I get you.
You played and enjoyed Carcassonne until it got boring and you surfed over google hoping to find good recommendations on which are the best Carcassonne expansions to buy. Am I right?
You aren’t the first and won’t be the last.
Even though I think it is one of the best board games for beginners, this game has a silly amount of expansions and not all of them are worth the purchase.
I’ve written this Best Carcassonne expansions list with my personal opinions on each expansion to give you an overall idea of them and, hopefully, help you to better understand which one of these you could consider spending your money on.
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Carcassonne expansion 1 – Inns & Cathedrals
- 8 Meeples and 1 abbot (pink) – This new set of pawns allows you to play in a total of 6 players;
- 18 Land tiles (marked with to help you separate and sort your tiles) – among others, these tiles feature 6 inns and 2 cathedrals;
- 6 Large meeples;
- 6 Points tiles 50 and 100.
This expansion adds more ways to shape the Medieval countryside.
The biggest add-on is the introduction of the two new buildings, that opens additional avenues to scoring points:
- Cathedrals: when a player completes a city with one or both cathedrals, the scoring player(s) each get 3 points per tile and coat of arms in this completed city (instead of the usual 2 points);
when the game ends, incomplete cities won’t score any points!
- Inns: when a player completes a road with one or more inns, the scoring player(s) each get 2 points per tile forming this completed road (instead of the usual 1 point per tile);
when the game ends, incomplete roads won’t score any points!
The second major feature is the introduction of the large meeple.
Worth two normal followers, large meeples help you secure features and keep their points to yourself!
Other than these two mentioned gameplay twists, there are other 2 new features introduced:
- A full set of meeples for a 6th player;
- Points tiles to keep the scoring count easier. Good job, it was flipping messy before!
When you write a list including the best Carcassonne expansions it’s impossible not placing this expansion at the 1st place.
This is probably the best one overall and 100% my favourite.
New terrain tiles and mechanics have been implemented, refreshing the game but also keeping the same entertaining vibes.
Once you get this expansion, you can’t play the base game anymore!
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 1: INNS & CATHEDRALS
2-6 players | 45 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 2 – Traders & Builders
- 24 Land tiles (including 9 with Wine, 6 with Grain and 5 with Cloth);
- 20 Goods tokens (9x Wine, 6x Grain, and 5x Cloth);
- 6 Builders;
- 6 Pigs;
- 1 Bag.
This expansion adds new features and opens even more ways to outwit your opponents.
The biggest add-on is probably the builder, which opens a new gameplay mechanic:
when it’s your turn, after having placed a tile, you can decide to place your builder on a road or a city, instead of your meeple.
With the builder in the game, you can speed up your strategy by placing another tile immediately after you add a Land tile to a road or city that your builder occupies.
As long as the road is incomplete, the builder will stay there, allowing you to get a double turn the first time you add a tile to that road each turn.
The second major feature is the introduction of good tokens and pigs that allow you to score more points:
- A goods token is given to a player if it places the last tile to complete a city. The player with the majority of tokens (for each of the 3 goods) scores 10 additional points.
- The pig enhances the value of any farmers you have in the same field, allowing you to score 4 points (instead of 3) for each completed city that borders that field.
In addition to the mentioned above features, there are also new types of terrain tiles featuring bridges and cities and a small bag, which can be easily brought everywhere you go!
This box adds more strategy to the game!
Finally, they have introduced a mechanic (token goods) that incentives players to finish cities they otherwise won’t score from.
Builders are also super interesting, as having a double turn at the right time can be a game-changer.
But you have to understand how and when to use it, to avoid getting trapped!
A really solid expansion that everyone should own and considered the best one by a lot of gamers.
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 2: TRADERS & BUILDERS
2-6 players | 45 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 3 – The Princess & The Dragon
- 30 Land tiles (including Dragon, Volcano, Magic Portals and Fairy tiles);
- 1 Dragon;
- 1 Fairy.
They have thought out of the box with this expansion, as we enter in a realm of chivalry and sorcery, where princesses, dragons, fairies, and other storybook elements add surprising wrinkles to the game.
It changes the gameplay so much that players have to completely re-think about their strategy to win the game.
By far the biggest add-on is the Dragon:
It comes into play once the first Volcano tile has been drawn and placed. From now on the beast remains on the board and has to be moved 6 times (each player moves the Dragon by 1 tile) anytime a meeple has been placed on a Dragon tile.
