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7 Best Carcassonne Expansions

7 Best Carcassonne Expansions

Carcassonne is one of the best-known German-style board games out there. It’s a terrific game for a variety of gamers- from newbies to advanced board game enthusiasts. The game is loosely based on the idea of a medieval town in France called Carcassonne. It’s a tile-based game where players build out the board by laying down tiles as the game goes on- starting with a single tile and extending outward. The premise is super simple- the game ends when the last tile has been placed. That’s it! 

In our guide to the best Carcassonne expansions, we break out the lengthy list of expansions and compilations, so you know exactly what you’re getting- because there’s a lot to keep track of.

Small Expansions are just that- “mini” expansions for the base game that allow you to extend the game, adding a few tiles and / or wooden tokens and meeples that add color to the game. 

Large Expansions are “full” expansions for the base game that add significantly new game mechanics, a larger collection of tiles, usually with a completely different purpose, and new wooden tokens or meeples. 

Compilations are “big box” editions of the game. They always include the core game and have several different combinations of small and large expansions, depending on the edition. 

Stand Alone Games are spinoff editions of the game. They usually use the same basic game mechanics, sometimes mixing them with a completely different theme. Think of them as Carcassonne remixes. 

We’ll focus on the small and large expansions as we tell you all about the best Carcassonne expansions ranked in order of what you should pick up first! 

Our Top Picks – Best Carcassonne Expansions

best carcassonne expansion: traders and builders

Best Carcassonne Expansion: Traders and Builders

The best Carcassonne expansion, Traders and Builders is all about collecting Trade Goods like Wine, Grain and Cloth. It adds a fun set collection layer atop what is already an incredible game! 

2nd Best Carcassonne Expansion: Inns and Cathedrals

Best Carcassonne Expansion for Big Wins: Inns and Cathedrals

Completing a Cathedral is an incredible accomplishment- and you get tons of points for doing so! This expansion allows you to play with six players, a must for large families.

5th best carcassonne expansion: the princess and dragon

Most Whimsical Carcassonne Expansion: The Princess and Dragon

Smaug, who? This Dragon blows out the candles on this decadent cake festooned with plenty of Magic Portals. This expansion is fun for good-natured players who like a surprise apocalyptic element.

6th best carcassonne expansion: the flying machines

Best Carcassonne Mini Expansion: The Flying Machines

Map out your route and take to the skies! Fly all over the board with this unique mini twist on Carcassonne, and embrace the bite in the breeze! 

Our 7 Best Carcassonne Expansions

Mini Expansions

7th Best Carcassonne Expansion: The Gold Mines

Carcassonne, but with sparkly gold

Players: 2-6 // Game time: 30 - 60 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Z-Man Games

One of the best Carcassonne expansions ranked, this mini expansion introduces special tiles that feature gold bars! Whoah! What’s better than gold bars, you ask? Scoring bonus points at the end of the game! 

The Gold Mines includes eight tiles that feature gold bars, essentially functioning as gold mines. You also get to collect gold bar tokens as part of this expansion, and you get a bonus Corn Circles II tile that allows you to place a second follower on a feature you’ve already claimed. Alternatively, you can choose to return an already-placed follower to your reserve. This tile by itself isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s a great intro to the Corn Circles concept in Carcassonne

Part of what makes Carcassonne so fun is resource collection and management, which is definitely the best feature about the Gold Mines small expansion. The addition of the gold bars really layers a dramatic aura atop the base game and dovetails nicely with a large expansion we love- Traders and Builders

Who This Expansion is For

When added into the Carcassonne base game, this expansion doesn’t add a heavy strategic element. Your goal is to place the gold mines in a way you hope to benefit from later in the game, so The Gold Mines is a solid mini expansion for the player who loves scoring bonus points from shiny resources. Unfortunately, this mini expansion is hard to find on its own- you’re better off buying the sixth edition of the Carcassonne Big Box (2017), which includes The Gold Mines, along with many other essential small and large Carcassonne expansions.

Buy The Gold Mines on Amazon

6th best carcassonne expansion: the flying machines

Hop, skip and fly over to any tile

Players: 2-6 // Game time: 30 - 60 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Z-Man Games

The Flying Machines is one of our best Carcassonne mini expansions. It introduces a completely different game mechanic to Carcassonne with the addition of the “fliers,” which allow you to transport meeples through the power of flight. 

As part of this stellar mini expansion, you suddenly have a ton of new strategies on the table. The expansion includes eight special tiles, one custom die that only has three results (1, 2 or 3), and a bonus Corn Circles II tile. 

