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Carcassonne» Forums » Variants

Subject: Avoiding “Meeple Wars” and a Possible Handicap for Veterans rss

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Joshua Alkire
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Many players get frustrated when their large city is stolen by another player who contributed relatively few tiles to it, or when three of their meeples are out of commission for half the game because another player raised the stakes on a valuable piece of farmland. This rule variant will reduce the likelihood that a player will be able to get more than one meeple on any given feature. It can also be used as a handicap for veterans and is discreet enough that veterans could self-impose this rule without harming the pride of their friends and family.

Simply stated, the rule is that a player cannot connect any city, road, or farm owned by one of their meeples to a city, road or farm that is already owned by one or more of their meeples.

A few examples illustrate the rule quite easily:

EXAMPLE 1: Yellow owns a large city with one meeple. Blue plays a city tile near this city and claims it with one meeple. Later, Blue draws a tile that can connect his smaller city to Yellow’s larger city. Blue plays this tile in the correct space so that Yellow and Blue share the large city with equal claim.

EXAMPLE 2: Yellow does not want to share the fruits of her hard-earned labor, so she plays another city tile near this large city and claims it with one Yellow meeple. Later, Yellow draws a tile that could connect these two cities, but due to the new rule variant, she is not allowed to connect one of her meeples to a feature already owned by one of her other meeples. Somewhat disappointed, Yellow plays elsewhere.

EXAMPLE 3: Later, Blue draws the same kind of tile that Yellow was forced to play elsewhere. If Blue chooses to play this tile in the space that will connect the two cities, this large city will be completed and Blue will not get any points since Yellow will have two meeples on it while Blue only has one. However, Blue is short on meeples, and playing his tile in this exact space will complete one of his monasteries as well as the large city. Reluctantly, Blue chooses to lay his tile in this position in order to retrieve his two meeples, even though he is not able to score any points for the large city since Yellow’s two cities have now been connected.

EXAMPLE 4: Instead of completing the large city, Blue decides that he can survive a few more turns without any meeples and plays his tile elsewhere. Much to Blue’s chagrin, Yellow now draws a piece that will separate and complete the two cities in question. Yellow would rather own the large city with two meeples so that Blue does not receive any points, but there are several commodities on the large city, and completing it will also mean that she receives the King tile. Reluctantly, Yellow plays her tile in this spot. Yellow and Blue share the points for the large city and Yellow also receives the commodities, the King tile, and some points for the smaller city. Yellow was allowed to complete the city in this situation because she did not connect two of her meeples to each other.

With this rule variant, players will still tend to share large cities and farms, but it will be difficult for any given player to own large cities and farms with a majority. This can promote more friendly, cooperative play (of course, I still consider a large city to be "stolen" when someone shares the points with me and only contributes two tiles).

It is also easy to see how a veteran could impose this rule upon him or herself without anyone else being aware of it.
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Brad Miller
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Hrmm. I guess if you were looking for a friendly game, you could do this, but stealing other people's stuff and tying up their meeples is kind of the point of the game isn't it?
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Joshua Alkire
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Even with this variation, some things will still get stolen, as in Example 3. Another player might make the connection for you just to get an extra turn if they have a builder on the city, but you don't have to be so quick to connect them when they try to get an extra meeple on it. The trick will be to place tiles creatively in a way that gives other players enough incentive to connect features for you.

The variant doesn't eliminate the element of theft from the game; it just makes it more difficult, which can add an interesting challenge or handicap for someone who enjoys this element of the game and thus tends to win on a regular basis while making it more enjoyable for those who aren't as competitive.
 
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Greg Madden
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Spiritspark wrote:
The variant doesn't eliminate the element of theft from the game; it just makes it more difficult, which can add an interesting challenge or handicap for someone who enjoys this element of the game and thus tends to win on a regular basis while making it more enjoyable for those who aren't as competitive.


Example 3 does not have any theft, it does however have a gift given from blue to yellow.

