Carcassonne Review

Carcassonne, unlike many other games on the App Store, contains no actual carcasses. Bullet-riddled bodies are nowhere to be found in this quiet, peaceful board game that is all about planning a medieval village filled with roads, towns, fields, and churches. But if one of your competitors scrapes by with enough points or outsmarts you in urban planning, you may be inclined to end them.

We’re not sure how a game with such a pleasant presentation can manage to excite us to the point of murderous rage. But Carcassonne is a game that is as ruthlessly competitive as it is relaxing. The normal game consists of two to five players, taking turns laying down tiles. Tiles contain scenic landscapes, and by placing one of your markers (‘meeple’) on the board, you’ll claim points for completing landmarks like roads and towns.

Good help is so hard to find.

This iPhone version also contains a brand new solitaire mode, where you lay down the tiles by yourself with the goal of completing increasingly larger roads and towns. Solitaire mode is challenging, but it’s also a good place for beginners to start, since they don’t have to deal with some potentially confusing aspects of the game, like laying down meeple or earning points from fields.

Carcassonne is best experienced with a friend (preferably close by, so you can threaten them more effectively for robbing you of points). To assist this, the game offers local multiplayer, on one device or several connected wirelessly. The players and pictures can be imported from your contact list, and there is also a fantastic online multiplayer mode. You can keep track of your wins and maps from previous games, and email solitaire challenges to a friend as well. We just wish there were fewer lags and hang-ups when we played matches online, and a way to compare solitaire scores on a global leaderboard.

Solitaire-y confinement.

Carcassonne on the iPhone is tied together with a charming aesthetic that includes some particularly wonderful sound design. The narrator who guides you through the game’s two tutorials sounds patient and wise, almost as if he were narrating a children’s storybook. And the background music is classical guitar, which perfectly fits the green hills and quaint towns you construct.

Like Blokus or Scrabble for iPad, this is a beautiful edition of an endlessly replayable board game. Unlike those App Store shooters, this is a highly constructive use of your free time.

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