The eight tiles included with The Flying Machines allow you to claim unfinished features. They have arrows with wings, designating them as very special tiles indeed. By flying over to those tiles, you can claim them even if they’re already occupied by another player! You can also plan out “crash landings” that allow you to boldly go where there are no tiles- at all. You just have to follow the direction of the arrow on the tile itself.

That incredulous idea is planned out very well in this small expansion, allowing you to utilize a completely new element- the custom die. Sure, Carcassonne could have included a regular six-sided die to keep costs down, but by including a custom die, they ensured that you can only roll an one, two or three and use that number to determine where you crash land. That delicious added element of surprise, mixed in with light strategy, just elevates the whole base game and makes The Flying Machines the best Carcassonne small expansion, hands down. 

Who This Expansion is For

Players who love thinking out of the box are going to really enjoy this small expansion. It just makes the world of Carcassonne a bit larger- you aren’t confined to tile borders and boundaries anymore. Whimsical players who value impulsiveness and have a thirst for adventure will really enjoy this one. 

Just like with The Gold Mines, the The Flying Machines mini expansion is hard to find on its own- you’re better buying the sixth edition of the Carcassonne Big Box (2017). We heartily recommend the 2017 version of the Big Box, as it includes three small and three large expansions that are all absolute delights. Pro tip- this expansion absolutely shines when you use the Pokerssonne variant of play for Carcassonne. In this variant, you have a hand of three tiles throughout the game, and draw new tiles at the end of your turn to replace the tile you played. Try it out! 

Buy The Flying Machines on Amazon

Large Expansions


Volcanoes, fire-breathing dragons and princesses, oh my!

Players: 2-6 // Game time: 45 - 60 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Carcassonne, but with a gigantic dragon. 

That’s exactly what you get with The Princess and Dragon, one of the best Carcassonne expansions- and a large one, at that! The expansion includes thirty new tiles, all of which we explain below! 

12 Dragon Tiles

Dragon tiles actually have adorable mini-dragons on them, which is fantastic. The tiles themselves mean something much more sinister. Here’s how they work- whenever someone draws a Dragon tile, it’s placed as usual, and one meeple can travel to that tile. However, the game then immediately pauses, as games do when dragons move. And you’ve got a gigantic dragon meeple to move!

Beginning with the player who drew the Dragon tile, the Dragon steps over to any adjacent tile (not diagonally). Yow! Rinse and repeat six more times. The Dragon leaves fire and destruction in its wake- any followers on any tile the Dragon touches are promptly incinerated. As soon as the Dragon finds a new home, it settles down and waits until a new Volcano tile is drawn, moving it somewhere else, or a new Dragon tile is drawn, starting the whole six-step tango again. 

6 Princess Tiles

Normal tiles, really- until it is placed in a way that connects to a city with one or more Knights on standby. When that happens, the player who drew and placed the tile removes a Knight. 

6 Volcano Tiles

The floor is lava with those tiles! No meeple may enter the realm of a volcano, as they are designated lairs for the Dragon. As soon as a Volcano tile is uncovered, the Dragon flies right over and settles in, until a Dragon tile is drawn.

6 Magic Portal Tiles

The most magical of all the tiles, the Magic Portals allow the player who draws one to place a Follower on the Magic Portal itself, or use the Magic Portal to transport a Follower to any other tile on the Board that will accept Followers. Strategically, pretty awesome. Combining this with a Dragon’s destruction, a player could conceivably take control of an unoccupied city! 

Who This Expansion is For 

There’s no question that The Princess and Dragon is intended for players who want to introduce a level of whimsy, magic and schadenfreude. A Dragon is the epitome of all three! It does add a sense of mean-spiritedness that doesn’t exist in the base game of Carcassonne. For this reason, this large expansion should be reserved for more competitive players who don’t mind being razed by Dragons or otherwise blindsided by Magic Portals. Pro Tip: The Princess and Dragon originally came out in 2005. Look for the new 2016 edition instead- its design has been updated.

Buy The Princess and the Dragon on Amazon


Build upwards but don't get too close to the sky

Players: 2-6 // Game time: 45 - 60 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Z-Man Games

The Tower is essentially the Jenga-building juggernaut of all the best Carcassonne expansions. It’s a large expansion, so you get plenty of excitement- but we love it because it adds an amazing vertical element to Carcassonne! 

This large Carcassonne expansion includes 18 tower foundation tiles, 30 tower pieces and a tile holder. You’ll be building your own Cloud City in no time! 

