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Carcassonne: Expansion 1 – Inns & Cathedrals» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A low-key but essential expansion rss

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Branko K.
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I've recently acquired vanilla Carcassonne and grew fond of it very quickly, so a decision to buy an expansion was not tough to come by. However, since I mostly play with casual gamers, I wanted the expansion to make it just a little bit more involving and interesting, yet not overcomplicate it too much.

Since I came in late in Carcassone world, there were already so many expansions to choose. There were Inns, then Traders, a fantasy-based one - Dragons, the Tower, the Count.. and they all seemed to offer some new exciting stuff. It was just all too easy to get lost in.

I must admit that on the first impression Inns&Cathedrals seemed like a lousy choice for the first (and most probably final for at least a while) Carcassone expansion. Here is what the box offered:

- a new set of meeples for the 6th player (for me, not very exciting but hey, there's a new color to choose)
- a big meeple for each player which serves as 2 normal meeples
- some new basic tiles
- tiles with Inns which make roads more worthwhile
- tiles with Cathedrals which make cities more worthy

As I said, it doesn't seem too exciting. No cute wooden pigs or dragons or anything. Yet it took just a few games to realize that these very low-key additions improved gameplay by quite a few notches. Here are just a few notes:

- roads became more valuable. I was not very fond of roads in original Carcassonne. Pull too many of those, you'll be very much behind the other players. 18-tile road gave measly 18 points, which you could easily get from a medium-sized city. But now with inns in the equation, getting yet another road tile doesn't feel so bad as before.

- Cathedrals give more strategic options. Are you greedy and want your BIG city to score some HUGE points? Plomp a Cathedral then but don't cry if you don't manage to finish it. Want to anger your girlfriend by ruining her biggest point-gathering city? Generously give her a Cathedral late-game, and face the consequences. Fun for everyone!

- The big meeple, otherwise known as The Bully. Taking over cities and fields has never been so easy. Sure, you COULD use him defensively, but where's the fun in that?

- more city and road-ending tiles. They don't look like much, but they do make cloisters less poweful, make your roads easier to finish, break up more farms which effectively makes the boring farmer-spam strategy less fruitful... all in all they make Carcassonne a better game.

So to sum up, I got perfectly what I wanted. Yes, I cannot play with my wooden dragon or piggy, I cannot build a wall around my city, but what I can is play a more enjoyable game of Carcassonne which is just marginally more complicated then the original yet it feels much more satisfying. To end this rant, if you want to buy just one expansion, buy this one, even though the other ones may seem more appealing.

P.S. New additions DO introduce more player interactions, which is nice, but also give opportunity for some really nasty offensive moves. If you play often with your girlfriend and she is one of those really nice girls who enjoy building a nice landscape and get a teensy bit cranky when you bully her out of her most beautiful town, I suggest using those options sparingly even if it makes your strategy sub-optimal. Hey, losing the game is not that bad compared to getting Giant Meeple jammed down your throat...


Edit: some irittating spelling mistakes. I hate when I see them too late
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Mark K.
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Nice review and I agree with all of your points. I think the expansion are best bought in the same order they were released with the first two expansion being a must buy
 
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zippy grey wedge owner
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Nice review. I find it a good read with lots of useful info.
 
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John Harley
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...but if you were going to buy this and the original from scratch, maybe instead you should just buy "Caracssone: Hunters and Gatherers" which seemlessly integrates these design elements into the game and does not require any additional expands.
 
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Branko K.
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Funny thing, I DID buy hunters & gatherers first, because I did hear beforehand that it's essentially a better, improved version of "vanilla" Carcassonne. However, that one wasn't well received nor by the people I usually play it nor by me.

I haven't really got nailed down the reason why, though. Most probably it's the esthetical reasons, however stupid that my sound. It feels much more satisfying and fun to build roads and cities than forests and rivers, I guess. The citiscape somehow looks much cleaner and sophisticated then all that nature and upside-down animals. It's not that I find H&G graphics ugly (actually I really like the details on the forests and all), but ultimately the game just didn't feel right. Maybe it's because there were TOO much detail - the leafy forests, the animals, the fishes... it's not that easy to see the "big picture" as in the original Carcassonne. Also, finishing a big forest somehow doesn't feel so nice as finally completing a nice, big city.

Anyway, my brother is pretty happy with his new birthday gift, Carcassone Hunters&Gatherers (carefully repacked with the tiles re-inserted ), and I am much more satisfied with my cities and roads.
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Kristian
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Was there a reason you didn't like it (Hunters) other than the whole "nature" thing? Any difference in game-play that you didn't like?

Great review, by the way. Most all of your posts have gotten a "thumbs up" from me, and I apply them scantly.
 
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