15 February 2017 Carcassonne

The Circus is Coming to Carcassonne

From far and wide, people flock to the big red tent that travels across the countryside.

From far and wide, people flock to the big red tent that travels across the countryside. Drawn by whispers of exotic animals and high-flying performers, some of these onlookers might even be tempted to leave their normal lives behind and join the show themselves. A new world of excitement awaits them in Under the Big Top, the tenth expansion for legendary tile-laying game Carcassonne! ​

Capturing the thrill of the circus, Under the Big Top incorporates twenty new land tiles and two new types of meeples into the Carcassonne library. This new expansion allows players to attract people from all over to view their menagerie of animals or witness death-defying stunts of acrobatic skill. And just like the daring risks taken by circus performers, Under the Big Top provides players opportunities to score big points… if they can draw in the crowds, that is.

The Greatest Show on Earth

The big top is the circus’ main attraction and that’s no exception in Under the Big Top. Much of the expansion centers on clustering groups of meeples around the new tiles with the hope of scoring big points when their features are scored. Using the twelve new Circus tiles, players are rewarded for gathering their meeples around the new big top figure.

As soon as a Circus tile is placed, a facedown Animal token is placed on it and the big top is placed over this token. When another circus tile is played, each player scores points equal to the number of their meeples on the circus tile or the eight tiles surrounding it, multiplied by the number on the Animal token. If this token ends up being the rare elephant, you’ll score big!

The elephant is worth seven points per meeple on surrounding tiles. In this case, the blue player would score seven points and the red player would score a whopping twenty-one points!

Balancing Act

Similarly, the acrobats also try to entertain their audience. The eight Acrobat tiles included in the expansion feature two spaces for regular meeples who wish to become acrobats. But there’s not much exciting about two meeples standing next to each other. Not until a third meeple stands on their shoulders and forms a meeple pyramid, that is!

When an Acrobat tile is placed, there are two options. A meeple can be placed on a road or in a field, like a normal, everyday meeple. And just like the standard meeples in the Carcassonne base game, this meeple will eventually score you points. But that very same meeple could instead become an acrobat—and score you even more points—by partnering with two other meeples to perform amazing stunts in front of an appreciative audience.

After a meeple is placed in an acrobat space, additional meeples of any color can join them when placing a tile adjacent to an Acrobat tile (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally). Stack a third meeple on the shoulders of the first two and the pyramid is complete! After showing off their skills for a while, the meeple acrobats can end their performance if a player chooses to score the pyramid instead of placing a meeple on their turn. Once this happens, each meeple in the pyramid scores its owner five points and is then ready to be placed again.

Joining the Circus

The circus brings all sorts of colorful characters to town. From jugglers to strongmen to clowns, there’s no shortage of skilled performers to thrill the crowd or make them laugh. Along with the two new types of tiles, Under the Big Top brings its own new character to the world of Carcassonne: the ringmaster!

Despite the name, this special meeple leads a pretty ordinary life… at first. The ringmaster can be used just like any other meeple, helping to score points for completed features like roads, cities, monasteries, and fields. But once the circus comes to town, the ringmaster has bigger plans.

The ringmaster gains some special scoring abilities when the new tiles come into play. Unlike regular meeples, ringmasters score an additional two points for each Circus or Acrobat tile they are adjacent to or on when that feature is scored. A well-placed ringmaster, then, could net a wealth of extra points when scoring a basic feature.

Enter the Big Top

The air is full of excitement as the tent goes up. It brings with it a whole new dimension to the world of Carcassonne. Who will put on the best show and draw the biggest crowd? Under the Big Top will be available in the US soon!