Each tower you construct consists of square wooden blocks that start with a valley right at the bottom and culminate with a peak on the very top. The design of those blocks allow them to be stacked atop each other, without fear of inadvertent topples from your opponents. Everyone starts out with some tower building blocks and place the blocks when tower base tiles show up. 

Game play changes with The Tower– if a player chooses not to plop down a follower on a tile they’ve just placed, they can: 

  1. Put a tower block on any available tile with a tower foundation
  2. Put a tower block on any unoccupied tower block
  3. Put a meeple on any available tower block, completing the tower

The advantage of placing tower blocks is that you can capture any other followers that are within range. The height of the tower itself determines the range! Building upwards is a smart way to eliminate followers owned by other players on the board. Meeples atop towers “lock” them- no nearby followers can be captured from that point on. 

The tile holder included with The Tower is skippable- when we played, it was rather easy to see what tile types were coming up next, so that influenced our decisions. Skip the tile holder and go with your usual tile selection style for in-game play. Use the tile holder as handy storage when you’re not playing!

Who This Expansion is For

The Tower is for the Carcassonne player who wants to add an element of area control. The verticality of the towers makes you feel like you’re building lookouts to survey your domain. With two players, this expansion shouldn’t be your immediate go-to, but it rocks in groups of three or four people. Before you run out and buy this one, consider your primary playing group and think about whether or not they will appreciate the combative nature of The Tower. If not, swipe left. Pro Tip: The Tower originally came out in 2006. Look for the new 2016 edition instead- its design has been updated.

Buy The Tower on Amazon


Carcassonne, but with hills and sheep

Players: 2-6 // Game time: 30 - 45 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Z-Man Games

If you’re like us, when you daydream about medieval towns, you see castle towers, dank jail cells and loads of adorable sheep. But Carcassonne has always had a gaping hole where its sheep should be. 

Until now.

Hills and Sheep, the ninth large expansion and one of the best Carcassonne expansions, is wolfish in its appetite. There are sixteen sheep tiles in this expansion, but who’s countin— zzzz….. 

Whoah! Ahe, ahem. So, anyway. There are sixteen sheep tokens, with anywhere between one and four sheep on each tile. That’s a lot of sheep to keep track of! And who’s keeping track? 

The wolves– two of them, to be exact. The six Shepherd followers are keeping an eye on the sheep, too. Shepherds can be placed anywhere in a field, even if there’s a farmer already there. Players can even share fields and share points from the Sheep in those fields. You pick up points depending on how many Sheep you place, and it’s easy to rack up the points really quick. But you can also draw the aforementioned Wolves, and they’ll tear through your fields, devouring your entire flock. Hills and Sheep’s Sheep scoring and sharing mechanic doesn’t change anything else in the entire game, unlike other expansions. 

Hills and Sheep also includes:

8 Hill Tiles

This is a cute addition to the game- you select a tile blindly, then place it under the Hill tile to make the Hill just a little bit higher! Hills allow you to remove tiles from the game by hiding them beneath the hills. If you know of one experienced Carcassonne player in your group who counts the tiles, this is a terrific way to combat their strategy and prevent them from running away with the game.

8 Vineyard Tiles

The best thing to do with Vineyards is to place them near monastic features like Cloisters and Castles for bonus points- we love playing Hills and Sheep along with the Bridges, Castles and Bazaars expansion, although that’s not a requirement. When placed next to those buildings, Vineyards are worth +3 points for the player who completes them. 

2 Cloister Tiles

Those tiles have brand-new configurations never before seen in Carcassonne, but otherwise function exactly as normal Cloister tiles. 

Who This Expansion is For

There’s no question that Hills and Sheep is for the Carcassonne purist. Players who already love Carcassonne’s ethos and thematic countryside will likely rank this as one of their best Carcassonne expansions they love to play with- for good reason! Players who want a new mechanic or a twist to the Carcassonne experience will need to look elsewhere- or pair this expansion with one of our top two expansions (see below)! Pro Tip: Hills and Sheep first came out in 2014- pick up the 2018 new edition!

Buy Hills and Sheep on Amazon

2nd Best Carcassonne Expansion: Inns and Cathedrals

Create sacred cathedrals and inns for weary followers

Players: 2-6 // Game time: 60 - 75 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Z-Man Games


Inns and Cathedrals is the very first Carcassonne expansion. Does it look long in the tooth now, 20 years after its’ release? No. Most definitely not. In fact, it’s nearly required.

