Toy Corner

Best Carcassonne Expansions 2024

May 01, 2024

 best carcassonne expansions

The beloved tile placement game Carcassonne has been around for years now, with the original game having over 10 expansions available adding depth and variety to the game. The question is, which expansions are worth getting?

Which Carcassonne Expansion Should I Get First?

Board game enthusiasts often ask, "Which Carcassonne expansion should I get first?" An ideal starting point is usually the first and second large expansions. These remain the most faithful to the original game without adding too many extras, making them rather well-received. Besides, they're the easiest to dive into out of all of the expansions. It's recommended to look into each expansion individually.

1. Inns & Cathedrals

The first notable expansion in the Carcassonne series is, undoubtedly, the Inns & Cathedrals expansion. This particular set has gained the admiration of many medieval city-building enthusiasts due to its faithfulness to its parent game's ruleset while enriching it with added dynamics.

Among its smart additions are two new tile types: inns and cathedrals. The introduction of these elements not only adds variety to the gameplay but also creates a more game balance. It cleverly discards the occurrence of overpowering plays seen in the base set, keeping each match-up exciting and fiercely competitive.

This expansion introduces a unique character to the Carcassonne family, known as Bullies. These meeples behave like regular followers, yet they hold the worth of two followers. They're essentially the big meeples adding strategic depth for experienced gamers. A smart move of a bully at the right time can significantly sway the game in one's favour.

Moreover, this expansion caters to up to six players, facilitating intriguing gameplay sessions with larger groups. With the inclusion of new scoring cards, keeping track of scores becomes easier, a direct response to the fan feedback from the original game.

From these perspectives, it's easy to understand why Inns & Cathedrals is well-established as one of the best Carcassonne expansions. It has successfully enhanced the tile-placing adventure with extended strategic possibilities while remaining faithful to the core gaming experience. By adopting these progressive techniques, the exhilaration of the traditional Carcassonne game once again comes to life, offering a gaming session worth relishing.

Carcassonne Inns & Cathedrals

2. Traders & Builders

Following on from Inns & Cathedrals, the Traders & Builders expansion brings a fresh layer of strategic depth to Carcassonne. This expansion was designed to add new dimensions to the game while staying true to its original essence.

Traders & Builders introduces Trade Goods on city tiles, offering a brand-new scoring mechanism. To obtain these valuable items, the player must add a land tile that completes a city. They'll gain a trade token for any of the symbols of goods within that city. The three trade goods at stake are Wine, Grain and Cloth. At the game's end, the player with the most of each good will score a generous 10 points. In the event of a tie, all players involved receive 10 points.

Interestingly, this expansion contributes to fair gameplay by encouraging players to finish features that award other players. This is due to the introduction of goods tokens – it's in a player's interest to finish other people's features to bag these end-game bonuses.

Strategic Additions

Traders & Builders also introduces two new player pieces, builder and pig meeples, adding complexity and flavour to gameplay. A builder has the potential to double a player's turn, while a pig meeple can significantly bolster one's points when placed on farmland.

With a strict limit of one pig per player, it demands strategic thinking and careful planning. The pig meeple can only be placed on a farmland tile with an existing farmer, adding additional points to the game.

Finally, mastering Carcassonne's core rules first is advised, as the added complexity could overwhelm new players. But once acquainted with the base game, the Traders & Builders expansion is an enticing play that stretches strategic boundaries.

carcassonne traders & builders

3. Princess and The Dragon

Dive headfirst into the captivating chaos of Princess and The Dragon, another imaginative expansion for Carcassonne. This expansion bravely breaks away from the mould, offering a much needed competitive element, and propelling Carcassonne into a whimsical, high-stakes fantasy realm.

Introducing a range of exciting new entities: The Princess, The Dragon, The Fairy, and Magic Portals, each offering their unique blend of advantages and threats. The Dragon, a sizeably impressive meeple, creates tension on the board, devouring any opponent's meeple it passes over. Brought to life by unique dragon tiles and strategic player choices, The Dragon imbues the game with a thrilling sense of unpredictability.

Equally intriguing is the Fairy, a meeple acting as a guardian against the mighty Dragon. When placed on an empty tile, it shields adjacent meeples from the dragon’s fiery wrath. This helpful addition can drastically change a player's fate, offering protection in dire circumstances.

The expansion doesn’t stop there. Meet The Princess, an ambiguous figure with the power to evict knight meeples from cities. Her role, slightly suspect, adds yet another layer of strategic depth.

