Since the original game of Carcassonne was published many variations have appeared. We've put together a guide to these variations for easy comparison. All of these are stand-alone games. Not all of the titles listed here are available to purchase.
The original and most popular version. it is the easiest to learn and play although the rules about 'farmers' can give some beginners trouble. For an easier game, just miss that option out.
Carcasonne: Hunters and Gathers
Beautifully-coloured variation on the original game, and with a stone-age theme. This variant has a number of extra scoring opportunities. Farmers are replaced by hunters who must claim a large hunting ground populated with the deer and bison printed on the tiles. These can score a lot of points and are often hotly contested. Roads are replaced by rivers and there are additional points for any fish in the adjoining ponds. Fishing huts can also be placed on rivers (and remain until the end of the game) scoring all the fish again. There are also bonus tiles to be won.
Carcasonne: The Castle
A variant designed specifically for two players. At the start, an interlocking set of walls are laid out the restrict the building area and acts as the score track. The 'edge-matching' rules are simplified - only path-ends need to match, making it easier to build with the confined space. There are two types of building to complete - towers (grey) and houses (red). Around the scoring track are placed some bonus markers, so trying to land exactly on these becomes important.
Carcasonne: The City
Very similar to the original game but his time building a single city. The 'edge-matching' rules are simplified - only road-ends need to match, making it easier to build a 'solid' area of tiles. As the city grows, the town walls grow around it, starting from a wooden gate and with the option of placing a 'guard' follower on top of the wall (scores points at the end).
New World: a Carcasonne Game
Similar to the original game but themed around the settlement of America. The main difference from the original is that play starts on the east coast, and as players score points, a pair of surveyors move westward. Players who do not complete their features before the surveyors pass them will find those feature score no points.
Carcasonne: The Discovery
This is a simpler version of Carcassonne than the original. The main difference is that features aren't scored automatically when they are closed off, this is a decision left to the player (the removing the follower). Since the regions get more valuable as the game progresses, this ensures many agonizing decisions.
Carcasonne: South Seas
This is unlike any other Carcassonne game so far as there is no scoring track. All the scoring is done at the end of the game. Instead of gaining point when placing tiles and followers, players gain resources. Bananas for islands (cities), shells for bridges (roads) and fish in the water (farms). At the end of a turn, a player has the option to spend resources on one of the four ships available. These ships are worth points at the end of the game. Players only have four followers to use, so the South Seas variant encourages 'quick returns' and making sure your followers are engaged on a variety of tasks - this is to keep a constant flow of resources.
Carcassonne: South Seas is part of the "Carcassonne Around the World" series.
Carcasonne: Winter Edition
This edition is mainly aimed at collectors as it contains almost exactly same components as the original game but the tiles all have a winter theme. In addition there are 12 new ‘animal’ tiles - two are copies from the base set, six are winter versions of the tiles from the Inns & Cathedrals, one is similar to the tile from the Traders & Builders, and three more are upgraded tiles from the Abbey & Mayor expansion.
The English version of this edition also contains the mini-expansion - The Gingerbread Man - with six tiles and a wooden Gingerbread Man. When one of these tiles is placed, the Gingerbread Man is moved, giving points to the city he just left.
Carcasonne: Star Wars
An unlikey marrage of game and theme franchises? Yet the designer has managed to pull off something in creating a game that will appeal to both camps. The road, city and cloister-building are still there (in a space context), but no farmers. The big difference is it that when two players connect a city or road that they both 'own', a brief combat takes places, faction influence points on the tiles are counted and dice are rolled to determine the winner.