Carcassonne: The Tower provides a distinct new layer of player versus player rules given the rather devious Towers added to the game. When we first played the game it didn't seem all that significant, although we did appreciate the tower-shaped tile distribution figure that acts as an alternate option versus the cloth bag included in an earlier expansion.
The Tower also represents an odd little expansion that features a drastically different-sized box. The other large size expansions followed a particular box size and style. But an expansion that features a tower naturally had to be tall and narrow as well.
Synopsis: Carcassonne: The Tower is the fourth large expansion for the Carcassonne series. Again the expansion was designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and was originally released in English by Rio Grande Games.
The game adds 18 new tiles, most of them marked with new tower slots, which are four wall fragments that form a square. Any turn when you place a tile with a tower slot, you may do one of four things: (1) you can place your follower on the tile as normal, (2) you can add a tower piece to any tower slot on any tile on the board, (3) you can add a tower piece to an existing tower, and (4) he can place a follower on top of an existing tower, thus finishing it.
Towers are useful since they capture opposing followings. The range of a tower is dictated by its height, following the four basic directions. So a new tower piece placed on a tile can capture any follower on the tile its own or the 4 tiles immediately around it following the four basic compass directions (north, south, east and west). When you add another tower piece (bringing the height to 2), you can now capture a follower within 9 different tiles in range of the tower. These followers are hostages that remain with the player who placed the tower piece.
So what happens to these prisoners? Well the simplest way to get them back is to pay 3 victory points to get it back.. And yes, those points will be deducted from your score and will go to your opponent. The alternative is to place your own tower piece and steal one of your opponent's followers. The moment you and an opponent have one of each other's followers, you both trade them back and life goes on as normal. Of course in a game with 3 or more players means more potential prisoners and thus a greater loss of possible scoring moves.
The Tower is pretty brutal given a competitive enough mix of players. At least in The Princess & The Dragon, the movement of the dragon was shared between players and the consequence was an immediate return to the supply. In this expansion, any effort to remove followers from play is directly a result of your actions. You choose to place the tower tile and you take away someone's follower from a feature in-progress. Not everyone who gets started on Carcassonne is ready for that sort of direct confrontation. Thus we play with The Tower expansion with a fair amount of caution.
As far as large box expansions go, it's weird how this set doesn't add anything else to the mix. The big expansions thus far have added at least two new elements into the mix. This one just adds the tower element and that's pretty much it. Sure, the tower game mechanic is pretty brutal and can frustrate players to no end. But it's still not as diverse as it could have been and I wish they had added more.
Carcassonne: The Tower is a little boring on its own no matter how competitive you are. I find it helps to include The Tower and at least one other expansion into the mix in order to have more fun - just maybe not The Princess and The Dragon, unless you're that cruel. So the expansion gets 3.5 meeple prisoners out of a possible 5.