Granted I've played mostly 2 player games of the City, I've used these same tactics with larger groups with good results (sadly these groups often consisted of teaching new players).
My tactics vary from stack to stack.
1st stack - First, I play all the meeples I can. There is no point in saving your meeples during the first stack. The exception is a residential meeple which I also play at some point in this stack (more on that in a moment). The best candidates for building are open markets (markets that have at least 2 sides to add to) or open roads (roads that have two sides to build onto). If given a choice between an easily closed market and an easily closed road I always take the road since you’re guaranteed 2 points opposed to 1 point for the market. But I’ll play on anything if I have enough meeples (3 or more) and save my meeples when I’m down to 2 for those open roads and market pieces. Playing a lot of meeples comes in handy if you have an opponent who likes to close off everything you start.
This ‘open’ strategy I mentioned above means you need to intelligently place your tiles. With markets that’s fairly easy. Make sure you try and keep your market open for an opportunity to expand it with more colors (or if you’re looking for a quick nine points finish it off before someone else shuts it down). Roads on the other hand should be placed in such a way that you can build on either side. A few road tiles allow this: the right angle road and the straight road. Unless there is an unclaimed dead end road with 2+ tiles on it or you already have an open ended road, you’re better off placing these pieces somewhere open and claiming it as a new road. The image below shows the best placement for tile #1.
I rarely take more than 2 or 3 roads. Though as I write this I wonder about the benefit of building a lot of little 4 tile roads and reaping the 8 points.
Blocking – I spend a lot of time/tiles shutting down other players’ markets and roads during the first stack, this can become quite nasty when your opponent starts to retaliate. You have nothing to lose by shutting down a 1 point market or a 3 point road and most of the time you can (and should if you have the meeples) build on the tile that disrupts your opponents construction (a win-win situation). This prevents other players from laying that 4th tile on their road (a whopping 5 point move) or getting a three colored market (yet another 5 pointer). Sure they score a lot of little points but if you’re placing meeples on your blocking tiles as mentioned above you should be to.
Residential areas – I always take one during the first stack. Usually as early as possible if it meets the criteria. A residential area needs some open space and roads. The roads will allow you to expand the residential (hopefully) before it gets blocked off. If you own the road on your residential (and why don’t you?!) you’ll score points for your road AND add to your residential. Since this is a game where each tile placement rarely nets you more than 2-3 points, this is a great opportunity to score 4 points. But how early is too early to grab a residential?
This example is a 20+ point residential area I took during the 3rd draw of the game. As hard as my opponent tried, they just couldn’t shut down the two roads fast enough. And, since my residential area was on two roads it grew quickly. It was a risky move, but well worth it.
If you’re opponent lays a residential meeple down then it’s up to you to shut it down. I use to do this by laying a lot of roads and still do since you don’t want them laying easy markets like the middle tile in the last example. But I’ve come to realize that roads can be beneficial to a residential area so be careful where you play it. Smart plays of a road tile can be devastating to a residential area. If you look at the image below the tile with the asterisk (*) has just been drawn. Although there are other places to lay this tile down (to the left or right for example) the optimal placement is as shown. This residential area is going down just by placing one tile. Other moves (to the left) would have left the residential open for expansion but cutting off those good market tiles. Now your opponent has no choice but to abandon this residential area as the only tiles remaining (ok I can think of one tile) will force the player to connect the roads. Don’t forget to take this road if you’ve got the meeples. One of my rules is: don’t throw away pieces. Sure you need to shut down your opponent, but don’t forget to score some points for yourself, this is a game small point investment.
Another tactic used to close off a residential area is to build a large market right on your opponent’s property. Make it as big and as long as you can. This takes up valuable real-estate and may seem counter intuitive at first. Make sure you’re using a good open market piece and not laying a lot of little ones thus helping your opponent out.
As the first stack winds down make sure you get a meeple back. If your opponent is aggressive this shouldn’t be a problem. If you didn’t start the first stack finish anything that is easy to complete, your opponent will be looking for something to finish on their next turn in order to build the city gate.
2nd stack – If you started first then this is your chance to finish something and lay the gate. Do it and do it close or on an opponent’s residential area. If you can cut off a player’s market or road while you’re doing this, more power to you.
Since this is the second stack it’s time to build some walls. The hardest part of wall building, at least for a 2 player, is counting the walls. Learn to count the walls and not set other players up on their next turn to take some awesome row with a meeple sentry. This is done when they can lay their last wall down right in front of a great row, finish something on their next turn, then take the row with their first wall. Like I said, this is crucial for two player games, I’d be interested in how to handle it with more players.
