10+ Best Carcassonne Expansions in 2021 [Ranked]

As a kid, I used to play Carcassonne all the time. I forgot about it, until I recently decided to try it again. It was a lot of fun. Carcassonne has a bit of everything: player interaction, problem-solving, conflict, strategy, and it’s easy to learn. No wonder many people love the game. And although Carcassonne the base game is fun on it’s own, over the years 10 big expansions and almost 20 mini-expansions are added to the game. To help you choose between expansions, we ranked the big expansions from best to worst and break down all the mini expansions, mini standalone games, compilation boxes and more. If you are impatient like me and you just want to skip to particular sections of this massive post, you can click on the item in the list below.

There are several factors that make an expansion stand out. We share three characteristics that make an expansion a good Carcassonne expansion. 

It makes the game better, not a different game

Expansions should improve the base game, not completely change it. In general, we buy an expansion of a game, because we like the base game. Expansions should add features or fixes to the base game, and not change the basic structure of the game too much.

Fixes base game flaws

Although the Carcassonne base game is a very good game, it is not perfect. Therefore we do appreciate it if an expansion fixes some of the flaws of the original game. The best Carcassonne expansions improve the base game.

Adds extra strategy to the game

Here at Board Game Theories we love strategy. Expansions that add extra layers of strategy to a game is a big yes for us. Obviously, we don’t want the expansion to change too much of the base game, but an added strategy here or there may give the game more character (and hopefully an advantage to us!)

How many Carcassonne expansions are there?

If we are just talking the main Carcassonne expansions, there are 10 (all ranked below). If we are talking mini expansions, spin offs, mini standalones, compilation boxes, and video games (yep video games), there are over fifty! That’s right there are more Carcassonne expansions to last you a lifetime of gaming, but don’t just start buying one after another, read this article to find the best Carcassonne expansion for you!

Before we really start our ranking we have to mention the Carcassonne Big Box. If you don’t own the Carcassonne base game yet, this is the one to get.

Along with the base game you get the two best expansions (Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders), as well as 9 (!) mini expansions. So is the Carcassonne Big Box worth it? Dang right it is! If you just want some of the best Carcassonne expansions as well as the base game and on top of all of that mini expansions, then this is the most cost effective and fun way to get it!

We’ll cover all the compilation boxes later in this article but this one is such a good deal, it deserves mentioning twice.

Carcassonne Expansions Ranked

Traders & Builders is in our opinion the best Carcassonne expansion. It fixes some of the problems of the base game. More importantly, the new goods-tokens make room for a lot of new strategy.

What does it fix?

In the Carcassonne base game, a good placed farmer can score you a lot of points. However, farmer meeples are not returned your supply, but rather stay in place untill the end of the game. For this reason, many players go for cities and monastries, instead of placing a farmer early game. Traders & Builders introduces pigs that fixes this. Instead of scoring 3 points per finished city, farmers with pigs on their lands score 4 points per finished city. This extra point per city adds up quickly and makes placing farmers more attractive.

What does it add?

In Traders & Builders a totally new scoring feature is added: goods. Some of the city tiles depict wine barrels, grain or cloth. Whenever you score a city with one of the depicted goods, you get one of the corresponding tokens. At the end of the game, whoever has the most of each tokens scores extra points. This new feature adds a new level of competition, introduces a new way to gain victory points and opens the way to new strategies.

The expansion also adds Builders that allow players a second turn. This is a nice new feature, that speeds up the game, but also adds a little more randomness into the game.

Inns and Cathedrals is the first official Carcassonne expansion and we think it is the second best. It fits seamlessly into the Carcassonne base game. The expansions introduces Inns, Cathedrals and large meeples, and adds a new color for a 6th player.

What does it fix?

In the Carcassonne base game, roads are not that good. It is often more better to place your meeple in the city, or make it a farmer then go for the roads. Inns make roads much betterInns are placed adjacent to a road and double the amount of scoring you get from that road. That is, each finished road tile is now worth 2 points instead of 1.

