Carcassonne is a two to five player family game by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede originally released in 2000 by Rio Grande Games. In 2013 Carcassonne: Winter Edition was released by current publisher Z-Man Games.
In the original Carcassonne players take turns laying tiles down to create cities, roads, monasteries and fields. To claim a city, road, monastery or field a player must place a follower on a tile at the time of placement. When a follower is placed on a road it becomes a thief, a follower placed in a city becomes a knight and a follower placed on a monastery becomes a monk. The follower is returned to the player once the city, road or monastery is completed. Followers placed on fields become farmers and cannot be removed and will remain on the field until the game has ended. Each player starts with seven followers and must manage their placement for optimum scoring.
Carcassonne is fun with two to five players and requires different strategies as player count increases. A two player game typically involves building of larger roads and cities but as player numbers go up it can becomes more about area management and trying to block, steal or at least share scoring cities and roads with opponents. A city can be shared by joining your incomplete city or road with an opponents incomplete city or road. If you manage to join cities or roads in a way that you end up with more followers on them than your opponent you receive all the points thus leaving your opponent with nothing but the return of their follower(s) to their supply.
Carcassonne: Winter Edition comes with the exact same 72 titles as the original game but with a new winter theme. Instead of green fields of grass you get fields covered in snow and frozen lakes with ice skaters. Christmas trees and can be seen in cities and if you look close enough Santa Claus can be found. The rules of the game are unchanged and therefore plays exactly like the original. The Z-Man English edition also includes the Gingerbread Man Expansion. The expansion consists of 12 additional tiles, six of which have gingerbread symbols on them, and a wooden gingerbread man. The Gingerbread Man Expansion may seem more like a last minute – we need to make something different besides the artwork – addition but it can really add some strategy to the game.
When playing with the Gingerbread Man Expansion you start the game by placing the gingerbread man on the starting tile’s city. When a player draws a tile with a gingerbread man symbol on it all players with knights in the city the gingerbread man currently resides in score the number of tiles times the number of knights they have in that city. The player that drew the gingerbread man tile then moves the gingerbread man from his current location to another unfinished city of their choice. If the city with the gingerbread man on it is finished during regular play scoring proceeds the same as when a gingerbread tile is drawn. The player that finished the city then gets to place the gingerbread man on any incomplete city. If there are no incomplete cities available the gingerbread man remains in the current city.
The original version of Carcassonne is one of the greatest success stories of hobby board games ranking up there with the likes of Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Dominion. The original game would earn an easy five star review but Carcassonne: Winter Edition isn’t perfect. The problem with the game is the backs of the tiles are blue instead of the gray used in the original version, and every expansion released in the last ten years, making it for the most part incompatible. If you’re looking for just the base game and don’t plan on buying any of the expansions Carcassonne: Winter Edition is a great buy. If you want to be able to play it with any of the many expansions you may want to pick up a copy of the original instead.