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[Review] Carcassonne: Traders and Builders

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

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

Carcassonne: Traders and Builders (Hans Im Gluck and Rio Grande Games, 2003 - Klaus-Jergen Wrede) is an excellent expansion to the main game. Not only does it add even more interesting tiles into the mix, but it also adds several new features that have dramatic effects upon game play. It’s my favorite expansion, as I like the options the game adds, and even can cause a lukewarm fan of Carcassonne to enjoy the game more. The expansion adds five interesting things...

1.) Cloth Bag: Okay, maybe this isn’t interesting, but it’s certainly useful. A nice blue cloth bag (with a picture of Carcassonne Castle on it) is included to draw tiles from. I guess there are a very few people who would still prefer to stack the tiles, but this bag is quite useful. The rules state that the tiles may be off a little in color, hence the bag; but I didn’t notice much, if any difference.

2.) The Builder: A little figure in each color is included to represent the “builder” - looks like a little wooden stamp. A player may place a builder, instead of a meeple, on a city or road - but only one in which they already have a meeple. On future turns, if the player extends the city/road in which the builder sits, they immediately get a free extra tile that they may place. This “double-play” can only be done once per player’s turn. If the road/city on which the builder is located is finished, the builder returns to the player just like the meeples. I enjoyed the builder addition, as it allows a clever person to put down extra tiles, giving them a great advantage. Placement of the builder is crucial, since if a player places one in the wrong location, they can end up with a builder in a spot where a road/city will never be finished, and thus lose the use of the builder for the game.

3.) New Tiles: Twenty-four new tiles are included in this set. The combinations are some of the most interesting in all the expansions, offering up combinations of cities and roads in different and unique ways. Some roads cross each other rather than intersect; other cities stretch in odd ways across the tiles. As always with all the expansions, these tiles help alleviate the power of large farms.

4.) Goods Chits: By far, the most interesting and game-changing part of the expansion is the goods chits. Twenty of the new tiles have city sections on them with an icon with one of three goods. (wine, grain, and cloth) Whenever a player completes a city by placing a tile (regardless of whether they have any meeples in the city), they receive one goods chit corresponding to each icon in the city. These chits are placed face up in front of the player until the end of the game. When the game is over, the player who has the most chits of each of the three types gains ten points for each type. Ties give the ten points to all players. This really has an impact on the game. Players now have an incentive to finish other player’s cities, because they will get goods chits. This balances the game out a bit, and adds strategy. Should I place the tile to finish my own city, scoring points for me; or should I finish another player’s city - giving them points, but netting me several good chits. This part of the expansion is worth the price of the game alone and has changed several people’s opinion of the game, as it actually decreases the luck and increases the strategy. Can’t draw that tile to finish your city? Odds are that someone else will, if you have a goods chit there.

5.) Pigs: A little pig figure (a “peeple”?) is included of each players’ color. A player may place a pig, just like a meeple, into a farm - but only on a farm where they already have a meeple. At the end of the game, the pig scores an extra point for each city that is scored by the farm. If the player doesn’t control the farm, they of course get no points. Many people have criticized the pig, saying that it doesn’t really affect the game too much. I must say that I disagree. The pig isn’t a spectacular addition, to be sure; but I’ve seen at least two games that have been decided by the points won by the pig. Besides, it’s a cool piece.

This is definitely not an expansion for beginners, as the builder rules might confuse some people. But after a couple plays of regular Carcassonne, this one should be able to be smoothly assimilated. If all the game included were the good chits, I would be satisfied - they add some simple, difficult choices to the game play, and a lot of strategy to the game. When combined with the first expansion for Carcassonne, the game suddenly becomes a whole new creature. As a basic game, it was simple, lucky, strategic and fun. With this expansion, it’s still fairly simple, yet a lot of new tiles add a decent variety; and the builder and good chits add more strategy. I like Carcassonne a lot; but when these expansions are added, my enjoyment doubles.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

Hamumu
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Joined: 12/31/1969
[Review] Carcassonne: Traders and Builders

Sorry I have to comment on all your Carcassonne reviews, but I want to point out that builder doesn't look like a wooden stamp - he looks like a baker. Thus we call him the Baker.

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