Let's play our own small version of Carcassonne so you can get an idea of how it works. For this purpose, let's just pretend you and I are playing right now. (It's important to note that while there are previous versions of the game with slightly different rules, the ones we discuss throughout this article are the most recent, so-called "3rd edition" rules).
First, we'll put all but one of our 72 tiles face down in piles; you'll know the starting tile by the lighter-colored "C" on the back of it. These tiles all feature some aspect of the French countryside: a field, farm, castle, road or cloister. I'll draw a tile from the face-down pile and find an appropriate place to match it up to the first tile. The tile must "fit" with the existing tile: A road needs to connect to a road, a wall of a city must connect to another wall, a field must be placed green to green, etc.
Now I'm faced with a decision. I have eight followers (or meeples). I can place a follower on the tile I just laid, which would mean that I'm betting I can build up the area around this tile with a road, city, cloister or farm. However, I can't take my meeple off it until one of these features is completed (i.e. connected road segments, a completely walled-off city, a cloister surrounded by nine tiles, etc.) After I've decided to place or not place a meeple, it's the next player's turn, and so on until all of the tiles are placed and the game is over.
Keep in mind that you can only place meeples if no competing meeples are present and that once the feature has been completed, you get your meeple back. Here are more details on meeple placement and scoring:
- A knight can be placed in a city tile segment, giving the player two points per tile that makes up the city. Some tiles have a pennant symbol, which is an extra two points.
- A monk can be placed in a cloister tile; after the cloister is complete, the player earns nine points.
- A thief can be placed on a road tile, and when the road stops at a city, cloister or crossing (or loops), the player earns a point for each tile that makes up the road.
- Farmers can be placed in a field tile; fields are only scored at the end of the game.
After all the tiles have been positioned, scoring takes place on fields and incomplete structures, like so:
- Incomplete roads receive a point per tile.
- Incomplete cities get one point per tile, with each pennant earning a point.
- Incomplete cloisters get a point for the cloister tile plus each adjacent tile.
- Each farm receives three points when the farm is adjacent to a completed city. If a completed city has more than one farm "supplying" it, then the player with the most farmers in the adjacent farms gets the points. In case of ties, all involved players score.
In a nutshell, that's Carcassonne. But we'd by lying if we said that's the end of it. Read on to learn more about the game and the strategy a crafty player like you can employ.