Carcassonne — The Dragon and the princess, soon for ios

Dragon and Princess

A new expansion for Carcassonne

As the end of the year draws nearer and nearer we all await the most anticipated event for young and old: A new Carcassonne expansion!

Just kidding. But even if Christmas, New Years or generally the holidays are perhaps a little bit more eagerly awaited, we hope you are also looking forward to the next chapter of one of the most long lived iOS games, ever. We do, and we are finally able to share a sneak preview of what is going to come just in time before the App Store closes down for the yearly inventory. I always imagine little Apple elves taking stock of the available apps during that down-time, but maybe that’s just me being silly.

A typical game scene involving dragon, fairy and magic portal. (Download screenshot)

The next Carcassonne expansion is going to be “The Princess and the Dragon”, we kinda hinted a few times already about that. We chose it based on community feedback which wished for the Dragon by a considerable margin. Be sure to let us know what to tackle next! It was challenging to develop, as there are quite a few new rules and game mechanics in it. In any case, we feel it was quite worth the effort, as the game breathes new life with these additions. Also, it breathes fire now, on occasions.

Anyways… It is Carcassonne’s third year on the App Store now — a dinosaur by app standards — and it is still going strong. Very strong, indeed: 3.2 Million Online Games have been played, and every day players meet in the in-game lobby to start Quick Games or Friend Games. With no end in sight, Carcassonne for iOS has become the most complete and most active community to play Carcassonne on electronic devices. It is, to say it with one word, a classic.

With the number of expansions growing we want to make it easy to join in on the action. For that we are reducing the price of Carcassonne for the first time ever for a limited time, so new players can catch up. If you were still on the fence or have friends that don’t play Carcassonne yet, now’s the time!

But let’s focus on what’s ahead: I’ll give you a preview of the new rules and mechanics in Carcassonne — The Princess & the Dragon!

The Dragon

An embroidered dragon, used in Carcassonne’s user interface

In the world of Carcassonne dragons live in volcanos. When a tile with a volcano is placed, the dragon swoops in and nests in the volcano immediately. Even the bravest meeple knights would be too scared to take post there.

My mental image of the dragon being summoned. YMMV.

So far, so good. However, when a card with a dragon symbol is placed, this attracts the dragon and it is rampaging through the landscape (for a length of six tiles!), eating all meeple in its way. I figure those dragon tiles maybe contain hidden gems, that attract dragons. We all know dragons love to feast on gems. Or collect them, if you are subscribing to a more Tolkien-ian way of believing in dragons.

The magic portals

Also new in this expansion: Magic portals. If you draw one of these you can place a meeple on any card of the board, in accordance to standard placement rules. Think of it as a teleportation spell for your meeple.

The Princess

The princess adds an important strategic mechanism to city building: If a tile with a princess symbol is added to a city, one of the knight meeple inhabiting the city has to leave — picked by the player placing the tile.

The Fairy

When a player choses to not place a meeple during his turn, the fairy appears and grants one of his meeple a wish. She protects them from being eaten by the dragon, adds a bonus point just for being with a meeple and also increases scoring of landmarks with 3 bonus points.

A fairy game piece

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this expansion and especially the dragon phase really adds a nice change of tempo to the game in my experience. There are also 30 new tiles with feature like tunnels or cloisters within cities to mix things up even more.

Hope you are as excited as we are about adding a new chapter to the Carcassonne saga!


Next Story — Building Cities
Currently Reading - Building Cities

Building Cities

Speed is paramount

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.

Next Story — Of Princesses and Dragons
Currently Reading - Of Princesses and Dragons

Of Princesses and Dragons

Making the most of the vast possibilities of the Princess & Dragon expansion

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

Princess & Dragon is one of the more popular expansions for Carcassonne. For me personally, it’s also one of the most exciting ones. Meeple move around a lot more, and the lead can change more often, and unexpectedly.

Let’s take a look at the various features of the expansion.

A note on terminology

A lot of rules apply to “followers”. For example, the princess lets you send home followers from a city. Here is the definitive definition of the term:

A follower is any game piece that can occupy an area (a road, city, monastery or field). Currently, these game pieces count as followers: Meeple, Double Meeple and Phantom. The Pig and Builder do not count as followers.

The Princess

The princess is fairly straightforward — when you add a princess tile to a city, you may remove a follower from that city (You don’t have to, though. You can place the tile just like any other city tile, even placing a follower on it yourself).

The princess can remove an opponent’s follower or one of your own. This means you can use the princess to rescue one of your own meeple from a city that has become impossible to complete.

This city is worth zero points. Let’s get out of there.

The Dragon

Placing a volcano tile will summon the dragon to that tile. Placing a dragon tile (marked with a little dragon symbol) will start the dragon phase. In it, players take turns to each move the dragon one tile. The dragon may not enter a tile that it has already visited in the current dragon phase. It moves up to six tiles—less if it runs out of places to go — and eats anything on a tile it moves onto. The fairy grants protection from the dragon: The dragon may not enter the tile with the fairy on it.

