There’s many a reason why Carcassonne is such an award winning game and known by board game fans across the world. The classic design and ease of playing the base game, combined with a huge number of expansions makes it an incredibly varied game that works for all ages and skill levels. Despite all the expansions and standalone versions what has been missing until now though is a co-operative version of the game. Well, at least that was the case until Mists over Carcassonne came along.
What is a cooperative game?
I’ll be totally honest and say that the answer to this questions wasn’t totally obvious to me when I started my venture into board games. Whilst in most regular games you compete against other players, a co-operative game is one in which you are trying to win against the game itself. You work as a team together – quite a novelty when you’re usually trying to beat people. One of the most famous cooperative games (even before Covid!) is Pandemic in which players are working together to try to save the world from a deadly pandemic that is sweeping across it.
In a cooperative game you all win, or you all lose. And there’s generally less falling out – regardless of the outcome.
Mists over Carcassonne Overview
The basics of Mists over Carcassonne play very much like the regular game of Carcassonne in that players take turns in laying land tiles, joining up roads and cities as they do so. Where the game differs is that some of the land tiles contain mist. Mist can cover fields or roads, but never cities. Ghosts (in the physical form of incredibly cute little ghost maples) live in the mists and you must try to pacify the ghosts during the game.
There are six different levels to Mists over Carcassonne which get increasingly more difficult. Each level has a different goal score that you have to try to reach. The main aim is that you need to reach your goal score without running out of tiles or ghost meeples.
Players have “guard meeples” which are placed on roads or cities as normal meeples are in the regular game of Carcassonne. You can think of these as being like regular meeples and this is how you score in the game.
The starting tile in Mists over Carcassonne is a large 2×2 sized tile which contains two city sections, road sections emerging from the mists and two different mist areas with ghosts in them. When you start the game you need to place ghost meeples on these ghosts.
Placing Mist and Ghosts
When placing a new tile in Mists over Carcassonne you obviously need to make sure that all roads and cities line up, but you also need to think about any mist. Mist covered roads or fields can be placed next to other roads or fields that do not have mist. If you do that though it does mean that a mist bank can never be finished. And finishing, or closing, a mist bank is one way of removing ghosts from the game. As you only have a maximum of 15 ghost meeples (and actually play with less in higher levels) clearing ghosts is incredibly important.
When you place a tile containing mist you also need to place ghosts on it. The general rule is that you place as many ghost meeples as there are ghost symbols on the tile, but, if you have extended an existing mist bank, then you actually place one fewer than there are symbols. In this case, if the tile shows only a single ghost then you don’t have to place any ghost meeples.
Should you run out of available ghosts to place then you immediately lose the game.
You can never place a guard meeple in the mist. They can be placed on road or in a city on a tile that also contains mist, but not on a road that is in the mist. Usual rules apply to not placing a meeple on a road or in a city that already has a meeple on or in it. There are no farmer meeples in Mists over Carcassonne.
Level 1 – getting acquainted with the game
The first level of Mists over Carcassonne is relatively simple – especially in comparison to the later levels. All you need to do is score 50 points before you run out of tiles or ghosts. Points are scored collaboratively, so you simply choose a meeple of a colour you’re not using as the scoring meeple. All 15 ghost meeples are used and all the land tiles are simply in one pile.
Thinking cleverly about how you can maximise scoring on cities is important in this collaborative game. As all players score together it can be possible to have two or more of you all scoring on the same city if you happen to place meeples on city tiles that end up joining together. Until we had cracked how to do this on as many cities as possible it was hard to progress through the game.
Level 2 – castles and cemeteries
This is where the game starts to get more complicated – mainly through the introduction of castles and cemeteries. The castles are a bit like monasteries in the main game, but with the twist that you only score the tiles around it (when all 9 are in place) that have mist on them. Cemeteries however are far more complicated and start messing with ghosts.
When you first draw a cemetery tile, you just play it as normal making sure that roads are connected. That cemetery is then considered open and it stays open until tiles have been laid on all four sides of it. Whilst there is an open cemetery in play you need to add a ghost to it each time that you have to add at least one ghost to any piece of mist that is played. If there is more than one cemetery open at a time you can choose which cemetery to add ghosts to each time you have to add one.
When all fours sides of a cemetery have been connected up with new tiles you are able to close a cemetery. You do so by taking a meeple from somewhere else on the board and “burying” it in the cemetery. i.e. lying a meeple down there. You can then remove all ghosts from that cemetery and return them to your ghost meeple pool.
Cemeteries can make the game incredibly tricky and on many occasions we found ourselves running out of ghosts very fast once a cemetery was open. It seems that thinking very very carefully about where you initially place a cemetery so that you can close it quickly can really help your game.
