Ron Olivier, Sr.
What better way is there to start playing Carcassonne than to buy an expansion set at the same time? Having extra money in our gaming fund, we decided that we’d pick up the Inns and Cathedrals expansion for Carcassonne at the same time that we picked up the core game. Though we did play the core game without I & C for a couple of days (and enjoyed it immensely), once this expansion was added we never looked back.
While the additional components of meeples for a sixth player, a “large” meeple for all six colors, and the 50/100 tiles to help keep track of scoring are what make this expansion worth the price, it is the slight rule changes (and the strategy that goes with them) that really add to the game. The set comes with 18 new play tiles: 2 cathedrals, several ‘Inns on the lakes’, and some that are different arrangements of the standard Carcassonne components of roads, cities, cloisters, and farmland.
The cathedral tiles are tiles that must be placed within a city that has already begun. When that city is completed, each tile and emblem in that city will be worth three points instead of two. However, if the city is not completed before the end of the game, the entire city will be worth nothing (0 points). The Inns are road tiles with symbols to indicate an “Inn on the Lake” and function similarly to cathedrals.. A completed road with an inn on the lake would be scored at two points per tile (instead of one), but will be absolutely worthless if the road remains unfinished at game’s end.
When you place one of these new elements on your existing entities early in the game, it can allow you to build a huge road or city worth a healthy amount of points if you play it right. But if you wait too long, you may not be able to finish it. If you get one of these tiles late in the game, you may want to plant it on your opponent’s entity, hoping that he won’t be able to finish it – but that could also backfire if he gets a few lucky draws.
The large meeple adds another bit of strategy because he counts as two normal-sized meeples. This makes him very valuable when trying to ‘steal’ cities, roads, or farmlands. If your opponent has one small meeple on a city, and you’re able to sneak a large meeple onto a city that later gets connected to his, you now have the advantage – two to one! This can come in quite handy. Additionally, some of the tiles in the game look like they were designed to counter that strategies, sothe balance of this expansion set is quite good.
To summarize, if you own the Carcassonne core game then I highly recommend this expansion set for three reasons: First, the extra components are useful and very nice to have – my belief is that much of it should have been included in the core game. Second, the new rules and features add more strategy to the game, which helps to mask the luck-of-the draw aspect inherent in tile games. And finally, having 18 more tiles to create the beautiful maps that each game produces is a good thing in itself. This set really helps to distinguish Carcassonne as a game to be reckoned with.