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In my experience, cloister tiles in Carcassonne are often "too lucky". If you draw a cloister tile in the beginning of the game, it will typically still require an investment of quite a bit of "meeple" time to obtain the full 9 points, which makes it a fair trade-off. However, after about half of the game, it's relatively likely that you can "parachute" a cloister tile in some spot and get 8 or 9 points immediately. This adds a lot of randomness to the game.

What house rules work well to diminish this effect?

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5  
I've read strategic advice to the effect that Cloisters are abysmal and hardly ever worth playing; and while I wouldn't go that far, I think you overrate them. A late-game Cloister can grab you an easy 6-9 points; however, the same is true for a late-game Farmer in a pasture adjoining 2 or more cities. If it really does drive your group mad when someone gets a bunch of points out of a Cloister in the late game, the solution is fairly simple: avoid leaving lots of Cloister-shaped holes in the terrain! –  thesunneversets Dec 15 '10 at 0:17
    
Reflecting on this question two years after the fact, I think the difference in my and other people's views may partially be caused by using different official versions of the rules. I am (and was) used to the first edition rules; later editions make farms and cities stronger, which alleviates the issue already. –  Erik P. Nov 14 '12 at 19:19

6 Answers 6

up vote 18 down vote accepted

There are a couple of expansions that reduce the usefulness of cloisters. You don't get the points until all the surrounding squares are filled, which is a safe bet in 'vanilla' Carcassonne, but not such a sure thing with expansions. The Tower expansion makes it less attractive to leave meeple on the board for any length of time, because they are sitting ducks for capture by a tower. The Catapult expansion makes it possible to remove Meeple from the board, or replace them with your own. The Princess and the Dragon expansion also encourages Monk removal as dragon-food.

You could ban the 'instant cloister' case, disallowing the dropping of a cloister into a hole for an immediate 9 points. I personally don't find this a huge problem though. You have equivalent 'instant city' and 'instant road' cases. Ultimately, there is quite a lot of luck involved in Carcassonne, by design, I think.

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I don't have bad experiences with cloisters. But if they count too heavy, you can rule that an unfinished cloister counts as 0 points in the end. Which makes it harder to spend too much meeple on them.

Another possible rule is that cloisters must have unique 9 squares, not shared with another cloister.

But use them wise.

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One option that I've used before is to disallow placing cloister tiles in spots where they are adjacent to more than three existing tiles.

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I have never had this experience with Carcassonne either - typically in our games it's more likely that a late-game cloister will be wasted because the player doesn't have the meeples to spare for it.

Even an 8-point late game cloister will be outpaced by a decent sized field, and it will tie up that meeple too.

The other factor that can affect this is experience of the players - experienced folks are wary of creating an easy 9-point-parachute-cloister spot on the board and will avoid it if they can.

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Knowing that cloisters can have this effect is half the battle.

Rather than adding a house rule to a very popular game I would advise you to alter your strategy a bit to account for future cloisters that you may not control.

Examples:

  • Leave a good cloister spot next to an open road that you own.
  • When considering placing a tile between two relatively equal spots determine if one or the other creates a better cloister opportunity.
  • Keep track of how many have been played! If you get down to 10 tiles left and 4 of them are cloisters, make sure you have the meeples available to use them. Alternatively, keep your opponent from freeing his meeples from the board.
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I totally agree. This would be like asking about chess house rules to make the rook less powerful. –  Andrew Vandever Nov 8 '10 at 22:46

You could borrow the "Abbey" idea from the Abbyes and Mayors expansion.

Abbeys are special tiles (6 of them divided equally among all players) which you can play rather than drawing and playing a random tile. The abbey counts as a cloister for scoring and playing a meeple on, and has a solid edge, so that it ends a road, and walls off citys and farms that it borders. Abbeys can only be played in holes - spaces that have tiles on all four sides.

The effect of this is that areas that are prime "gotcha" cloister locations at end game are a little less likely as they either get Abbeys dropped into them, or players shy away from letting such places appear.

Without Abbeys and Mayors, you could allow each player once or twice a game, the option of playing a tile face down in a whole rather as an Abbey than as a normal play, and otherwise following the normal Abbey rules.

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