The Best Carcassonne Expansions for the Strategy Board Game
The Original Board Game
Carcassonne Expansions Introduction
If you have played the board game Carcassonne the chances are you love it! The good news is that there are loads of expansion packs that can be used with the game to add extra features and to change the dynamic of the game. The Carcassonne expansions may incentivise defence or offensive play or reward you for building bigger cities, longer roads or for completing another player’s city.
I have played all of these Carcassonne expansions and own most of these so thought I’d give you the low down on what they add to the experience and how they change the dynamic of the game.
Please note that for all of these expansions you need the original Carcassonne board game to play. There are several variations such as the winter version or the South Seas version of the game which have varying rules from the original but don’t leave the classic tile laying concept that has made Carcassonne one of the most loved board games ever created.
Traders & Builders
Carcassonne Expansion - Traders and Builders
This is another great Carcassonne expansion that I generally use for all games.
Trade Goods – additional city tiles are provided that have Wine, Wheat or Cloth symbols. If you complete that city (whether it’s yours or not) you will receive a token for each symbol that is in that city. At the end of the game whoever has the most of each type of token gets an additional 10 points, so overall there are 30 additional points to play for.
Pig piece – You can add the pig piece to any farm you have and you will achieve 4 points instead of 3 for each completed city ion that farm.
Builder piece – you can add this piece to any road or city that you own, when you add another tile to that road or city you can take an additional tile which can be played anywhere.
Cloth bag – This is actually a great addition as it gives you somewhere to keep all of your tiles and allows you to transport the game more easily. I always take my set on holiday now I have the cloth bag.
This is probably the best overall expansion for Carcassonne and should be the one you buy first. It adds loads of new dynamics to the game as it incentivises you to complete other people’s cities to get the trade tokens. The addition of the builder can really change the game if used well, it’s also great fun to try to trap your opponent’s builder so they can’t use it. The pig is also a nice addition as it can grab you a few extra points at the end of the game.
Overall - 10/10.
Inns & Cathedrals
Carcassonne - Inns & Cathedrals
Carcassonne Expansion - Inns and Cathedrals
This is one of the best Carcassonne board game expansion packs out there. It’s fairly simple to pick up and I generally play with this expansion for all games I play.
This expansion essentially adds 2 new types of tiles – cathedral tiles and Inn tiles. When the cathedral tiles are added to a city they triple the total points instead of double if it is finished, but give zero points at the end of the game if not completed. Inn tiles are road tiles that have an Inn and lake on and make any road worth double the points if finished and again zero if not completed. This expansion also includes an additional double sized follower piece that is worth 2 people and an additional set of follower pieces (Grey) to allow 6 players rather than the original 5 to play at one time.
The additional Inn and Cathedral tiles add a new element to the game as you can risk adding them to your roads and cities or stitch up your opponents by adding them to theirs and trying to stop them completing their cities and roads.
The double size follower is a great addition too as it is a great way of stealing cities and is particularly effective for farming. The addition of another set of playing pieces is also great as I always thought the game should accommodate 6 players rather than just the 5.
In addition to all this there is the usual additional playing tiles which add to the gameplay and make the game more interesting and a bit larger.
Overall – 9/10
Count, King & Robber
Carcassonne Expansion - Count, King & Robber
This is a really good expansion for Carcassone and adds several different elements to the board game which can be played with independently.
King and Robber – whoever builds the longest road or largest city wins the Robber or King tile respectively. The Robber gives you an additional point for each complete road on the board at the end of the game and the King tile gives the same for each completed city.
The River 2 – Includes additional river pieces that are used to start the game to spread out the play.
The Count – This is the biggest change to the game and adds some really interesting dynamics to the game. 12 new Count tiles are provided which make up the city of Carcassone. When you complete someone else’s city but get no points yourself you can add your follower into one of four areas of the city (roads, cities, cloisters or farms). When an opponent completes a road, city, cloister or farm you can add your pieces from the city to share or steal that players points.
Heretics and shrines – when a shrine is played next to a cloister whichever is completed first gets all of the pints and the other player gets none.
The real difference here is made by the count as it can completely change the dynamic of the game, but can be completely ignored if you see fit. It incentivises you to complete other player’s cities and roads and allows you to steal other player’s points which is obviously very frustrating if it’s your points being stolen! The count is particularly interesting when combined with the traders expansion.
The king and robber are a nice addition and can be used separately when playing any version of the game. They can however drag out the scoring up at the end of the game, especially when combined with the traders expansion.
I don’t generally bother with the shrines element as it just overcomplicates things IMHO. The river adds a new element and can help to spread out the play early on, but when combined with the Count it can lead to quite a stretched out game with pieces dispersed over a large playing field. This could be good or bad depending on your point of view.
This expansion is all about the count which can really change the dynamic of the game.
Carcassonne Expansion - The Tower
This is a real love or hate expansion pack. It allows you ransom or kidnap your opponent’s pieces by placing tower pieces across the board. When a piece is captured you can ransom it back for 3 points or complete a prisoner exchange for another captured piece. This really makes you think where you play your pieces to minimise the chance of having your pieces kidnapped.
I actually love this expansion as I like the aggressive games where you can screw over your opponents, however if you like the more gentle pace of the original board game and prefer to build your own points without affecting your opponents strategy you may find this a bit intense. If you like the Dragon or Count expansion packs you will love this one as they all reward you for being aggressive.
