PT Guides: Carcassonne DLC Buying Guide [Part 1]14 Jun 2017 4
Following an initial release in 2000 the tile-laying game Carcassonne has played a significant part in the resurgence of the board gaming hobby. Carcassonne is a historic city in southern France, famous for its unique Roman and Medieval fortifications. In the game, players gradually develop the landscape by placing tiles and deploying their seven followers. Those followers placed in cities become knights, those on roads become highwaymen, a follower assigned to a cloister will be a monk, and finally, followers on fields take on the role of farmers. When placing tiles players need to ensure that the edges match those previously placed. The aim is to score points by claiming ownership of farmland and by building roads, cities and cloisters.
The impressive digital version made its debut on the App Store in 2010 and it is still going strong, with 4.5 Million Online Games having been played. Like the board game, the digital version is well supported with the release of a range of expansions that introduce new challenges and strategies.
Inns & Cathedrals
What’s New: 18 new land tiles (six of these include inns and two are cathedrals), large followers
Inns & Cathedrals was the first major Carcassonne expansion. Six of the new road tiles also include an inn. A completed road with an inn will attract more travellers and consequently more victims for your highwaymen, hence such roads score double the usual points. Cathedrals work in a similar way, as a completed city with a fancy cathedral will score extra points. The downside is that at the end of the game uncompleted roads with inns and cities with cathedrals no longer score any points. The other addition is that at the beginning of the game players also get a double follower; these influential guys count as two normal followers.
Scoring twice the points for roads definitely makes road building a much more attractive strategy and a valid alternative to city building. Obviously, since roads are now more attractive your opponents are going to make even more efforts to ensure that you are unable to complete them or to jump in and claim some points for themselves. The cathedrals also earn a nice points bonus, but these four-sided building tiles are challenging to complete. The double strength follower is another strong edition. Deciding when to play this piece becomes a game of chicken that can really swing control of a valuable location. The fact that some roads and cities no longer score points really puts the pressure on players to complete them as it is now pointless to build long endless roads that have inns or sprawling incomplete cathedral cities. Overall, a super expansion that I am happy to use every time I play. It is impressive because it builds on the game’s strengths whilst staying true to them.
Traders & Builders
What’s New: 24 new land tiles (many featuring goods), builders and pigs
Fancy a little bit of wheeler dealing? If so this second major expansion may be the one for you. We now have some newly added city tiles that also feature goods. Whenever a city is completed, all goods tiles in that city earn the player the matching wares. At the end of the game, players earn an additional ten points for having the majority in each type of good (wine, wheat and cloth). Players also have a builder who can be added to incomplete cities or roads that already have at least one of their followers present. If you expand a city or road on which your builder is located he will stop for a cup of tea and then you get an extra turn. The builder is his own man; he isn’t a follower and does not count when determining ownership. Alongside the builder players also have a pig who can be placed on a field instead of a follower. Pigs cannot just be left free to roam on any field; they must be placed in an area of farmland in which the player already has a follower. These fine porkers score an extra point for each completed city that borders the farmland that they occupy.
The trading element adds an extra set collection aspect to the game; sometimes it may be desirable to complete an opponent’s city just to secure a trade good. You really want to get your builder on the board as soon as possible to start benefitting from all those extra turns. Once the pigs start being placed, farmland becomes much more valuable, so you better ensure that you have the farmers in place to ensure ownership. Although this expansion adds some interesting new ideas they do distract from the simplicity of the original game and increase playing time. Overall, a nice expansion to use from time to time, but I wouldn’t want to add it every time I play.
The Princess & The Dragon
What’s New: 30 new land tiles (featuring dragon nests volcanoes, portals and princesses), a fairy and a dragon
The third major expansion shifts the game away from its historical setting and into the realm of fairy tales. As soon as the first volcano tile is drawn the hungry dragon makes an appearance. He lurks around the volcano waiting until a tile with a dragon icon is placed. At this point, the dragon will move six times. Players take it in turns moving the dragon to an adjacent tile and any unfortunate followers on a tile occupied by the dragon are gobbled up. Offering protection from the dragon is the fairy; instead of placing a follower a player may move the fairy next to one of their followers, making them immune from attack. The fairy also provides other benefits, earning the protected follower an extra point at the start of each turn and a further three points when the fairy’s location is completed. Then we have the princess, whenever a princess city tile is drawn and placed the current player can choose a knight who is located in that city. The knight is removed from the city and returned to its owner. Finally, some tiles have magic portals: when a player places one of these they are not just limited to placing a follower on this tile, but are allowed to add a follower to any tile, all other placement rules must be obeyed.
There is certainly a lot going on in this expansion. Carcassonne has always had the potential to be a confrontational game but this expansion actively encourages direct hostility. Encouraging the dragon to eat your opponents’ followers or getting the princess to bat her eyelashes and send a smitten knight on a pointless quest is just plain mean. Because of these looming threats, players are dissuaded from investing in massive structures in favour of finishing them off quickly before the dragon or princess comes along. There are other less obvious options too, such as placing volcanoes to lure a dragon to a particular region, or even actively encouraging the dragon to eat your own followers in order to get them back into play. Carcassonne has always had a fair amount of luck, but drawing the right tile at the right time has never felt so game changing as it does with this expansion. The Princess & The Dragon is a busy expansion with a lot of new rules, it plays very differently from the basic game, and actually breaks some of the standard rules. Overall, fun to play occasionally but the extra luck and hostility make it too annoying to play regularly.
In part two, We enter the realms of the supernatural; navigate a couple of rivers and Winter is Coming.