The other challenge in Level 2 is that you now need to score 75 points to win. It’s fair to say that this took us a while to master. Mainly due to those pesky cemeteries!
Levels 3 and 4 – releasing the hounds
The intermediate Mists over Carcassonne levels introduce the idea of splitting your land tiles so that you have to reach certain scores by the time you are a prescribed number of tiles into the game. Getting past this really can be all dependent on the order that the tiles are drawn.
The other new twist is Hounds that can help you pacify ghosts in the game. Once you’ve reached a certain point on the scoring track a hound is released. This involves placing a hound token next to a non-buried meeple on the playing board. This allows you to move a number of ghosts from adjacent tiles. It takes a few plays with the hounds to fully understand how you can maximise their effect. As you approach a certain score marker on the scoring track you really need to make sure you have a meeple in a convenient position on the board so that you can add a hound to it. Otherwise you risk just wasting the hound’s powers.
Once you’ve mastered the power of the hounds in level 3, level 4 has you playing with less ghost meeples and also having to reach higher scores before you can release the hounds or win the game.
Levels 5 and 6 – haunted cemeteries and separate scoring
We’ve not yet managed to even reach levels 5 and 6 of Mists over Carcassonne yet and I hope that tells you something about how challenging the game is, rather than about our playing ability!
By level 5 the cemeteries have become haunted and need to be surrounded by 8 tiles before you can close them. But, to add to the complication, cemeteries also play very differently. When you lay a cemetery down you have to add a ghost to each surrounding tile that has mist on it – even if that mist bank is already finished! That isn’t all though.
Haunted cemeteries cause you to lose tiles. This happens by players having to draw an additional tile face down if there is at least one open haunted cemetery in play. That face down tile is then placed adjacent to the open cemetery. It doesn’t matter what it is next to as it just means that feature is not finished. These face down tiles only count towards closing the haunted cemetery.
Level 6 adds a further twist in that each player now score separately. Yes, you read that correctly, Mists over Carcassonne is still a cooperative game, but in level 6 you need all players to reach a goal, and also all players to have reached certain scores to be able to release the hounds to pacify ghosts. My brain hurts just thinking about this.
Two player Mists over Carcassonne
The only thing that is a bit different in a two player version of Mists over Carcassonne is that each player has two different colours of meeple. This is to help with being able to score more than once for each city that you complete. With each player having two colours it makes this more likely, and in theory you could even have all four colours scoring a city in the two player version.
Mists over Carcassonne – our thoughts
Wow! There is no doubt that having a cooperative version of this game mixes things up a lot, and makes going back to the original game and its expansions a bit painful for the old grey matter. Once you’ve got used to working together when you lay tiles, it can take a bit of getting used to when you can’t discuss where a tile should go before laying it.
We’ve been playing it for a good few months now and I really like how challenging it is. We could move on to level 2 easily enough, but after that the challenge gets more and more intense and you need to adjust how you play with each level to try to win.
As you would expect with Carcassonne games, the quality of all the tiles and meeples is top notch. The incredibly cute ghost meeples are an added bonus! There are enough familiar mechanics from the base game to make it feel like regular Carcassonne, but at the same time there is also so much new to get your head around that it feels different. Like more of a step change than just adding an expansion to the base game.
The game contains a handy level summary card to help you keep on to of what you need for each level and what you’re trying to do. This is so valuable as otherwise I don’t think many people will manage to remember everything they need to, especially if you’ve been playing other games in-between.
Mists over Carcassonne as a regular Carcassonne Expansion
If you decide that a cooperative game is really not for you then don’t worry – Mists over Carcassonne also includes instructions so that you can use it as an expansion to the original competitive Carcassonne base game. In the version ghosts work differently and rather being added to mist they instead attach themselves to regular meeples. If a meeple has ghosts attached then it means points can be subtracted from your score.
This expansion version also includes cemeteries and castles, but again these are played differently from in the cooperative game. Completed cemeteries give you extra guard meeples (who don’t attract ghosts) and completed castes score points if there is mist around them.
Where to buy Mists over Carcassonne
Mists over Carcassonne is available to buy online from Amazon here. If you prefer to buy from a board game shop then this site shows you who has it in stock and their prices. At present the English language version is produced by Hans im Glück who are responsible for all the German versions of the game. I believe that Z-Man is planning to produce a version on the UK market, but I’m unclear about when that is due.
If you liked this…
Why not take a look at my thoughts on the Tower Expansion for Carcassonne.
All games mentioned in this post are ones that I have bought with my own money. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go to Amazon via them and purchase anything I receive a small commission. It will cost you no more than if you had arrived at Amazon on your own. Many thanks for any purchases that you do make. Your support is very much appreciated.