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Why is Carcassonne So Popular?

Carcassonne. As people who enjoy the board game hobby, we owe quite a lot to Carcassonne. Released towards the start of this board game renaissance, Carcassonne helped launch the board gaming hobby into the place it is today back in 2000. Since then it has been heralded as one of the great games to start the hobby off with, and board gamers of all levels really enjoy playing it. Carcassone has helped this whole past time evolve, and for that we are thankful.

All that is what Carcassonne is, but it is not what really makes it something special.

It is coming up for Christmas – like…it is coming up for Christmas really really fast. With that in mind, I thought we would look at this absolute board game classic and what makes it something that will keep getting played forever.

Knight, Knight, Farmer, Monk - The Farm Strategy in Action

Knight, Knight, Farmer, Monk – The Farm Strategy in Action

Why is Carcassonne so popular?

Carcassonne is a brilliant game. It is simple and easy to play. It has a timeless theme. Those are reasons that contribute to the success of the game – however, before we delve into any of those we need to acknowledge one thing in particular. When it came out, Carcassonne was new and exciting.

Of Tiles and Tilling

Although it seems relatively new, tile placement isn’t a new mechanic. It is a mechanic that has been in existence for as long as Scrabble has been for starters; however, back in the year 2000, Carcassonne came along and did something very different with the humble tile. Before Carcassonne came along, tile placement was not a mechanic that was widely used for creative purposes in the mainstream. The majority of times tile placement has been used was for number or letters or patters – all kind of in the abstract. Then…along came Carcassonne.

When Carcassonne burst onto the scene (I say that, although it probably sauntered onto the scene in mild confusion) it offered something brand new and exciting. Here was a game with a strong medieval theme. It was a game that took abstract and threw it out the window along with preconceived notions of what a family game should be like.

In the place of the abstract, Carcassonne offered two things. The first is the medieval theme that had players building their own maps of the fairytale-esque Carcassonne. The second was that it offered a game that had a whole host of strategies – all of which were easy to grasp and master.

Carcassonne is a game in which you build your own cities around Carcassonne; however, it is a game where there are lots of different ways of scoring points. Carcassonne didn’t originate the idea of board game strategy (that came around 1000 years earlier with Chess); however, it took the idea and went with it. What Carcassonne did was introduce four new ways of scoring points that hadn’t been seen in any other game – cloisters, cities, roads, and farms – and made something truly unique with the outcome.

What this means is that, to this day, Carcassonne is a game that strategic players of all levels can enjoy. It can be enjoyed by someone who has been playing board games for 20 years as much as it can be enjoyed by someone who took up the hobby yesterday.

Castles and Cities

Castles and Cities in the Carcassonne App

Simple to Play, Simple to Master

This accessibility to playing Carcassonne is a real perk to the game. What Carcassonne does, essentially speaking, is base an entire game around one base mechanic – a mechanic that is so beautifully simple that everyone can master the game with a few basic principles.

That mechanic is the tile placement, and it is for that reason that Carcassonne belongs with games like Sushi Go for taking one mechanic (hand drafting in the case of Sushi Go) and mastering it. Carcassonne does one base thing, but it does that base thing almost flawlessly and that is really impressive.

Tile A

On a Cloister

Of Men and Meeples

There is, of course, one last aspect to Carcassonne that has definitely contributed to its popularity over the past 20 years and that is the invention of the meeple. Although the meeple, as a component, may have been around before Carcassonne (a fact of which I am unsure – if you know, please let me know in the comments below), the term “meeple” was actually coined in a game of Carcassonne back in 2000. Since then it has become an icon of modern board games, to the point where not only hundreds games use meeples now, but also hundreds of board game blogs use meeples in their titles…ahem…

Meeples have become an absolute staple of the hobby, and to know that this awesome little board game component had its humble beginnings in Carcassonne is fantastic.

Carcassonne – Leaving a Mark on the Gaming World

There is no doubt about it. Carcassonne has certainly left its mark on the gaming world. Although only a short article tonight (did I mention it’s nearly Christmas and I am horrifically disorganised) these are some of the reasons why I believe Carcassonne continues to do so well within the board game world. That being said, this  article was not an exclusive list. There are plenty of reasons that we haven’t talked about as to why Carcassonne is so popular and continues to be popular to this day.

All I can say is long live Carcassonne, and long may it reign as a fantastic game for everyone to play.

And now, over to you. I’ve explored a few reasons why I think Carcassonne is such a great game. What about you? Do you enjoy Carcassonne? Why do you think it is so popular? Let me know in the comments below.

10 Comments »

  1. I have an abiding fondness for Carcassone. It was the first game my husband and I played together and we have played many, many games of it. We’ve since moved onto more complex games but every once in a while, we pull out Carcassone and enjoy it again.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Nice points. I agree with all of them. One point that you allude to that I think dovetails with Carcassonne’s popularity is that the meeples are all relatable. In other words, kids can grasp the concepts easily and intuitively. So for all of the reasons you mention _plus_ it being readily taught to even 7 and 8 year olds it’s not just a good game, it’s a good family game. That I think gives it extra staying power.

    There’s also the fact that it arrived at the start of the market so it established a spot early on. Frequently products that are new to consumers can maintain market share over newer ones simply due to word of mouth and familiarity. If you have it or have played it in the past, you don’t need to learn a new game. Try to do this with Scythe for a family of five new to board games and you may well kill their Interest. Better to lead them up to it…

    Like

  3. I like the way the game has a dimension that is almost, but not quite, cooperative. It makes for a very convivial atmosphere and brings in nice opportunities to explore different strategies.

    Like

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