Adding the River, King, and Robber Baron to Solo Carcassonne

March 18, 2023 | Sessions | 0 comments

Follow the path of a river through the countryside as cities and roads take shape with the early expansions for Carcassonne.

After recently discovering the official solo mode for Carcassonne, it earned a prime spot at my table! Yet I wasn’t about to play the base game over 30 times in a row again… This time, I wanted to start my exploration of the expansions to see how well they worked for solo. I was pleasantly greeted by the old tiles, and my favorite: Extremely short rules!

Game Overview

Game Name: Carcassonne
Publication Year:
 2000
Designer:
 Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Artist:
 Doris Matthäus
Publisher: Hans im Glück and Rio Grande Games
Solo Mode: Official Solo Rules Variant

This classic is all about laying tiles and connecting matching map features. Simple! The official solo mode offers a rotating turn order and scoring opportunities for 3 different meeple colors. It uses almost all of the original rules, just with an excellent and engaging challenge!

Building More Features with Expansions in Carcassonne
R

First Play

June 18, 2018

Complexity

2

Latest Play

March 17, 2023

Expansions

10

Setup Time

Almost None

Lifetime Plays

104

Play Time

5 Minutes

:

High Score

54

1

Game Area

32" x 20"

;

Low Score

4

Big Box Fun and Art

Oh, memories! Although I have a copy of the base game, this big box edition is the one I remember the most. So many great pieces of artwork and so much content!

It’s nice to be able to go back in time a little bit. Yet my main focus here was to start trying out the expansions.

Most of these involved a single page of new rules, which is simply awesome. I needed to try out the actual gameplay, but the majority sounded like they would work for solo!

The real reason why I wanted to use these expansions was simply for more tile variety and interesting maps. Ha!

Fun Memories and Lots to Try Out with the Big Box of Carcassonne

An Age-Old Secret

Looking at the box artwork and reminiscing on old memories of these plays made me think about some of the expansions, and how I don’t remember using them all.

Then, I noticed that there was a white horse in every piece of artwork, save for this one. And then I looked closer… Until I was scrambling to re-read the rules.

Look at that typo that I didn’t notice for a good 15 years! This should reference a princess, not multiple princes.

It happens, though, and this made me laugh a little bit. All the more reason to keep my big box copy forever!

A Double-Take on a Previously Unknown Typo in Carcassonne

A King & Robber Baron

A very early expansion adds 5 tiles with more unique combinations, along with new final scoring opportunities.

The king is awarded to the player, or meeple color, who completes the largest city, and then adds 1 victory point per finished city in the end. Simple to remember!

Similarly, the robber baron does almost the same thing, only in regards to the roads. Again, an easy thing to add.

Final scoring in the solo mode allows the lowest-scoring meeple to score, so it can be important to alternate. With these, there was another chance to jump ahead a bit.

Starting Small with the King and Robber Baron in Carcassonne

The Tile Tower

My tower! I remember using this way back in the day, but it works much better as additional storage inside the box.

The main issue is that the types of tiles can often be easily spotted. It isn’t as obvious from this photo taken from above, but I could tell if a road was present on the next tile.

Still, it was nice to bring this out again and appreciate how sturdy it is for a tile holder. The angle is just slightly off.

More importantly, though, I was ready to add in the first river expansion in my random way. It might use every tile, or it might end immediately. No one knew: Not even me!

An Interesting Way to Stack Tiles in Carcassonne

Drawing from a Pile

I usually keep my play area extremely organized and aligned, but not for these tiles. This is what my draw pile looked like. No telling what was on each tile!

As messy as this might look, it served its purpose well and cut down on setup and cleanup. To shuffle the tiles and neatly place them in the tile tower was a bit tedious.

Plus, I had fun drawing from anywhere in the pile, including digging right to the bottom for the best tile!

Well, maybe a lot of tiles didn’t help me. Ha! I still enjoyed this method and having some controlled chaos on the side.

Mixing Up a Messy Pile of Tiles for Better Results in Carcassonne

Re-Discovering a Love of Board Games

I enjoyed board games long ago, yet this official solo variant has given me a chance to look closer at the one title that solidified my foray into the modern hobby. It’s interesting to admire the classics in this way, particularly since there are some expansions I never actually played before! The simplicity of the rules and design truly is amazing.

