The tile-laying game Carcassonne was once considered one of the big three “gateway” games, along with Ticket to Ride and The Settlers of Catan.
There are now many more games that players classify as “gateway” games; that is, games that are easy to teach to newcomers to the hobby, ones that will lure them into playing more serious and difficult games.
I wouldn’t classify it as a “gateway” game though. There’s just a little too much going on for most newbies to handle.
That’s not to say it’s a difficult game to play, especially if you’re familiar with plain brown wrapper Carcassonne. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even consider playing The City unless you’d previously played Carcassonne itself.
How Do You Play Carcassonne: The City?
Carc City, as we usually call it, for short, starts out much like its ancestor. You pick a tile blindly and play it to the board, creating the playing area as you go. (We have bags we draw the tiles from.)
Unlike the original, not all the tiles are in the same stockpile throughout the game. Carc City consists of 3 phases. The first phase ends after someone plays the 30th tile. (In our case, this is when the first bag containing 30 tiles is empty. We have two more bags for the next two phases.)
You can score points for completing roads and markets. Roads of length 4 or more score double. Markets are red, blue, and yellow. You score the number of tiles in a market times the number of colors in that area.
During the second phase, consisting of the next 25 tiles, whenever someone causes scoring to happen, you construct parts of the wall (starting with the gate) around The City; that is, the tiles that are already on the table.
When you place a section of the wall, you can stand one of your meeple atop that trapezoidal piece, if you like. He will later score points for any gray buildings on the tiles in the row (or column) adjacent to where he is located.
Adding one of your towers to the end of the wall also scores points.
In the final phase of the game, which is at most 20 tiles long, whenever someone causes scoring, each player builds 2 sections of the wall.
The game ends either when you play the last tile or when the two ends of the wall are within five sections of each other. Final scoring occurs, and the player with the most points is the winner.
Is the Strategy Different in The City Compared to Regular Carc?
The main difference between The City and the original game lies in the wall building. You can see ahead of time whether or not it would benefit you or someone else to cause score to happen. So you try to plan ahead for that.
You also want to have at least one meeple available when the wall is being built. If you have none, you may miss out on a major endgame scoring opportunity.
Other aspects of The City are very similar to basic Carcassonne.
Who Should Play The City?
It helps to have played Carcassonne before trying Carc City, but it’s not a necessity. The rules aren’t that hard to learn. Knowing original Carc just makes it easier to learn Carc City because you already know most of the rules.
I enjoy Carc City a little more than most other Carc variations. That might be because I tend to win this version more than the others…for whatever reason.
If you have played any other edition of Carcassonne, I think you’ll enjoy Carc City as well. It plays just as quickly as the others.
Notes on Our Lightly Pimped Copy Shown in the Pictures
Since we quickly realized that the 50-point scoreboard was inadequate, I created two small tokens for each meeple color to help keep track of how many times we passed zero on the scoring track.
My wife likes the color peach, so early on I painted a set of peach meeples for her that she still uses today.
The game comes with two bags for storing the wall pieces and the meeples, but my wife made and labeled 3 more bags for holding the tiles for each phase of the game.