There’s something in the human psyche that loves the concept of creating structures and accruing wealth.
Carcassonne - a German boardgame which takes its name from a walled city in France - seeks to tap into the intrinsic appeal of shaping your own empire at the expense of fellow players and surprisingly ends up being disarmingly compulsive on iPhone.
Although a boardgame, the rules of Carcassonne are surprisingly complicated, and you're sure to be thankful that the developers have included a comprehensive and utterly charming Tutorial mode.
This element is narrated by the amiable guide, who punctuates his softly-spoken hints with light-hearted pleasantries.
Hit the tiles
The game starts when one of 71 different tiles is placed onto the table. You then take turns adding randomly assigned tiles, making sure you place them according to the rules. For example, roads can only connect to other roads and walled cities must possess definite boundaries.
Merely putting your tiles on the table does not earn you points - these only come when you bring your Meeple counters into play. These wooden characters represent your followers and depending on their placement on the board, they can deliver massive bonuses.
Meeple can be assigned to any unoccupied structure on a tile you have just placed such as a city, road or church (referred to as a cloister). When the structure is completed, the Meeple is returned to you and your score rises.
For instance, if you're building a castle you can place a Meeple inside the partially completed structure. Once the walls are closed off - either by yourself or a fellow player - then your score increases. The bigger the castle, the more points you stand to earn.
You only have seven Meeple counters, and once they’ve been deployed then you have to wait for them to be removed before reuse.
Trapping your opponent’s Meeples - that is, placing tiles to ensure that they cannot complete the structure on which they sit - is a strategy to master if you want to become a truly great Carcassonne player.
Carcassonne offers the chance to play against four computer-controlled foes but the real attraction is multiplayer. Local matches can be played via Bluetooth, wi-fi, or passing around a handset.
It’s better with friends
Internet games are also available. You can either let the game find a free player for you or you can connect with friends via e-mail for competitive matches. Since the game is turn-based there’s no issue with lag interrupting play and the friends list allows you to quickly issue challenges to established and respected opponents.
To round off what is already a spectacular package developer The Coding Monkeys has included an all-new Solitaire mode. This single-player mode has you building structures of increasing size while attempting to keep the boundaries of the board as compact as possible. It’s not quite as enticing as true Carcassonne, but serves as a pleasant diversion from the core package.
Even with the fairly limited single-player modes, Carcassonne is a much-advised purchase. As a multiplayer game it's hard to beat, delivering a great balance of turn-based tactics and casual ease that's ideal for playing with friends. It’s one of the most polished and endlessly addictive experiences you’ll see on the iPhone.