Keep in mind you may still move the fairy when placing a tile that starts the dragon phase, so you should be able to protect your own meeple from the dragon when you start the dragon phase yourself.

In most cases, the dragon’s path is pretty predictable. To help you foresee where the dragon will go, the possible future path of the dragon is highlighted when you move it in the dragon phase.

The highlighted area is the tiles the dragon can still reach.

Like the princess, you can also use the dragon to rescue your own meeple if they’re stuck in a situation where you don’t want them to be.

A note on removing followers

Game pieces that are not followers, such as the pig and builder, cannot be directly removed by the princess. The dragon will happily eat them, though.

When followers are removed from an area, and a pig or builder would be left without any followers from the same player on the area, the pig or builder is sent home as well.

Removing this meeple will send the builder home as well.

The Magic Portal

When you place a magic portal tile, instead of placing a follower on the portal tile itself, you can place it on any unoccupied, incomplete area on the board. If you’re able to place two followers in the same turn (e.g. using the phantom), you can still only send one of them through the magic portal.

You can only place on areas that haven’t been completed yet. This means once a city is closed you cannot portal a meeple on it, even if it was never scored. You can, however, finish an area with a portal tile and place a meeple on the finished area. You can even do this with a monastery: Place the magic portal tile so it completes the monastery, (which is legal, not to mention, A Good Idea) and place a meeple on the monastery, which will then be scored immediately.

Here’s a nice little move when you use a portal tile to complete an unoccupied area: If the fairy is anywhere on that area, use the portal to place a meeple next to the fairy—you’ll get the 3 point bonus for the area you just completed in addition to the points for the area itself.

Magic portals affect the way you can treat monasteries, especially early in the game: When you place a monastery tile, you can forgo putting a meeple on it and wait until later to occupy it using a magic portal, when it’s worth more (and closer to being finished).

This also goes for closed fields; Especially late in the game, it pays to keep an eye open for fields that are fully surrounded but unoccupied. Portaling a meeple onto such a field late in the game can net you a neat little points gain.

You can’t control who draws magic portal tiles, so don’t build up too many unoccupied areas. You may just end up giving your opponent a gift of points.

One way of looking at it is that magic portals simply increase the randomness of the game, which is true, in a way. Another way of looking at it is that it creates opportunities to spot possible points gains in situations that are your opponent may overlook; Magic portals favor the open-minded.

The Fairy

Once upon a time, there was a Carcassonne player who met a fairy on the field near a city. The fairy said “Hi there. I’m a fairy, and I can grant you three wishes. So let’s hear it.”

“Great,” said the player, “Here’s my three wishes:”

  1. Whenever the fairy is on a tile together with one of my own followers at the start of my turn, I wish to get 1 point immediately.
    (“That won’t apply in builder bonus moves though,” the fairy cautioned.)
  2. When an area is scored, I have a follower on that area, and the fairy is standing on the same tile as that follower, I wish to get a 3 points bonus — even if I don’t get any points from the area scoring itself.
  3. And finally, I want protection from that scary dragon: I wish the dragon cannot enter the tile the fairy is on.

“Your wishes shall be granted,” said the fairy. “Now I have to be off to that red double meeple over there. You players keep moving me around like nobody’s business! See you later!”

After placing a tile, you may move the fairy to a tile on which one of your followers is standing. If you do move the fairy, you may not place any other game pieces in that move. The fairy will stay on that tile, even when the follower is removed (due to area scoring, for example).

The first tip for playing with the fairy is also the most basic: Don’t forget to move the fairy. Those 1-point gains will add up over the course of a game.

Where you move the fairy is also an important consideration. If you can place it on a tile where you have multiple meeple, you increase the likelihood of scoring the 3 point bonus. Avoid placing the fairy on tiles you share with opponents, as that will give them the 1 point bonus too.

After placing a tile to close an area, you can move the fairy to one of your meeple in that area so that you will get the 3 point bonus when the area is scored. However, it pays to anticipate which areas are likely to get finished soon, and place the fairy there in advance. This will free you up to place another game piece in the move when you close the area.

Finally, the fairy bonus applies for fields as well, so if you manage to get the fairy next to one of your meeples on a field at the end of the game, you will get those three points.

Playing with Princess & Dragon means, first of all, that meeples move around more, so trapping opponents’ followers becomes a little less powerful, in a way. It also means you can afford to be more aggressive placing your own followers, because there is a chance to rescue them should they become trapped.

Next Story — Field Scoring 101
Currently Reading - Field Scoring 101

Field Scoring 101

How is Field Formed?

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

Welcome back to Toby’s strategy corner! First, let’s quickly review field scoring, because this a bit more complicated than other scoring.

