The best games like Carcassonne to feed your tile-flipping fixation.
Sorry, Carcassonne, but there’s nothing left in your tile pile to titillate us. Those myriad expansions seemed unending, but our patience to pay for yet another flavor of monastery has finally expired. The good news is that if, like us, your fervor for flipping cardboard squares hasn’t been dampened, there are plenty of stack-stuffed games out there that’ll have you turning tiles with glee once more. Here are our picks for the best board game like Carcassonne.
The best board games like Carcassonne
To help you sift through the games below, we’ve marked each one based on how similar and different they are to the classic box’s core gameplay, or the flipping familiarities and contrasts to Carcassonne, respectively. We’ve drawn the options, but whether you slot them into your collection is up to you.
Between Two Cities
Flipping Familiarities: You’ll be laying randomly drawn tiles into shared city spaces.
Carcassonne Contrast: You need to build two separate cities at once, sharing space with the players on either side of you.
Laying it all out: There’s a careful art to the collaboration of Carcassone’s sprawling cities. Everyone involved agrees to shape a shared empire before desperately scrambling to screw each other over and snipe control in the closing placements. Between Two Cities understands this premise well, asking you to collaborate with the players on either side of you to lay down tiles and establish a mutual metropolis. Link together houses with shopping malls or forge a smog-laden mass of factories -- it’s your choice, but the path to mega points must be paved together.
Between Two Cities is ostensibly cooperative. The catch, however, is that you’ll only score for your lower-ranking city, and only one single winner will prevail. As such, you’re encouraged not to push one too far ahead of the other. Yes, this park would complete the ideal set in our paradise, but it’s not going to earn me any points thanks to that disaster I’ve got going on the other side. Sorry, Leftfield Village, but I can’t afford to invest in you! As a result, you’ll also need to practice smooth-talking your partners into adding their highest-scoring tiles to your cities rather than that travesty of a town across the table.
Flipping Familiarities: The aim is to link up matching area types into wide and high-scoring zones.
Carcassonne Contrast: You’re building alone and against the clock, so no piggybacking off someone else’s efforts!
Laying it all out: Wizards are best known for tossing fireballs hither and thither, but if they really existed, we’d probably find their powers put towards far more mundane pursuits like construction. The good news is that if Sorcerer City is to be believed, arcane architecture is an awful lot of fun. Each year, wizards of this cardboard world compete to conjure the most impressive city district. Played against the clock, Sorcerer City challenges everyone to simultaneously flip and place tiles from their personal stack, aligning them to develop connected zones of color that reward with a plethora of resources.
Aside from casting big spells, wizards are also big spenders. How do you think Gandalf gets all those fancy fireworks? The grey wanderer’s made of money. Between rounds, players can expand their tile collections by purchasing from a shared marketplace, opening up new scoring opportunities or bonuses. Oh, and you did make sure to prepare for monster attacks, right? Where there are wizards, dragons and chimeras are sure to follow, after all. On second thought, perhaps it's best that magic doesn’t actually exist -- we dread to think how many Great Fires of London would have been caused by Hogwarts students after a heavy night out.
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
Flipping Familiarities: Fields, roads, and castles will all pop up as you expand your empire on this tiny Scottish rock.
Carcassonne Contrast: You’re building solo again, but before placing anything, everyone will need to sell their own tiles while bidding for the ones they’re after.
Laying it all out: Skye is not a big island. Crucially, though, it is the biggest among Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. And in Medieval times, that meant someone needed to own it. In Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, each player aims to put their tartan-clad lord in charge of this realm in miniature. Given the limited space and population, these chiefs have sensibly agreed to ditch war in favor of a competition to craft the prettiest and best-planned fiefdom of lakes, farmland, and roads. It’s basically a model village competition in the 1200s.
Players piece together their idyllic homes tile-by-tile to meet an expanding (and randomly chosen) set of scoring criteria. The looks may match, but this is a far more mentally taxing contest than Carcassonne. You’ll be dealt two tiles at the start of each turn, but you can’t just take them. Instead, everyone secretly assigns a coin value to their pair. Prices are revealed, and it’s up to players to decide if they want to purchase what everyone else is offering. Fail to sell your own tiles, and you’ll have to cough up the cost to a central bank. This means that in addition to planning and placing well, you’ll also need to read what your rival chieftains are in need of.
Flipping Familiarities: Build up a communal land as you snatch and share rewards through careful tile placement.
Carcassonne Contrast: Your workers are already on the tiles themselves, making position and alignment all the more important.
Laying it all out: If you ask us, trading chocolate for money is a clear downgrade, but we’re not going to argue with the masterful harvesters of Cacao. Aiming to cultivate and market the fruit of the gods for financial profit, players in Cacao take turns contributing worker tiles to a burgeoning land of foliage. The jungle, like space, abhors a vacuum. Any gaps which could link two worker tiles together must be filled immediately with one of two revealed jungle tiles. As such, Cacao’s map quickly develops into a gorgeously green grid of interlaced worker and jungle tiles as turns progress.
The bountiful mass of trees hidden in the jungle stack can yield cacao farming fields, gold-producing mine shafts, temples to worship, and more. Whether it’s their turn or not, anyone with workers adjacent to the newly placed segment will reap the rewards. Position smartly and you can piggyback off rivals to build up a store of tasty brown seeds before selling them en masse for maximum profit. Cacao comes the closest to Carcassonne’s chilled flip-and-place gameplay, rarely asking you to plan more than a single turn ahead. But it plants that system into a bed of point-scoring opportunities which nurture much-needed life in the formula.
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Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface, or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.