Don’t be afraid to take a long row right in the beginning even if it only has 6 points (or *gasp* 4 points). It’s an investment that you can build on later by tossing useless pieces that contain houses or landmarks, and since the other side of the row is far from the wall being built, you’ll have this row until the second stack or the end of the game. If you’re lucky (or good) you’ve got a residential area on your sentry row and that’s having the same effect as roads on your residential area as mentioned above.
You’re still building now but a little more conservatively. You want to save a meeple or two for any new residential areas or rows. Did I mention you need to learn to count walls? You have to be careful what you finish. If there are some great rows coming up that are positioned for your opponent to set themselves up for, then you’re going to have to weigh your options. If you’ve got more meeples then don’t worry about finishing anything. Build big and annoy your opponents. Throw roads into their markets and residential areas. Try to take over their big construction by making a connection (This also forces them to finish your attempted connection giving you an opportunity for a setup). If you’re down to your last meeple you’ll have to weigh the benefits of possibly giving up that row to your opponent. If there are no good rows in the near future I consider using all my meeples if I know I can get one back quickly. If the rows are really bad, consider building another residential area if your other one is getting crowded.
3rd stack – You’ve just learned how to count the walls during the second stack, now it’s time to relearn when your opponents and you are laying more than one or two walls.
If you’re playing a two player game, walls can be a lot of points with a tower and they’re not to shabby in games with more players. This means you’ll want to finish off any of your opponents construction when you get a ‘throw away’ tile or a good open construction tile. If your opponent has something big and nasty like a long road or a huge market, you might want to finish them now. They might get 12 points, but if you can tower a seven point wall then you minimize your loss and their gain (mini-max anyone?). Finish your stuff as quickly as possible but not setting your opponent up to finish it for you unless the stack is getting low or you’re going to score more points for the construction than your opponent. Finishing your own construction reaps you the points and a tower.
At this point you should have been going neck and neck with your opponent’s rows or residential areas by building your own rows or residential areas. When they take an 8 point row, don’t pass up that 6 point row/residential area just because it doesn’t live up to your high standards, you’re trying to break even with your opponent and taking the advantage when it arises.
Don’t build anything that is easy to finish! You’re just giving your opponent points when they finish your 3 point road or your 1 point market. If it’s not open market or road (and that can be risky at this point in the game) then you don’t want it.
Build residential areas. As the city gets cramped from walls, a residential area can easily take off as your opponent is forced to add to it. It can also become easily closed, so make sure you’re getting some points for your meeple, 8 + points is perfectly worth it (6 points if you’ve got a lot of meeples, but what have you been doing?!).
And this is usually what happens during the third stack, you end up building a ton of little residential areas and nothing else. Make sure you try and finish off any remaining towers and invest all of your meeples, any that are left over at the end of the game are not scoring you any points (unless you’re playing with a variant).
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. A lot of games I’ve played with regular players who share my tactics are close (no more than 10 points) and I’ve tied quite a few times. As a side note, a flaw in the game with two players is the blow-out factor that occasionally happens. I attribute this to the luck of the tile draws, but my opponents are usually using my same tactics against me, so I should be flattered.
Keep in mind this is a game of tile investment. Don’t put a tile on a huge three colored market just because you can. Is the three points you gain from placing the tile on the market better put somewhere else for 4 or 5 points?
Each piece should be scoring you points. There are times you’ll throw a piece away when blocking an opponent’s market or residential, but there shouldn’t be many. Play your meeples on these tiles if you’ve got them or add them to some current construction/residential/row.
IF there are any Carc: City fanatics in the Denver metro area (or game fans in general) or anyone who needs web design work feel free to contact me.
- Last edited Mon Jan 9, 2006 12:49 am (Total Number of Edits: 6)
- Posted Sun Jan 8, 2006 7:48 pm
Nice job - a well put together strategy article and very useful. I play all the Carcs and have played a little 2 player City with my wife (usually 3 player with my son and wife). If you ever write articles for the other Carcs I'll be sure to check them out. I'm also in the Denver area!
Great article; lots of food for thought. My comment is in 3-4 player games, is blocking always the superior move? It would seem there are times when joining or cooperating on building features is strictly better, esp. when you are joining a feature with another player who is not the leader.
For example, you are player A with a 2-square road (2 points), and player B has a 2-square road (2 points). You draw a tile that joins them into a 5-square road (adds a whopping 8 points each) -- this is definitely worth playing if say player C/D are leading or even if you are just level with them. Also in future turns, both your and player B's interests become aligned on the road and there is double the chance either of you could draw tiles that extend the road (with the usual caveat that an extension would likely only be laid if it benefits the player in some other way, as an extra 2 points by itself is not a big deal).
I find that this tension between competition and cooperation in 3+ player games of Carcassonne to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of the game.