Carcassonne Board Game

Welcome to the Carcassonne Board game page. Here you'll learn the fundamental rules, playing strategies and tips and tricks. Also you can purchase the game very inexpensively.

Who gets to play Carcassonne games, anyone and everyone. The Carcassonne game is excellent for families, friends and those who like a great challenge for at least an hour.

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How to Play the Game
David Peterson

Basic Concept: As you all know by now, Carcassonne board game, is a tile laying game where players compete to score the most victory points. Points are scored by completing cities, roads, cloisters, and occupying farms. Expansions spice things up a bit by adding additional scoring options, including cathedrals, inns, commodities and pigs. I strongly recommend playing the basic game first prior to using the expansions.

The Element of Luck: There are some who would say that Carcassonne board game has too much luck involved. Although I understand that everyone’s taste regarding a game’s luck component varies, I would disagree with the notion that Carcassonne board game has “too much” luck. “Too much” luck implies that there is either not enough strategy or so much luck involved that it impedes the ability of individual players to truly influence their own outcome. After several sessions the conclusion that I have come to is that a) there is plenty of strategy involved, all-be-it some techniques are quite subtle and take a while to understand and b) the outcome of the game is usually reflective of which players employ good strategy and game play, and which do not.

However, it is the luck element that, for me, keeps the game fresh. Luck plays enough of a role in the game that, from time to time, even a novice can sit down and beat a seasoned player (My brother, for example, whipped me the first time he played the game). The luck element can (but by definition does not always) assist a new player and help make them more competitive. At long last, it is very rare that any one player will win time after time. This makes the game more fun for everyone.

Points Now or Points Later: The fundamental strategy issue presented in Carcassonne board game(as in so many other games) is how to balance your game play. In this case, the player must determine how to best balance continuing to build victory points “now” by developing cities, roads and cloisters versus ensuring they have enough farmers in the field to gain points during the end game. Rarely will a player who either tries to build “now” points or tries to monopolize field space exclusively win the game. My personal strategy emphasises about two-thirds to three-quarters of my energy on now points and one-third to one quarter of my energy on end-game points. Others in my group would say the exact opposite. However, I prefer the former because it allows you greater flexibility of settlers. That is to say, placing a farmer in a field removes that settler for the rest of the game. Securing “now” points allows you to keep your pool of settlers more plentiful. More settlers means more options (see below).

Other players in my group have had considerable success with the alternative strategy. It’s really just a matter of playing style, how you are more comfortable seeing the flow of the game, and how much risk you are willing to take. At the end of the day, each strategy is probably equally successful but each requires different game play techniques. It’s also important to note that comitting 100% of your resources to “now” points OR end-game points usually results in a loss.

Managing your Men: One of the most important rules to remember in Carcassonne board game is that settlers are life. The more settlers you have in your pool, the more options you have available to you. On the flip side, the more settlers you have available to you, the fewer you have in play. Fewer settlers in play means that you have a decreased capacity to score points. Hence, “managing your men” is one of the fundamental strategies in Carcassonne board game. If you fail here, you’ve had it.

If you have no settlers in your pool, you can not start any new scoring opportunities until others have been completed, and those settlers returned to your pool. I don’t know how many times I’ve been nickeled and dimed by other players who have settlers left in their pool who can take advantage of making small cities or short roads while I can do nothing because my pool is empty. In this case, have fun watching your lead disappear or your opponent’s lead get larger. But as the old saying goes, ships were meant to sail, so keeping your pool too large means your missing out on points.

By mid-game I normally like to have all but between one and three of my settlers committed. As the game starts to draw to a close, I like to have one or maybe two left over. in any case remember a few things when you’re debating whether to place a settler or not:

Economy of Force: For all you military buffs out there, economy of force is huge in Carcassonne. In other words, only use as many settlers in any given spot as you have to. NEVER over commit settlers - they’re a finite resource that must be managed precisely! If you over allocate them in one area (normally a city) you’re probably losing out somewhere else. (Carcassonne board game)
Keep a Reserve: Before placing a settler anywhere (particularly on a field) always consider a few things. a) how many settlers do you have left. Only play the last settler in your pool if you really need to. Otherwise hang onto it. b) consider where your other settlers are on the board. If you have several settlers tied up in fields or on cloisters or cities that are still several turns from being completed (and hence several turns before they are returned to the pool) you might want to rethink playing a settler that would either deplete your reserve or reduce it to only one.
The Double Settler: Be VERY careful with this settler as it is extremely valuable. If it gets tied up for a long period of time OR if it is put in a field and then trapped (see below) you’re at a severe disadvantage. I rarely play this piece early in the game for this reason.

