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Subject: The Barbarian Report: Downfall of a King rss

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Derek Whaley
New Zealand
Christchurch
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Darius I – 73rd Great Khan of the Illustrius Barbarian Horde, Duque San Lorenzo, Marquis de Feltón, Chief of the Zayante, Baron von Whaleyland, Lord Kennedy
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Who IS the "king" of Carcassonne? The game takes place in an ambiguous period roughly around the time of the Reconquista of Iberia and Gaul, which means sometime between 700 and 1300. That's a long time period and it is rarely clear who the "king" of the county was at that time. After Charles Martel freed most of the region in the mid-700s, it was the Merovingian and Carolingian kings who had nominal lordship over the region. Certainly during the time of the Carolingian Empire, Carcassonne was in the periphery of the Franks. But after that time, everything is muddled. The Kings of France were far away and Carcassonne was fighting against Italians, Franks, Catalonians, Moors, Basque, Provençal, Burgundians, and many other peoples. It was truly in a harsh zone, hence all the castles that make this game so iconic. So, who IS the "king of Carcassonne?

In the game, the question is left unanswered. Indeed, prior to this little half-mini expansion, no king was even mentioned. And while Hans im Glück decided to rectify that problem, they didn't deem it worthy to make an entire expansion for it, and reserved five of the tiles for a new Carcassonne spin-off called Hunters & Gathers (which is quite fun, by the way!). Of the remaining seven tiles of the print-sheet, only one was reserved for the king. One went to the king's apparent arch-nemesis: the Robber Baron. The other five went to random tiles that do little more than add to the tile count of the base game. The rules, though, are where this expansion really fails utterly.

First off, the King and Robber Baron parallel each other, which seems ridiculous. While the Count gets his own expansion, the king doesn't even get full control of an expansion named partly for him. Instead, he must share it with the Robber Baron. The two split on functions. The King rewards people for building large cities, while the Robber Baron rewards people for long roads.

Basically, whenever a player completes (they don't have to score for it) a city larger than the previously larger city, they get the King token (which is a double-sided tile depicting the king). This goes on until the very end of the game, with the player who holds the tile being the one who completed the largest city. At the end of the game, that player scores one point for every completed city on the board, which means the total can be from 10 to 30, depending on the game (and number of other expansions in play).

The Robber Baron plays in exactly the same way, except in regard to longest road. Whenever a player completes a longer road, that player takes the Robber Baron token (also double-sided). At the end of the game, they receive one point for each completed road.

So why is this expansion bogus? There are many reasons, but two big ones. First, there is no real way to track the size of cities and roads. Players have to either remember them, or use some makeshift token on the scoring track to record progress. Also, counting completed roads at the end of the game can be quite tedious and sometimes it causes arguments (counting cities is quite a bit easier). The other major problem is that the King usually scores fewer points than the Robber Baron, which is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, think about it: in a normal game using only the base set, there may be around 20 completed cities. But there are often 30 or more completed roads since they often are really short in spots. In all my recent experiences, we've awarded the winner of each token a flat 20 points to save time on counting and to save the frustration.

There is a random upside to this expansion. It comes with five extra vanilla tiles. Most of them are not that special and all have been reprinted in other expansions, generally with expansion features added. But this expansion did herald the first "bridged city" tile where one city crosses, but does not merge with, another city. In my experience, these cities usually do, in fact, merge, but it is sometimes fun to not merge them.

Before I conclude this review, I also need to mention a "fan expansion" that is anything but that called the Friar and the Farmhand. This expansion was endorsed by Hans im Glück soon after the King & Robber Baron expansion was released and, although it was never released, it serves to complete the expansion by adding a "most recent cloister" and "best attended farm" award token. The Farmhand token goes to the player with the most farmers in play. At the end of the game, the player with the token scores 2 points for every farmyard symbol found within and alongside their largest farm (these symbols are the otherwise irrelevant small houses in the fields and at road intersections). The Friar token moves from player-to-player whenever someone completes a cloister (it stays with the current player if there is a tie). At the end of the game, the player with the Friar token receives two points for every completed cloister and one for every incomplete cloister. Any cloister that is not claimed receives a "no monk" token so it is not counted at the end of the game.

Okay, so is this expansion worth getting (the King & Robber Baron, that is)? Sure, why not? It includes five tiles that are rather fun to mix in with the rest. The King and Robber Baron rules can grow tiresome but they still provide a very easy little expansion element without going overboard. If you have Hunters & Gatherers, the Scout expansion can be used with that and is a rather good expansion itself. If you don't have Hunters & Gatherers, then the King & Robber Baron is a bit more of a pricey endeavor, but I don't see why not to buy it. My recommendation: get this expansion as a part of the Big Box 2 or Count, King & Consort. It's a win win since it will be watermarked that way as well, plus you get a bunch of other expansions with it.

Playability: B
Affordability: B
Compatibility (with expansions): A-
Aesthetics: B+
Learning Curve: B
FINAL GRADE: B


Carcassonne Small Expansions Ranking
10. Count of Carcassonne
9. The River
8. The King & Robber Baron
7. The Cathers (Siege)
6. The Cult
5. Crop Circles
4. The Tunnel
3. The Mini Expansion
2. The River II
1. The Plague
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Susie_Cat
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We have this and the same problems with the "King" and "Robber Baron" tiles too. We found it distorted the game as the number of points awarded could be huge for very little work, so we simplified it by making it a flat 10 points, something akin to the longest route in Ticket to Ride.

Another excellent review - still waiting for the Wheel of Fortune and Crop Circles ones though as they are the only two you haven't done that we haven't got yet (the only other we are missing is the Catapult).

Susie_Cat.
 
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Derek Whaley
New Zealand
Christchurch
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Darius I – 73rd Great Khan of the Illustrius Barbarian Horde, Duque San Lorenzo, Marquis de Feltón, Chief of the Zayante, Baron von Whaleyland, Lord Kennedy
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I did a review of Wheel of Fortune two days ago. It's forum is just not linked with the Carcassonne Forum. Here is the thread. Crop Circles I have to play again because the first time through, we misread the rules and had a whole bunch of errors. We probably need to play with more players, too, as two players for that expansion won't result in much. Most of my reviews are based on 3-4 player games, although 2-player games often factor in as well. I have an old review of the Catapult also, although I don't remember if it is called Barbarbian Report (Edit: Here is the link to this review. It was actually only my second review, and I updated it recently with my new grading rubric and added "The Barbarian Report" header). It may very well be an early session report.

And yes, we do 20 points when we play since that is roughly the amount of points the cities generally award anyway. We took the concept from Catan, but it's basically the same as Ticket to Ride's concept.
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Susie_Cat
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Yes, I found the Catapult review earlier and I'd just found the Wheel of Fortune one too. Will think a while before I get that I feel. The more so since we have one of the blue boxes that we got as a Christmas pressie some time ago and there isn't much space left. Will think even more since your review gives me the feeling that it plays better with more players and most of our games are 2-player...

Thanks again - A nice set of helpful reviews.

Susie_Cat.

 
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