Carcassonne is based on a German board game of the same name, designed by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede. One of the most popular strategy board games in recent history, it won the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 2001. It is a turn-based tile-laying game where the board is built by the players as the game progresses. The goal of the game is to outscore all of your opponents by claiming cities, roads, farms, or monasteries with your playing pieces (known as 'meeples' or 'followers').
Developed by Sierra, the game was released on XBLA ( Xbox Live Marketplace) in June 2007, costing 800 Microsoft Points. It was also given away for free during Xbox Live's 5th Anniversay Celebration (November 15-17th, 2007). The game features single-player as well as local and Xbox Live multiplayer. A timer is used in multiplayer matches to limit turn length. Up to 5 players can compete in player matches, but ranked matches are always two player.
On each turn, the player is dealt a random tile. Tiles may have city, road, or monastery features on them. The tile must be placed on the board such that it abuts one of the pieces already laid, and it must be placed such that the features on its abutting edge(s) match up with those already on the board. The player may then choose to place one of their meeples (if they have one available) on the tile they just laid, "claiming" that feature. When a tile is laid that completes a feature (walling off a city, terminating a road on both ends, etc), the player who claimed that feature scores a number of points based on how many tiles large that completed feature is, and their meeple is returned to them. You can also claim farm land, and at the end of the game, any cities touching your land will earn you points. However, since these points are tabulated at the very end of the game, you will never get meeples back that have been placed on land.
The strategy elements that come into play in Carcassone are: effective 'meeple' management (since you have only a limited number to use), predicting which features will grow into large high scoring elements, and effective tile laying (blocking growth of other players features while growing your own).
When the board game Carcassone was published in the U.S., several scoring rule changes were made. The game allows you to choose between International (3rd Edition) and U.S. (1st Edition) scoring rules in the game setup for single player and player matches; Xbox Live ranked matches follow International scoring.
Like the board game, Carcassonne has a number of expansion packs which add more tiles to the game and introduce rule variants. One such expansion, 'The River', comes with the game when initially purchased on Xbox Live Marketplace. The expansion can be turned on for single player or non-ranked multiplayer matches only. Instead of starting with a single pre-determined tile, players take turns building a river which starts with a spring piece and ends with a lake; tile-drawing then proceeds as normal. It provides a different strategic edge from the original mode.
Sierra has also released additional expansion packs as DLC: 'The River II', which adds even more river tiles; and 'King and Baron', which adds new city and road tiles and gives scoring bonuses to the player(s) which build the largest city and longest road in the game. Both expansions cost 300 Microsoft Points.