields from competitors. A player can't directly put a follower on a feature an opponent already has -- but if they put their own follower on a nearby tile and then manage to connect them later, they share the points. If one player manages to get a majority of followers on a feature, they get all the points for that feature! Large castles often attract multiple followers trying to join.

It's also possible to block another player by placing a tile that makes it harder, or even impossible, for them to complete a road, castle, or field. This not only costs them points but also leaves them with fewer followers to use.

I really enjoy Carcassonne. Limiting the number of followers each player has makes resource management very easy (do I have any followers left?) and important (do I risk committing all my followers, or do I pass on using them in case another opportunity opens up?). Players compete not through attacks and die rolls but by tile placement for blocking and trying to get a majority on a road, castle, or field. (For players who want different versions of the game there are numerous expansions that include different tiles and followers.) Carcassonne is very easy to learn, pretty quick to play, and a whole lot of fun.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch
(who, as of this review, has played 2,576 games of Carcassonne online -- and won 69% of them!)

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