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I've taught Carcassonne to a number of new players (it's a great "gateway game")! However, the problem that I keep having is with the farmers. Players are able to quickly grasp the idea of putting meeple thieves on roads, soldiers in cities, and monks on monasteries.

But the farmers and their farms confuse the heck out of them during their first game. Generally they are confused about the mechanics of how they work or they don't see their utility. Thus any experienced players surge ahead because the new players just don't understand farms. If I get to play a second game with these new players, they have a better grasp on how farms work and can usually use them effectively, but this is a pain point of the first game.

A friend of mine suggested possibly playing the first game with no farms (giving these new players time to focus on the other mechanics and preventing experienced players from taking advantage of their confusion over farms), then adding in farms for a second game.

What sort of issues might appear if we removed farms in the first game? Would it still be playable? And would this be an effective way of alleviating the trouble we have had with teaching how to use farms?

  • What sorts of farm issues are you experiencing with players? Farms are like any other feature, except that abutting completed cities, rather than constituent tiles are scored (and "completion" doesn't trigger scoring). – Aldaron Sep 14 '14 at 15:03
  • @Aldaron The problem is that they work differently than the other features and new players find that confusing. Also, it's hard for them to understand their usefulness until the end of the game. – Thunderforge Sep 14 '14 at 16:43
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    @Aldaron It's much easier to quickly look and see the size/value of a city or road than for a farm, even assuming the field isn't going to grow further. Experienced players will have a much easier time with that, and with guessing whether it'll become more valuable as the game goes on. And the fact that you don't get your farmers back makes any mistakes fairly unforgiving. – Cascabel Sep 14 '14 at 19:12
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    "farms are like any other feature" - except in when they are scored, how they are scored, and how easy it is to determine control at a glance – The Chaz 2.0 Sep 17 '14 at 22:57
  • If your players learn about farms after only one game, why would you want to cut them entirely? Eventually, they will have their first game including farms, no matter how long you postpone it. – Hackworth Sep 18 '14 at 8:42
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You could do, the game would work perfectly well without farmers. I would argue against it because this still leaves the new players in a position where they don't see farms being used and don't see how they can score highly if placed well despite the long-term sacrifice of a piece.

In my experience with teaching Carcassonne, players tend to go very quickly from not understanding how they work, to playing too many farmers too early, then getting a good grasp within a few games. Just be patient.

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A couple points of advice here -

1) One easy way to teach the farm mechanic is to run through a sample game of perhaps 5 turns. Make sure to drop a farmer or two during this sample and at the end go through the scoring process. This will get you to the "aha" moment that people have about farmers much more quickly.

2) the game can certainly work without farmers, although it makes the game less interesting for veterans. If you are not going to use farmers, I would remove two meeples from each player's supply, since you will no longer be committing meeples to the board permanently. This will maintain some of the scarcity decisions that have to be made regarding occupying card features. One of the more interesting tradeoffs in the game is deciding how many farmers to commit to the fields at the cost of being able to place more often into short term gains.

  • I agree with both parts of your suggestions. Even playing with others who are experienced, I often win the game through vast farms and am often running out of meeples when I want them. That balance is indeed critical to the game. – ybull Aug 21 at 15:21
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Just to add my 2 cents, I taught the game to my kids (when they were 9). Everything was easy, except how to explain to them the concept of farms. After a few games without any farms, I let them put some meeples inside a field after the game was finished so they could understand how farms work. Now they are playing with farms, but they are not very good with them...

The game is not really unbalanced without farms, it's just a little more about luck.

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When I play Carcassone with new players, I give them a two meeple advantage, usually by having the experienced players (which is often just me) play without two of my meeples. This helps take away the big advantage experienced players have in knowing how farms work because they can't farm as aggressively (or else they will have no meeples left for cities/monasteries). This handicap is big enough that a new player can often win with proper rules explanation, which is good in my book. People tend want to play a game more if they feel they did well in their first game of it.

If you wanted to play without farms, I would suggest having everyone play with two fewer meeples, so that new players learn how to work around through a constrained of meeple situation.

These options can also be combined. You could play without farms, giving new players 5 meeples and experienced players 3.

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Of course it would still be playable! It would have a different balance, but it may even be better for newer players: experienced players would have to re-evaluate their strategies, which may put everyone on a slightly more even setting.

Why not just try it? I mean, what's the worst that would happen?

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    "What's the worst that would happen?" - well, in general, imbalancing the game enough that it's not fun to play and doesn't help teach the full game. I don't think that's the case here, but you could probably be a little more convincing about it :) – Cascabel Sep 14 '14 at 19:14
  • Fair point! I suppose that it seemed like something that one could very easily try. As it stands, it seems like the original poster finds the game unbalanced when it comes to teaching new people, and has identified one possible way to alleviate that in the process. At that point, it seems like little harm would be introduced by just giving it a go. – Simon Rose Sep 15 '14 at 7:22
  • I played my first Carcassonne session at a friend's house without farmers. Then I went and bought myself the Big Box. So yeah, you won't ruin the game if you leave them out. :-) – Kristo Sep 15 '14 at 13:09
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When I learned, I think someone forgot to tell us about farms (or maybe omitted it intentionally). The game seemed to go fine without them.

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I consider the first game a learning game. Not teaching/playing the farms merely postpones it. I think the only way to really understand them is to use them and show. I also spend a lot of time giving advice to new players (depending on how fast they seem to be picking it up).

The hardest part I've found is try trying teach them where they can play farmers because of the connected fields or if it is unlikely to ever touch even a single city.

If you just want everyone to feel they are doing well, then go ahead and skip them. However I would consider asking everyone about the house rule before going ahead with it.

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