The game board is a medieval landscape built by the players as the game progresses. The game starts with a single terrain tile face up and 71 others shuffled face down for the players to draw from. On each turn a player draws a new terrain tile and places it adjacent to tiles that are already face up. The new tile must be placed in a way that extends features on the tiles it abuts: roads must connect to roads, fields to fields, and cities to cities.
After placing the new tile, the placing player may opt to station a follower piece on that tile. The follower can only be placed on the just-placed tile, and must be placed in a specific feature. A follower claims ownership of one terrain feature—road, field, city, or cloister—and may not be placed on a feature already claimed by another player's follower. However, it is possible for terrain features to become shared after the further placement of tiles. For example, two field tiles which each have a follower can become connected into a single field by another terrain tile.
The game ends when the last tile has been placed. At that time all features (including fields) score points for the players with the most followers in them. The player with the most points wins the game.
There are three editions of Carcassonne, differing in scoring of cities and fields. While first edition scoring rules continue to be included with English releases of Carcassonne, the third edition rules are included with the German releases and other newer editions (such as the Xbox 360 and travel versions), and are assumed by all expansions in all languages.
In the first and second editions of the game, closed cities consisting of two tiles score two points (one per tile) and one extra point for every pennant that resides in the city. This detail is omitted in the third edition, where there is no difference between two-tile cities and cities of larger size: in the third edition (and for larger cities in the first and second editions), the city scores two points per tile and a further two points for each pennant that resides in the city. Incomplete cities at the end of the game score one point for each tile and one point per pennant.
If any of the three features listed above are completed, all of the follower(s) that took part in the completed feature are returned to their players. The follower(s) can then be re-used on subsequent turns.
|City||Edition||Two-tiles||More tiles||1 point per tile + 1 point per pennant|
|1st & 2nd||1 point per tile + 1 point per pennant||2 points per tile + 2 points per pennant|
|3rd||2 points per tile + 2 points per pennant|
|Road||1 point per tile|
|Cloister||1 point + 1 point for each of the eight tiles surrounding it|
|Fields||1st & 2nd||Not scored.||(See below.)|
|3rd||3 points for each completed city bordering the field.|
The second edition considers different fields separately — for each field, the players with the greatest number of followers in a field scores three points for each city adjacent to the field, although points may only be scored once for any given city. The third edition further simplifies this by removing the last detail, making field scoring similar to the scoring of other features.
BrettspielWelt, as well as hosting online games of Carcassonne, holds a "Mega-Carcassonne" competition for the game played with the largest number of Carcassonne tiles. The current record, held by the Spielzentrum in Herne, Germany, is 5517 tiles.
Several official expansions for Carcassonne have been published, which add numerous additional rules, tiles and new kinds of figures. Together, they can more than double the length of the game. These expansions are compatible with each other, and may be played together.Carcassonne: The River (2001): Originally a free expansion distributed by Rio Grande Games through hobby shops in the United States and Canada. Instead of starting with a single fixed tile, a river is formed before the regular tiles can be used. Newer releases of Carcassonne include this expansion, and those that do state as such on the box. The 2007 Xbox Live Arcade version includes a toggle option for the expansion.Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals (2002): Originally known simply as Carcassonne: the Expansion, Inns and Cathedrals adds some new tiles, and a large figure (colloquially big meeple) that counts as two followers. The Inns and Cathedrals for which it is named can be placed as part of roads and cities to enhance their value—provided they are completed by the end of the game. Inns double each road segment's value, while Cathedrals add one point per tile or pennant in a city. Inns and Cathedrals also adds pieces/followers that allows a sixth player to play.Carcassonne: Traders and Builders (2003): An expansion to the base game with additional tile types and strategic possibilities. The most significant additions are trade goods, which appear in cities and are collected by the player who completes the city, even if they are not the one who scores it (thus encouraging the completion of other people's cities). This expansion also adds two new kinds of followers, which are treated slightly differently from those of the base game: a pig follower (which increases the value of a field it's placed in) and a builder follower (which grants an extra turn to the owning player whenever the feature is extended). These can be placed on any feature already occupied by an ordinary follower of the placing player (regardless of the presence of other followers); neither influence ownership of features they occupy. Traders and Builders also includes an opaque cloth bag which players can use while drawing tiles.Carcassonne: King and Scout (2003): King and Scout is an expansion to both Carcassonne and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, titled King and Scout respectively. In King, the player who builds the biggest city becomes King of Carcassonne, and at the end of the game receives extra points for every completed city; likewise, the player who builds the biggest road becomes Robber Baron and receives points for every completed road.Carcassonne: The Cathars (2004): Originally published in the German board game magazine Spielbox, and republished in their Carcassonne Almanac with an English translation, The Cathars add four siege tiles where Cathars are shown breaking city walls. Monasteries adjacent to besieged city walls allow knights from that city to escape and come back to their players. These halve the value of the city but double its contribution to field scores. Tile images and full English rules are available from Board