Bruce's Carcassonne Variants & Wonderments

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Variant #21: Balloons

Bruce Kothmann
United States
Pennsylvania
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From gallery of kothmann

Definition (What?)
Each player receives one balloon figure with their meeple supply at the beginning of the game. Rule changes:
• Phase 1 (Tile Placement): No changes.
• Phase 2 (Placing a Meeple): A player may deploy a meeple as usual. If a farmer is deployed, the player may also place their balloon in the field next to the farmer on the same turn. The balloon has no effect on the farmer unless the player launches a flight in a subsequent turn.
On any turn when the player does not deploy a meeple or otherwise move wood, there are three new options:
i. If the player has a farmer with a balloon, the farmer may be placed on the balloon, abandoning the farm to create a piloted balloon , which must immediately fly according to the following rules:
a. Move the piloted balloon two tiles in one direction and one tile in the orthogonal direction (in the same way that a knight moves in chess).
b. During the move, the piloted balloon may pass over holes in the landscape but must end on a tile. If this is not possible, the farmer may not become a pilot on this turn.
c. The piloted balloon may end a move on an occupied tile but has no effect on control nor scoring of features in that tile.
ii. The player may again fly a piloted balloon, following the same rules as for the original move.
iii. If a piloted balloon is on an unoccupied tile, it may land, allowing the pilot to exit the balloon and deploy to any feature on the tile, even if that feature is already occupied.
Immediately after landing, the balloon is returned to the player’s
supply to be available for future deployment.
• Phase 3 (Scoring): A piloted balloon has no effect on control of features or scoring. Only after the balloon lands and the meeple has been deployed to a feature is the meeple again relevant to scoring. All features are scored as usual.
• Final Scoring: Neither an unoccupied balloon nor a piloted balloon has value at the end of the game; both are simply removed from the landscape. A balloon must land prior to the end of the game in order for the meeple to occupy a feature and affect scoring.

Examples (How?)
The following images are taken from the rules PDF that was posted to Carcassonne Central. Each example shows only the sequence of turns by the Yellow player, who begins by placing a farmer with a balloon. Additional tile and meeple placements are not shown, for brevity and clarity.
Example #1
From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann

From gallery of kothmann


Explanation (Why?)
See the discussion thread at Carcassonne Central, linked above.

Options (What if...?)
Allowing a piloted balloon to land and deploy a meeple to an occupied field has a substantial effect on farming strategy. This isn’t necessarily bad, just different, but it might be interesting to play with a restriction that the pilot may not become a farmer when the balloon lands.

Also, you could allow the pilot to dismount after moving, rather than requiring an extra turn. Or you could require mounting and first flight to be separate moves. But the rules here seemed like the right amount of "time" spent to allow such a powerful invasion of an occupied feature.

Interactions (With Whom?)
A piloted balloon flies above the threat of dragons and towers. It may fly over all other special elements, such as the City of Carcassonne and the Wheel of Fortune, always occupying a precise position corresponding to where a tile would be, but never landing in these special elements. An unoccupied balloon is returned to the player if the accompanying farmer is removed.
Discussion
We love this expansion. It creates a lot of extra tension, because the threat of a balloon landing really applies pressure to complete a big feature. But the balloons can also eat up a lot of "moving wood" turn phases and leave players without other good options.

Hardware
We used 15x10mm black octagons at spielmaterial.de. You could also use a thimble or a wooden cube.

Updates
2021-08-16: Original Post

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