The Tower expansion really adds some depth to the game but it is probably not the ideal option as a first expansion so would be more suited to more experienced players.
Overall – 8/10
Abbey & Mayor
Carcassonne Expansion - Abbey & Mayor
The Abbey and Mayor expansion pack is a really interesting addition to the Carcassone family that offers many options that affect your power and influence in the game.
New tiles – this expansion pack comes with loads of new tiles that really fill some of the gaps that you often finds yourself in in previous versions. These include underground tunnels, 3 way roads and cities that include bridges. This is not always a good thing though as it can make it more difficult to trap your opponents pieces which is always fun.
Mayor – This piece can be played like an ordinary follower, however its value increases for every additional pendant in a city. So if you have 3 pendants in a city it would beat your opponent if he somehow managed to get 2 of his followers in there. This adds a great dynamic if you like building mega-cities which I do.
Abbey – this is a piece like a cloister which can be played where 4 tiles surround an empty space whether it matches or not. This allows you to fill in difficult spaces that would otherwise remain empty, meaning you can complete difficult cities and roads (and gain trade tokens if playing with the Traders and Builders expansion). It is a bit of a cop out for serious players, but does make the game flow better and is fun.
Wagon – This piece can be moved on to roads or cities that you have finished but had no men on. So for instance if you laid a tile to complete a city but there was also a road completed at the same time you could use the wagon to claim the road points as well as the city points.
Barns – These allow you to grow super farms by stealing other farms allowing you to score points during the game rather than the traditional end game scenario. This makes farming important early in the game and does change the farming dynamic somewhat and lead to huge super farms which you may love or not.
Overall this is a really fun expansion pack and has several unique ways to change the gameplay which you can pick and choose from. It comes with loads of new tiles so even if you don’t use the new pieces it is probably worth it for the additional tiles alone.
Overall – 8/10.
Princess & Dragon
Carcassonne Expansion - The Princess and the Dragon
The Princess & Dragon expansion pack is great fun, but is quite complex so would probably blow your mind if you have only just started playing. One for the more experienced players.
Dragon – this appears when you pull out a volcano card and is moved when you pull out a tile with the dragon logo on. The players move the dragon around the board and it will eat your followers if it lands on your cities / roads.
Fairy pieces - protect you from the dragon and give you a 3 point bonus if she is on your road or city.
Magic portals - allow you to transport your pieces to other areas of the map
Princess tiles - allow you to capture your opponent’s incomplete cities
The best feature of this expansion pack is the Dragon as it can really add a new dimension to the game and increases the tension. It will however slow down the game a lot as it takes a lot more thought. The other features do add to the gameplay but make things a bit more complicated and extend the length of the game.
Worth buying if you have a few expansions under your belt and want to try something different. The Princess & Dragon expansion pack makes the gameplay more aggressive so you will probably like this if you enjoy the Count style expansions.
Bridges, Castles & Bazaars
Carcassonne Expansion - Bridges, Castles and Bazaars
This is a really interesting expansion that adds some quite complicated additional rules to the game. It’s not for beginners but if you’ve already played a few of the other Carcassone expansion packs you will probably enjoy Bridges, Castles and Bazaars.
Bridges – These pieces allow you to continue a road over a tile that does not have a road section on, the next tile laid next to it would then have to continue the road. At first I didn’t use these much however they become particularly interesting when extending your farms as you can use them instead of road pieces which would usually end your farm. I use these all the time now as they can be played with any game.
Castles – Here you can turn small cities into castles and share the score of your opponents adjacent cities by placing your follower in between them. It can really help you or be used to frustrate your opponents (which is always fun…).
Bazaars – Here tiles are auctioned at the bazaar and the players can bid points for different tiles. This does add some great strategy to the game as you can bid up the prices on tiles that you know your opponents need or buy them to fill in your gaps. Generally I find this to be fun but does slow the game down and does complicate the game somewhat so I don’t usually play with this element of the game.
Overall this is a fun expansion, I personally don’t bother with the bazaars so much but it is worth it for the Castle and Bridges elements alone.
Overall – 7/10.
Carcassonne Expansion - The Catapult
The premise of this expansion is that a fair has arrived in Carcassonne along with a series of games of skill and luck. There are 8 new tiles, 4 catapult tiles and a wooden catapult to throw the tiles with (yes this does involve catapulting pieces around the board / room…).
Whenever a fair piece comes out of the bag you use the catapult to fire one of the catapult pieces on to the playing area. The tiles have different effects as follows:
Catch – the player must physically catch the tile to get a point award
Target – players compete to catapult a tile as close to the fair tile as possible for a 5 point bonus,
Knock out – Any pieces touched by the catapulted tiles are removed
Seduction – Can swap the closest of your opponent’s pieces with one of your own.
Let’s be under no illusion here, this is a gimmick! It isn’t really a serious Carcassonne expansion pack. It does however offer some light relief every now and then and can be a lot of fun. The more you play with it and the more control you have over where you are firing the catapult the more you will actually get out of the game.
Overall – not the best Carcassonne expansion pack, but can be a lot of fun so worth giving it a go if you are looking to refresh the game.
Overall – 6/10.