Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Carcassonne is a medium-light game for 2-5 players that plays in about 30-45 minutes. Carcassonne: the Expansion or, as it became known when it became apparent that one expansion was not enough, Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals extends upon the Carcassonne experience without changing the game too much.
This first expansion adds a number of things to the game:
A Sixth Player
Carcassonne really works well with fewer players, 2-3 generally being considered optimum. Once you reach six players, the luck of the draw becomes far more important, although two players can co-operate to make the most of it. Of all the additions to Carcassonne, this can be considered the least important. However, for larger families just wanting a casual game, it's not a bad addition.
A Large Meeple
This addition gives each player eight meeples upon which to contest the field of play; however, it does more than that because the Large Meeple is worth two meeples when determining who controls features. This improves the play of terrain dominance, and also allows play to isolate the Large Meeple in an uncompletable feature.
Roads have a problem in regular Carcassonne: they aren't worth much. As a rule, you almost always want a city piece over a road piece, although roads can be used for blocking. Inns help solve that problem by doubling the value of a road (2 points/section). They're also somewhat risky, as an uncompleted road with an Inn on it will be worth nothing! As a piece to use on your opponent's incomplete road, they're rarely useful, but they work quite well on your own.
Cathedrals, like Inns, make cities worth an extra point per tile & pennant (3 points rather than 2 points). However, they are far better used offensively to make an opponent's city harder to complete than to improve the scoring of your own city, due to the difficulty of completely large cities. The two features may look similar, but they play differently.
Apart from the Inns and Cathedrals tiles, there are a few other tiles in the expansion. These fill in a few "gaps" in the original tile set, allowing more combinations of sides. As a result, "blocking" moves that dictate three or four sides of a tiles placement become less reliable; good Meeple placement becomes more important.
Another side effect of the new tiles is to break up farms a little more. This is particularly desirable due to an occasional problem with all the meeples ending up in one big farm connected to all the cities!
These six tiles exist simply to help you keep track of when you've reached 50 or 100 points (or even 150 points in really big games). They're printed with 50 on one side and 100 on the other, and you take them when you "lap" the scoring board.
When you get down to it, Inns & Cathedrals is a subtle expansion. It changes the game, but not so as to distort the Carcassonne experience, fixing a few problems in the base game along the way.
I don't really find it an exciting expansion, and I find that the second expansion, Traders & Builders, gives a much better play experience, but it's an enjoyable addition to the game.
Just my two cents on the expansion.
Sixth player: I've never had 6 people play so as far as this feater is concerned I've not yet seen the value in it. That being said, i've played a lot of 2 player games and then several with up to 4 people. I still find the 2 player game the best.
Large Meeple: I like this one. I think it adds to some of the strategy when trying to steal a feature from someone. Definatley makes for some interesting maneuvering when a feature is contested.
Inns: This is an allright feature but roads are typically so easy to finish I seldom see anyone get stuck with an unfinished roed with an Inn on it.
Cathedrals: This seems to have far more impact on the game in my opinion. I've seen several occasions where someone is about to score a big city and then someone drops a cathedral on it and ruins their plans.
More tiles: Eh, Don't really change the game much and i dont' really notice the game being that much longer until youve got at least 1 or 2 more of the big expansions, i.e.; traders & builders, towers, or princess & dragon.
Scoring Tiles: I find these to be very useful in the two player game as we often make several laps. We only every use all of them when we actually care about th total score. We typically only use 2 just to keep track of the relative difference between the two scores.
I like the expansion but I don't think i'd ever play with just the base game and this expansion. As the original author stated it isn't that exciting. By the time we get at least the traders & builders added in there are enough different elements to the game to make it a lot more interesting, and cut throat.