Will this rank as one of my top solo games of all-time? Probably not. But that doesn’t take anything away from my personal experience. I’ve loved the tension of running out of meeples and having just a few turns to try to do something before the ultimate end… And it’s worked out a few times in my favor! It’s a wonderful sort of puzzle.

Another important lesson I’m learning along the way is how simple doesn’t mean boring. I often sit down and play for at least 10 times in a row, desperately trying to use all of the tiles. So difficult! Despite the general repetitiveness of the turn sequence, this is a game I know I’ll return to regularly. Besides… There are many more expansions to mix in!

A Lazy River

I start a river with the starting tile, but shuffle the end point with the rest of the river tiles. In this way, I never know how long it will be or what features will pop up.

In the case of a very short river, I add the standard starting tile if there are less than 2 features. This setup barely qualified, but a city and road existed: It worked!

As I began to play, the river interacted with the game but seemed rather balanced. It was easier, but also harder.

With only 4 meeples for each color, this either helped with starting features, or used up precious meeples too early.

Evaluating a Random River During the Solo Setup of Carcassonne

Branching Out

In the end, I got exactly what I wanted: A more unique map with a river! The challenge was still there, and I had to think through my strategies more with the features.

The variable river length also helped a lot with making setup more interesting. I still went in meeple color order, and some had arguably better starting positions.

I also know that adding expansions increased the complexity for this simple game, yet I had a lot of fun!

It’s not too difficult to reset and simply use the base game tiles should anything get to be too difficult.

Enjoying the New Scenery with a Central River in Carcassonne

Simple New Scoring

Awarding the king and robber baron tiles was pretty easy, although not necessarily strategic. I just had to hope that the lowest-scoring meeple colors got them in the end!

But that’s what I was hoping to get out of these newly added expansions: Simple rules, minor modifications, and some new visuals. It all worked out nicely for me.

Granted, my scores were absolutely atrocious when I thought I ruined it all with the river expansion.

As suspected, I was going for too much and didn’t manage the meeples enough. High scores were possible!

An Added Chance to Score with the King and Robber Baron in Carcassonne

Session Overview

Play Number: 89-104
Expansion 1: Carcassonne: King & Scout
Expansion 2: Carcassonne: The River
Solo Mode: Official Solo Rules Variant
Outcome: 16 Losses

Well, I hit 100 lifetime plays across multiple variants! Towards the end, I even pieced together a large city that all of the meeple colors shared in. I scored my best yet score, but it wasn’t meant to be! There was even a reserved space for a cloister with a road. Still lots to explore: This game really hasn’t aged all that much!

Putting Together a Giant City for Everyone to Score with in Carcassonne

%

100 Plays

Affordability

Price & Value

8

Functionality

Challenges & Mechanics

10

Originality

Design & Theme

5

Quality

Components & Rules

10

Reusability

Achievement & Enjoyment

6

Variability

Distinctness & Randomness

4

+ Pros (Positives)

  • Gameplay flies by with fast decisions and minimal downtime, often leading to just 5-10 minutes of fun.
  • Managing the 3 different meeple colors takes a lot of careful planning and is a very challenging solo experience.
  • The final map always looks charming and the overall aesthetic looks a bit old, yet still beautiful.
  • Expansions can be tested out with the official solo variant, possibly leading to new strategies and scoring.
  • Although the play area spreads out from the initial setup, this usually isn’t that large and rarely sprawls.
  • Simple and straightforward rules are easy to remember, and the familiar mechanics require little re-learning.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Although there are a lot of tiles, the overall variety is fairly low from play to play with the simple decisions.
  • Bad luck can spoil a play at any point, and even trying to free up meeples doesn’t always work out.
  • The official solo variant only includes specific rules for the base game, leaving expansions up to interpretation.
  • Playing cooperatively with 3 meeple colors is a very different strategy, and can be a little hard to get used to.

More Carcassonne

Explore related posts about Carcassonne!

Victory Conditions

Place Every Tile

  • Overall Goal Progress 50% 50%

Goals and Milestones

R

Score at least 40 points.

R

Score at least 50 points.

Q

Score at least 60 points.

Q

Win at least 1 game.

Continue the Conversation

Do you have any memories of playing Carcassonne? What other older board games do you still enjoy solo? I’m glad I finally gave this official solo mode a try, and adding in the expansions has been a lot of fun so far! Not all of them may be suitable, but I’m having a wonderful time and can’t wait to try out some more. Long live this modern classic!

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