Everyone's favourite quant tile-laying classic, Carcassonne is positively dripping with expansions and add-ons. With the recent release of the Big Box Edition, I thought it would be good to go through what I believe are the top expansions to get. I have played most of them but I do apologise if your favourite has been missed off the list, I may not have played it or it's a bit naff!
Big Expansions - The Best Ones
Rightfully at the top of the list is the first expansion released which added just enough to the base game to spice up your Carcassone sessions without too much rules overhead. You have Inns and Cathedrals which give bonus points for roads and cities respectively. I like this addition because if you do not complete these improved roads or cities then you score zero points at the end, that’s right, zero points. It adds a little risk and reward to the whole thing. Lovely.
You have your big meeple which counts as two meeples, to help thwart other players from nicking your cities. You have a sixth player's pieces in grey or pink depending on the edition you get, which is always welcome.
It was a toss between the last two for my favourite as I like them both equally. Traders and builders add goods tiles to cities and get some funky new wooden pieces, builders and pigs. Who does not love pigs? Goods tiles are placed on new city tiles bearing the same symbol. Whoever completes the city, even if it's not your city, gets the goos tokens placed on them. At the end of the game whoever has the most of each good gets some juicy bonus points. What do points make? Well, a win hopefully!
The builder, who is one of my favourite pieces in Carcassonne enables you to build cities quicker. Add him to a city of yours already in progress and whenever you place a new tile in this city you get another go instantly, winner! Your pig, which can be added to a field you currently reside in, doubles the score of that field. Happy little pig!
Big Expansions - Maybe’s
While not being a required expansion, in my opinion anyway I do like the way it makes the farmers, one of Carcassones more diverse pieces, more worthwhile. The barns allow early scoring of fields and also add tactical layers, with the ability to scare off your opponents farmers. As I said, not required but a nice little addition.
Again, while not being a required expansion, Castles, Bridges and Bazaars add a nice little auction mechanic. This expansion also makes those pesky little cities you make, you know, the two-tile ones, more worthwhile. This expansion allows you to turn those cities and score an adjacent feature at the same time. Juicy.
What I like about hills and sheep are the way they make both Monastaries and fields more interesting by adding little scoring wrinkles. Vineyards make monasteries more profitable and shepherds make fields more interesting by breaking nearby ties for features. Rather than features being scored by two players, hills can break the tie and add another layer to player head-to-heads.
This is a tricky one as this expansion is not great for newcomers as it adds a little complexity to the mix. What we like about it though as it encourages players to complete other players features for the chance to steal other features off them later. It makes the game more combative and adds an element of take-that. We don’t always play with it but it is fun now and again to change the ‘feel’ of the game.
I don’t think any of the smaller expansions are ‘required’ as such but I will talk about a few of my favourites.
I really like halflings, they are triangular pieces that allow you to complete cities easier and create some quite weird features. You also hold them in your hand like a hand of cards meaning that every turn you have a few otions to place, rather than the normal one option. Great stuff.
I like this expansion for the same reason I like Builders and Traders, it adds resource collection to Carcassone, giving you another way to score points. By no means necessary but it does add another twist if your looking for a different take on Carcassones scoring.
The Gold Mines
Another little expansion that adds resources to Carcassonne is The Gold Mines. I am starting to see a theme here, I think I do like resource-based expansions for Carcassonne. Gold mines adds new tiles that add bars of gold to them. Whoever completes the feature containing gold bars get them and how many you have at the end exponentially increases your point yield. Sciency!
While I do not think you need expansions to enjoy Carcassone, especially early on, I do think that the first two big expansions, Builders and Traders and Inns and Cathedrals are the best. Most of the expansions I have played are rather good, slightly tweaking the rules and adding more ways to score points.
There are also heaps and heaps of smaller expansions, which you can pick up cheap to sprinkle a bit of spice on your games of Carcassonne. They are not too expensive and if you like Carcassonne, like we do, you can’t go far wrong. Enjoy building towns and roads people, Carcassonne is a fun time for everyone, until one of your kids gazumps your city and steals the points!