What does it add?

Cathedrals are placed within a city and rewards the person(s) that wins the city with 3 points per tile instead of 2 points per tile. The introduction of cathedrals increases the competition element of the game. Blocking your oppontent’s city is even more lucrative than in the base game.

Every player gets one large meeple. This large meeple counts as 2 regular meeples and is used just like the regular meeples. In our experience, large meeples are mostly used for farm-wars in the end game.

What we love about Inns & Cathedrals is that it completely captures the spirit of the base game and adds some better features to it. Inns & Cathedrals is somewhat basic, but fits seemlessly into the Carcassonne base game. 

Abbey & Mayor is one of the more elaborate Carcassonne expansions. It introduces four new modules that change the game quite a lot.

What does it fix?

The most striking feature of Abbey & Mayor are Barns. Barns fix the farmer-problem: the fact that farmers do not go back to the supply. After building a barn, all farmers in the area are immediately scored and returned to the supply. Barns make farmers incredibly better. Barns themselves can also be played very strategically; since all farmers – including your opponent’s – are returned to the supply, you can ‘scare-off’ your opponent’s farmers and take over control over fields.

What does it add?

Abbey & Mayor adds Abbeys, Mayors and Wagons to the game. Abbeys are wildcarts and can be placed anywhere to complete a feature and mayors can be worth multiple meeples.

Wagons are more interesting. Wagons can be placed on features like regular meeples. However, once that feature is finished, the wagon moves to an adjacent tile that has an unfinished feature.

The farmer mechanism of the Barns are the reason we rank Abbey & Mayor the third best expansion. Although it does not seem like a big intervention, it has a huge effect on the game mechanics and let Carcassonne almost feel like a new game. Therefore we recommend this expansion especially to Carcassonne veterans, that want to try out totally different farmer-strategies.

What does it fix?

In a normal game of Carcassonne it happens sometimes that you don’t really know what to do and then build a two-tile city. In Bridges, Castles & Bazaars you can turn the two-tile city into a castle. When a feature on an adjacent tile is scored (monastry, road or city), the castle scores the same amount of points as well. Castles makes two-tile cities much more interesting.

Roads get slightly better with Bridges that allow a player to place brigde over a field tile, making roads longer.

What does it add?

A radical new feature of Bridges, Castles & Bazaars are Bazaars. Once a Bazaar tile is placed an auction starts. Players bid their own victory points on the tiles. Although the auction disrupts the momentum of the game a bit, it ultimately makes the game more strategic. You can choose the next tile you want to play and have to decide how much you think it’s worth (or how much you think it’s worth to others). I really like this extra strategic element.

What does it fix?

With Hills & Sheep fields can also be occupied by shepherds. Shepherds grow flocks of sheep, worth victory points. Shepherds make fields also interesting in the early and mid game.

A tiny flaw of Carcassonne is the absence of tie-breakers. If two players have an equal amount of meeples on a feature, they both score points. Hills are basically tie-breakers: whoever has a hill gets all the points of that feature.

What we often encouter in a game of Carcassonne is that monastries are a little underwhelming. Yes, finished monastries are worth a lot, but finishing it can be a lengthy process. Vineyards make monastries a little more lucrative, by adding a 3 point bonus to a monastry in it’s neighbourhood.

What does it add?

The features of Hills & Sheep seem to be game-fixes, rather than new elements or modules in themselves. That said, these fixes are quite good. Therefore we surely recommend this expansion. But advice to play this one together with other expansions.

If you want Carcassonne to be a more fast-paced and dynamic game, The Princess & the Dragon is the expansion for you. It is not the best expansion, but most certainly changes the game a lot. Due to the changes this expansion is a really good expansion for kids.

What does it fix?