Like cities and roads, fields give points to the player (or players) with the most meeple on them. In the case of a tie, all players who tie for having the most meeple on that field receive full points for the field.

Blue and green will both score 6 points for this field. Red gets nothing.

A field is worth 3 points for every completed city adjacent to it. Now what exactly does ‘adjacent’ mean in this sense? Let’s take a look at how fields are formed. A field is a continuous area of grass across multiple adjacent tiles. Cities and roads separate fields.

When in doubt, you can use this rule of thumb: Wherever you can trace a continuous, unbroken path over green, that is the extent of your field.

This picture shows a couple of the trickier field situations. Red will score 6 points for 2 completed cities adjacent to the field. The city above and the city to the far right both are on separate fields.

There exists one tile which does not follow the “unbroken path of green” rule:

This tile is from the River expansion. There are two distinct fields on this tile, each of which is continuous under the bridge top to bottom.

There’s one aspect that differentiates fields from cities, roads and monasteries: fields don’t give you points until the end game scoring. That means it’s good to have at least a general idea of how many points you can expect to get from your fields at the end of the game to let you know if you’re ahead or behind during the game.

It also means you don’t get meeple back that you place on fields. Ever. So you should think carefully before doing so.

Fields make up 15-20% of a skilled player’s points in a game of Carcassonne, so let’s look at how to make the most of them.

Place on fields with many completed cities

Since every city is worth 3 points, placing on a field can easily get you 9 points or more. That’s not bad.

Place on fields late in the game rather than early

A mistake most novice players make is to place meeple on a field too early. This is especially true in a two player game. Locking up your own meeple early in the game is pretty deadly in a two or three player game. This becomes less important in multiplayer games. Also, the more players there are, the more contested fields are going to be, so you’ll have to balance placing meeple late in the game with getting on a field before it’s too late. Placing meeple on fields early is not advisable in games with less than four players, though.

Don’t place on fields that look like they’re going to be small

Poor farmer meeple. Looks like it’s stuck with 3 points.

The field in the picture above is very unlikely to grow much larger, so it’ll probably only include this one city.

One exception: If it’s very late in the game, it’s okay to place meeple like this in order to squeeze out a small points edge. But you shouldn’t do it in the middle or beginning of the game.

Place on fields that look like they’re going to get huge

This is important for two player games, but it applies even more in games with a lot of players. If a field doesn’t have many completed cities yet, but it looks like it’s going to have a lot, you might consider placing a meeple on it early in the game to get ahead of the rush. Especially the monastery-and-street tile is a hint that a field is going to get large, because it merges the fields on both sides of the road into one super large field.

This field could become huge if things go well.

In conclusion: Fields can give you lots of points, but they are also usually very large, so they are rather easy to get your meeple on. Often, you can’t afford not to place on a field as it gets sufficiently large. Just don’t expend your meeple too early or you will be at a disadvantage through the rest of the game.

Next Story — Phantom
Currently Reading - Phantom


Sneaking onto the board (not into the opera)

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

Welcome to a new series of articles about Carcassonne which will discuss expansions, tactics, rules clarifications on a regular basis. This first article talks about our newest release, the Phantom expansion.

The Phantom expansion adds a new game piece (the Phantom), that you can place in your turn in addition to a normal game piece like a follower or a builder.

Aside from letting you place it in addition to another piece, the Phantom works exactly like a normal follower.

A point of rules clarifications: When placing a tile with a magic portal (from the Princess & Dragon expansion), you can only send one follower through the portal. You can choose whether you want to send the Phantom or a normal follower through.

You can send one or the other through the portal, but not both.

Also, placing a Phantom on a city or road will not allow you to put a builder on that area in the same move. The same goes for pigs and fields. To be able to place a builder or pig, there must be a follower on the city, road or field before your move.

You can place a builder on the left city because it already had a follower. Placing the phantom will not let you put the builder on the city to the right in this move.

Let’s talk about the tactical considerations for the Phantom.

You want it back sooner rather than later

The Phantom is most effective when you can use it again and again. So when you can, prefer placing the Phantom on areas you complete, or that are going to be complete very soon. Don’t place it on fields, except in extreme circumstances.

A bad idea. The Phantom will be stuck on the city for some time.
Much better. The Phantom will return right away, so you can use it again next turn.

Trap your opponents’ Phantoms

Of course, your opponents will also try to get the most out of their Phantoms, so if you can, trap them by making areas impossible to complete.

And that’s it for Red’s Phantom.

It’s one more meeple

At the most basic level, having the Phantom means having one more follower at your disposal. Keep this in mind and be a little more liberal when placing followers.

Combine with Princess & Dragon

The Phantom goes together very well with the Princess & Dragon expansion. you can use the phantom much more liberally because both princess and dragon let you get the Phantom back in case it gets trapped on an impossible area.

Overall, the Phantom is a pretty straightforward game piece, but used deftly, it can have a great impact on the outcome of your game.

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