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[Review] Carcassonne: the River

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

(This review assumes you already know how to play Carcassonne.)

For most people, Carcassonne: the River (Hans Im Gluck and Rio Grande Games, 2002 - Rudolf Ross) comes prepackaged with the base game of Carcassonne. It’s still considered an expansion in the rule set, having a paragraph mentioned near the end explaining the rules. Early sets of Carcassonne do not include the expansion, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes Carcassonne but is discouraged by huge farmer scores. It was given out for free at one of the Essen fairs, and copies of it are still available online.

The River expansion is made up of twelve tiles, each containing part of a river. One endpoint of the river (the spring) is the starting tile of the game, replacing the original starting tile. The other endpoint of the river (the lake) is set aside, with the remaining ten river tiles shuffled, forming the first ten tiles to be played during the game. Players draw and play these tiles just like normal tiles, with a few rules:
- Each river tile must connect to the other river tiles utilizing the river - not the other edges.
- The river cannot make a U-turn.
- Players may not place meeples directly on the river.
- The river divides farms just like roads do.
The river tiles have cities, roads, and even a monastery on them - just like normal tiles. After the tenth river tile has been played, the next player plays the lake tile to finish the river; and then play proceeds, using the regular tiles.

Aesthetically, the river adds a nice touch, bringing yet another feature to the colorful board. Play-wise, I think the river is also useful, for a couple reasons.
- The biggest and most important is the fact that the river breaks up huge farms that may occur in the basic game. I never found this to be much of a problem, myself, but some folk can’t stand how one farm can really sway the game. Because the river cuts up some of these huge farms, it brings scoring for them back down in the normal range. Farmers are still important, but not quite as powerful.
- The river also gives players more options when starting the game. Since the river tiles have different features on each one that cannot be connected to each other, players have the opportunity to get their meeples early into cities, roads, etc. - all of which should be easily finished. The river also forces these features to be spread out a little more, cutting down on huge cities, long roads, etc.

People’s reactions to the River are quite mixed. Many love it and find it necessary, as I do. It doesn’t change the game that much but really helps the startup to flow more smoothly. The river doesn’t add any real rules to the game, so I almost always include it when teaching the game to newcomers. Some players complain that the river tiles are worthless - and on a glance they might be - but I find that any game I play with them is a much more enjoyable experience.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

Hamumu
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Joined: 12/31/1969
[Review] Carcassonne: the River

I'm curious why the river is said to divide up farms. It looks to me like it expands farms, since its ends are always open, and it creates a continuous section of grass in a circle around (broken by 1 or 2 roads? I don't remember exactly, but far less than a similar length of tiles would have without the river).

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