Carcassonne is, without a doubt, my favourite board game. The strategy can make the game really intense if all players know how to play well. Those games where you are trying to weasel onto another player’s city or, even more intense, their field make the game so much fun. Especially when there is one tile that will link the features together and you all know it.
Each player takes their turn by picking up a face-down tile from either various piles or from a bag. (the bag comes with the Traders and Builders expansion) It will then be played on the existing tile(s) where the picture makes sense. It must be placed adjacent to at least 1 tile. The starting tile will have a different coloured back so that you know which one it is. Any tile in the game can be played on the starter tile. When you lay down a tile, you have the option to lay down a meeple on the tile to indicate ownership on one of the features. If someone owns the feature you are attaching to, then you can’t place a meeple there. However, you can place one independent of that feature and then connect it later. I like to call this process weaseling, and I am very good at it as long as the tiles cooperate. There are four things that one can claim on tiles. There are monasteries, roads, cities and fields.
These tiles are interesting because they are the only feature that cannot be weaseled onto. They are worth a maximum of nine points when complete. They score for the tiles that surround them in a 3×3 square. At the end of the game, they count for every tile in those boundaries that are there. They are useful for getting some quick points in the late-game but also great for linking fields.
There are an abundance of road tiles in the game, which can be good for both getting some points and more importantly, separating fields. They are worth one point per tile whether the road is complete or not. As I said previously though, they are more useful to separate fields.
By far the biggest potential for gaining points, these tiles are in abundance in a variety of shapes which will be great for building monolithic metropolises. They are worth one point at the end of the game if the city is not complete. If, throughout the game, you complete cities, the city is worth two points per tile in the city.
The biggest point-getter in the end-game. Fields are an investment during the game and while it may be difficult to wrap your head around, they are crucial to understanding the strategy of Carcassonne. They are worth three points per completed city that touches the field. This means the huge city that scored someone over fifty points in the game is worth the same as the small city that only scored four points. It doesn’t matter to the farmer in the field how big the city is, just how many there are. If you control the field by having the most meeples on it, then try to get as many small cities on it as possible.
Expansion One: Inns and Cathedrals
There are three new features added to Carcassonne as well as 18 more tiles. These add an aspect to the game that, in my opinion, make it difficult to go back to playing just the base game. The features are a bigger meeple, a pair of cathedral tiles, and a handful of inn-on-the-lake tiles.
The Bigger Meeple
The bigger meeple is worth two meeples. This doesn’t double points at all, it just makes it easier to assume control of various features. If you were to place a bigger meeple down and weasel him onto a city that only has one other normal meeple on it, you would have control. Same with roads and fields.
There are two cathedral tiles in this expansion that allows cities to be valued at three points per tile! Wowzers! This makes it much more sought after, however, this piece is not all sunshine and lollipops. If the city that has a cathedral attached does not get finished, at the end of the game the whole city is worth nothing. It is worth it if the city can be finished easily, it can also be used to put the pressure on another player or just put them out of the points if it is too late in the game to finish it. It has great potential to be either amazing or devastating.
The Inn on the Lake
There are tiles that have a small lake with an inn right beside a section of road. This inn makes the road that is adjacent to it worth two points once complete. This works the same way as the cathedral though in the way of if the road is incomplete at the end of the game, the whole road is worth nothing. This can be useful to shoot ahead in points under the radar but can also be used to take away points from someone closer to the end of the game.
Expansion 2: Traders and Builders
This expansion adds features as well as 24 extra tiles and a handy cloth bag to hold the tiles instead of various piles. The features in this expansion are the Builder, the Pig, and assorted resources.
The builder is incredibly helpful when building large cities or long roads. When added to a city that you have a meeple in or a road that you have a meeple on, you get up to one additional pull for a tile after your initial pull. For example, if you had a meeple and a builder on a city then add to that city, you get an additional turn. However, if you add to that city again that turn, you do not get another turn. On subsequent turns, you can do it again, but only to a maximum of one additional turn per round and only if you add to the feature with the builder. They can only be added to cities or roads.
Farmers benefit from having the pig in their field by gaining an additional point per completed city at the end of the game. Even if you tie for control of the field, if you have a pig, you’ll get more points than the other player(s) in the field.
In the city tiles for this expansion there will be one of three resource icons. There is wheat, ribbon, and barrels. If you complete a city with icons in it, you get the amount of those resources based on how many icons are in the city. You don’t have to get the points for the city, either. This means that if you were to finish the city that someone else had control over, they would get the points and you would get the resources.
As stated earlier, Carcassonne is my favourite board game. I have eight expansions for the game and love to find things to add to the game. I have found that it is a game that is easy to pick up and fun to play over and over again because the map is always changing. I haven’t played a game of Carcassonne where it was too similar to another one. The ever-changing nature of pulling one tile at a time to make up a map and gaining points along the way makes it have a very high replayable factor. Even if you play it twice or more in a row, it won’t be the same feel as the map and strategies therein will be completely different.