Monday, February 23, 2015

My First Carcassonne - Game of the Month

My First Carcassonne is made by Z-Man Games. Carcassonne was designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and this kids' version was adapted by Marco Teubner. Much like the original Carcassonne game, you'll be placing tiles and claiming points with your meeples (those cute little player pawns). But unlike in the original Carcassonne game, the only way to score points is by finishing a road. So there will be no need to build cities or keep track of farmland. This version is much simpler and perfect for young kids.

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My First Carcassonne game comes with 36 large tiles and 32 meeples in 4 colors (blue, green, red, and yellow). If it's a brand new game, you'll have to punch the tile pieces out before you can play. The meeples come in a plastic storage bag. There's a divider tray inside the box that fits all the tiles, so they won't be sliding around inside the box (unless you toss the divider). This is a high-quality game. The tile pieces are thick and sturdy, not to mention much larger, so there's no chance of anyone accidentally bending it in half. The meeples are made out of wood and are larger than the meeples in the original game. The rules can be read in a couple minutes and it takes 1-5 minutes to teach the game. Definitely read the fluff text, which explains what the game is about.

The gist of the game is that each player will be one of the younger inhabitants of Carcassonne. They are celebrating their national holiday, which involves letting loose sheep, hens and cows into the city streets. The children will run around the city searching for the animals to bring back.

Once you're ready to start, let each child choose which color they want to play. Have an adult or older child shuffle the tile pieces and stack them face down within reach. While the parent's are setting up, don't be surprised if your kids play with the meeples. We call it the Meeple Olympics. Munchkin loves seeing how high he can stack them!

You can place the tiles in one stack or separate them into stacks. We prefer two stacks so each child can easily reach for a tile. We space them about 3 feet apart so there is plenty of space in the middle to build up the city. And having two stacks means that there's less chance of someone reaching across the playing area and accidentally knocking over meeples. Anyone can choose from whichever stack they prefer.

Each player will have 8 meeples in a single color. The goal is to place them all.

Choose a tile and place it face up in the middle of the playing area.

The youngest player goes first. They will select a tile and place it next to the first tile. You'll notice that all the roads line up on the sides. Play continues clockwise. At the beginning of each players turn they will take a tile and place it wherever they want. The goal is to connect the roads and close them. Some tiles are illustrated with one of the children from Carcassonne (you'll notice that they are the same colors as your meeples). When a road closes, each of the colored children on that road claims a point. Place the matching meeples on those tiles.

Here are some examples of what a "closed road" looks like. In the top picture, you can see that the right road ends at a building and the left side of the road ends in a little house. In the second picture, the road doesn't end, but is still considered closed, because you can't build off of it. Top picture: blue scores 2 points. Bottom picture: 1 green, 1 yellow, 2 blue.

Even when playing competitively, people can end up helping you out by simply building up a road that your color meeple happens to be on.

As you can see in the picture, meeples are only placed when a road closes. Any children present on that road can now place a meeple and score a point. In some games you can focus on building roads with just your color meeple on it.

Or you can mix it up. :) When there are less than four players, you simply don't use the extra meeples. In this game, red wasn't used, so those are just empty points. 

In this last round, the road was huge! It had several players colors on it, so when the tile went down that closed the road, everyone scored points and won together! Blue was actually -1 meeple.

The game ends one of two ways: someone plays their last meeple or you run out of tiles and the player with the least amount of meeples played wins (the latter doesn't happen too often, but it is possible). You can absolutely play the game past this point, so younger players can continue playing and placing their meeples. Typically this is a pretty balanced game and it's usually a pretty close game.

While My First Carcassonne is recommended for children ages 4+, Munchkin, who is 3, was easily able to understand the rules to the game and has played with us several times. Because each tile has a road on each side it's impossible to make an illegal placement, which would likely happen if we tried to play the original game with him. We also always play with at least one parent, adult, or older child present, so we can help them place meeples when a road is finished.

~ Ways to extend the fun of My First Carcassonne game ~
(and use it as a tool for homeschool activities)

Literacy: If you read the fluff text on the last page of the rule book, you'll see that at the end of the day, all the citizens came together to share their adventures during the day. The children listen to tales from their elders about dragons, fairies, and princesses. And then they fall asleep to delightful dreams about such fantasy realms. With that in mind, you can end the game by taking turns telling stories about what animals or obstacles you encountered. You can, of course, make up tall tales, which just adds to the fun!

Math: Give each child a small piece of scrap paper and a pencil. Have them keep track of the animals they collect along the streets of Carcassonne. They can only collect animals on the tiles their meeples are on, even if there are other animals along the road. Players who share a tile can collect the same amount of animals or divide them equally. At the end of the game, see who collected the most sheep, cows, and hens. Then add up all the animals and see who collected the most!

My First Carcassonne is for:
Children Ages 4+
2-4 Players
20 Minutes to Play

Find more Carcassonne games to play! The original game and expansions are for children ages 8+.

Be sure to come back next month to see which game we feature as Game of the Month!

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