When comparing Carcassonne vs Splendor, the Slant community recommends Carcassonne for most people. In the question“What are the best board games for beginners?” Carcassonne is ranked 2nd while Splendor is ranked 3rd. The most important reason people chose Carcassonne is:
The rules are pretty basic for Carcassonne, with first time players being able to grasp its concepts quite quickly, making Carcassonne a great gateway game. Every turn the player draws one tile from the pile. They then must place the tile adjacent to a tile that has already been placed in a way that the edges match. There are four types of terrain on the tiles – roads, cities, monasteries, and grassland. After the tile is placed the player can choose to put a player figure, a.k.a. a meeple, on the tile to potentially score points. If a meeple is placed on a road, then the player will score one point for every road tile until the road ends in an intersection or a city. If the meeple is placed on a city, the player will receive two points for every city tile until the city is fully walled off. If the player chooses to place the meeple in a monastery, then they will receive one point per tile until the monastery is fully surrounded by tiles. Lastly, if the meeple is placed on grassland, then it’ll only score points at the very end of the game, giving three points for every city in the field. The player with the most points wins.
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Pro Easy to learn for beginners
The rules are pretty basic for Carcassonne, with first time players being able to grasp its concepts quite quickly, making Carcassonne a great gateway game.
Every turn the player draws one tile from the pile. They then must place the tile adjacent to a tile that has already been placed in a way that the edges match. There are four types of terrain on the tiles – roads, cities, monasteries, and grassland. After the tile is placed the player can choose to put a player figure, a.k.a. a meeple, on the tile to potentially score points.
If a meeple is placed on a road, then the player will score one point for every road tile until the road ends in an intersection or a city. If the meeple is placed on a city, the player will receive two points for every city tile until the city is fully walled off. If the player chooses to place the meeple in a monastery, then they will receive one point per tile until the monastery is fully surrounded by tiles. Lastly, if the meeple is placed on grassland, then it’ll only score points at the very end of the game, giving three points for every city in the field. The player with the most points wins.
Pro Detailed with polish
The board game pieces are highly detailed and colorful, be it lush grassland, a fortified medieval castle, or a monastery in the middle of nowhere. The game is themed after southern France in the medieval ages and the actual fortified city of Carcassonne and the landscape around it. There is definitely some forethought put into the polish of this game that makes much of it intuitive and a pleasure to look at.
On a more practical note, the back of the tile with which the game starts is in a separate color, so it is easier to find when starting the game.
Pro Simple, but allows for lots of thinking if you want
The game is very accessible to beginners, but it allows for quite a bit of strategic play when you get more familiar with the concept. You can either go for long-term strategies with farms, or for quick point-grabs; you can build your own cities in peace or try to mess with your opponent whenever possible. A lot of tactics come in the form of cutthroat play – trapping other players’ meeples, stealing cities, and getting to share points.
Moreover, the last turns of the game can also influence the outcome a lot – players receive some points for unfinished creations as well.
Pro Quick to play
In a regular expansion-less game of Carcassonne it can take 30 – 45 minutes to blast through the approximately 70 tiles.
The gameplay is dynamic, and everyone’s constantly engaged, managing their meeples and calculating which part of the board is worth fighting over. Even the kids stay engaged since the winner is usually not obvious untile the very end.
Because of the simple rules Carcassonne is very easy to get back into even after big breaks and it’s great to teach to other people. This means that the people you play with can change without any problems and you can play the game with anyone – children, your parents, your friends, or your partner.
Pro Near-endless replayability
Carcassonne will pretty much never feel dull, there are so many possibilities and variables in the game not only because of the randomness, but also because of the simplicity and the variation count.
Carcassonne is going to be a different game every time because of the tiles you and your opponents draw and where you choose to place them. There are over 70 tiles in the base set, which amounts to a lot of possible combinations.
Carcassonne has been around for a while, and this has led to the release of many expansions throughout the years. Each of these provides more tiles, rules, and other variables to the game.
Lastly, you can even introduce many variations that’ll change up the game without owning any expansions, for example, instead of drawing one tile and placing it every turn, have the players manage a hand of four tiles.
Pro Easy to learn
The basics of the game are very straightforward and easy. You can start playing in a matter of minutes, which is great for absolutely everyone – young and old, experienced and new.
The game begins from the youngest player and continues clockwise. In their turn the players can perform one of three actions: take three different gems, take two gems of the same color, reserve a development card and take a gold gem, or purchase a development card. All development cards give permanent gem bonuses for later buys and some cards give prestige, which is required to win. Prestige is also gained from nobles, which can be attracted if specific conditions are met.
The game enters the last round when a player reaches 15 points. The game is won by the player with the most points after this round.
Pro Fine-looking artwork
Splendor’s artwork is follows a Renaissance theme and is quite detailed and beautiful. The cards of the game feature depictions of ships, gem mines, and shops from the era. The coins are colorful and have stickers on them representing the type. There are also portraits of historical figures on the noble cards, for example, Henry VIII, Isabel of Castile, and Elisabeth of Austria.
Pro Good for beginners
The game’s rules are easy to grasp, but Splendor also features quite a bit of depth and strategy, which makes this a great gateway option for people just getting into board games, even children.
Pro Can be played aggressively or peacefully
The game is suited for both playstyles mostly due to the card reserving mechanic. This is great because you can adjust to the company you are playing with, whether they want to be fully competitive and try to deny each other’s plays or laid back and just watch the empires grow without interfering.
You can reserve a card to use it later or, even better, so your opponents can’t use it. You also get a “wild” gold piece, which can substitute any color required in buildings. You can have a maximum of three cards reserved at once.
Pro Scales well
The game plays very well in the designated 2-4 player range. It has some nuances that depend on the number of players, for example, the amount of coins and nobles in play.
It’s possible to go past the 4-player maximum by getting another copy for more coins. Another solution would be to add something like poker chips or other types of coins to the game.
Pro Satisfying to see progression
It’s enjoyable to watch your trading empire grow. The game starts slowly with you gathering gems to create some basic buildings and futureproofing yourself, by the end of the game there’s quite a lot of cards on the playing surface. You can also get points for attracting nobles to your side by getting a specific combination of gem cards, which gives you a building direction and a goal to work towards.
Con May be a little light for hardcore boardgame players
The game itself is not very deep in design or play, which may be a turn off for the more hardcore of boardgame players though can be good for newcomers.
Con Small official scoreboard
The official scoreboard that comes with the base game only stacks up to 50 points, but proper games of Carcassonne go way past that mark – a game without any expansions can easily reach over 100 points. If you add expansions to the equation, then the points can stack up even past 400, but some expansions feature scoring tokens that help resolve this issue.
Con Highly random
As is typical for a game with a drawing mechanic, almost every action in the game is influenced by whatever tile is drawn and where a player has chosen to place it, so it’ll benefit him the most. The randomness is enhanced by the fact that the players only draw one tile at a time, so you must take what you get.
Con Risk of accidental tile moving
If the game is not played on a flat surface or if you accidentally apply more force to the tile when you're placing it adjacent to another, then everything can shift, which can be annoying to fix.
Con Very poor component quality in newer editions
The game used to be widely complimented on the great overall quality of the coins and other pieces, but the materials changed in 2014. All the printings since then have reduced quality – chips are very lightweight and sometimes the color seems off, and all the components have a cheap feel to them.
Con Luck of the draw
The building cards that are drawn from the decks are random, which means that the game can often boil down to top-decking a building that’s either very valuable or completely worthless to you or an opponent. The nobles are random as well, but they won’t impact the game as critically – they are there just to direct you to a goal.