Veteran Carcassonne players who sometimes wish Carcassonne would be more dynamic should consider paying The Princess & the Dragon. This expansion introduces new meeples to the game that have the ability to remove other meeples: the Dragon and the Princess. A Princess can drive a meeple out of a city. The Dragon roams over the board, removing all meeples it finds in its way. This new removal mechanic drastically changes the game. Because meeples are in constant danger of being removed, strategies become more and more short-term focussed. This is a good or bad thing, depending on your preferences.  

What does it add?

The Princess & the Dragon adds many extra tiles to the game and of course Princesses and a dragon. Also fairies and magic portals are introduced.

The fairy offers protection against the dragon and gives extra points. The magic portal tiles let the player place a meeple on any unfinished feature in the game. The magic portals increase the amount of luck in the game a lot.

Count, King & Robber is a compilation of 3 small expansions rather than a large expansion itself. The three expansions can be played separately or, of course, all at once.

In Count, King & Robber some features are added that bring more competition to completing (large) cities and roads. However, some of the new features are a bit too complex for beginners, but great for experienced players.

What does it fix?

The new shrines are competitors of monastries and make those battlegrounds.

What does it add?

The king and the robber give extra points to whichever player holds them at the end of the game. This leads to some competition during the game, because every player wants to get hold of these meeples. 

The count expansion is a bit more complex. With this expansion you profit from scoring other players features by adding meeples to the city, that you can later use to get control over an area. This new feature is really interesting, but a little bit confusing for new players.

All in all, we like King, Count, and Robber as an expansion. However, other expansions are a little more interesting than this one. Therefore we recommend this expansion for more experienced players, that already have some other expansions.

 

Under The Big Top has a very different theme than the other Carcassonne expansions. It’s all about the circus and comes with new meeples and new tiles.

Your meeples can become acrobats and make meeple pyramids and the Ringmaster can give you bonus points.

To be honest, we do not really feel the theme, but the extra mechanics, most notably the circus tiles, are really interesting.

The Catapult contains a real catapult that shoots at the game. Although this is one of the most hilarious features we have ever seen in a game, we think it just doesn’t make sense.

If you want to have a fun, very not serious or strategic game of Carcassonne, get this expansion. Otherwise, do not get it.

In The Tower players have new ways to trap their opponent’s meeples. No more trying to block a city or monastry, but you can trap a meeple in, or more precisely on top of, your tower.

What does it fix?

The Tower fixes mostly one problem in Carcassonne: the Farmer wars. In most Carcassonne games we play, once a farmer is placed on the board, everyone starts playing farmers and the rest of the game is basically trying to place more farmers than your opponent. With the Tower farmer wars are much less common. Placed meeples can be captured by a Tower, making it much more risky and less rewarding to place (early) farmers.

A consequence of towers is that long-term strategies become less rewarding and the game becomes more short-term oriented. Personally, I find this unfortunate, because I like strategy a lot. However, this is personal, some people prefer short-term over long-term.

What does it add?

The Tower adds a lot of conflict to the game. Players are much more in conflict with each other. Every time a tower-tile enters the game, there is a possibility to threaten the meeples on the board. In our experience, this changes the dynamic of the game. No more pleasant games of Carcassonne, but cut throat fast paced combats.

Mini Carcassonne Expansions

Almost all of the Mini Carcassonne expansions are either included in some of the other expansions or base games or they were published in board game magazines. They aren’t mindblowing by any means but some of them do add some interesting mechanics to the game if you are looking for a little something different.

The River

The River mini expansion for Carcassonne was originally released in 2001 and has been included in base versions of the game like this one since 2004. It includes 12 river tiles that replace the initial one.

King and Scout

King and Scout are actually two different mini expansions for Carcassonne where King is included in Count, King and Robber. Scout is in Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers.

In the King mini expansion, King and Robber baron tiles are used to keep track of who built the largest road and city. In Scout, there are five additional tiles.

The Cathars

The Cathars mini expansion for Carcassonne was published in the German board game magazine Spielbox and added four siege tiles where Cathars break city walls. These tiles halve the city’s value but double its contribution to field scores. There are also monasteries which allow followers to escape the cities and return to their players.

