Bruce's Carcassonne Variants & Wonderments

Musings and explorations related to my favorite board game.
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Variant #19: Das Gift

Bruce Kothmann
United States
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From gallery of kothmann

This expansion adds clever bluffs and tense exchanges of Bad Gifts (German Gift = poison) and Good Gifts (English gift = present).
Definition (What?)
There are 24 "gift" tokens: 6 of each of 2 "German Gifts" and 2 "English gifts", for a total of 24 tokens placed in a small bag. The face of each token identifies the type of Gift, while the backs are identical. New rules:
• Setup: Players each draw 2 tokens from the bag and look at them privately before placing them face down with their meeples.
• Phase 1 (Tile Placement): Tiles are placed as usual. If a tile placement causes any feature with at least one unopened (face-down) Gift to have more meeples than it had before the tile was placed, then all unopened Gifts in that feature must be distributed among the meeples in the feature who do not already have an opened (face-up) Gift. Without looking at any of the Gifts, the player who placed the tile decides which meeples receive which Gifts. Any meeple receiving a Gift must open it, by turning the token face-up, and placing it next to their meeple. Each Meeple receiving a Good Gift remains in place; each meeples receiving a Bad Gift is returned to that player’s supply, but the Bad Gift remains on the tile.
• Phase 2 (Placing a Meeple): A player may deploy a meeple as usual. If the meeple is deployed to an incomplete city, road, or farm, (monks may neither give nor receive Gifts), the player may also on the same turn place a Gift from their own supply face-down on the tile next to their meeple.
• Phase 3 (Scoring): Before scoring, any unopened Gifts are returned to the player whose meeple has the Gift. When determining control of a feature, an opened Good Gift increases the strength of the meeple by one. An opened Bad Gift has no effect on scoring, as the meeple has already been removed. After scoring, all meeples are returned as usual, but the opened Gifts remain in place.
• Final Scoring: Follow the same steps as scoring for a completed feature.

Examples (How?)
The examples here are taken from the rules PDF which was posted to Carcassonne Central.
From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

Explanation (Why?)
This idea started as a variant of the large meeple. In our games, players get frustrated if their large meeple gets trapped, so I wanted to offer a "single-use" large meeple, which is where the poison idea came from.

But I also liked the idea of adding some concealed information and "bluffing" to Carcassonne. My very rudimentary German vocabulary gave me the idea to combine these variants.

Options (What if...?)
We tried a variety of more complicated mechanics for exchanging and opening the Gifts, but in the end this simple set of rules was fun an interesting. You could invent multiple "good" and "bad" consequences and make a variety of tokens to represent them.

Interactions (With Whom?)
This expansion was designed as an alternative to the large meeple (expansion #1), but the rules for placing and receiving Gifts can easily be applied to the large meeple without modification: a Good Gift makes the large meeple worth 3 regular meeples, while a Bad Gift causes the large meeple to be removed.

If meeple receiving a Bad Gift is the only meeple a player has in a feature, the builder (expansion #2) is removed with the meeple. The same procedure applies to pigs (expansion #2) when a player’s only farmer is removed.

A meeple with a Gift will be eaten by the dragon (expansion #3) on the same tile. But the dragon also eats any Gift on the tiles it visits! A Good Gift gives the dragon a burst of energy, resetting the dragon’s movement count to zero during the current rampage. On the other hand, a Bad Gift puts the dragon to sleep, immediately ending the current rampage.

A meeple with a Gift may be kidnapped as usual by a tower (expansion #4), in which case the Gift is placed in the supply of the player who kidnapped the meeple and is not returned when the meeple is ransomed. An opened Bad Gift may not be kidnapped.

A Gift may not be placed with a mayor nor a wagon (expansion #5) but both of those pieces may receive Gifts with the same consequences as other meeples.

If you are using Barns with Gifts, you’re on your own!

A little bit of math is helpful for this one. If you place a Gift and then you place the tile that joins to another meeple, you have a 100% chance of getting a good outcome with your gift. On the other hand, if the other player places the tile, they are just guessing, so you have a 50% chance of a good outcome. So, if you are both equally likely to place the tile, you have a 75% chance of a good outcome.

The idea is that placing a Gift in a feature creates uncertainty, so other players might be disinclined to try to join your feature. On the other hand, if you try to use a Gift as a way to join a feature and steal the points, the other player now has an incentive to place the joining tile themselves. Both of these are interesting and raise the tension of the game, without totally overwhelming the more conventional strategies.

We think the final result is a fun alternative to the standard large meeple.

We use pumpkin tokens from Game Crafter, with markings added to one face using a fine-point marker. You could also put small stickers on coins.
From gallery of kothmann

2021-08-13: Original Post

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