Last, we have the Magic Portals, enabling meeples to teleport across the board under specific conditions, offering a whole new level of intricate gameplay and shifting strategies.

Princess and The Dragon cater to those seeking a competitive edge, implementing numerous opportunities for confrontation and intensifying the base game dynamics. This expansion isn't for the faint-hearted. It's a wild, fantastical roller-coaster ride presenting delicious dilemmas, ample strategy, and a large helping of chaos.

4. The Tower

The Tower expansion brings a dramatic twist to the Carcassonne gaming world, turning peaceful countrysides into battlefields. Its dynamic gameplay captivates players, earning its place on the list of best Carcassonne expansions.

The game includes a three-part cardboard Tower, 30 wooden tower floors, and 18 new tower foundation land tiles. The Tower can reach up to 10 floors in a 2-player game and five floors in a 6-player game. It introduces confrontation among players as it can capture meeples—either the player's own or an opponent's—in all four directions, depending on its height. This makes the presence of the Tower risky for all meeples but captured meeples can be returned at a cost to victory points. Players also have the option to place normal meeples atop the tower where they are safe from capture but cannot score points.

The Tower expansion forces players to rethink their strategies and consider the implications of every move. Expect an added layer of tension and increasingly competitive gameplay when introducing The Tower to the Carcassonne base game. So, are you game to accept this tower challenge?

carcassonne the tower

5. Abbey & Mayor

Dipping into the pool of Carcassonne expansions, one surfaces with the particularly enthralling Abbey & Mayor. While it's largely seen as the most dynamic, this expansion also embraces complexity, adding new strategic depth and a potent psychological factor to the cherished board game.

This expansion introduces an array of elements - Mayors, Abbeys, Barns, and Wagons, each with unique properties and roles, adding novel strategic options. To highlight, barns can be situated exclusively on junctions of four tiles encapsulated by fields. Once a farm's established, it returns all meeples to their owners - sparking a new layer of tacticity. Furthermore, for each city skirting a field with a barn, four points per city are awarded, boosting the end-game scores significantly.

The Abbey, a versatile powerhouse, can plug any gap in the game board, and it's scored similarly to our well-known monasteries. Bolstering the round of characters, Mayors step onto the stage. Unique in their own right, they can only be stationed in cities without any existing Mayors or knights, adding yet another element of strategic planning.

The Abbey & Mayor expansion of Carcassonne offers flexibility, allowing players to select mechanics that suit their style and experiment with strategies. This expansion ensures fewer unfinished projects, leading to higher point tallies and less exhaustive planning. Players are assured of finding ways to score points, promising a richer, more vibrant, and more strategic gameplay experience.

carcassonne abbey & manor components

6. Count, King, & Robber

Released in 2004 and 2005, Count, King, & Robber stands as an extreme value package amidst Carcassonne expansions. Unveiling a larger playing field, this expansion advances from the single tile of the base game to a 12-tile starting point, leaving room for increased interactions and strategic planning. If that wasn't enough, players can also combine expansions, which potentially could result in a 24-tile starting point.

This expansion transforms the way you play Carcassonne. With a keen focus on city and road control, Count, King, & Robber dramatically increases player-to-player interactions. Although some critics argue about the lack of originality as it's a collection of expansions, its sheer vastness and value package ensure this expansion's standing among Carcassonne's best offerings.

Among the exciting new elements included in Count, King, & Robber, the Count meeple shines as a strategic game-changer. It may initially appear tricky to integrate it with other expansions, but mastering its function can sway the game in one's favour. The Count's ability to move meeples around the board adds a range of strategic options, significantly influencing core gameplay and turn outcomes.

Weaving the Count's unique abilities with the expansion's larger playing field and city-road-focused mechanics, Count, King, & Robber offers players numerous dimensions of strategy to explore. Every game unfolds with distinctive rhythm and dynamics, promising replayability and continued engagement for both beginners and Carcassonne veterans.

7. Under the Big Top

Colourful, flamboyant, and full of fun, the Under the Big Top expansion for Carcassonne whisks players away to a delightful circus extravaganza. This expansion is valued by fans for its innovative mechanics, introducing cheerful Acrobat meeples, animal tokens, and the commanding Ringmaster meeples to the game.

