Carcassone is a a "tile-laying" board game for two to five players. What is tile-laying? If I had to stretch really, really far, I'd say it's a bit like dominoes. The trick is that edges have to match up - if one edge of the tile has a road on it, the tile it butts up against must have a road to connect it to.
Carcassonne comes with 72 land tiles. Using these tiles, you place them to build cities, roads, farms, and cloisters. Each player is issued eight tokens, called "followers." Because the followers look like little people, they've been nicknamed "meeples." One token is used to keep track of your score on the scoring track. The other seven meeples may be placed on tiles to claim it as your own.
For instance, on your turn you place a tile with a road on it. If you place one of your meeples on that tile, you've claimed that road. A road is considered completed and scored when it has a beginning and an end, such as going from one city to another. When a road, city, or cloister is scored, you get that meeple back and can use it again in the future.
Cities work much the same way, and can be very lucrative as they are scored based on how many tiles make up the city. For cloisters, you need to "fill in" the entire area around the cloister with tiles. For farming, you place a meeple on the grassy area of a tile, and farmers score more points based on how many cities your farm touches. It sounds a bit complicated but it makes sense: providing food to more cities = more success.
Playing Carcassonne is great fun. There is debate and decision making each turn over where to place your tile. While you can choose to help yourself with your tile placement, sometimes an opportunity to block another player will present itself, and it's your choice how to play it. At times two or more players will be involved in the same city, and may make a temporary truce to help one another complete it, while a third player may simultaneously be trying to horn in on the action!
Carcassonne is simple to learn, and I've seen children under ten do well at it. It's a great family game as there is no reading involved, and the artwork is lovely. The scoring can get complicated, but as long as one person knows how to do it, it's no problem. For a game that's easy to pick up, but has lots of strategic options and fun for the whole family, give Carcassonne a try.