Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals is the first expansion set (of many) for the phenomenon tile-laying modern classic that is Carcassonne. We should mention straight away that in order to play Inns & Cathedrals, you’ll need a copy of the base game of Carcassonne – this is not a standalone title.
Inns & Cathedrals is the perfect expansion for those that love Carcassonne and are looking to add some spice into the mix. The core concepts of the base game remain – it’s still a tile-laying game where players place square tiles (with either roads, castles, fields and cloisters) into an ever-expanding kingdom, inspired by the fortified French city. Players have a limited number of ‘meeples’ (wooden workers) that they can sit onto tiles the player has just placed. When a road or castle is completed, for example, the player retrieves the meeple and scores points, depending on the size of said road or castle.
The new components that come with this expansion are a range of additional tiles and a larger meeple. Some of the roads now have inns on them, and if you place a meeple on a road with an inn along it, when the road is complete and the player retrieves the Meeple, road tiles are worth two points each (instead of one point each, compared to base Carcassonne). However, unlike a regular road that scores regardless, if a road with an inn along it is not complete come the end of the game, that road scores zero…
Similarly, there are some cathedral tiles, which are four-sided city squares. If a player can complete a city with a cathedral within it, each segment is worth three points each (again, worth more than regular Carcassonne). Also, if the city is incomplete come the end of the game, the player scores nothing. Both of these offer a high risk-versus reward strategy, especially when placed in the second half of the game. Sometimes players might gamble by adding a cathedral into a rival’s city as a means of sabotage, in the hope that they never complete it!
Inns & Cathedrals also provides one large meeple for players to go alongside their regular-sized meeples. This is placed the same as any other meeple, but it is classified as two meeples with regards to scoring. Therefore it settles tie-breakers, in case a rival tries to muscle in on a castle or road (or, more likely, farmers claiming fields). There is also a sixth colour of meeples (plus one big meeple) included in this expansion, meaning that now six players can play.
There are an abundance of further expansions for Carcassonne out there (many are by the same designer, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede). Expansion 1: Inns & Cathedrals is a fantastic option for players looking to take their love of Carcassonne up a notch to the next level of complexity.
Player count: 2-6 players
Time: 60 minutes
Age Rating: 8+
Inns and Cathedrals brings forth 18 new tiles, enough meeples for a sixth player, and a new type of meeple: the giant meeple. Giant meeples count as two meeples when deciding on who scores contested territories.
The tiles introduce two new different concepts: the titular inns and cathedrals. Roads with inns on them make them score slightly differently: if you complete a road with an inn on it, each tile of road scores two points instead of one. However, incomplete roads with inns score zero points at the end of the game.
Similarly, cathedrals are city tiles which connect to cities on all four sides. Completing a city with a cathedral causes each tile and shield to score three points instead of two, but incomplete cities with cathedrals score nothing at the end of the game.
The majority of tiles in this expansion are roads, which serves the purpose of reducing the number of gigantic “mega-farms” in the game, which I’d say is also a welcome addition in terms of game balance.
This expansion helps balance the base game a little better, as roads start being more attractive options for scoring when they were often not as valuable as cities in the base game. Introducing the giant meeple enhances the fight for control in Carcassonne. While I personally enjoyed this, players who prefer passive games of Carcassonne wouldn’t be as affected by this addition.
In a similar vein, the cathedrals are often used as aggressive tiles, being placed in large opponent cities to prevent them from scoring these cities. So, while it does add an additional layer of planning to the game, this expansion does make the game a little more cut throat.