I like the idea of this variant, maybe for play with new new new players or younger players. But for normal use, even around people who dislike the idea of stealing from one another, I don't like it. This ruins a lot of strategy that is built in to the game.
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Brett
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There is always the possibility that one player can somehow connect two of their cities into the large city with one piece and the poor schmuck who built the large city can't do anything to get control of the city back. What about the mayor and the mega-meeple? Someone could easily take over a city with just one of these.
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Kevin Rutledge
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I kinda agree with most people here. Stealing and/or getting points for someone else's work is one of the only strategies to the game. The mayor and the large meeps need to be taken into account when building a city.
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Joshua Alkire
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Great points, Grape Ape. In your first example, the player could not play a piece that would connect two of his cities to the larger city because that would connect two of the player's own pieces to each other. Any other player could play that piece, but not the player would gain a majority as a result of the move.

As for the big meeple and the mayor, house rules would have to dictate whether or not these could be used. There are three basic options:

1) The big meeple and mayor are discarded. I don't like this option, but since the point of this variant is to make theft more difficult, someone who really likes this variant may choose to get rid of these two pieces altogether since they are specifically designed to win a majority with relative ease.

2) The rule could be reworded so that a player cannot play a tile that would connect any two of his or her followers to the same feature. For example, Blue could connect his big meeple to a city owned by Yellow's little meeple, but Yellow cannot make a move that connects her big meeple and her little meeple to the same city. This is my favorite option because it still gives players one or two pieces with which to bypass the new rule and steal features relatively easily.

3) The rule could be reworded so that no player can make any move that would give that same player a majority of more than one on any given feature, unless that player is claiming an unclaimed feature or matching the majority. Thus, Blue cannot connect his big meeple to a feature owned by Yellow's small meeple, but if Yellow started out claiming the feature with a big meeple, then Blue is allowed to play a move that will match this majority of two. If Yellow has claimed a city with a mayor that has two pennants on it and if Blue's mayor and big meeple are already somewhere else, then I suppose that Blue could connect two small meeples to Yellow's city according to the normal rules of the game, but Blue could not add a third unless another pennant was played on the city.
 
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Shane Is Board
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It would certainly change the game and the spirit of it, can't deny that, and it is a well thought out variant, but I daresay you'd no longer be playing Carcassonne but a game that shares some mechanics with it; taking the "stealing" out of the game is also going to take out the majority of the confrontation in the game...Play it however you like of course and have fun but I can't imagine playing it that way and would never voluntarily do so.

A seemingly large drawback of this variant (and this is just in theory having not tried it obviously) seems to be that it would *increase* the luck factor considerably; if you are not trying to steal or gun towards things like that, one lucky tile draw by someone with one or two farmers in position would be a killer. It seems upsets would be entirely eliminated, so yes the game would be friendlier but it would ruin any strategy and simply replace it with "build the cities and roads so they look nice."

True, you can still screw people by placing your tiles in such a way as to make it damned hard for them to complete their own cities/roads/etc. but that would be about it...the loss of interaction and competitiveness seem to make this variant hardly worth playing.

That being said, hope you and your friends have fun with it! Long as you're having fun that's all that matters.
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Carl Olson
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Spiritspark wrote:
It is also easy to see how a veteran could impose this rule upon him or herself without anyone else being aware of it.


You don't need a variant to have a better player make pity plays. But that won't teach anyone the game. The rest of the players have to learn to play better from the experience.
 
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A L D A R O N
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Windopaene wrote:
...stealing other people's stuff and tying up their meeples is kind of the point of the game isn't it?

Absolutely. And in any case this variant neither fixes the problem, nor does it help new players learn to play the "real" game.

A better variant (and one that arguably should be part of the standard game anyway) is to give inexperienced players "hands", from which they can choose which tile to play (rather than being forced to play the tile they draw). This has the additional advantages of being adjustable to player level (larger hands for the least experienced players) and of reducing luck (which dominates the basic game).
 
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Joshua Alkire
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I'm aware that this changes the game considerably, but what's the point of a variant if not to mix things up for a little variation? I'm not writing a letter to the publishers so that they will change the game; I'm posting an idea on a fan forum.