Game GeekCarcassonne: The Count of Carcassonne (2004): The Count includes twelve tiles depicting the city of Carcassonne itself, along with a large figure representing the namesake count. Like The River, these new tiles replace the single starting tile. The city of Carcassonne is divided into quarters, each one associated with one of the types of features available - cities, roads, cloisters and farms. Whenever a player completes a feature that earns points exclusively for players other than himself, he may place a follower in one of the quarters, and also move the Count to one of them. When any feature is scored, followers placed on the quarters of Carcassonne can "jump" onto that feature at the last moment (unofficially known as "paratrooping"), possibly claiming the points for a player other than the one who had previously owned it. However, the presence of the Count in any quarter prevents the followers there from being moved in this way.Carcassonne: The Princess and the Dragon (2005): The Princess and the Dragon is perhaps the expansion that changes the game's rules the most—the new tiles include magic gates which allow players to place followers on any previously played tile (as long as the feature in question is incomplete), while the namesake Princess tiles and Dragon figure allow new mechanics for followers to be removed. A Fairy tile also allows protection to a follower and its tile from time to time.Carcassonne: The River II (November 2005): The River II is another river expansion, which may be played along with the first expansion. These new tiles include a fork in the river (in order to play with two rivers), a pig-herd to increase fields' value, as well as elements from previous expansions.Carcassonne: The Tower (March 2006): The Tower adds a vertical element to Carcassonne: the expansion comes with eighteen tiles with tower foundations, which allow a player to add a tower section in lieu of follower placement. When they do so, they may remove and take prisoner an opposing player's follower on any orthogonally positioned tile within the range of the tower, where the range of a tower is equal to its height in tiles (including unoccupied areas). These followers are held prisoner and can be either exchanged, or ransomed for three victory points. The Tower also includes a tile tower for easy tile storage, also acting as a mechanism from which tiles are drawn. Carcassonne Big Box (2006): Not so much an expansion as a compilation of previously released expansions, The Big Box combines the base set, Inns and Cathedrals, Traders and Builders, The Princess and the Dragon and The Tower. The version by Rio Grande Games also includes The River. Each of the tiles not from the base set contains a symbol that helps players easily tell which expansion the tile comes from. Carcassonne: The Mini-Expansion (Winter 2006): Published in Games Quarterly Magazine in Issue #11, this mini-expansion included 12 additional tiles for Carcassonne. The most significant tile is a new spring with a road, which divides the starting farm into two separate farms. Normally, farms wrap around the spring to both sides of the river, often causing mega-farms which feed a large number of cities and result in a large accumulation of farming points at the end of the game. Carcassonne: Abbey and Mayor (October 2007): Another full-sized expansion, featuring abbey tiles that can complete features, mayors who score cities, a barn that forces farm scoring and wagons that can score features. Included are additional tiles that, in response to fan feedback, fit specific situations that have been previously impossible to complete. Carcassonne: Count, King and Consort (2008): Another compilation, this release consists of previously released mini-expansions (The Count of Carcassonne, King and Scout and The River II), plus a new unpublished mini-expansion named Cult Places and the Heretics. The latter includes new territory tiles, played and ruled over just like cloisters (with followers stationing over it called 'heretics'), except that when a cloister and a cult place stand adjacent to each other, completing one hinders the other to score points upon its completion.
A seventh large expansion called The Catapult has been announced for an unverified release date. The expansion is rumored to include a "Catapult Round" which will allow players to gamble to either gain or lose points.
Rio Grande Games have announced that two new Carcassonne games will be released in 2008 - Carcassonne: Cult, War, and Creativity (June/July 2008) and New World; Carcassonne (Fall 2008)
Because of the success of Carcassonne, a number of games have been spun off from the main game, all sharing similar mechanics.Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (2002): Hunters and Gatherers is a stand-alone game that involves the building of forests, rivers and wildlife rather than cities and roads. This game attempted to rectify some perceived faults in the original by eliminating cloisters, introducing a "special tile" system to encourage players to complete cities (now forests) owned by other players, and making the value of meadows vary both up and down with animals that appear on the tiles.Ark of the Covenant (2003): Ark is a biblical-themed version of Carcassonne by Inspiration Games based on the Old Testament, which includes the animal feature found in Hunters and Gatherers, as well as the Ark itself which may be moved in lieu of follower placement, scoring points for followers that they pass through.Carcassonne: The Castle (2003): The Castle is a two-player spinoff, designed by Reiner Knizia, where the game is played within the confines of a fixed castle. Players gain extra abilities by scoring an exact number of points, and tile placement rules are relaxed.Carcassonne: The City (2004): The City is a "deluxe-style" stand-alone game similar to The Castle, where tile placement is relaxed. The significant new rules involve the addition of city walls when the city grows beyond a certain size.Carcassonne: The Discovery (2005): An exploration-themed stand-alone game that involves mountains, seas and meadows. The significant change in this game is that followers are no longer automatically removed when a terrain feature is completed: they must be removed as a game action, in lieu of placing a new follower that turn. Players may choose to remove a follower from, and score for, a terrain feature before it is completed, albeit for fewer points; followers remaining on the map at the end of the game also suffer a score penalty even if the features they are standing on are completed.