We played the classic game of Carcassonne at Compulsory Merriment yesterday. It’s a tile laying game which, like all tile laying games, starts easy and quickly becomes more complicated.

In Carcassonne, each player is a sort of medieval real estate developer who builds and claims the landscape of southern France. Each turn, you’ll draw a tile and place it next to a tile with matching sides to build roads, cities, farms and monasteries. Once the tile is placed, you’ll have to decide whether you’re going to deploy one of your meeple minions to hold the territory. There’s only so many meeple minions per player so nobody can hog the whole board. You will want to seize control as you go because once, say, a road with your meeple on it is complete, you earn points and you get your meeple back so you can send it out to seize and occupy again.

I can’t even believe I’m saying this but: I won. Chris, who always plays the long game, ended up with a bunch of territory full of roads to nowhere and cities with breaches in the wall. This doesn’t help you during the game but, at the end, you still get points for incomplete pieces of the landscape. Whenever I don’t have to say, “Mandi won,” I feel like I should run right out and buy a lottery ticket but, really, this is a function of Carcassonne luck. You have to draw and play a tile on every turn and you never know whether that tile is going to help you or whether it’s going to cause a point-scoring situation for your opponent.

Carcassonne is famously a “gateway game” that people use to lure non-gamers into the hobby. It can be played in a very cutthroat way by deploying your meeples to mess with other players but we played nice and spent the whole game chatting about various things and wisecracking about the map we were building. Try this one with new gamers, younger kids, or break out the nuclear option and play Carcassonne with your intense and competitive friends.

30-45 minutes playtime, 2-5 players, Ages 8+