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Carcassonne: The Castle - Board Game Box Shot

Carcassonne: The Castle


The imposing silhouette of Carcassonne sits like a throne in the light of the setting sun. The city also acts as a fortress, protecting those who live there with its impenetrable walls. Visit the city to discover its many features and to learn why it is so magnificent.

Carcassonne: The Castle components

An exciting tile-laying competition between two players. Inside the castle walls, the city grows as the players place tiles and their followers: knights to guard the towers, heralds to spread the news, and merchants to sell their wares in the markets. The player who makes better use of his followers will lead the race around the castle wall, which is also the scoring track for the game. There are several items waiting on the castle wall for the first player to reach them. Each will prove useful to the player who acquires it.

images © Rio Grande Games

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“Carcassonne: The Castle is Perfect For Two”

Carcassonne: The Castle (2003) from Rio Grande Games is a great two player variant of Carcassonne, one of the classic gateway games. The Castle plays in about 30 minutes, and it is fairly easy to learn. It differs from regular Carcassonne in that it uses a scoring track made up of connected pieces that form an irregularly shaped castle wall. Play area is limited to the space within the walls. Tile placement is more flexible in The Castle, because only roads must be aligned. All the other features –houses, castles, and markets, can be arranged as players choose.

As in Carcassonne, players have a set number of markers called “followers”. The followers are placed on features within a tile (houses, roads, castles, and markets) as a tile is played. Once placed, followers are fixed until the feature they mark is completed. A feature is completed when it is fully enclosed by the outer wall or any non-like feature. Once complete, players score their feature and advance their marker along the scoring track. Once the scoring system is understood, Carcassonne: The Castle is intuitive and quickly paced.

Additionally, there are small bonus tiles that are placed face down at specific points along the scoring track. The bonus tiles allow features to be worth extra points or allow a player to advance his marker five spaces on the scoring track. Bonus tiles are claimed when a player’s marker ends its movement on the space the bonus tiles occupy. This means a player can try and complete features that yield the correct number of points to ensure his marker lands on a space with a bonus tile. Some forums I have read cite that the bonus tiles (particularly the “Market” bonus) have too much influence on the outcome of the game. I have dozens of plays of Carcassonne: The Castle, and I don’t think the bonus tiles negatively impact the game.

Another clever element of The Castle is that it rewards the player with the largest house, or “keep”, at the end of the game. The player with the keep that occupies the greatest number of tiles gets a scoring bonus equal to the largest empty space (number of squares) in the play area. This component becomes critical near the end of the game. If a player suspects he will have the smaller keep, that player may deliberately place tiles to split large empty spaces in the play area. An area with two by seven spaces, for example, gives 14 points to the player with the larger keep. That same area can be cut by playing two tiles to form two areas of three by two spaces. The bonus for the larger keep would then be reduced to six points, and the bonus scoring gap lessened by eight points.

Carcassonne: The Castle is a fine two player game. The rulebook is clear, and the components are good. The game is light enough to be played while enjoying conversation, yet it requires some strategic planning and decisive actions. The two player limit makes The Castle less flexible than regular Carcassonne, which supports up to five players. If you like Carcassonne or enjoy two-player gaming, the small variations of Carcassonne: The Castle make the game fun and worthwhile.


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