What a bizarre, yet fantastic weekend. How many times have you sat watching a heavily-prostheticised Finnish metal band win the Eurovision song contest with a room full of drunken metal fans, while a man in top-hat and tails bounces past on a spacehopper? It was a first for me too! It was Tim's birthday weekend, and in between the copious beer and champagne we managed to get a shed-load of Carcassonne games in. Despite the presence of Munchkin (and all its expansions), two copies of Citadels, Puerto Rico and Border Reivers, only Carcassonne got a look in.
I played in a bunch of 4-player games, a 3-player game and a 2-player game. As usual, my Carcassonne ability held up in the 2-player (I won that one), but I didn't win the others. I don't know why I fair so badly in multi-player games, but I almost never win them, I usually tend to come second or a fairly close third. I rarely get lamped, but I almost never win. Strange that I do so much better in the 2-player games.
Almost all the games I played were with the basic game plus the Traders & Builders and the Inns & Cathedrals. It was the first time I'd played either, and seeing as we played them both simultaneously I can't really differentiate between them. So I'll comment on them as a gestalt-entity. They introduce several new mechanics:
- The bully - an extra large meeple who counts as double.
- Resource tiles - city tiles which yield a resource to the player who finishes a city, regardless of whether they have any meeples in it.
- Inns - A tile which doubles the points for a road if completed, and makes it worthless if unfinished
- Cathedrals - A four-sided city tile which makes the city tiles scores as three points rather than two if finished, and nothing if unfinished.
- The Builder - A meeple you can add to a city or road you control. Once placed, if you add to that city or road you may draw a second tile.
- The Pig - A pig-shaped meeple that when added to a farm you control makes adjacent cities score 5 instead of 4 points at the end of the game.
- A cloth bag - for shuffling the tiles.
I enjoyed all of the new mechanics, probably the resource tiles the most, I certainly made the most use of them. The bully was also good fun, and simple enough to use. Inns added an interesting new dimension to road-building, making them worth a lot more, however, you really need to complete each of the roads you get a meeple on. Cathedrals were used mostly as a scuppering plan - pick an opponent's city that's looking like it's worth a fortune, and place a cathedral in it. Everyone will now gang up to ensure that city is never completed. I also made pretty good use of the builder, but forgot the pig in every game. Which just leaves the cloth bag - a thing of beauty, it's so much easier than shuffling the tiles after every game.
Both of the expansions come with extra tiles, and this was where I was not so enamoured of the expansions. The new tiles seemed to lead to improbably-shaped cities and lots of tiny farms. This really altered the balance of the game, as the farms were far less open and it was much harder to muscle in on an opponent's big farm.
I'm not totally convinced about the expansions, I did really enjoy the new mechanics but I'm not so convinced about the new tiles. I probably would need to play the expansions a few more times to get a better feeling for them, but for the moment I'm tempted to play the new rules without some of the new tiles...