Carcassonne is one of the most popular board games in modern history! Visual-wise, it’s based on the French citadel, famed for its medieval castle walls. Tile placement is the key mechanism at play here. In the base game, your turn consists of you placing a tile into a communal, ever-growing array. There’s different types of features that score points, such as winding roads, monasteries, and walled cities, themselves.
If you can’t get enough of Carcassonne, I’ve got great news for you. There’s a bucket-load of expansions for it! Mastered the art of placing down farmers? Played the base game and the mini modules The River and The Abbot? Still hankering for more? What you need is the Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals expansion, and I’m here to teach it to you!
Read this far, but pulling an ‘Eh?’ kind of face? You need to click here to read the Zatu ‘How To Play Carcassonne’ Guide. In that blog I talk you through how to play the base game of Carcassonne. This How To Play guide assumes you know how to play the basics of Klaus-Jürgen Wrede’s classic.
Three New Modules
Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals doesn’t reinvent the wheel, as such. It’s more a case of it injecting extra layers of strategy into the base game. You’re still competing with other players to score the most points by the time the tiles run out. You’re still placing one tile on your turn, and deciding if you want to invest a meeple onto that tile. You’re still targeting to finish (and thus, scoring) features. In doing so, you retrieve the meeple you placed there.
Three modules await inside Inns & Cathedrals. (No prizes for guessing what two of them are…!) In this tutorial, I’m going to explain how to play them all. You can play with any one, two or all three of them at once. If you’ve played a game or two of Carcassonne before, it’s not overwhelming to play with all three. It goes without saying that you’ll need a copy of regular Carcassonne to play Inns & Cathedrals. This is an expansion, not a standalone version of the game.
Setting Up Takes Seconds
Inns & Cathedrals comes with 18 extra tiles. (Some of these feature inns and cathedrals on them, shock, horror!) They’re all light-back tiles, rather than dark-back – the latter being starting tiles. The new tiles from Inns & Cathedrals have a tiny meeple icon on them. This means you can separate them from the original tiles, in a simple fashion. Shuffle these 18 in alongside your tiles from the base game. Arrange them in a few stacks, face-down.
Give each player their meeples in their chosen colour. Inns & Cathedrals comes with pink meeples, which means that now a sixth player can join in the fun! (There’s also a pink Abbot meeple included, which is for The Abbot module.) Give out a noticeably larger meeple to each player in their corresponding colour, too.
Place the score board near the middle of the table, as per usual. Decide if you want to start with the default starting tile (dark-back), or with The River module. Have everyone place one of their regular-sized meeples on the zero on the score track. You’re ready to begin!
That Bigger Meeple Stole My Lunch Money
No doubt your ears pricked up when I mentioned the larger meeple, above. If playing with this module, every player receives an extra meeple of their colour. This meeple is head and shoulders bigger than the regular-sized ones.
Your turn occurs as normal. You pick up a tile and place it, adding it to a current (or starting a new) feature. If you want to place one of your meeples to the tile, you can – so long as no other meeples occupy that feature. So far, so Carcassonne. But if you place a large meeple on a tile, it counts as two meeples.
You don’t want to waste this one! If you’ve played Carcassonne before, you’ll know that placing tiles to combine two features into one is a clever way to share someone else’s points. If you do this and use your large meeple, you could eclipse them all together. Or, if you place your large meeple down early, it might intimidate other players. No one wants to be the sacrificial lamb that gets sucked into a tile placement war!
You can use a large meeple to act as a highwayman (road), knight (city), or a farmer (field). There’s no point using it as a monk, because only one player can ever claim a monastery on the turn it’s placed.
Inn For A Penny, Inn For A Pound
On six of the new tiles, there are inns. They’re not the easiest icon to spot, but they’re a red-roofed building, sitting by a road. (You can also tell it’s an inn because they have small lakes next to them.) Inns sit on roads, so they’re connected to placing a meeple as a highwayman, with the intention of scoring it as a road.
There’s nothing new to worry about with placing a meeple as a highwayman onto a road. Inns do, however, come into their own with regards to scoring roads. Usually, when you complete a road, it scores one point per tile that the road passes through. If you’ve placed a meeple on a road that has one (or more) inns on it though, then it’s worth double the points. It’s worth two points per tile that forms said road.
Beware, though! At the end-game scoring in the base game, you score your roads regardless of their completion or not. Here, if you have not completed a road with an inn on it by the end of the game, you score nothing. Of course, you can use the large meeple (explained above) on an inn road.
Cathedrals: A Blessing Or A Curse?
Two of the new tiles are cathedrals. They’re city tiles, but without any walls. This means it’s a tile that requires a minimum of four city tiles around it to close it in. That’s easier said than done, though!
Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals offer the opportunity to net mega-points. If you can complete a city that houses one of these tiles, you’re laughing! You’ve played Carcassonne before, so you know how cities usually score. (Two points per tile that the city spans across. Any coat of arms present in the city are worth another two bonus points each, too.) Finish a city with a cathedral in it though, and the scores increase. Now each tile is worth three points each instead of two. Coat of arms are worth three points each as well as two, so you can net major-league prizes!
Again, don’t get too excited! If you fail to complete a city that houses a cathedral by the end of the game, that city scores nothing. This feels like a painful loss if you’ve spent a lot of time and tiles into make a ginormous citadel! Sometimes players might even place a cathedral into a rival’s city. The penalty is they’ve made it harder for that player to complete it. But the risk is if it does get walled in, it’s going to pay out big dividends for someone…
Editors note: This post was originally published on September 1st, 2020. Updated on June 29th, 2022 to improve the information available.