Getting a grasp of Carcassonne is one thing; but if you want to win, you can't simply rely on a general understanding of the rules. Like most German board games, Carcassonne employs more strategic placement than a nude scene in a PG movie. While that can involve where to put your tiles, the real strategy kicks in with meeple placement.
Just like a cruder game -- dodgeball, say -- Carcassonne can be played either offensively or defensively. On one hand, you can simply try to build up the most cities, roads, cloisters and farms. You'll gain points by amassing tiles. If you're more aggressive (or perhaps vindictive), you'll find yourself wanting to plot ways to steal power from the other players. That might mean placing tiles to thwart a rival's road or taking over a city by clever placement of a tile [source: Vasel].
If you're a kinder, more caring person (or you're simply so far ahead that you don't see the other players as a threat), it's also possible to share points by working with someone else to build a city. By placing opposing meeples on non-adjacent tiles and then building the cities into each other, you can share points (as long as no one has more meeples) and perhaps even complete the city faster with the luck of two draws.
Of course, you'll also want to ensure that you're placing farmers in fields so you'll have a strong end game. Remember that farmers, unlike knights, monks and thieves, remain in the field until the end of the game and can garner you points based on how many completed cities they "supply." You have to think about how many points you'd like at the end of the game versus how many meeples you'll be tying up.
Which brings us to a huge part of Carcassonne strategy: striking the balance between collecting points during the game and amassing them for the final score. To say that there's a strong opinion from gamers on this subject is an understatement. Go on any Carcassonne forum to find a litany of opposing views, each as passionately argued as the next.
Here are a few things that might help you dominate an end game:
- Completed cloisters are an easy 9 points, and any tile for an incomplete one is a point in the bag. Put your cloisters close to each other so you can complete several at the same time and get multiples of points.
- Get a farmer down early and build your farms large. Making sure you have a farmer near as many completed cities as possible will let you amass points at the end, three at a time.
- Know your tiles. It may sound crazy, but much like competitive poker players and birthday party magicians, it helps to know what tiles are left in the draw near the very end. Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the available tiles so you can easily spot when your city is impossible to complete or your road will never end.