The Dragon devours anyone in its path!
The other add-ons are the introduction of the Princess, the Magic Portals and the Fairy:
- The princess tile can be placed normally to continue a city and she can remove a knight from a city to open more scoring opportunities.
- Magic portals allow you to place a meeple on that tile or on any other previous placed tiles. It’s literally teleport!
- The Fairy doesn’t belong to any players and, any turns a player doesn’t play (or move) a meeple, she can be assigned to one of yours by placing the fairy directly next to it.
The fairy protects your meeples from the dragon and scores you bonus points when your turn begins and when you score features.
In addition to the mentioned above features, there are also new types of terrain tiles featuring a Monastery in a city and tunnels.
There’s a dragon on the front cover… A dragon! This should be enough for you to press the “Add to Basket” button.
I would have never imagined seeing a dragon in Carcassonne.
But hey… Medieval history is full of artifacts and pictures representing dragons, so I guess it’s fair.
This expansion is very different from all the others.
The dragon drastically changes the gameplay and if you are an “aggressive” player this is for you!
I would not recommend this expansion to beginners, as it adds too many different mechanics, and I would not play this expansion if you are only playing a 2-3 players game.
I think the minimum players number required, to really enjoy these new add-ons, is 5.
Overall, if you’re a fan of Carcassonne and you have other 4 friends to play regularly you could consider to buy it. Otherwise skip it.
*I wasn’t joking
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 3: THE PRINCESS & THE DRAGON
2-6 players | 40 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 4 – The Tower
- 18 Land tiles with a tower foundation;
- 30 Tower floors in one color;
- 1 Tile Tower.
Pretty self explanatory by looking at the cover, this expansion focuses on Towers.
At the beginning of the game each player receives a number of tower floors depending by the number of players.
After placing your tile, you now have 3 new actions to choose from:
- play one of your tower floors on a tower foundation space on any placed tile;
- place one of your tower floors to any open tower on the board;
- place one of your meeples on any open tower; This closes the tower.
Whenever you place a tower floor, you may immediately take 1 meeple off the board; it can belong to any player, including yourself.
The level where you placed your tower floor determines the tiles from which you may capture a meeple (e.g. if the tower is 2 floors high, you can take a meeple within a radius of 2 tiles from the tower; for a 3 floors tower the radius is 3 tiles, and so on…)
When you place a meeple on top of a tower, this is considered closed and no more floors can be added to it.
The meeple stays on the tower until the end of the game (or until it is captured).
Whenever you and another player have a meeple belonging to the other, you exchange them immediately.
In addition, during your turn you may buy back one of your captured meeples. Pay the player who captured it 3 points.
This expansion, similar to the previous one, adds more ways to be competitive and aggressive towards other players.
There are endless possibilities to screw your opponent’s strategies up.
If you like this kind of twist to the game, you may consider getting it and you won’t regret the choice as, overall, this expansion is fun to play!
On the other hand, if you’re more a “passive” type of player and you don’t really like direct conflicts in Carcassonne, I’d suggest skipping it.
This new mechanic also increases the game duration as players are more inclined to analyse and think before playing their turn, so this can be seen as either good and bad.
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 4: THE TOWER
2-6 players | 45 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 5 – Abbey & Mayor
- 12 Land tiles;
- 6 Abbey tiles;
- 6 Mayors;
- 6 Wagons;
- 6 Barns.
Each player receives one of these tiles at the start of the game.
During your turn you can choose to not draw a tile and play the Abbey instead.
This particular tile acts as monasteries and you can use them to plug holes in the board by filling spaces surrounded by tiles.
It is one of the new meeples added in this expansion.
The mayor can be placed in a city where there are already knights or mayors. When scoring the points, the major strength is equal to the number of coats of arms in the city it occupies.
Barns synergize with farmers to enhance the value of fields they occupy.
During your turn you may place a barn, instead of placing a meeple, on the junction of four tiles if these tiles create an open field.
Barn allows you to immediately score farmer points without waiting.
At the end of the game, you score additional points per completed city in the field your barn occupies.
It can be placed where a meeple may normally be placed (road, city, monastery, abbey) but then moved from one feature to the next, after scoring.
So, after scoring, you may return the wagon to your supply, or you may move it to a directly adjacent unoccupied, incomplete feature (road, city, monastery, etc.).