Acrobat meeples add a spark of excitement, embodying the thrilling spectacle of acrobatic shows. They can be stacked as a multicoloured pyramid on top of one another. This pile-up can take on various hues, allowing everyone to join in the revelry.

The Ringmaster meeples take the centre ring in this expansion, playing a dual role, applicable for other tile effects, yet scoring an additional two points for each circus or acrobat adjacent to them. Post-event, these meeples return to the player's supply, ready to entertain again.

Animal tokens add to the circus charm. These tokens add a fresh scoring method, boosting fun and bringing variety to the game.

Bursting with flamboyant fun and thrill, Under the Big Top provides a new dimension of joy to Carcassonne. Integrating Under the Big Top into your Carcassonne game sessions ensures new strategic elements, laughter and vibrant colours. This circus-themed funfair provides fresh tactical decisions for players while maintaining Carcassonne's core essence.

From the strategic tingle of the Ringmaster meeple to the colourful pile-ups of the Acrobat meeples, this expansion brings a party to your table like no other.

8. Hills & Sheep

The Hills & Sheep expansion adds a pastoral twist to the classic tile-placing game. This expansion presents new gameplay dynamics and scoring methods, giving players additional strategies to explore.

At the heart of Hills & Sheep are the eponymous sheep, creating a push-your-luck game mechanic. Players must choose between enlarging their flock or cashing in their sheep for points — a decision that can make or break their lead over competitors.

The Hills & Sheep expansion introduces new elements to the Carcassonne game, including shepherd meeple, sheep and wolf tokens. These additions increase the complexity of gameplay and introduce an element of risk. Players can earn points by placing sheep tokens on the field, but risk losing their flock if a wolf token is drawn. The hills component has received criticism for being unnecessary, while vineyards and 18 new land tiles have been well-received. Despite mixed reviews from players, this expansion undeniably enriches the original game by adding layers of decision-making and suspense.

9. The Catapult

One of the more debated expansions for Carcassonne, "The Catapult" presents an unorthodox game mechanic - a literal catapult. Not topping the ranks of popular additions, Expansion 7 is often synonymous with controversy.

Carcassonne's quilt-like landscapes turn into target practice with the incorporation of this wooden contraption. When a player draws one of the 12 faire tiles, a catapult round swings into action. This marks the first time Carcassonne extended into the realm of action/dexterity games.

The four types of action tokens thrown into the mix make the catapult round even more unconventional. Each action token carves out a different goal for the round: from taking aim at other's meeples, swapping meeples, to catching the catapult for points. There's no way of knowing what the other players might be planning, shooting uncertainty through the gameplay.

Despite its quirks, "The Catapult" expansion has its moments. For many players, it's turned Carcassonne into something of an entertaining drinking game. While adults may scratch their heads at this bizarre addition, children have a field day in these catapult rounds, adding a fun twist when they're participating in the game.

However, for players wishing for a dexterity game, there are plenty of better options as "The Catapult" doesn't live up to the mark. It's often been considered clumsy and an unnecessary digression from the classic Carcassonne.

10. Bridges, Castles & Bazaars

Engulfed in an aura of forethought and strategy, Bridges, Castles & Bazaars notably enhances Carcassonne's gameplay dynamics. This expansion's unique addition? A bazaar - infusing an auctioning element that demands shrewd calculations and acute awareness of rival players’ strategies.

The introduction of the bazaar, while met with excitement, also brings a few challenges. With lower player counts, it doesn't add significant value. It's best perceived when played with a larger group. Yet, needless to say, the bazaar considerably elongates the game's duration, causing some players to find it too slow.

The addition of shepherds to the Carcassonne game introduces pastoral simplicity. New Hill tiles act as a tiebreaker, enhancing the game's landscape. Bridges add strategic layers to the game by offering escape routes and enabling road continuation. The Bazaar module introduces an auction dynamic where points are used as currency, demanding strategic thinking from players. Despite mixed reviews on the King and Robber scoring similar to Settlers of Catan, all players agree that Bridges, Castles & Bazaars bring a refreshing challenge to Carcassonne, confirming its standalone value among the game's many expansions.

A Great Alternative

The first three recommendations are great additions if you have only ever played the original Carcassonne board game.

Another alternative is the Big Box, a legendary collection in the gaming community, that offers 11 expansions including classics like Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, and The River as well as less popular ones like The Flying Machine and The Gold Mines. Known for its exceptional value and wide range of content, it is recommended for both seasoned veterans and newcomers to the world of Carcassonne.