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Carcassonne: Tile Analysis

There is no doubt about it, Carcassonne is a legend of the modern era. The tile placing game, designed by Klaus-J├╝rgen Wrede, epitomises everything the modern gaming past-time is about. It is fun. easy to learn, contains interesting mechanics (area control and tile placement in Carcassonne‘s case), and it makes a fantastic after-dinner game, family game, or even entry-level game for all kinds of gamers to love. That being said, Carcassonne tile analysis is no easy task. There are a lot of variations, and analysing the effectiveness of farms is near impossible. That being said, who are we to back away from a challenge?

So, I thought, since I enjoy putting spreadsheets together (that sounds tragic, but I promise you it isn’t), I would analyse the Carcassonne rules and break down the different types of tiles. This kind of Carcassonne tile analysis should help bring to light a few additional strategies for the game, as well as maybe help us see the game in a new light. Maybe.

I don’t imagine this is going to be a very long article, but worth looking at nonetheless.

Carcassonne: Tile Analysis

I love how the Carcassonne rules are written because they lay out all the tiles in the game specifically for players to work out the odds of one kind of tile coming out over another. This made it remarkably easy to analyse, so, with that in mind, let’s look at a table.

Carcassonne Tile Analysis

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The Blue Meeples is on Tile A

So, just to explain the table above – every tile in Carcassonne (the base game) is given a tile reference using the letters of the alphabet. So, for instance, in the image on the right-hand side of this article, the blue meeple is on Tile A. This is because Tile A is a Cloister; however, it also has a Road on it, and it will add to a Farm. This means that, according to the above table, it counts as a Cloister, Road, and Farm tile.

The tile directly next to the blue meeple is tile W, which is both a Road and a Farm tile. I know…it’s not exactly rocket science.

The final question that I can foresee coming up is “What is a Pennant?” because, well…it’s one of the questions I asked when playing the game. A Pennant is a Medieval Shield shape. It refers to the blue shield that is in the top corner of several of the city tiles. Yep…it’s turns out they’re not just called “Shields” – who knew? Who said Board Games can’t teach you something?

Tile Types in Carcassonne

Okay, back to the table, there are two rows at the bottom. The first is “Total Types” and displays the total number of tile types showing that resource. So, for instance, out of the 24 different types of tiles there are 2 that have Cloisters on them. This makes Cloisters the rarest way of getting points in Carcassonne, from sheer weight in tile types. On the flip side, 23 out of 24 tiles contain the possibility of farmland.

Carcassonne Tile Breakdown 1

So, rather unsurprisingly, the second most common tile type is the City tile, followed by the Road tile. This makes Knight and Highwaymen valuable resources in the game.

Next, we see the Pennants coming up, followed finally by the Cloisters. That being said, the Cloisters have the highest potential (straight-up) value of any other tile. It is possible for a City tile to be worth more, but only just. A Cloister is worth 9 points, whereas a city tile that completes two farms, has a Pennant, and completes a city, could be worth 12 points (in theory). That would be plus additional points from the other city tiles (for completing the city) and, could complete a road as well.

Then again, a cloister could connect farmland, opening up more city space, whilst also complete a road…it really is a toss-up.

The difference becomes more evident when we take into account that there are not in fact 24 tiles in the game – there are 72. For this we are looking a cumulative analysis.

Cumulative Carcassonne Tile Analysis

The numbers and ratio slip slightly when we start taking into account multiple tiles, rather than just the types of tiles.

Carcassonne Graph 2

Now we can see that there is only one tile difference between City tiles and Road tiles. this is due to large multiples against the basic Road tiles, whereas the most common City tile is only available four times, and that is only because it includes the starting tile.

The rest of the ratios are as you would expect. The Pennant tiles are still more frequently available within the stack than the Cloister tiles. This is because there are so few Cloister tiles within the stack – only 6/72. That’s every 1/12, compared to 5/36 for the Pennant tiles. Alternatively, there are 3/36 Cloister vs 5/36 Pennant, just to make the numbers comparable.

Raw Points Per Resource Type

Of course, frequency may tell you how many potential tiles there are remaining within the stack; however, it does not tell the potential points for those tiles. Potential points are almost impossible to work out in Carcassonne due to the nature that the majority of potential points rely on circumstance. As mentioned earlier, it is possible to play a city tile to complete a city, farm, and road. That farm may feed any number of cities, that road could be any length – and those only work if you already have meeples on them, or in the city. See? There are around 100,000 different combinations that could present themselves on the table.

So, instead, let’s look at the raw points. These are the maximum potential points for just that tile, without circumstance taken into account. So, in this case, a Cloister is woth 9 points. A City is worth 2 points, with an additional 2 points per Pennant.

When we look at just raw power then you see a graph like this –

Carcassonne Maximum Points Per Resource

As you can see, Farms are not included in the above graph because they rely too much on circumstance. To work out how many cities a single Farm can cater to in Carcassonne you would need to figure out how many maximum cities you could have.

As we can see though, although Road tiles vastly outnumber Cloister tiles, there are more potential points locked up in Cloisters than there are in Roads. That being said, City tiles have the most points locked away. This is because (a) there are more of them and (b) a city tile, in a completed city, with a pennant, is worth 4 points.

Conclusion: Carcassonne Tile Analysis

This is a fairly basic article today, just breaking down the different tiles in Carcassonne. There is nothing too complex; however, what it does show is interesting. Cities really are the bread and butter of both tiles and points in Carcassonne so it is always worth keeping that in mind.

Of course, bread and butter is one thing. Fillings are something completely different. Cloisters, Roads, and Farms all need to be considered in order to win at Carcassonne.

So what do you think? Is this what you expected from the analysis? What is your favourite strategy to use in Carcassonne? Let me know in the comments below.

If you enjoyed reading this
you may also enjoy:
Carcassonne Strategy: Farming the Land

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