Building Cities: Without a doubt, building cities of the right size and in the right location is critical to winning the game. It’s a fair statement that if you don’t build several cities throughout the game your chances of winning decrease dramatically. In addition, when playing with city tiles that contain commodities, successful completion of cities is essential to victory both in terms of scoring “now” points as well as for collecting points in the end game.

As with everything in the game, there are a few things to keep in mind when you build a city:

Building a Large City Can Hurt You: Knowing when to continue a city’s construction and when to finish it is important. Whereas it is undeniable that completing a large city will bring a significant number of points (i consider a small city to be between 2 and 6 tiles, a medium city to be between 6 and 10 tiles, and a large city to be 11 tiles and up) it also can take a considerable amount of time and require several settlers. The rule of thumb is to complete a city as quickly as possible and with the least number of settlers. The longer it takes to complete a city and the more settlers you commit to it (see “Playing Defense” below) the fewer scoring options you have throughout the board. As a result, don’t be overly tempted to build enormous cities. The bottom line is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Remember - Carcassonne board game is all about balance and preserving your scoring options.
The Problem with Cathedrals: In many ways I hate having to build a city with a cathedral in it. Granted, the payoff can be huge. But if you’re playing with experience players the first thing your opponents will try to do is make it very difficult to complete the city. You’ll find that as soon as you play a cathedral tile in one of your cities you become a big target for everyone else (and for good reason). As a result, you could wind up spending a lot of resources and time trying to build something that doesn’t get you any points. Normally I will only try to build a cathedral city early in the game or about midway through the game. The later in the game, the harder it will be to complete the city as fewer tiles are available.
Tips for Building: Probably the most important rule when building a city is to keep your options open at all times and avoid building yourself into a situation where only a limited number of tiles will work. To do this, try to build in a direction AWAY from the majority of the board with as many open tile sides (that is to say, sides that are not adjacent to other tiles) as possible. This both gives the building player more options but makes it harder for other players to shanghai the city (see below) for themselves.
Where NOT Build: This is a fairly simple rule of thumb - avoid building cities adjacent to fields controlled by your opponents. All this does is give your opponent(s) points in the end game. If you DO build a city adjacent to one of their fields, make sure to try to get a majority in that field(s) later in the game.

Building Roads: On the surface, roads don’t seem to be that big of a deal in Carcassonne board game. But looks can be deceiving. Roads are largely a secondary source of “now” points behind cities. Roads serve two functions in the game - a) they serve as a good secondary source of points, and b) they serve to divide fields (which can be valuable as a defense tactic - see below). You can also use roads to make your opponents cities harder to complete (see below).

Bottom line, roads should not be ignored, nor should they be wasted by placing them in locations that don’t enhance your current position. In short - don’t waste road pieces. Pay particular attention to road segments that have an “inn on the lake”. These tiles can actually be used as a primary source of points (in addition to cities) if used correctly.

Placing Farmers: Farmers, more than any other type of settler, require the most management. The balancing act here is to be able to secure “now” points and allocate the proper number of farmers in the fields to be competitive during the end game. The number of farmers you place, and the timing of their placement will depend on your overall game strategy (see Points Now or Points Later). There are a few rules of thumb to remember when placing farmers regardless of your overall strategy:

