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Center Scoreboards with River Bonus Features

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We learned about the Bards fan expansion in a recent Carcassonne Central forum thread, and it sparked our interest!

Each Bards fan expansion tile allows a player to tag a single feature with a bonus similar to the Inns and Cathedrals expansion, 1 point bonus per tile when the feature is scored, but, the tag has to be placed for the next player.

Over 60% of all Carcassonne games are played with only two players, so there is a reasonable chance that the tagging player could get the bonus.  In a four player game, the chances will be close to zero!

So, we decided to make up our own house rules for the four or more player games that we play each week.  Since we play with four or more players, we always use one of the Center Scoreboards that we created:

And we made up our own house rules for creating the Bards bonus features.  We do not use the bards tiles, but we start off each game with a scoreboard with 2, 3, or 4 Rivers, and combine all of the River 1 and River 2 tiles into a random stack.  As each player plays a random river tile, if the tile they are playing does NOT contain a feature on which they can place a meeple, the player is allowed to select any unoccupied feature on the rivers or the center scoreboard and place a 1 point bonus marker on it.  If we are not playing that game with Gold Ingots or Ferries, that is what we use for plus 1 point markers. When a random player selects and plays the River Tile that closed the last river, if that closing tile does not also have the River 2 city feature, they can place another 1 point marker if they want, and then the next player is the first player who can choose to expand one of the 1 point bonus features.

There are 5 standard River 1 and 2 tiles that do not have features on them, plus 4 source and termination river tile without features, and, if house rules allow it, 3 tiles with only a Monastery or Garden in the center of the tile.  When the last river is closed, there will be a random number of river tiles still unplaced, so, depending on that day’s house rules there could be up to 9 or 12 bonus features available for each player as the random normal tile game starts.

Almost all of our games include the Inns and Cathedrals expansion, so having additional features with 1 point bonuses during the game, that are worth zero if unfinished at the end of the game is something we are already used to.   The additional Bards rule that multiple 1 point bonus can be added to the same feature makes the scoring even more interesting!


Well. Than you will love Bards of Carcassonne, because it brings a lot of bonuses to the game. Original rules allows to stack bonuses per city, so it can be very interesting to score city/road/field with multiple note tokens placed on feature.

The Bards of Carcassonne thread is exactly why we came up with the Center Scoreboard River Bonus.  60% of all Carcassonne games are played with only two players. The actual rules for the Bards say that the player who draws the Bards tile has to place the Bard on one of its unoccupied features, then than player cannot claim the Bard feature.  In a two player game, the player who places the Bard token will still have a reasonable chance to claim the feature.

All of our games are four or more players, so the chance of claiming the feature that you placed a Bard on is extremely low after three or more players get their chance first.

We love the idea of adding points to features, like the Inns and Cathedrals Expansion, so we are adapting the way we start games with our Center Scoreboards and Rivers to find a way to also start the actual after-river tiles to claim the Bard Expanded features.

Aha!  Players are constrained to place meeples on river tiles until the river is (randomly) completed, at which time it will be possible to start claiming the bonuses, making this more fair in 4-player games than placing the bonuses during the game.  This also should help to cluster meeples around the (large) scoreboard start tile, promoting player interaction, which is one reason I tend not to love the River or the various large start tiles.  Very nice!

I was not following the Bards thread, so I'm also grateful for this simply summary of the concept.  Interesting.

+1 merit from me for this simple and clever variant!

The bonuses can also be placed on the river tiles themselves. The basic game River 1 tiles include a tile that has 2 cities, a tile that has a city and a road edge, and a monetary tile with a road edge. The River 2 tiles include one tile that has a city and a road edge. The two city edge tile has a special bridge that connects both cities into one city.

So, especially if you are not playing with Phantoms, there could be unoccupied features on already played river tiles when you draw a no-feature tile for placing a bonus marker.

Life is fun when you make up house rules!

But, YES, none of the bonus features can be claimed until the last river is terminated, and then it is the next random player who gets to grab the first bonus.


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