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Carcassonne Strategy: Farming the Land

Carcassonne – a beautiful town in northern France, known for its spectacular fairytale castle, rolling hills, and beautiful evergreen forests. Each year hundreds of thousands of tourists flock there for the idyllic fantasy-esque getaway.

It is also a board game based on that town, designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, and arguably one of the most iconic games of all times. Hundreds of thousands of people play it each year and agree…yes…it’s pretty good.

Last week, we had a crack at looking at Carcassonne strategy as a whole – however, there were certain things we didn’t look at. This includes the focus of this article, farms, due to their nature within the game. Farms are a tricksy and difficult strategy within Carcassonne as they can be seen as being somewhat all or nothing. They aren’t necessarily guaranteed to provide any points at all, so they deserved their own article to explore what can be done about them.

With that in mind, the farm strategy has become considered as the riskiest strategy in the Carcassonne repertoire. They have caused many a problem for Carcassonne players worldwide, and are universally recognised as being more difficult to master than any of the other ways of scoring points. They are not simply “place a tile and score”. So, let’s take a look at farms and how to use them in a Carcassonne strategy.

Knight, Knight, Farmer, Monk - The Farm Strategy in Action

Knight, Knight, Farmer, Monk – The Farm Strategy in Action

How To Score Points With Farms

The first thing to really get to grips with is how precisely farms are scored within Carcassonne. Firstly, they are not entirely self-contained, like with cities or roads. Instead, they bear more resemblance to cloisters (monasteries) in how they behave. They rely on other tiles coming to fruition.

Farms gain points per completed city they can supply. This means they rely on cities being built and completed for starters; however, they are also reliant on others not getting in on your farm action. If two players, throughout the course of the game, begin to share a farm with equal numbers of farmers apiece, then they both get the points. If, however, one player manages to get more farmers then they take all the points accumulated by that farm. Why is this risky? Once you place a farmer you cannot remove and replace it throughout the game. Unlike cloisters, roads, and cities, a farm can never be considered complete. This means – if you place a farmer then they are stuck there until the end of the game.

How To Maximise Farming In Carcassonne

In order to make the most out of farms in Carcassonne, it is important to maximise the resources available. This means maximising each tile put down, whether that be as a road, as a city, or as a cloister.

Leveraging Cities

The key to scoring with farms is to supply lots of cities, and for this, one strategy is building lots of smaller cities close together. If you, as the player, build a host of small cities then it is possible to score on these (it specifically states in the rules that it is possible to place a city tile, place a knight, and score that knight in the same turn) whilst also building up the prowess of a farm.

Building lots of small cities within a plot of land will make it more attractive for others to try and get in on the farming business; however, it also makes the potential take so much more. The larger the risk, the larger the reward.

Two player game of Carcassonne with a farm strategy.

Two farms divided by a road (note the unremoved meeples in the background on the smaller city…oops). Note that cities are worth the same in Carcassonne, no matter their side

Be Aware of Other Players

It’s important to be vigilant of people encroaching on your farm. It is a common tactic for players to build one tile away, place a farmer, and then close the gap in their next turn. This allows them to share the glory in your beautiful farmland that you have been building the whole game so far. Where this isn’t the end of the world, as everyone with equal meeples takes points, it does further their goal whilst not really advancing yours. If you get points, and they get the same number of points, then that is a net gain of nothing. Your work (so far) would have been kind of worthless, and that is somewhat disheartening. It is also the best case scenario should that happen.

The worst case scenario is that they do it twice or three times and outnumber your farmers. If this happens then a real decision needs to be made. If you can spare the meeples for the points and incoming war, then you can fight them by using the same tactic to double your farmer power. This works well if you manage to see what they are doing, with planning to enter more farmers into the void early enough in the escalation. If you can beat them to the punch, then they may change their mind. This should only be done if you can spare the meeples. To be frank, the closer you are to the end of the game the more worthwhile it is.

Otherwise, know when to cut your losses. Sometimes it is better to lose the meeple and focus on getting points elsewhere.

Yes, sometimes the best farm strategy is to give up on farms altogether.

Build Yourself In

Of course, to avoid the possibility for other players to be able to encroach on your territory, there are several things you can do. First and foremost, roads and castle/city walls can be used like fences to a farm. They can be used to create boundaries, and where this will limit expansion possibility, strategic placement will stop opponents from taking over your farm (think of it a little bit like the fences in Agricola).

Secondly, is possible to use them to define one, two or three walls to the farm. This limits where the opponents can place to try and take over your farm. Keeping the opponents limited to approaching from one angle makes it easier for you to cut them out. Alternatively, it could mean they may decide it is not worth it at all. All the while, keep in mind the meta-game. The meta-game could mean the difference between another player antagonising you and pressing upon your farm, or it could be them deciding upon another strategy and moving elsewhere.

Of Course, You Could Do The Opposite

This article so far has taken the position of assuming that you want to be some kind of farming guru – that you want to forge your own agricultural strategy in the world of Carcassonne. Yet, this may not be the case. Instead, there is a whole strategy around taking control of farms once other players have built them up.

This strategy depends entirely on how competitive your gaming table is. If you like to keep a relaxed air then this may not be the strategy for you. It is likely to annoy a few people, especially those who have spend their time building up a farm. If, however, you have a competitive table then this is certainly a way to not only gain points but stifle other players.

The strategy? Simple. Really simple actually. Over the course of a couple of turns, place two meeples exactly one tile away from the farm you want to take over. Then, over the following two turns, connect the gaps.

What this does is give you a stranglehold on that farm. The odds are you will outnumber the original farmer. Unless they step up their game, they will have wasted a meeple for nothing. They will need to commit at least one more farmer to the field, two more if they don’t want you to take any points, and so it is a win-win situation for you as the intrusive player. You either get points or force your opponent to waste an additional meeple.

This probably isn’t worth doing for low scoring farms, but if it gets to the point of it being an eight to twelve pointer then that is a significant difference at the end of the game.

It’s aggressive, but all is fair in love and Carcassonne.

So, there we have it, a few hints (okay, about 1200 words) of farm strategy in Carcassonne. These almost certainly aren’t the only farm strategies, but they should be enough to start anyone off.

What do you think? What are your favourite strategies to use in Carcassonne? Let me know in the comments below.

If you enjoyed reading this
you may be interested in:
Carcassonne Strategy: The Basics (Hints and Tips)

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