PT Guides: Carcassonne DLC Buying Guide [Part 2]

By Matt Skidmore 22 Jun 2017 0

In Part One, we explored Carcassonne’s three major expansions. Now it is time to take a look at some of the smaller additions to the classic tile-laying game.

The Old River

What’s new: 12 land tiles with rivers
Price: £0.99

The Old River was the first expansion ever released for Carcassonne and was included as a free bonus with earlier editions of the original board game. It adds twelve river tiles, which also feature other familiar landscape elements. Players take it in turns drawing and placing the river tiles, following the usual Carcassonne rules. Once the river tiles have been placed the game continues as normal.

The Old River certainly opens up the game and makes the initial turns more interesting. With the river stretching out before you there are now plenty of placement options. Building your settlement beside the river feels quite thematic. It also serves to divide the play area, which helps reduce the size of farms. This in turn reduces the likelihood of everyone getting caught up in costly battles for control of massive farmlands.

River

The River

What’s New: 12 Land tiles with rivers
Price: £0.99

This expansion differs from the old river as the tiles are designed to be combined with Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders and The Princess & the Dragon. The initial placement of the river follows the same rules as The Old River, but what differs are the few special tiles related to the supported expansions. There's a pig tile that increases the value of farmland, a nice riverside inn and a volcano that is only used in The Princess & the Dragon expansion.

The River affects the game in the same way as The Old River, with the added advantage that it also supports some of the expansions. If you own both river expansions then you can even combine them.

Phantom

The Phantom

What’s New: Phantom Followers
Price: £0.99

This mini expansion is a bit odd as it takes us into the realms of the supernatural. When a player places a follower they may also add their semi-transparent phantom to the same tile as long as they place him on a different feature. The phantom can also be placed alone as a regular follower.

Keeping your phantom in circulation is a key strategy, using him to complete small roads and cities whilst you use you regular followers for grander schemes. He is also really useful when you place a farmer, allowing you to also start work on a city, road or cloister. Overall, The Phantom adds a nice extra degree of flexibility without the complexity of too many extra rules.

The Abbot

What’s New: The Abbot, also some of the original tiles have been modified to include gardens.
Price: £0.99

The Abbot is a mini expansion that is included with the newest version of the board game. Gardens score in the same way as cloisters, in that you earn a point for each surrounding tile. However, only your green-fingered abbot can be placed in a garden. As well as pottering around in gardens the abbot has another ability; on your turn, if you do not place a follower then you can reclaim your abbot and score a point for each adjacent tile.

Placing and removing your abbot provides a steady flow of cheap points and prevents them from being tied up awaiting the completion of their cloister. However, whilst doing this you will not be getting as many of your regular followers into play, which means that you have to get the balance right. Not really an essential expansion, but quite fun.

German Cathedrals

What’s New: 6 German Cathedral tiles
Price: £0.99

Getting over the fact that it seems a bit weird to have famous German Cathedrals popping up in the South of France lets take a look at one of the more recent mini-expansions. The conspicuous cathedral tiles also have three or four roads, any highwaymen placed on roads leading to a cathedral score double. A follower can also be placed directly on a cathedral as a bishop. If every road connected to the cathedral is finished then the bishop scores the player one point per road segment for the entire network.

Completed cathedrals have the potential to score a lot of points and certainly make road building a more attractive proposition. On the surface, German Cathedrals sounds like the inns from Inns and Cathedrals, but they are actually better because even uncompleted roads score points at the end of the game.

Winter

Carcassonne: Winter Edition

What’s New: 12 animal tiles, Gingerbread Man
Price: £1.99

Winter is coming, but thankfully we don’t have to worry about the White Walkers – just the Gingerbread Man. Carcassonne: Winter Edition was initially released as a standalone board game with a wintery theme and updated artwork. The animal tiles are just a collection of 12 of the more interesting tiles borrowed from various expansions, they do not introduce any new rules. The Gingerbread man starts the game on the starting tile in the unfinished city. Each time a player draws a tile with a gingerbread icon or the gingerbread man’s present city is completed, the current player gets to move the festive biscuit to another unfinished city of their choice. Now each player in the vacated city scores points equal to the number of their knights in the city multiplied by the number of city tiles.

The Gingerbread Man has two sides to his nature; he can give you a nice sweet reward, or he can be cruelly snatched away by another player, prematurely finishing your city. Overall, the winter edition is perfect for a festive family get together.

Final Thoughts

If you do not own any expansions then I highly recommend grabbing the 5th Anniversary Bundle, you get all the major expansions and The River, The Phantom, and Carcassonne: Winter Edition for half the price of buying them individually.

I’m happy to use Inns and Cathedrals and The River every time I play, as I think they both add to the original game without fundamentally changing it. Traders & Builders is nice when you fancy a bit of a change. However, I find The Princess & The Dragon too chaotic and frustrating to use on a regular basis. The other mini expansions offer a nice pinch of seasoning to spice things up a little.

How much Carcassonne is too much Carcassonne? All these expansions are going to increase the game length and most add extra rules, some of which fly in the face of the original ones. One expansion I haven’t even mentioned yet is the Double Base Tile Set, which doubles the number of tiles. For me this is a step too far, Carcassonne is a straightforward game, and adding too many extra tiles causes the game to outstay its welcome. The expansions make brilliant additions to an already superb game. So dust off your app and rediscover the joys of Carcassonne.

Want to see another game get the Buying Guide treatment? Let us know in the comments!

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