It adds a large figure that counts as two followers, affectionately known as the “big meeple.” They are super awesome, because they allow you to wrest control of cities and farms, simply by becoming the majority. The “big meeple” is not quite twice as big as the little meeples, so make sure to double-check which meeple you’re using! 

Inns and Cathedrals adds new elements: 

Inn and Cathedral Tiles

Both those special tiles can be integrated into roads and cities to boost their value, but they must be completed before the end of the game in order to get points. Each time you place an Inn, you get one point per road tile- Cathedrals get one point each tile (or pennant in a city). The key is to complete the enhanced road or city- otherwise, you get zero points. The Cathedrals are tough to complete- that’s for sure- but they are worth so many points that sometimes the gamble is worth it! 

Point Tiles 

There are six 50 / 100 scoring tokens added to the game, which really help the scoring element of the whole game- the point range on the default scoring board is really too small to begin with, so the new point tiles here really should have been included in the base game. For that reason alone, this expansion is essential

6 Player Expansion

New followers allow a sixth player to join the table. This alone makes Inns and Cathedrals essential for a large Carcassonne playing group. The game doesn’t stretch out much longer if you have a good group of decisive players. Carcassonne can be really fun at a six player count- we usually play it with three or four players, though! 

Who This Expansion is For

For those who hem and haw about how certain Carcassonne expansions don’t really fit the game as a whole, here’s one that does- Inns and Cathedrals. It’s the perfect refinement of Carcassonne, because it fixes nearly all of the pesky headaches that are present in the base game and doesn’t deviate from the beautiful medieval theme. Pro tip: Grab the 2015 new edition, not the original 2002 release.

Buy Inns and Cathedrals on Amazon

If you don’t yet have the Carcassonne base game, definitely grab the sixth edition of the Carcassonne Big Box (2017). The Big Box includes the Inns and Cathedrals, Traders and Builders large expansions, along with several other mini expansions- a humongous value makes this the best way to get started with Carcassonne.

Wine, cloth and wheat to trade away

Players: 2-6 // Game time: 60 - 75 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Traders and Builders is the best Carcassonne expansion out there, period. It doesn’t feel like it should have been part of the base game, because it offers a different style of play. It’s the perfect definition of what an expansion should be- something new that also honors the spirit of the original. 

Traders and Builders turns Carcassonne’s base mechanic completely on its head. Instead of protecting your tiles from other players’ features (giving them points), you keep them, right? Not so with Traders and Builders. This large expansion actually encourages you to complete an opposing feature, as you can scoop up Trade Goods tokens that way. It’s all about the set collection here- you want to collect as many Trade Goods as possible, and that means sometimes doing things you usually would never do in a Carcassonne base game. 

One of the best large Carcassonne game expansions, this one includes: 

Various Tiles

An additional twenty-four tiles are available to spice up the base game! Some tiles also include Trade Goods- they’re identified by a tiny icon, usually in the top left corner. When Traders and Builders is combined with the base game, you get 96 tiles. Paired with Inns and Cathedrals, that total goes up to 114 tiles- a healthy amount by any account! Some tiles are unexpected, like the three-city Cloister tile that plops a field in the middle, or the two bridge tiles. 

Placing certain tiles will net you benefits directly associated with: 

Trade Goods

Trade Goods tiles feature several different trade goods. There are 9 Wine tiles, 6 Grain tiles and 5 Cloth tiles. They appear in cities and are collected by the player who completes the city itself. 

You can score Trade Goods, but if you don’t complete the city where the Trade Good appears, you don’t collect it. You benefit by completing others’ cities and scooping up Trade Goods tokens. At the conclusion of the game, you’ll get 10 points if you have a majority of Wine or 10 points for a Grain majority, or 10 points for having the most Cloth. That’s a total of 30 possible points- nothing to sneeze at.


Who let the pigs out, ooooo? Finally, you get to roll around in the mud! When placing Pig meeples, you increase the value of the field they graze in. They can roam on any newly placed tile, but it must connect to a player’s Farm (with, of course, a supervising meeple present). You get +4 points for every city you complete that is connected to that Farm- an one-point bump. Some will say Pigs are overpowered. If you feel that way, you can easily play this expansion without using Pigs (but we secretly love them). 


Despite a very odd meeple appearance, Builders are absolutely important. When extending a feature with a Builder on it, the player who owns the Builder gets an extra turn. Obviously, you want to get a Builder on the job ASAP- so place ‘em on a regular road and you’re off to the races.

