Carcassonne Review

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Publisher: Sierra (Vivendi Games)
Developer: Sierra

Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

The medieval French town of Carcassonne is famous for its fortifications, a convoluted series of walls that have been growing since the Romans ruled the territory. In the game Carcassonne , players construct their own version of the walled town by taking turns placing a series of tiles.

Kyle Ackerman

The physical game Carcassonne is one of the top board games released this decade, designed by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede, and beloved by hobby game fans everywhere. The physical game consists of 72 tiles, each with fragments of walled cities, roads and monasteries, as well as a collection of tiny, wooden people to serve as each player's followers. Players take turns placing tiles (borders of new tiles have to match the borders of existing tiles), ultimately trying to rack up the most points.

Players earn points by placing their followers on cities, roads and monasteries. Also, players can turn their followers into farmers who, at the end of the game, get points for all of the cities that border their pastureland. The game rules are simple, but they support a great deal of detailed strategy. For example, you can't place one of your followers on a road or city already claimed by another follower. But you can place your follower on an unfinished town and then connect that city-in-progress to someone else's. If your followers outnumber theirs, only you score points.

The version of Carcassonne released on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 points ($10) is, simply, a perfect implementation of the board game. You don't get to handle the many tiles or lord your colossal size over your tiny, wooden followers. However, the Xbox 360 always cleanly aligns the tiles, and the scoring is automatic. In fact, with a touch of the button, you can easily learn how many unscored potential points you already have on the play surface. You no longer need to worry if the dog bumps the table, jumbling the tiles, and there's no need to argue over scoring anymore.

The AI is quite good. On easy, the game will work hard to let you win, and on the hard setting, the game can put up a decent fight. Set to expert, the AI can almost give a strong human player a run for the money. Given that games of Carcassonne are dramatically different depending on whether two or more people play, and you can set the AI to create several players, there's a lot of different styles of play and difficulty levels to try even before you look to other human players.

Like other Xbox 360 versions of classic board games, the best part of Carcassonne is that you can hop online to find real human opponents at nearly any time. And the use of turn timers means that you won't wait for hours to finish a game. You can choose to play with up to five players on Xbox Live. But unlike other Xbox 360 versions of board games, Carcassonne supports offline multiplayer gamers. You can play with up to four players, substituting the Xbox 360 for the physical version of the game. The only drawback is that Carcassonne requires a controller for each player. But given that, it's cool to be able to play Carcassonne with friends electronically.

Not only is Carcassonne for the Xbox 360 a great electronic version of the classic game that includes a decent set of tutorials (the easy AI can be considered an extension of the tutorials), the game also includes the twelve tiles from the free River mini-expansion. Adding the expansion gives players a way to dive into the full glory of one of the best board games of all time. Most of all, $10 for the Xbox 360 version sure beats $25 for the physical version of the game, even if you don't get those tiny wooden people.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 24, 2007 10:03 PM.

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