The Count of Carcassonne

Included in the The Count, King and Robber Carcassonne expansion, the Count of Carcassonne mini expansion introduces twelve new tiles to replace the initial one and open up new game mechanics for players to explore. Check out The Count, King and Robber expansion to learn more.

The Mini Expansion

The Mini Expansion was published in 2006 in Games Quarterly magazine and included 11 additional tiles including a spring with a road separating a field which prevents the larger fields allowed by the original River mini expansion.

The Cult

Originally included in the Count, King and Robber Carcassonne expansion, this mini expansion includes six new tiles of shrines that can be used in rivalries with cloisters and abbeys.

The Tunnel

The Tunnel mini expansion for Carcassonne was published in Spielbox in 2009 and included four new tiles and twelve chips to create tunnels.

Crop Circles

Unfortunately unless you speak German and own the German version of the base game, you won’t be able to play with the Crop Circles mini expansion for Carcassonne. It includes six new tiles with pairs of symbols that allow you to add or remove followers from other tiles.

The Plague

Published in Spielbox magazine in 2010, this mini expansion for Carcassone included six new tiles depicting plague zones that allowed players to remove followers from tiles as well as 18 flea chips to add another game mechanic worth checking out.

The School

This mini expansion included two additional starting tiles that depicted a school with six roads leading into the school. If a player successfully completed one of the roads, they would get the Teacher meeple included and score points.

The Festival

Included in the Carcassonne 10th Anniversary Edition, this mini expansion included 10 additional tiles that allow players to either place a follower or remove one from any tile.

The Phantom

The Phantom is a hard to find standalone Carcassonne mini expansion that included no extra tiles but for the first time introduced plastic meeples with special rules.

Mini Standalones

The Flying Machines is a great first entrypoint into mini Carcassonne expansions. It includes 8 new tiles with a flying machine and a special die that determines how far you can fly horizontally, vertically or diagonally. There is a rulebook included to get you up to speed on this new, interesting game mechanic.

In this Carcassonne expansion, there is a great added dynamic to the game of Messenger meeples and Message tiles that add a whole new element to scoring. Click here to learn more about The Messengers expansion.

The Ferries

The Ferries Carcassonne expansion includes 8 tiles with roads leading to lakes where players may place one of the 8 included ferry pieces to extend a road.

The Gold Mines

The Gold Mines Carcassonne Expansion adds 8 new tiles to be used in conjunction with the 16 gold bar pieces which are worth bonus points at the game. Carcassonne plus gold loot? Count us in!

Mage and Witch

The Mage and The Witch is a Carcassonne expansion that includes a witch figure and a mage figure to be placed on incomplete features in conjunction with 8 additional tiles resulting in a new scoring mechanic to the base game.

The Robbers

Like the Count, King and Robber Carcassonne Expansion, the Robbers adds additional tiles that allow the placement of a Robber meeple to steal away your opponents’ points.

Corn Circles II

This is not available as a standalone Carcassonne expansion. Instead it uses all the corn circle bonus tiles from the previous mini expansions to create its own interesting game mechanics allowing for placement of a second follower on a feature already claimed by a player.

Watchtower

Included in this Carcassonne expansion is 12 tiles with watchtowers that feature special bonuses that a player receives whenever the feature is completed.

Markets of Leipzig

Markets of Leipzig includes 4 double sized tiles that make up the market town of Leipzig with four roads coming out of it. Players may move their meeple to one of the quarters of the market of Leipzig whenever a player scores on one of the attached road networks which could result in more points at the the end of the game.

Fruit Bearing Trees

The Fruit Bearing Trees Carcassonne mini expansion includes 6 tiles depicting fruit bearing trees. When one of these tiles is placed, four tokens are stacked, face down on the tile so that when an adjacent tile is played, the player takes the top token from the fruit bearing tree and can either keep the points or sell the token at the market.

