Figuring out which Carcassonne expansion would work best for your group can be difficult. There have been a huge amount of expansions released for the game and they all bring something different to the base game.
In total there are 10 main expansions and 14 mini-expansions which is an absolutely massive amount of additional content for any game. The base game even comes with 2 mini-expansions (The River and The Abbot). With so many expansions out there for Carcassonne, there are some great ones but there are also some absolutely terrible ones. This article should guide you to buying some of the best this game has to offer.
It’s also worth noting that all of the expansions for this game are compatible with each other. So if you want to play a huge (and long) game of Carcassonne with every expansion available, go for it.
Main Carcassonne Expansions
Carcassonne has 10 main expansions. Here is the order they came out in:
- Inns & Cathedrals
- Traders & Builders
- The Princess & The Dragon
- The Tower
- Abbey & Mayor
- Count, King & Robber
- The Catapult
- Bridges, Castles and Bazaars
- Hills & Sheep
- Under the Big Top
Of course, buying them in the order they were released can be fun but you can buy expansions that would work better for you based on what you and your group like.
It’s worth mentioning that only one of these expansions (Inns & Cathedrals) adds to the player count bringing the max player size up to 6. So if you’re looking to just up your player size, that is the one to go for first.
Let’s break down what each of these expansions brings to the table. This list will be in the ranking order.
#1: Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals
This expansion doesn’t add much complexity to the game but it does make the base game better. Ultimately, this expansion balances the game and makes it more competitive.
There are 3 major components to this expansion:
- The Inn – Tile that adds 1 point per road tile
- The Cathedral – Tile that adds 1 point per city tile
- Big Meeples – Each big meeple is worth 2 followers
Of course, there’s a little more to it than that but that is a basic rundown. This is a great expansion to get to make the game better without adding much complexity.
#2: Carcassonne: Abbey & Mayor
Just like Inns & Cathedrals, Abbey & Mayor adds more of what makes Carcassonne a great game without bogging the gameplay down with distracting mechanics. There are 4 main things this expansion adds to the game:
- The Mayor – can count as multiple meeples in a city
- The Abbey – tile that can be placed anywhere there is a hole in the map
- The Wagon – A meeple that moves to adjacent features instead of back to meeple pool
- The Barn – Allows scoring of fields during the game instead of at the end
Of all of these mechanics, The Barn is the most complex since scoring changes based on whether there is a Pig or Castle present. However, this isn’t a terribly complex expansion and the other new features make it a great addition.
#3: Carcassonne: Traders & Builders
Traders & Builders sits as many players favorite expansion for Carcassonne.
Since it came out as the second expansion, many people have played and reviewed this expansion. One of the best reviews for it is by The Dice Tower. The main components of this expansion are:
- Traders – Adds a set collection mechanic
- Builders – Allow players to take another turn when tiles are added to a city
- Pigs – Placed instead of meeple and gets points for farms completed
If you enjoy set collection games, this is a fantastic expansion to go for. It does well both as a standalone expansion to the base game or in conjunction with pretty much any expansion but I’d recommend playing it with Inns & Cathedrals.
#4: Carcassonne: Hills & Sheep
This is an often-overlooked expansion that adds some really unique and fun mechanics to the game. Here are the 3 things this expansion adds:
- The Hill – A new terrain type that goes over other terrains
- The Shepherd – New type of meeple which involves some luck
- The Vineyard – Tile that adds bonus points to cities it is adjacent to
This is a solid expansion that adds a lot to the base game but doesn’t overpower it.
There is a Dice Tower review that is excellent, if you want to look more into this expansion.
#5: Carcassonne: Under the Big Top
This expansion has one central mechanic (The Circus) that is added, with two side mechanics that add only a little interest to the game. The 3 main components of this expansion are:
- The Circus – Complex new tile scoring mechanism for meeple
- The Acrobats – New scoring mechanism for meeple, simpler than The Circus
- The Ringmaster – New type of meeple that gets extra points for Acrobat and Circus tiles
The Acrobats mechanic isn’t really great since it eats up meeple and it doesn’t score enough to make it worthwhile. However, the other two mechanics make this expansion worth getting.
The Circus mechanic in particular is fun to play with and is the primary reason to buy this expansion.
#6: Carcassonne: The Princess & The Dragon
This expansion has come under fire by a lot of Carcassonne fans for one of the main things it brings to the game: luck. With less than 7,000 plays according to Board Game Geek, this is definitely a lesser played expansion. For comparison, the Inns & Cathedrals expansion has almost 40,000 plays.
However, this game does bring some good stuff to the table and many players are big fans of this expansion. There are 2 parts to this expansion:
- The Dragon – Returns meeple to their owners
- The Fairy – Another mechanism to score points and protects meeple from the dragon
I would recommend this expansion if you already have some other expansions for the base game and are just looking for something fun to spice the game up.
#7: Carcassonne: The Tower
Now we are getting into the expansions that are only worth getting if you have a significant amount of the ones above and are looking for specific gameplay changes. There are 2 things this expansion brings to the table:
- The Tower – Adds a mechanic for making meeples into prisoners
- The Prisoners – Meeple that are captured by other players and can be bought back
This expansion essentially has you trading points for captured meeple. You can pay your opponent 3 points to release your meeple.
This was a very divisive mechanic that wasn’t well-received since the base game was enjoyed for not having a competitive direct interaction with other players.
#8: Carcassonne: Count, King & Robber
Just like the Hills & Sheep expansion, this expansion is often overlooked as well. However, it isn’t regarded as an essential expansion.
This expansion is really a compilation of different mini-expansions that were released for the base game. There are 5 pieces of this expansion:
- The River II – Starting tiles that add a river
- The Robber – Gives points for the person with the longest road
- The Count of Carcassonne – Adds a scoring mechanic based around completing features
- The Heretics – Meeples placed on shrines get points when completed
Of course, The River mini-expansion comes with every new version of Carcassonne so The River II isn’t super exciting.
There are some great parts of this expansion but it’s not an essential one to get. It’s usually worth overlooking this one unless you are trying to get every expansion for the game.
#9: Carcassonne: Bridges, Castles and Bazaars
Overall, this expansion doesn’t add much complexity but it brings some unique strategy to the game that isn’t included in other expansions. Here are the 3 components this expansion includes:
- The Bridge – Tile that allows roads to continue over existing fields
- The Lord of the Castle – Allows meeple in small cities to score points for completed adjacent features
- The Bazaar – Adds an auction system for tiles using victory points as currency
The auction system turns most people off to this expansion since, like The Tower, it adds a source of player interaction that most people enjoyed Carcassonne for not having.
#10: Carcassonne: The Catapult
This is the black sheep of the main expansions for Carcassonne. As you can see we have fallen off a cliff in terms of ratings on Board Game Geek and it is fair to say this expansion is pretty much universally disliked. There is really only one component this expansion brings to the table:
- The Catapult – Weird system of launching tokens to knock out meeple, swap meeple, change player order or gain points
The expansion adds a dexterity component that a lot of people really disliked.
However, this expansion seems like it was made for kids. So if you’re playing this with anyone 8 or younger, it might be worth it if you find it available somewhere. Otherwise, just get it if you’re trying to complete the collection.
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