Establish Farms Early: It is essential to establish dominance in at least one field early. If this does not occur early in the game it will be increasingly difficult to do as the game progresses.
Create Large Farms: Avoid placing farmer in small, confined areas surrounded by roads. Farmers are most affective when they occupy large fields that are adjacent to as many cities as possible. Be aware that other players will be looking to play pieces that will eventually link, and therefore challenge the dominance of existing farmers. In addition, look to link your own farmers with existing fields occupied by your opponents. Remember that you don’t have to have dominance to get points in the end game - you only need to have at least as many as you opponents.
Link Farms to Opponents Farms: Always seek to place farmers in such a way that will allow them to be linked to the farms of an opponent in later turns. Tiles such as cloisters (particularly those without roads) or “elbow” road pieces are perfect for linking fields. Carcassonne board game is fun for everyone.
Placing Farmers after Completing a City: Remember after a you have completed a city not to get carried away in the excitement of scoring points (I know this sounds basic, but I see it happen all the time). Take your time and look to see if placing a farmer in the field outside your city on the tile you just placed makes sense. It might!
Use the Double Settler: In most cases the double settler, I’ve found, is far more affective when placed in a field than when placed in a city (see How to shanghai a City below). It’s tempting to place this piece early and sometimes that makes sense. However, holding the double settler in reserve until the game has unfolded slightly normally results in a more efficient use of the piece - you don’t want to waste this one by playing it to early and having it get trapped.
Settlers and the River: If you’re playing with the River expansion keep in mind that of the original 12 tiles (10 tiles, a spring tile and a lake tile) keep in mind that two of the tiles have roads that bisect them completely and one of them (the cloister) has a road that runs half way across the tile. Avoid placing your farmers during the River phase directly between any two of these three. This will almost always lead to your farmer getting trapped by one of your opponents.
Use the Pig: Be sure to find a way to use the pig (Traders and Builders expansion). This is one of the best ways to get a few extra points at the end of the game. Carcassonne board game is often decided by just a few victory points - the pig is a way to squeeze all the points you can out of the game. However, resist using the pig early in favor of waiting to see how the fields shape up over the course of the game. Place the pig in the field where you are adjacent to the most cities. Like the double settler, the pig is not a piece that should be wasted.

Cloisters: Other than getting points, cloisters really only serve one other purpose and that is to help link fields together. However, cloisters can be very helpful during the endgame (see below). As a general rule, when placing a cloister always seek to locate the tile in an area that maximizes both the number of tiles that are adjacent to it at the time of placement, and that is in a position where completing the cloister is probable. As a tip, many times the best place to put a cloister is next to another one of your own cloisters.

Commodities: Commodities (Traders and Builders expansion) completely change the face of the game. Here are a few tips on how to take advantage of commodities:

Seek to Acquire Cloth and Wheat over Barrels: There are fewer cloth and wheat markers than barrel markers. As a result, it takes less time to corner the market on these commodities (specifically cloth of which there are only 5 markers) than barrels.

Take Advantage of the “Closing” Rule: Remember that whoever completes a city with commodities gets the commodities - even if the closing player doesn’t control it! There may be cases when an opponent only needs one tile to close a city; in essence it’s simply a matter of time. A good strategy, in these cases, is to close the city for them. Even though the opponent gets the points, you deprive them of the commodities. This strategy is fairly aggressive, but it works. On the flip side, be careful not to set yourself up to have on of your cities closed by another player for this very reason.
If There is a Choice, Add Sections with Commodities to Cities: in many cases a single tile will contain several city sections. Some will have commodities, and others won’t. When given the choice (and when doing so won’t make closing the city more difficult in the future) add to your city with the side of the tile that contains a city section with a commodity.

Using the Builder: The builder (Traders and Builders expansion) may be the most useful piece in the game. It is the only mechanism in the game that will allow a player to select a second tile. This presents an incredible advantage when played properly. Strategies to use when playing the builder include:

General Use: When you control a city by placing a settler on it, the next tile that is played to expand the city should have the builder placed on it. Priority should be given to cities with cathedrals. Trying to complete a city with a cathedral without the assistance of the builder is much more difficult.
Cities or Roads: Because cities are the primary scoring mechanism of “now” points and because they are generally more difficult to complete than roads, the builder should be used more for cities than for roads. This is not to say, however, that it should never be used for roads - in fact many often forget entirely that the builder is available for use on both.

Playing Defense: Once again balance is the key to the overall strategy of the game. In this case, an all offensive strategy based entirely on scoring as many points as possible while ignoring the actions of the other opponents may work against inexperienced players, but will surely backfire against more seasoned players. On the flip-side, playing all defense will not work either. To win, players must aggressively pursue scoring opportunities as well as create and develop situations that will prevent your opponents from doing the same. The following are a few techniques to do just that:

Making Cities Unbuildable / Trapping the Builder: Whenever possible, use tiles to make it more difficult for an opponent to complete a city. This is done by placing tiles that force your opponent to draw tiles of a particular configuration to either continue building or to complete the city. Pay special attention to cities where your opponent has placed their builder. The longer it takes for your opponent to complete a city with a builder on it, the less your opponent will be able to use their builder to develop other scoring opportunities across the board.
Trapping Farmers: Use roads or cities to form barriers around your opponents fields. This will keep your opponents fields from being adjacent to several cities. If done properly (and quickly) a farmer can be completely surrounded without being adjacent to any cities, removing its ability to score any points.
How to shanghai a City: This is an essential tactic to employ against an opponent building a city with a cathedral. Place a tile near, but not connected to, the city your opponent is building. Place one of your settlers on the tile in the city segment - preferably the double settler if it is available. The tile should be placed in such a way that the next city tile you draw (of the appropriate configuration) will connect that piece to the city and hence either give you control of the city or an equal share of the city.
Making Roads and Cloisters Harder to Build: Along the same lines as making cities unbuildable, try to place tiles that will require opponents to play a tile with a specific configuration to add to or complete the cloister. The more your opponent’s options are limited, the harder it will be for them to score.
Making “Suggestions”: The rules of the game clearly provide that players can make “suggestions” to their opponents about the best place to lay their tiles. Spare no expense to lie to your opponents as much as you want when it comes to this. But be sure to do it with some shred of credibility - otherwise no one will listen to you!
Working Together: It’s not out of the question for two or more players to work together against one or more other players. Although I don’t really recommend this tactic as it takes some of the fun out of the game, for all you cutthroats out there, don’t hesitate to double up on defensive moves against a common opponent. This can be a MUST when one of your opponents is trying to build a city with a cathedral.
Using Conflicts to Your Advantage: In many cases two or more players will spend a lot of time and resources trying to out score one another. Generally this will happen when two or more players compete for control of a large city. While these other players are busy slugging it out, they most likely won’t be paying attention to anything else. Take advantage of this time to score as many points as you can with little worry of defensive maneuvers against you.
Inns and Cathedrals: It’s important to remember that unfinished cities with a cathedral and roads with an inn are not scored at the end of the game. Use these tiles toward the end of the game (if available) on existing cities or roads your opponents occupy if you think they won’t be able to complete them by the end of the game.

The Odds: In many situations players have to try to figure out whether a certain tile remains in the pool in order to complete a city or a road or a cloister. In this was knowledge of which pieces exist and in what quantity will help determine whether a tile still remains or not. As a simple example, there are two cathedral tiles. So once the second cathedral is played, no more are available. Like counting cards, try to remember how many of each type of tile there are in the pool and then make a mental note when they get played. Keep a running tabulation in your head as the game progresses. This is a daunting task as there are well over 100 tiles in the game.

A great reference exists on that details each type of tile and their quantity. However, the following are some general themes to keep in mind:

There are 130 tiles (by my count) included in the basic game and the expansions considered by this guide, 12 of which are “river” tiles played at the beginning of the game.
Of the 12 river tiles, there are 2 with roads that bisect the tile completely, one cloister tile with a road that bisects the tile half way, seven river tiles (some with city segments), a spring tile and a lake tile.
Of the 118 tiles remaining:
41 have BOTH a city segment and a road segment
35 have city segments ONLY
27 have road segments ONLY
4 have cloisters with roads
4 have cloisters with no roads
and 2 have cathedrals

Hence, in the beginning of the game you are more likely to draw a tile with a city segment either with or without a road than you are to draw a tile with only a road on it. As a result, have your builder ready to go early. If you start drawing a lot of roads early, take heart - you’ll most likely start turning up city tiles in the very near future, so don’t be alarmed if everyone else is building cities like mad. As the game progresses, make a note of which tiles have been drawn and which are still in the bag. Utilizing this tactic will help you decide on which defensive moves will be most affective and how much risk you can afford to take when building your cities.

The End Game: The end game may be the most important phase of the game. As the tile bag empties you should take the following steps to ensure scoring the most points possible - and remember every point counts!

Play Your Pig: If your pig isn’t in play, get it in play. It’s as simple as that. Find a way to play it and fast. Place your pig in a place adjacent to as many cities as possible.
Place Available Settlers on Incomplete Roads and Cities: If you have available settlers, play them on incomplete cities and roads to take advantage of as many points as you can.
Place Last Minute Farmers: If you have the opportunity to place last minute farmers, do it. Remember that each farm you control will gain you four points for each city it’s adjacent to.
Add to Your Cloisters: Many times at the end of the game you’ll draw pieces that don’t seem to have much value. On the contrary, many times these pieces can be used creatively to add to cloisters. Even if the piece will make it almost impossible to complete the cloister, when it’s close to the end of the game play it anyway.

Are You A Master Yet? Hardly. The beauty of Carcassonne board game is it’s simplicity to learn but near impossibility to master. However, these few tips will most likely increase your score and enhance your shot at victory. Good luck and have fun.

Dave Peterson
Santa Clarita, CA

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