Published on October 20th, 2012 | by Matt Moberly

Are You Game? Area Control – Carcassonne

In my Getting Started article, I mentioned that all games are made of a mix of game mechanics, just as recipes are made of ingredients.  Different games appeal to people with different tastes.  This series is aimed at helping you decide which types of games best suit you and the people you spend time with.  In this article, we will take a look at the mechanic of area control.  Read on to find out more about it and discover a popular area control game on the shelves today.

 This Table Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us 

In area control games, the goal of the game is usually to control – Wait for iiiiit! – the most area.  During the game, players are rewarded for taking and keeping ownership of various locations on the board.  For example, in the classic game of Risk, players get extra armies for occupying an entire continent, and bonuses each turn for stealing adjacent territories from other players.  Anyone who has played Risk knows that it can be frustrating to watch your empire fall at the hands of your opponents, but not all area control games are as directly confrontational.  Today we will look at a more friendly area control game, Carcassonne.

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Meeples 


# of Players: 2 – 5

Suggested Ages: 8 and up

Playing TIme: 45 minutes

Price: $20 – $30

Where to Buy: Target, Barnes & Noble, Local Game Stores

Great For: Families and New Gamers

Carcassonne is a game where players start with a single tile on the table and build a scenic landscape by adding more tiles each turn.  Each tile contains a mix of open countryside, walled villages, secluded cloisters and interconnecting roads.  Because tiles are drawn at random, the ending board can have some very oddly shaped villages and wandering roads, similar to the French town of Carcassonne that is the game’s namesake.

As players lay tiles, they have the option of putting their own little wooden citizens, coined “meeples” by the gaming community, onto the tile they placed, to take up residence in the village, farm the countryside, meditate in the cloisters or travel on the roads.  As villages, cloisters and roads are completed, points are awarded to the players with the most meeples within.  The bigger the village and longer the road, the more points go to the occupying players.  At the end of the game, points are given to the farmers in the surrounding countryside for each finished village their land touches.

Good (De)fenses Make Good Neighbors

Don’t be fooled by the tranquil scenery and innocent meeples… This game is all about keeping other players out of your business!  Meeples can only be placed on villages, farms and roads that have no other meeples on them yet, so at first glance it would seem that once you’ve got a nice little village going, you are free to expand it and rack up points in peace.  But what if I start my own village next to yours and then connect them together before you can wall yours off?  Now we’re sharing your hard-earned points!

Carcassonne is very fast to teach, and with only one tile to draw and place per turn, the game moves quickly and is over in under an hour.  But there are still interesting decisions to make and sneaky tricks to pull off as you try to stay remote or encroach on other players’ land.  Carcassonne is a fun area control game that can be introduced to and enjoyed by adults and children alike.

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About the Author

Matt Moberly is a software engineer, native hoosier and Purdue University alum. He spends his free time playing music and roping family, friends and co-workers into tabletop games of all varieties.

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