Building Cities

Speed is paramount

TheCodingMonkeys
Jan 30, 2015 · 5 min read

This article is part of our ongoing series on Carcassonne strategy.

Before we dive into strategy, let’s review city scoring.

A city is completed when the outer wall is completely closed (of course there can’t be any holes in the middle either). When you complete a city, you score:

  • 2 points for every city tile
  • 2 extra points for every shield in the finished city

It is worth noting that you get points for tiles, not for city segments. This means if a tile has multiple city segments on it that are connected to the same city, it still only counts as one tile when calculating points.

This city has 5 tiles. It’s worth 10 points.

Any unfinished cities left at the end of the game give you half points:

  • 1 point for every city tile
  • 1 extra point for every shield on a tile in the unfinished city

Cities are the way you’ll score most of your points (typically around 45 -50%). They can be built quickly, and they score at least 2 points per tile. So building cities is a no-brainer. But there are different ways you can build your city. In this article we’ll take a look at building cities with an eye on speed: How to build your city so you can complete it as fast as possible.


Mind the end spots

An open end spot is a place on the board where a city’s outer wall isn’t finished yet. This also means that the number of open end spots will also tell you how long you will need at the very least to finish your city. You should take care not to let the number of open end spots grow too large, or you may end up having trouble finishing your city at all.

This city has 1 open end spot.
This city went from 1 open end spot to 2.
This city has 2 open end spots.
This placement closes one open end spot and creates a new one, leaving the total number of open end spots unchanged.
This placement actually decreases the number of open end spots from 2 to 1. Nice!

Sometimes you can’t help increasing the number of a city’s open end spots. After all, that’s how cities grow huge and give you a high number of points. But don’t overdo it, or you might not be able to close that city in time.

Another important point: If you have a city with just one open end spot, and you have a lot of meeple left, consider starting a new city instead of adding to your existing one if that will make it harder to complete. That way, you’ll have a better chance of actually getting those 2x points for the first city.


Build to maximize tiles that fit

Let’s take a look at how your choice of how to place a tile can influence the future of your city. Consider the following city:

Any city tile will fit into the open spot.

If you place the next tile as shown, any city tile will fit in the open spot. That’s a total of 41 tiles (in the base game). If the game is just starting, your chance of drawing a tile that fits here is going to be about 59%.

Any city tile will fit into the open end spot.

Now consider the tile rotated the other way. Some city tiles will not fit in that space.

Only city tiles that also have a field edge will fit here.

In fact, the tiles that will fit are only tiles that have a field edge to the right of a city edge.

That’s only 24 tiles, (or a likelihood of 35%), so you’ve almost halved your chances of drawing a tile that you can add to your city.

Later in the game, it’s worth paying attention to which tiles are remaining in the draw stack. Let’s say the game has already gone on a bit, and these tiles are left:

Now consider the following scenario:

In this case, there are only two tiles that will fit into this space:

Let’s look at rotating the tile.

Now any of these tiles will fit:

That’s 6 tiles total, or a three times the tiles that would fit if you had rotated the tile the other way.


To summarize: Build with a close eye on the remaining tiles to help you finish your cities in time. Actually finishing cities is a big deal, because end game scoring penalizes unfinished cities.

    TheCodingMonkeys

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