Adjacent means that the feature is on the same tile or a tile orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to the tile the wagon is moving from.
With this expansion we step back to a more “Carcassonne style of play” mechanics.
Abbey and Mayor are definitely the two more interesting add-ons here, whether Barns and Wagons introduce more possible paths to victory.
I think this is a brilliant expansion. Totally recommended.
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 5: ABBEY & MAYOR
2-6 players | 45 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 6 – Count, King & Robber
- 2 large City tiles (2×3 tiles, each with different sides). When placed together, they form the city of Carcassonne;
- 1 Wooden Count;
- 1 King Marker and 1 Robber Marker (Another set is included as spares);
- 1 King Tile and 1 Robber Tile;
- 22 Land Tiles (5 Shrine tiles, 5 Land tiles and 12 River II tiles).
This expansion offers two different ways to start the game: instead of using the standard start tile or the River I, you can either use the two large City tiles to form the city of Carcassonne or the River II as your starting point.
The River II
Just like The River from the base game, this expansion adds even more river tiles to the game allowing to shape the landscape in a different way.
You can combine The River II with The River from base game to make a very long river.
The city of Carcassonne
Combine the two big tiles together to create the city of Carcassonne and use it as the game starting point.
The city has 4 districts that can be filled by placing your meeple.
When a feature (city, road, monastery, or shrine) is completed, before it is scored, all players may remove their meeples from the matching district and place them in the feature that is about to be scored.
The other news is the introduction of the King & Robber mechanic.
These titles are both given to the player who completed the biggest city (king) and the longest road (robber).
At the end of the game, players who have these titles gain additional points.
Last but not least, the shrine tiles.
Similar to the monastery, a shrine is scored when it is surrounded by other tiles.
Anytime a Shrine is placed adjacent to a Monastery a challenge occurs. The first feature to be completed receives their 9 points, while the other feature scores none.
A bunch of new mechanics and tiles, but overall not the best Carcassonne expansion in my opinion.
The River II is by far the most interesting feature added and it can almost justify the purchasing price by itself.
The King & Robber add-on is nothing special and it can really kill the beauty of the game if it’s only played by 2 players.
I wouldn’t suggest buying this expansion unless you’re a fan or a collector.
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 6: COUNT, KING & ROBBER
2-6 players | 45 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 7 – The Catapult
2-6 players | 30-45 mins | Age 8+
As you can imagine this expansion focuses on the Catapult and introduces new gameplay mechanics.
Unfortunately, it’s mainly known to be one of the worst expansions ever made in the history of board games, so I would not recommend getting it (it’s also very difficult to find it on the market).
Carcassonne expansion 8 – Bridges, Castles & Bazaars
- 12 Land Tiles including 8 with a bazaar;
- 12 Castle Tiles;
- 12 Wooden Bridges.
Bridges, Castles and Bazaar are the add-ons of this expansion (which is probably my favourite one in terms of cover artwork).
Bridges are given to each player at the start of the game.
They can be placed on a tile that has a field on the two opposite sides and its purpose is to continue a road that, otherwise, would be incomplete.
They are scored like tiles with a road on them.
When you place a tile that completes a small city (a city consisting of only 2 tiles) you can choose to score the points as normal or, instead, place the cast;e tile on it.
The castle will gain points once the next feature neighboring the Castle is completed.
The amount of points gained is the same as the completed feature.
At the end of the game occupied castles don’t score any points
Will you score the points of the small city or will you build the castle and take the gamble to score more?
Each time a Bazaar tile is drawn and placed, the players have to start an auction.
Who has drawn the bazaar draws and reveals a number of tiles equal to the number of players. The player on your left then chooses one of those tiles and bids a number of points for it.
In turn order all players can choose to either buy or sell a tile of their choice. The buyer loses the points equal to his bid on the scoreboard and the seller gains these points on the scoreboard.
Personally I find Castles a very fun addition to the game. I happily add them to the base game if there’s a chance to do so.
Bridges are fun too, but they can destroy the game balance as most of the time players win by focusing on field mechanics.
Bazaar.. don’t let me speak about it. Personally I don’t like the auction mechanic and I often find myself not using this feature when playing this expansion.
In general this is not a bad expansion, Castles and Bridges are fun! But I would probably choose other expansions before this one.