As for having newbies draw extra tiles, this has been suggested repeatedly on this forum and is always hotly debated. The variant I have proposed is an alternative handicap that I have never heard mentioned before.

I do not agree that stealing large features and tying up other players' meeples are the primary strategies to the game. Based on the average scores of my friends' games, I expect that the winning player will need to score approximately 6 points per turn in order to win a game with Taders & Builders, Inns & Cathedrals, and the River I (of course, every game is unique, and the winning score is often lower if no cathedral cities were completed, or higher if a single player was able to own or share both cathedrals without putting much work into them).

A rookie player who has had the luck to own and defend a large cathedral city will only earn 3 points per tile played unless they have the luck to draw several pennants, which are worth 6 points per tile on a cathedral city. If a rookie contributes 10 tiles to a cathedral city and I join into it with only 2 tiles, then the city is worth 36 points without any pennants or commodities, but I earned 18 points per tile played (36/2=18) while the rookie only earned 3.6 points per tile played (36/10=3.6), despite their luck in drawing the cathedral tile. Of course, it is even more beneficial to me if the newbie scored 0 points/tile played because I stole the cathedral city from them rather than sharing it, but sharing features with another player who has contributed relatively few tiles to it is still a heavy blow to aggregate scores.

Furthermore, rookies tend to get fixated on large cities and farms after playing a few games where veterans have stolen them. In my experience, newer players are paralyzed when they draw a tile that cannot be played on the city they were working on. They have no idea how to start a new project. They also tend to drop lots of meeples on the biggest farm because they are paranoid about loosing it, but even a large farm with a pig will only be worth maybe 40 points, which is only barely worth the 7 tiles that it takes to connect 4 meeples to a large piece of farmland (assuming the paranoid player was the first to claim the land and that each additional meeple required the player to lay two tiles--the first to claim new farmland and the second to connect the new farmland to the larger farmland--40/7turns=5.71points/turn). Not to mention, those 4 meeples were probably out of commission for most of the game!

I think that cut throat play stunts the growth of newbies rather than "toughening them up" to "play the real game." There are many other ways to earn an average of 6 points/tile apart from stealing large farms and cities, and these are easier to notice if players don't have to be so worried about having their larger features stolen.

A well-placed builder increases the number of tiles that a given player receives, likely decreasing the number of points that they must earn per tile played in order to win and increasing the number of points that their opponents must earn per tile played. Cloisters are not worth the effort if you can only complete it by boxing it in one tile at a time, but if you play a cloister near a city or cloister that your opponent is working on, you will be receiving extra points even when you are not laying tiles (you can also play a cloister next to your own city, but playing it on your opponent's carries the added benefit of making their city harder to complete). Micro farms touching only 2 to 4 cities can be very lucrative, especially if you are able to claim them halfway or more through the game, when meeple shortages are not as much of an issue for you (that can mean 6-12 points per tile played; more if there's a pigherd). Claiming and immediately completing a small "peanut" city on your own farmland can easily earn an aggregate of 7 points for a single tile (4 for the small city and 3 for the farm at the end of the game). Playing tiles with 2, 3, or 4 city "caps" on a micro farm you own can encourage other players to complete small cities on that farmland for a quick 4 points, again allowing you to earn points for farmland when you aren't even laying tiles.

I do not think that this is a good variant for a 2 player game because theft is definitely an essential element of the game in that setting. But for larger games, Carcassonne is more about making sure that you have your hands in more pies than your opponents. Making it harder to steal large features does not turn it into a game of luck, it just makes other game strategies (such as sharing and micro farming) more important.
 
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Carl Olson
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Spiritspark wrote:
I'm aware that this changes the game considerably, but what's the point of a variant if not to mix things up for a little variation? I'm not writing a letter to the publishers so that they will change the game; I'm posting an idea on a fan forum.


But the newbies won't learn to play with anyone other than you if you teach them this variant. Would you teach someone golf by having everyone walk from the tee to the green and just use a putter? You learn a game by having someone beat you, and figuring out what you have to change and improve to beat them.
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