Welcome to another review in my A Year With... series, where I review a game or expansion I've had for at least a year so you can read my scatter-brained thoughts on how I still feel about it once the shine wears off.
This review is for the first big box expansion that was made for Carcassonne. Since I got it in the Bog Box 2 last year, I have played with this expansion 27 times, which includes a couple of times with Carcassonne: Wheel of Fortune.
As is always the case with this game, you are building up the countryside around the French city of Carcassonne. As you assemble different features (roads, cities, cloisters, and farms) you can claim those features for points once finished, as long as another player didn't claim the same feature with more followers than you.
This time around, roads and cities have a chance to be upgraded and worth even more than before. Inns next to a road and Cathedrals in a city are worth more than those without them. However, if those roads and cities aren't finished by games end, you get nothing for them.
24 more tiles of the same great construction. 18 of these tiles are land tiles, most of which are new configurations of cities and roads not previously used. Some of the roads also have the Inn pictured next to it, and two of the city pieces have the new Cathedral.
8 gray meeples are included to allow the game to play up to 6 players at once. Also included is a new larger sized meeple, 1 in each player color. Last, there are 6 tiles that have a 50 on one side and a 100 on the other. This is used to help keep track of player's that have gone around the score track once or twice.
The rules for this expansion are very simple to integrate and can help add some variety to Carcassonne's base game. Inns and Cathedrals pretty much work the same way for their respective features.
When a road gets an Inn next to it, the road is now worth 2 points per tiles when completed instead of 1 point per tile (having more than one Inn next to the same road does not increase its value beyond this). However, if any roads with Inns are not completed by the end of the game, they are worth 0 points per tile instead of 1.
When a City gets a tile with a Cathedral added to it, when completed, the city is worth 3 points per tile and 3 points per pennant instead of 2 (having both Cathedrals in the same city does not increase its value beyond this). And like the roads with an Inn, if the city with a Cathedral is not completed at the end, then it becomes worth 0 points per tile and pennant instead of 1.
The large meeple is another simple addition. It can be used in place of a small meeple following all the normal placement rules. When a feature is completed, the large meeple counts as two followers for determining who has majority occupation of the feature. The large meeple is useful for controlling roads, cities, and farms since you are effectively placing two meeples at once. It should never be used on a cloister if you have a regular meeple available since cloisters can never be occupied by more than one player (unless you are using The Count of Carcassonne expansion).
This is a great expansion for Carcassonne, and many believe it should have been included as part of the base game. It adds a lot to the game without changing any of the fundamental rules and strategies.
The Inns and Cathedrals add a little bit of a risk vs. reward factor. You can add the Inn/Cathedral to try to score more points, but if you can't finish it, then the turns and meeples involved are wasted. The roads are not as big of a risk to complete, since lengthening a road doesn't make it any harder to finish. However, the Cathedrals are both 4 sided city tiles, which means it is going to greatly expand any city it is added to, and it becomes more difficult to complete.
The greater risk in adding an Inn/Cathedral to your feature is having to fend it off against the other players. When you increase the point value to an already established feature, you also increase the attractiveness for someone else to jump on and take control of the work you put into it instead of starting their own from scratch. And therein lies the brilliance of including the large meeple. Each player only has one, so it becomes a question of when to use it. Is it best to use it early on a feature to dissuade others from trying to take control of it, or save it for when someone else has a large feature almost complete that you can try to jump in on and take the points away?
Another interesting strategy to use as a city with a Cathedral grows as multiple players try to wrestle control of it is for the players not involved in that contest to keep growing the city. If it gets so large that it can't be finished by the end of the game, then a lot of time and meeples were used by those fighting, only to score nothing.
As you can see this expansion really ramps up the strategy and tactics involved in this game. They simply updated a few point values, added a large meeple with the exact same placement rules as the regulars, and made a game way more engaging than it was before. No radical rule changes were necessary, no new tile types, or new meeple types with special restrictions. They took a game that was pretty easy and shallow to play, kept the easy, and made it a little deeper.
Following BGG guidelines, I rate this an 8.5.
Thanks for reading!
And thanks for writing. Excellent review. We always play with this expansion. Worthy addition to the base game. Just another way for my wife to beat me.
Very good review.
We never play Carcassonne without this expansion (plus the two rivers and the Traders and Builders expansions), which definitely makes it a better game for six players (our usual group).
We decided to modify the scoring, however, to further liven up the game. Adding both Cathedrals to a city (and completing it) makes it worth an extra point per tile in the city. And, eachInn on the same road adds an extra point per road segment. This really encourages someone to keep adding tiles to either the city or road, and it makes it much more attractive to other players to try and share (or steal) the feature.
When we first played Carcassonne, we frequently managed to steal features from each other, but gradually we have migrated to a position of sharing features, for the points available. Players not involved with a feature may try to make it difficult for the "involved ones" to finish the feature, which sometimes works and sometimes backfires.
Glad you like this expansion, as we most certainly do.