Carcassonne is an accessible, balanced and exceptionally fun German board game of tile laying and feature claiming. I unreservedly love it and consider it my favourite game because it has three traits I look for in games: it is easy to teach, can be expanded greatly and makes space for silliness.
The game is named after a walled southern French town that was founded by fifth century Visigoths. Walled cities similar to the historical Carcassonne form one of the four basic features that players create and claim along with roads, fields and cloisters. Players draw tiles, find places for them on a growing map and claim features with playing pieces called meeples (shortened from “my people”). Points are given to each player as features are completed and players can combine previously distinct features into larger ones for which they compete. At the end of the game the player who has amassed the most points wins.
The game has numerous expansions that add new types of features or new play mechanics. My favourite expansion is Carcassonne: Catapult, which adds a wooden catapult that players use to fling small tiles at the map or at each other. It adds excitement and zaniness to the game and can change the dynamic of play in huge ways. The more than twenty other expansions add other new ways to play so there are always expanding bits of complexity and variety
The base game allows for 5 players, and the Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals expansion adds one more, but a third party company has made the game playable with many more players. Meeple Source provides new colours of meeples and character meeples such as pirates, ninjas, zombies, monsters, vampires, werewolves, astronauts, aliens. The extra flavour offered by character meeples enhances the joyful silliness that can be experienced when playing this game.
Carcassonne is a great party game and a perfect way to introduce reluctant gamers to the richness of contemporary board games.