Toll Keepers

Similar to landing on an opponents square in Monopoly, the Toll Keepers Carcassonne expansion includes 6 tiles and toll tokens where players can place their toll token on an open crossroad and score points for completed roads that end at your crossroad.

Compilation Boxes

Compilation boxes are exactly what they sound like. Instead of buying individual Carcassonne expansions, they are conveniently “bundled up” for all your enjoyment. This is the easiest way to get into some of the best Carcassonne expansions without having to buy a bunch to try out individually.

Carcassonne Big Box 1

What’s included?

  • The original game
  • Inns and Cathedrals
  • Traders and Builders
  • The Princess and the Dragon
  • Tower
  • River (only in Rio Grande version)

Carcassonne Cult, Siege and Creativity

What’s included?

  • Cult (with one additional tile)
  • Siege (an adaptation of the Cathars expansion)
  • Two blank white tiles for use in making custom expansions

Carcassonne Big Box 2

What’s included?

  • The original game
  • Inns and Cathedrals
  • Traders and Builders
  • The Princess and the Dragon
  • Abbey and Mayor
  • Count, King and Cult
  • River II

Carcassonne Big Box 3

What’s included?

  • The original game
  • Inns and Cathedrals
  • Traders and Builders
  • The Princess and the Dragon
  • Abbey and Mayor
  • Bridges, Castles and Bazaars

Carcassonne 10th Anniversary

What’s included?

  • The original game
  • The Festival
  • Meeple shaped storage box
  • Acrylic meeples

Carcassonne Big Box 4

What’s included?

  • The original game
  • Inns and Cathedrals
  • Traders and Builders
  • Mini Expansion 1 – The Flying Machines
  • Mini Expansion 2 – The Messengers
  • Mini Expansion 3 – The Ferries
  • Mini Expansion 4 – The Gold Mines
  • Mini Expansion 5 – Mage & Witch
  • Mini Expansion 6 – The Robbers
  • Mini Expansion 7 – The Crop Circles II

Carcassonne Big Box 5

What’s included?

  • The original game
  • Inns and Cathedrals
  • Traders and Builders
  • Hills & Sheep
  • The Wheel of Fortune
  • Mini Expansion – The River
  • New Meeples for 7 & 8 player games

This is not only the latest Carcassonne expansion compilation but also our top pick if you want to get all the best Carcassonne expansions. Just pony up the extra cash to get all the good stuff in one convenient bundle. You won’t run out of things to explore with this one! So what expansions are in the Carcassonne Big Box?

What’s included?

  • The new edition of the original game with river and abbot expansions
  • Inns and Cathedrals
  • Traders and Builders
  • Mini Expansion 1 – The Flying Machines
  • Mini Expansion 2 – The Messengers
  • Mini Expansion 3 – The Ferries
  • Mini Expansion 4 – The Gold Mines
  • Mini Expansion 5 – Mage & Witch
  • Mini Expansion 6 – The Robbers
  • Mini Expansion 7 – The Crop Circles II

Spinoffs

Set in prehistoric times, Hunters and Gatherers takes all the fun of the original Carcassonne but instead of cities, farms and roads, players build forests, lakes, rivers and meadows and place hunter and gatherer and fisher meeples to scores points. There are some additional rules but the feel is the same as the original classic making Hunters and Gatherers the best standalone Carcassonne expansion we have played. Definitely worth adding to the collection!

The Ark of the Covenant

For simplicity’s sake, you can think of The Ark of the Covenant as the biblical version of Carcassonne. Set in the old testament, this Carcassonne expansion borrows ideas from Hunters and Gatherers and adds some new ones like the Ark itself which can be moved instead of placing a follower. Pretty cool version of Carcassonne if you can find it.

The Castle

The Castle is a two player version of Carcassonne played within the walls of a castle with slightly different rules to further adapt to a two player style.

The City

Similar to The Castle above, the City expands the rules with the addition of city walls when the city grows beyond a certain size.

