Bruce's Carcassonne Variants & Wonderments

Musings and explorations related to my favorite board game.
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Variant #16 Hatteras Captains (A Tower Variant)

Bruce Kothmann
United States
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From gallery of kothmann

Definition (What?)
Use any number of tiles from the Tower (Expansion #4). On the table, set out as a shared resource the same number of tower floors as you chose tower tiles, and place the unused tower floors and tiles back in the box. The following rules replace the official tower rules:
• Phase 1 (Tile Placement): after placing a tower tile, the player must place a tower floor from the shared supply onto the tower base. Unlike official rules, this happens automatically and has no relation to the player’s meeple placement. This is the only time that a tower floor is added to the board.
• Phase 2 (Placing a Meeple): The player has 4 choices in this phase of the turn:
1. place a meeple on a feature (road, city, monastery, farm) of the tile just placed, as usual.
2. place a meeple as “captain” on the tower floor that was added to the tile that was placed.
3. move an entire existing tower on which the player has a captain, onto an unoccupied tower (at least one floor) anywhere on the board. This leaves the vacated tower base tile with no tower floors, so that it can never again have a tower.
4. convert any one of the player’s captains to another role by moving it from a tower onto the unoccupied base tile of that tower into any feature (road, city, monastery, farm) on that base tile, regardless of whether that feature is already occupied by any meeples on other tiles.
• Phase 3 (Scoring): Any tower that has more than 5 floors collapses, leaving the tiles scattered in the tile on which the tower stood, and returning the captain meeple to the player. At the end of the game, captains in uncollapsed towers earn 1 point per tower floor. Otherwise, score as usual.

Examples (How?)
We usually use all 18 tiles and 18 tower floors, placing 12 tower floors back in the box. For a smaller game, you can omit the 6 tower tiles that have no city edge and use only 12 tower floors.

Example #1: In the image below, Yellow places a tower tile and floor, then adds a captain to the tower, planning to invade the Blue city on the next turn, unless Blue is able to close the city first.
From gallery of kothmann

Example #2: In the first image below, Yellow places a tile at bottom right but places no meeple, instead converting the captain into a farmer in the field with a Blue farmer, as shown in the second image. Note that a captain may be converted even into a feature that is already occupied.
From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

Example #3: In the first image below, Yellow places a tile at bottom right, but places no meeple. In the second image, Yellow converts the captain into a thief on the road, which is then scored, awarding 5 points to both Yellow and Blue. Again, Yellow has used a tower to invade an occupied feature, this time on the same turn that the feature was completed, to immediately score points!
From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

Example #4: In the first image below, Yellow places a tower tile and floor. Yellow does not place a meeple on the tile, instead choosing to move their captain’s tower from the monastery tile to the unoccupied tower at top left, for the purpose of preventing an opponent from invading the large Yellow city--see the second image. Because the resulting tower has six floors, the tower collapses during scoring on this turn, and the captain meeple is returned to Yellow with no score, as shown in the third image.
From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

Example #5: In the first image below, Yellow places a tower tile and floor, but places a monk in the monastery, leaving the tower open. On the next turn, as shown in the second image, Green places a tile and moves the Green captain and tower to the open tower floor on the tile that Yellow placed, resulting in the position shown in the third image. Perhaps Green intends to convert the captain into a farmer in the lucrative field after the monastery has been completed and the monk has been removed. Or Green could move the captain and the tower to another tile on a subsequent turn in which Green places no meeple.
From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

Explanation (Why?)
Here are aspects of this variant that we really like:
• The roaming towers introduce a lot of interesting tactics and strategy, without unduly disrupting the base mechanics or dominating the scoring.
• The tower floor placement is automatic and easy to remember; it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the game.
• The invasion of an occupied feature always requires at least 2 turns, so a player has a chance to complete their feature before it is invaded. In official tower rules, a tower tile can be placed and a meeple kidnapped with no warning at all.
• The towers don’t lock up meeples until the end of the game.

We are still discovering the tactics of this variant. In the spirit of the official tower, it puts a premium on completing features rather than having lingering meeples, but without the very punitive meeple-removal mechanic of the official rules. Players generally seem to place one captain in a tower early, to allow for a future invasion when the opportunity arises, as shown here (with Variant #7, Gates and Walls):
From gallery of kothmann

But there are other new tactics as well. For example, one interesting situation is when a player wishes to prevent an invasion into a closed field that contains unoccupied towers. The player can move their own captain’s tower to the unoccupied towers, ultimately eliminating all of the towers that might allow an opponent to invade the field! Sometimes the culminating move in this effort will be a tower collapse, allowing the player to recover the captain meeple for future deployment. It can be an exciting sequence of moves.

Options (What if...?)
We played around with the idea that a meeple on the base tile could promote itself to captain of a tower, but ultimately this seemed complicated and unnecessary. No other options at this time...

Interactions (With Whom?)
We only play this with the base tiles and our other Variants. We have uncovered no issues.

The Tower is not a widely beloved expansion. We agree with the critics of this expansion and never use official rules. But the tiles and wood are beautiful and deserve a place on the table.

In Variant #13, Stacked Decks, we cited many tower variants, including several that were inspiring but not quite right for us. We experimented with a lot of ideas, with the breakthrough being the abandonment of having a tower that grows until ultimately being claimed by a meeple! We could never come up with a mechanic for adding to the tower that we liked, until ultimately stumbling on the “moving tower” that grows after the meeple has claimed the tower! Admittedly, this takes some getting used to, but it quickly becomes intuitive, and the tactical possibilities are really fun!

The variant is named after the character in the Jules Verne story, together with the epic relocation of the lighthouse on Hatteras Island, part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina (our favorite vacation destination). How these things are related to medieval France is a narrative that is up to you to complete!

2021-04-29: Original Post

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