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 8: BRIDGES, CASTLES & BAZAARS
2-6 players | 45 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 9 – Hills & Sheep
- 18 Land Tiles;
- 18 Flock Tokens (4x 1 Sheep, 5x 2 Sheep, 5x 3 Sheep, 2x 4 Sheep, 2x Wolf);
- 1 Cloth Bag;
- 6 Shepherds (1 each in 6 colors).
This 9th expansion features new land tiles and mechanics that allow you to grow your flock, gain the high ground with hills and cultivate a profitable vineyard.
If you draw a tile with a hill, immediately take another facedown tile, don’t look at it and place it under the hill tile.
A meeple can be placed on any of the features shown on the drawn Hill tile, such as road, city, monastery or field.
The hill influences ties when scoring a feature. If more than one player occupies the same feature, but one of them has a follower standing on a Hill tile as a part of the scoring feature, he gets all the points.
The phrase “get a better view on the hill and gain the advantage from the high ground” has never been so true!
Shepherd & Sheeps
Shepherds are special units that can be placed on fields. Each time a player expands a field controlled by his shepherd, that player has two options:
- Grow the flock, by drawing another token from the bag;
if you draw a sheep token, that token will be added to your flock. If you draw a wolf all the sheeps will be returned to the bag.
- Score the flock, by earning a point for each sheep shown on your tokens. After scoring the points all the sheep are returned to the bag and the shepherds return to your supply.
If your shepherd and sheep are in a field at the end of the game, you do not score any points for them.
This is a new very simple feature, basically Vineyard tiles are meant to be positioned near the Monastery and they add 3 points each to the final score if a Monastery is completed by the end of the game.
During final scoring, an incomplete monastery does not score additional points for the surrounding vineyards.
This is one of my favourite expansions!
First of all because all the new features make sense thematically.
Also, all of these additions are fun to play, easy to learn for newbies as they don’t over complicate things and add a lot of value to the game.
I would definitely recommend this expansion.
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 9: HILLS & SHEEP
2-6 players | 45 mins | Age 7+
Carcassonne expansion 10 – Under the Big Top
- 20 Land tiles including 12 Circus tiles with one circus space each and 8 Acrobat tiles with two acrobat spaces each;
- 16 Animal tokens: 1x Elephant, 2x Tiger, 3x Bear, 5x Seal, 4x Monkey, 1x Flea;
- 1 Big Top;
- 6 Ringmasters.
We finally arrived at the last expansion of the game.
The tent has been pitched outside of town and the performers are ready to thrill the crowd with their death-defying stunts.
Circus has come!
As the artwork may suggest, the Circus is the main addition to this expansion.
It’s composed of 3 different elements and gameplay mechanics:
Circus tiles, Animal tokens & the Big Top
Circus tiles are placed like normal Land tiles.
When the first Circus tile is placed, take the top Animal token from the stack, place it face down on the circus space, and place the Big Top on it.
When another Circus tile is placed, players score points equal to the number of their meeples on the Circus tile and the 8 tiles surrounding it, multiplied by the number on the Animal tokens.
After placing an Acrobat tile, you can place your meeple on the road or in the field, as usual.
Alternatively, a meeple can be used as an Acrobat by placing it on one of the two acrobat spaces on the tile.
Each turn, anytime you place a tile adjacent to one or more Acrobat tiles (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), you may place a meeple as an acrobat on one of those Acrobat tiles until that tile is occupied by 3 meeples.
At that time you can score the points and all the meeples return to players’ supply.
Ringmasters behave like normal meeples until the circus shows up.
If the feature with your ringmaster on is completed, first score points for that feature.
Then for each Circus and Acrobat tile that your ringmaster is on or adjacent to, score additional 2 points.
I found the rules quite confusing and I found myself re-reading them at every game, after not having played this expansion in a while.
Apart from this, the expansion is really solid and fun, as it brings new interesting ways to earn points without moving too far away from the base game.
Considering all the new features I would definitely suggest this expansion.
CARCASSONNE EXPANSION 10: UNDER THE BIG TOP
2-6 players | 50 mins | Age 7+
So, here we are…
Thanks for having read the article and I truly hope that you found some interesting information in it.
If you’re not in a hurry, feel free to tell us what’s your favourite expansion in the comments section below!
Mine are the 1st, 2nd and 9th 🙂
…until the next article, bye!