Mar 25, 2015

[Games] Carcassonne: Traders & Builders

The ridiculous number of Carcassonne expansions that we own means that I'll spend a lot of time writing blog reviews for the various sets. I could lump them together in sets or something silly like that, but to I firmly believe each pf the larger expansions deserves its time in the spotlight. Smaller ones might get gathered together in one review easily enough, but these full expansions are a different animal entirely.

Carcassonne: Traders & Builders really added great new ways to score in the game and I still feel it stands out compared to other expansions in the series. Where most sets add scoring tweaks on top of the basic rules, this expansion adds an entirely different way to score points that doesn't necessarily tie directly to the traditional scoring methods.

Plus this game adds the rather clever game mechanic of the Builder. It seems simple enough but it's one of the few expansion tweaks that provide players with multiple turns in succession. But more on that in a bit.

Synopsis: Carcassonne: Traders & Builders is the second large expansion for the game Carcassonne as designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. The game comes with 24 new tiles , Builder pieces for each color and a Pig figure for each color.

First the Trading aspect of the game involves the 18 Trader icon marked tiles that come with the set. There are three trade goods - Wine, Wheat and Cloth. When a city is completed with one or more Trade Good icons included, the person who completes the city, and not necessarily the person who scores the feature, gets trade goods in equal number to the icons that appeared. The player with the most trade goods of each type get 10 points per type. This is a clever new way to score points, assuming that you don't end up giving other players more points when you help them sore their cities.

Then there's the Builder, which is a special wooden piece that everyone gets one of. When you add a second tile to a feature that you are trying to complete, particularly a city or a road, you can add the Builder to the feature sort of like a follower. But this has nothing to do with control of the feature - now the first time you add a tile that continues a feature where the Builder is present, the player can take a second turn immediately after the current one. Thus the game rewards people who are working on larger, more ambitious features by giving them extra turns.

Finally there's the Pig, which you can add to an existing Farm where you already have a follower. Now any cities in this farm will score 4 points instead of 3, but only for this particular Farm that contains the Pig. It's a pretty simple tweak, but you still need to forego playing a new Follower in order to place the Pig.

And rounding up the set are some new features like some clever new city designs and bridges that have roads extend over one another where you would normally place a 4-way intersection. It makes for longer roads, which can be either a good or a bad thing depending on how the game is going for you.

The Trade Goods really add a clever new dimension to the game and I've seen quite a number of games turn because of control of Trade Goods. Plus it's a behavior that drives folks to complete cities sooner, as opposed to the usual efforts to either create ridiculously large cities or blocking the growth of cities with strategic tile placement and such.

The Builder is a lot of fun since being able to take two turns at a time just feels good. But of course the highly random nature of what tiles you might get results in the second turn not necessarily connecting to the first one. And there's your inherent game balance right there, I suppose.

Carcassonne: Traders & Builders really adds a new dimension to your Carcassonne gameplay and this expansion theoretically can be played independently of the base set, but only if you're competing for Trade Good control, I suppose. Still, it's a lot of fun and it gets 4 surprise Trade Good mixes out of a possible 5.

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