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Whenever I play with my housemates and friends, Carcassonne often becomes 'farm wars'; everyone who understands the nuances of farm play gets caught up in playing meeple (or as I call them, 'dudes') whether or not it helps, as we know how much of a game winner it can be.

Often it results in everyone wasting 2-3 farmers when someone gets the super farm at the end, or players who don't place a farmer dude seriously lagging behind. It wouldn't be so bad if we didn't always get one large farm that everyone goes for.

How do we avoid the trap of focusing on farms too much? (would house rules help us out?)

We're using the third edition scoring rules and no expansions.

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I'm surprised you seem to be finding that "winning the big farm" is the only way to win your Carcassonne games. My intuition would have been that if all but one of the players were fighting over the big farm, the player who was doing other things instead would be the hot favourite to win. –  thesunneversets Dec 20 '11 at 10:27

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

There are a couple of expansions I think could help, as well as some strategery. First, expansions:

The River II tends to at least break the board up into 2 or 3 big farms, if not lots of smaller ones.

Abbey & Mayor adds a Barn piece that can really change the way fields are played.

I think the dragon from The Princess & the Dragon might play in here as well, but I haven't ever actually played that expansion, and it doesn't appeal to me generally.

Inns & Cathedrals can really beef up city and road scoring, rendering farms less important.

Other expansions could also help simply by adding tiles. Since more players means fewer tiles per player, adding more tiles can hold off the farm rush a bit. Adding other scoring mechanisms also helps de-emphasize farms.

Now for strategy:

Push for big cities. In general, my friends and I tend to fight over big cities, with some scoring over 30 points. Cities score more points this way than as field consumers, so if you exclusively focused on this while your friends exclusively focused on fields, you'd win every time. In reality, putting meeples on fields too early in the game tends to cripple players from playing on cities and cloisters, so take advantage and "share" their cities once they are out of meeples to fight back.

Make little fields pockets. If you spot an area where there are going to be three or four cities, try to isolate it and own it with just one farmer. This happens all the time in games I play, and is really annoying to be left out of.

Toward the end of the game, it's natural for everybody to start going for the big fields, but picking the right moment to really start pushing for this is part of strategy, so just enjoy it. If you are playing with 4 or 5 players, you have many fewer tiles per player than with 2 or 3, so farm rushing happens earlier. One possible way to take advantage is to just try to share in lots of features, rather than winning all of them. If you share every other players big cities or farms, you will do better than if you try to hoard the features to yourself. Obviously this is not true in a 2-player game, and not as true in a 3-player game.

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I'm surprised by your first suggestion, we've stopped playing with the River I expansion largely because we've found that when the rules about wrapping farms around the source and lake are enforced it tends to produce one giant farm, and that the person who goes first has a significant advantage on that one farm. –  Gregor Dec 19 '11 at 19:26
    
The River II helps this by splitting the river in two, and having one of the lakes attach directly to a city. I suppose how the roads end up laid becomes a big factor in either case, and now that I think about it I do remember this being a big problem with the original River, but I think River II works out much better. –  Andrew Vandever Dec 19 '11 at 22:03
    
I think another part of this is that if someone tries to take a farm that early in the game I almost always respond by trying to cut it off and build away from it rather than steal it. A six-point farm that someone put a meeple on in their first turn is a real let-down, and discourages people from doing the same thing next time. –  Andrew Vandever Dec 19 '11 at 22:06
    
+1 A nice analysis of the different expansions. I would also question the river I suggestion, but the river II tends to break up the farmland more. The dragon definitely discourages/prevents early farming. It tends to migrate towards high scoring farmers, as they can't run away! –  tttppp Dec 20 '11 at 8:56
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I was going to say that it's not exactly pandering, really just revising. Then I realized I hadn't up-voted yet, but after the edit I'm happy to. So, pandering it is, +1! –  Gregor Dec 22 '11 at 3:55

The way to fight the "big farm" problem is to break it up -- play road and city tiles aggressively to close it off where you can. Failing that, you have to join the crowd and have more meeples than anyone else in the end, which I agree is hard and kind of a waste.

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I have played plenty of games that ended up with a lot of points being scored by the person who owns the largest farm. Having said that I've played plenty of games where either that person didn't win, or where the game ended with several smaller farms (and consequently the game didn't hinge on this).

One important consideration is what rule set you are playing. The old system for farming gave four points per city to whoever had the most farmers supplying it. The new system gives three points per owned farmland per adjacent city. In my experience the old rules ended up with a giant farm more often than the new rules. I think this is largely due to the scoring "per owned farmland" in the new rules.

A second consideration is stage of the game. The game is designed in such a way that farming is meant to be lucrative. The issue is timing. You don't want to invest your meeples in farming too early, as they cannot then score points elsewhere. You don't want to wait too late, otherwise you will find all the good farmland is owned.

A third contributor to emphasis on farming is the expansions being used. We regularly use the inns and cathedrals expansion, and this often means that players are focused for the main part of the game trying to gain ownership of a large cathedral city. A city that is worth three points per tile cannot easily be ignored. What's more, if the city is completed, then the owner gets their meeples back, and can still choose to invest them in farming at a later point.

So in short I would suggest playing the new ruleset (if you aren't already) and using an expansion such as inns and cathedrals. Maybe the suggestion to draw from my second point is that farming is a part of the game, but it's not the only part.

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Great answer. Bonus points for pushing 3rd edition rules, and bringing up the distinction. :) –  Andrew Vandever Dec 19 '11 at 18:38

I play 1-2 games per week and play with 10 expansions. This usually results in HUGE farms where, with the additon of the barn and pig farm tile, frequently makes the farm land worth 125+ points.

The last few games, by sliming farmers onto the huge barn land, taking one pint per city (plus one for the pig, and one for the pig farm, per farm) have had scores over 1000 points!

It's getting so bad that completing cities and roads are meaningless when you can slime onto a farm and get 60 points in two turns.

We toyed with the idea of making fences... Something that could be deployed similar to a bridge, but instead of joining farms, it would block them... Haven't figured out the details on that one yet....

I think that using the city of carcasonne as the starting tiles is part of the problem. The three city sections that are part of Carcassonned allow farm land to flow between them and carc, and the three road sections are trivial to get around using bridges.

Another idea we had was to encourage smaller farms by scoring out farms that become completely enclosed. If a farm can no longer grow, you get your dude back and the farm is immediately scored out. Not sure how well that would work.

Playing another game tonight so well see if we can come up with a solution...

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Hi Snow, welcome to the site! Right now your answer reads more like a discussion, thought it does have some useful points to it. Could you head over to the faq if you've not already, then come back and slim down you response, so it answers the original question? Perhaps if you highlight exactly how you tackle big farms, and not just a discussion about them? –  Pureferret Jan 20 '12 at 23:20

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