|It is fun to build a landscape even if you aren't actually playing|
Carcassonne is a historically important game if for no other reason than it coined the term “meeple” for little game-piece people. It was also one of the first modern Euros we played. Becky bought it for me along with a number of expansions*. Then we realized that not all expansions make games better.
*those 8 days of Hanukkah add up
Rio Grande (Newish Edition Z-Man)
Good for People who Grew up Playing with
Ease of Learning:
Each turn in Carcassonne is simple. You draw one tile and then place it in a legal location. Since you are taking the action publically other players can even help you in determining where you can and should place it. The difficulty in the game revolves around how to protect your territories and hoard in on those of other players, as well as some rule quirks like farmer scoring.
Player Count and Length:
2-5. Expansion adds option of 6 players. Works fine with all counts, though there can be a lot of downtime at higher player counts. To speed things up, consider drawing tiles at the end of a turn instead of the beginning. The base game can be played in 45 minutes, but it can be much longer with expansions mixed in.
Carcassonne, as one of those rare games that made oodles of cash, has a large number of expansions and spin offs.
Inns and Cathedrals: Adds ways to double down on roads, cities, and farms, a 6th player, and a super meeple along with some interesting new tiles. It adds a lot life to the base game and is well worth getting.
Traders and Builders: Gives bonuses for finishing structures and allows double turns creating alternate incentives for gaining points.. The 2nd and final must own expansion.
Princess and Dragon fundamentally changes the game into an aggressive chaotic mess.
The Tower gives a nice visual, but it similarly disrupts play in a way that ruins the game’s original charm.
The Abbey and Manor in a collection of mechanics that add new ways to score. It doesn’t ruin the game unlike the previous couple of expansions, but it doesn’t add much either.
Catapult is... um... a well named expansion. You use a catapult to, I don’t know, does it really matter? This has become the gaming equivalent of jumping the shark.
Bridges, Castles & Bazaars and Hills & Sheep are the newest two large expansions. I haven't tried them, but don’t have great confidence for ideas that were behind catapult in the pecking order.
There are also more than a dozen mini expansions. Some of them have cool pieces, but none are essential except for the rivers, if your base game comes without it.
Hunters and Gatherers adds an animal theme and eliminates the complex farmer rules of the game. It’s many people’s preferred way of playing Carcassonne.
Ark of the Covenant is good if you want be both a gamer and a good Christian.
The Castle offers an interesting 2 player only variant. Plus Castle!
The City is the coolest looking version of a game adding city walls to the festivities.
Cardcassonne is a card version of the game.
Kids of Carcassonne is an intro scenario for children
The Discovery, New World, South Seas, Gold Rush, Wheel of Fortune, and Over Hill and Dale are additional spin-offs that change a feature or two, and that is all I have to say about them.
Star Wars Carcassonne is a thing that exists. Really. It simplifies farmer rules and adds some combat.
Introducing the Game to New Gamers:
Consider playing without the farmer rules. Try to share a small city with an opponent to show how it works, but don’t aggressively block or steal a large feature.
At $10, Carcassonne is one of the more expensive board game apps. It is also perhaps the best built app and well worthy of the price. The game features intuitive controls, exceptional AIs, a fascinating solo game puzzle, pass and play and online play. There are also options to buy add-ons for the first few expansions.