Cloth Bag

Cloth bags are super helpful, weirdly enough, in Carcassonne. This one functions exactly as it should, exactly like a bag. You open it, get something fun from it, and close it. Ta-da! If you just need a cloth bag or a meeple storage bag to store your burgeoning Carcassonne components, we’ve got you covered with dice bags, storage bags and drawstring bags. 

Who This Expansion is For

Love set collection? You’ve got that here with Trade Goods. Love the balance between completing your own features and completing others just to get ahead? Yep, this one has that. The Builder’s extra turn is super helpful in tight games, as you get to increase your tile draws with that extra turn. Combined with Inns and Cathedrals, playtimes can stretch out to 50 – 70 minutes, so consider that as well. Traders and Builders takes what makes the game so great, adds something new and elevates it into a different experience that’s just as enjoyable as you want it to be.

Buy Traders and Builders on Amazon

Same thing- grab the sixth edition of the Carcassonne Big Box (2017) and sell your base game of Carcassonne, if you have one. The Big Box includes the Traders and Builders and Inns and Cathedrals large expansions, along with several other mini expansions- an incredible value.

That’s a Wrap!

There you have it- the seven best Carcassonne expansions out there. We’ve told you all about the best mini expansions (The Flying Machines and The Gold Mines) and the best large Carcassonne expansions (The Princess & Dragon, The Tower, Hills and Sheep, Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders). 

List of Carcassonne Expansions

There are plenty of Carcassonne expansions out there, so we thought we’d tell you all about what you might find here in the United States. There are a few editions released through German outlets or via Gamers Quarterly Magazine that we’re not including here because they aren’t readily available.

Carcassonne ExpansionsMini or Large?Dice and Mice Approved?Included in 2017 Big Box 6?
The River (2001)MiniNoNo
Inns & Cathedrals (2002)LargeYes, Rank #2Yes
Traders & Builders (2003)LargeYes, Rank #1Yes
King & Scout (2003)MiniNoNo
The Count of Carcassonne (2004)MiniYesNo
The River II (2005)MiniYesYes
The Princess & Dragon (2006)LargeYes, Rank #5No
The Tower (2006)LargeYes, Rank #4No
Abbey & Mayor (2007)LargeYesNo
Count, King & Robber (2008)LargeNoNo
Cult, Siege, and Creativity (2008)MiniNoNo
The Catapult (2008)LargeNoNo
Bridges, Castles and Bazaars (2010)LargeYesNo
Crop Circles (2010)MiniNoNo
The Festival (2011)MiniNoNo
The Phantom (2011)MiniYesNo
The Flying Machines (2012)MiniYes, Rank #7Yes
The Messengers (2012)MiniYesYes
The Ferries (2012)MiniYesYes
The Gold Mines (2012)MiniYes, Rank #6Yes
Mage and Witch (2012)MiniNoYes
The Robbers (2012)MiniNoYes
The Crop Circles II (2012)MiniNoYes
The Wind-roses (2012)MiniNoNo
Hills & Sheep (2014)LargeYes, Rank #3No
The Watchtower (2016)MiniNoNo
Under the Big Top (2017)LargeYesNo

There are also a good number of standalone Carcassonne games that are essentially remixes of the original Carcassonne.

Stand Alone Carcassonne Games

  • Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (Carcassonne: Die Jäger und Sammler, 2002)
  • The Ark of the Covenant (2003)
  • Carcassonne: The Castle (Carcassonne: Die Burg, 2003)
  • Carcassonne: The City (Carcassonne: Die Stadt, 2004)
  • Carcassonne: The Discovery (Carcassonne: Neues Land, 2005)
  • New World: A Carcassonne Game (Carcassonne: Mayflower, 2008)
  • My First Carcassonne (Die Kinder von Carcassonne, 2009)
  • Cardcassonne (2009)
  • Carcassonne: The Dice Game, 2011
  • Carcassonne: Winter Edition (2012)
  • Carcassonne: South Seas (Carcassonne: Südsee, 2013)
  • Carcassonne: Gold Rush (Carcassonne: Goldrausch, 2014)
  • Carcassonne: Over Hill and Dale (Carcassonne: Über Stock und Stein, 2015)
  • Carcassonne: Star Wars (Carcassonne: Star Wars, 2015)
  • Carcassonne: Amazonas (2016)
  • Carcassonne: Safari (2018)

While these games can provide a fun experience, we are big fans of the original Carcassonne. In fact, we recommend that you grab the sixth edition of the Carcassonne Big Box (2017) and supplement it with Hills and Sheep, The Tower and The Princess and Dragon expansions for some fun every now and then! 

Photo credit: Thanks, David Goehring! cc

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