A simpler version of Carcassonne with a medieval theme, The Discovery is a great standalone Carcassonne expansion that, despite its simpler gameplay, offers a lot of strategic depth due to some interesting new rules. Click here to learn more about it!

In this standalone Carcassonne expansion, A New World places players right in the middle of discovering the New World (duh…). You are a settler exploring and developing the New World from East coast to West. Robbers, shopkeepers, trappers, farmers and more combine to make this an incredible variation of Carcassonne worth picking up!

If you truly love Carcassonne and want it to continue for generations, you have to look at buying My First Carcassonne. All the great fun of the City of Carcassonne packaged up in a kid and family friendly version. Specifically designed for kids with fun artwork, shortened gameplay and no points to score. Simplified gameplay doesn’t equal boring gameplay though. Even the most experienced gamers will enjoy this version of Carcassonne. If you got kids, nephews, nieces or whatever, this is the perfect gift for the aspiring board gamer!

If you thought the Carcassonne board game was fun, you need to check out Cardcassonne! It is all the great fun you have come to expect from the original but converted to be a card game! It does take a little getting used to but nothing a short practice game won’t help. The games are short and the strategy is there. Definitely worth picking up as a change of pace or travel version of Carcassonne.

Carcassonne: The Dice Game

Much like Cardcassonne above, Carcassonne: The Dice Game attempts to take all the fun game elements of the original Carcassonne and convert it to a dice based game. While not as well done (in my opinion) as Cardcassonne, it is worth checking out if you can find it.

Same great Carcassonne, only this time with a Winter theme. Winter art. Not much more to say. The biggest downside is that other Carcassonne expansions won’t match with this version of the base game. While I would usually recommend you spending your money on one of the best Carcassonne expansions listed above, there may be a use case for this version of the game like a Christmas game night or ski trip. It has its place but it is nothing spectacular especially compared to some of the other great versions of the game in this article.

The game mechanics stay the same but the setting is drastically different. Carcassonne South Seas replaces the familiar cities, roads and farms with bananas, shellfish and fish as players ship those goods on the high seas in exchange for points. This is actually a really fun variation of Carcassonne that provides a familiar feel with a fresh new look!

In Carcassonne Gold Rush, join your others players as prospectors looking to strike it rich in the Far West as you trade with Native Americans, build railroads and small camps that turn into cities. Experience all the thrills of the Gold Rush with all the familiarity and enjoyment of Carcassonne.

The peace, tranquility and fulfillment of the farming life is the focus of Carcassonne Over Hill and Dale. Replacing towns and castles with fresh fields and stables, this version of Carcassonne also adds new game mechanics that make it unique.

Star Wars

Released in 2015, George Lucas has gotten his hands on Carcassonne. In Carcassonne Star Wars, you get Carcassonne but Star Wars themed. This version of the game is simplified by removing the farming mechanic and Cloisters are replaced by planets which you can attack. If you can find this version of Carcassonne and you are a Star Wars junkie, buy it on the spot!

Exploring the Amazon River and Amazon Jungle, Carcassonne Amazonas places players deep in the heart of the Amazon as you race down the Amazon River to victory! This is one of the most popular spin off versions of Carcassonne and definitely worth checking out.

Set in the wild African savanna, Carcassonne Safari puts a unique twist on the original mechanics of the game: players who spot the most animals will score the most points and ultimately claim victory!

Carcassonne Accessories

We admit, this is not an expansion. However we strongly recommend you to purchase an organizer if you have many Carcassonne expansions. It saves a lot of time when you don’t want to scramble for the right tiles and meeples all the time.

Wrapping Up

To say Carcassonne is popular would be the biggest understatement of the year! This is one of the favorite games of all time that is why there are SO MANY great Carcassonne expansions, mini expansions, mini standalones, compilation boxes and spinoffs to choose from! Only a real avid collector would attempt to buy all of them, but there are definitely more than a few worth checking out especially if you are a fan of the original. This article was long and thorough, but hopefully you were able to find the next best Carcassonne expansion for you!