Author Topic: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review  (Read 6104 times)

Offline Whaleyland

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    • Derek R. Whaley | Historian & Writer
The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« on: March 06, 2013, 01:46:31 PM »
The Little Buildings, Carcassonne's second attempt at creating an expansion that doesn't introduce any new tiles (2012's The Phantom was the first), has created a strange conundrum compared to most other expansions. Whereas most expansions scale poorly as more players are increased, Little Buildings does just the opposite. Let me explain...

Life without Tiles
* Differentiation Is Not a Bad Thing - The 18 new tokens introduced with Little Buildings are not the best designed things on Earth. While the quality is Spielbox superior, the size of these tokens is massive in comparison to the landscape they are intended to be set upon. The tower tokens, if any, are the closest to scale, while the sheds are downright gigantic in scale. To make matters worse, the houses and sheds look fairly similar in shape and size, and the images aren't exactly so different that people couldn't get confused. Considering Spielbox has made rather small tokens in the past (Tunnels, Fleas), it is a wonder why they decided to place such monstrous tokens in this expansion and then have the nerve to recommend placing these tokens in such a way that features are not obscured. Ha!
* Three Tokens for Every Player - Scaling becomes an issue with this expansion. In a six-player game, three tokens for each player is fine or even too much. But for a two-player game, three tokens equals six at the end of the game, and the points earned from six of these tokens, even when playing with the expanded rules, is negligible. The rules should have two or three players use two sets of tokens (like in Tunnels) to better scale.
* Your Usual Spielbox Rules - Spielbox has always had fun with their exclusive expansions, but I've never liked their rules translations. They just lack a certain something in polish and clarity. For this expansion, it really regards the scoring of Farms. For all other features, the rules are clear: score for the building when it is touching the feature. But for farms, the entire green area is a feature, does the building add points to that? That doesn't really follow the logic of scoring fields, which are usually linked only to completed cities. In our game, we scored them when they touched a field, but it didn't quite feel right for some reason, though we could not think of another way to score them.

Broadening Horizons
* "Expanded" Rules - I admit, when I first read the rules for this expansion, I was caught off guard that the "Expanded Rules" were not the standard rules. Carcassonne hasn't had separate rule sets before except when it comes to number of players in a game. These extra rules regarding points (Towers = 3, Houses = 2, Sheds = 1) are much better than the standard rules (All Buildings = 1). Why would anyone play any other way? The bonus points are already fairly negligible unless there are many players in the game, so why not make the buildings have a more strategic value by upping the values? Silly Spielbox. But when playing with the expanded rules, this expansion deepens the Carcassonne game tremendously.
* Using Tiles for Tiles' Sake - The Little Buildings bring a somewhat new concept to Carcassonne: scoring tiles for their own sake. No previous expansion has allowed players to score for a single tile, regardless of owner or features. In the simplest terms, if this tile is on something that is scoring, then its bonus points get added to the total. The building keeps on scoring until the end of the game, and that is pretty cool. In fact, I rather wish these Little Buildings had been made as tiles instead of tokens, so that the special features could just be placed immediately instead of taking a player's turn (though I have argued against this before). Sure it provides the occassional rules concern, but overall it adds a fun change to the usual "place your wood" actions of the game.
* Maximizing Building Placement - Alongside the new concept (and with the expanded rules especially), this expansion gives a fun strategic bonus that can have long-term effects. During my first play-through, I placed a House on a tile with a road, city, and farm. I already owned the Farm and City, and the road I claimed the next turn. I scored 6 points for that one house throughout the game (I wish I had placed the Tower instead!). While a single building is not worth a lot overall, eighteen buildings will definitely change up the game.

Inconclusion
This expansion isn't for everybody. If you play only in small groups of less than four, I wouldn't really recommend it without making some changes to the overall rules. It also may not play well with other expansions, though I don't see any specific conflicts, just because it adds quite a bit of time to end-of-game scoring with the Farms. If you play with large groups up to six, this expansion will have a lot to add to the overall game and I'd definitely recommend it. Like most Carcassonne expansions, it may get watered down when mixed, but I don't see that overly effecting this expansion. As a final thought, I still wish this expansion had been tile, rather than token, based, but it will definitely come out again soon. I like it better than a few of the Minis, for sure.

Playability: B
Affordability: B-
Compatibility (with other expansions): B
Aethetics: C
Learning Curve: B
FINAL GRADE: B-

Linkback: http://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=189.0

Offline Carcking

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 05:42:49 PM »
Nice review Whaleyland. And I agree with pretty much all of it. I was also puzzled at the scale but I figured they wanted to make sure they were visible since they are to be included in scoring.
I just drew the perfect tile for my MonKnighThieFarmer!

Offline MrNumbers

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2013, 11:17:14 PM »
Carcassonne hasn't had separate rule sets before except when it comes to number of players in a game.

But what about bazaars? They also have rules variations.
As for my experience in playing Little Houses, they really add many points to farms, especially playing only with basic game. In our 4-players game we had only 2 farms, and ALL placed tokens were connected to one of them, giving the owner extra ~23 points! As a house rule, you can place token to a specific part of the farm, giving extra point only to that farm, leaving rules about other structure scoring unchanged.
"I never lose. Either I win or I learn." (Nelson Mandela)

Offline kettlefish

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2013, 01:26:10 AM »
I didn't found mistakes in the english rules.
The German rules are in the same way a little bit confused.

Offline Ratz65

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2013, 08:47:53 AM »
@kettlefish...where are the german rules?

Offline kettlefish

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2013, 09:30:33 AM »
@kettlefish...where are the german rules?

The original rules in German:
http://www.spielbox-magazin.de/pdf/CCS_haeuser_de.pdf


Offline Whaleyland

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2013, 10:01:23 AM »
Then that just means that the people at Spielbox are not the best when it comes to writing rules. I seem to remember Plague having a ton of rules issues, and Tunnels having one or two. I forget about Cathars or their version of Cult, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if they omitted something or left something unclear.

Offline obervet

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2013, 07:47:04 AM »
I'm confused about the bit saying "three tokens for every player." The rules state that the buildings should be divided evenly among the players, so if there are only 2 players, each person should get 9 tokens. That gives plenty of opportunities for the buildings to make a difference.

And I agree about playing with the Expanded Rules. We always play with the +3/+2/+1 version.

Offline Whaleyland

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2013, 09:46:34 AM »
WOW! Thank you observet03, I guess I was playing the game wrong the entire time. I just reread the rules and I never even noticed that the rules state an even division among players. So we were both supposed to get three sets of tokens. That changes things up a bit. I guess I just assumed that the tokens were distributed in sets of three with a limit. Strange.

Well I still stand by that players are unlikely to use more than three or four of them, though. I mean, sacrificing the placement of a follower to place a piece that may benefit other players as well is not something I'd intentionally do. Generally, my wife and I place a lot of pieces in a game and we rarely have a turn where we are free to place something else. Still, interesting that I missed that...

Offline kettlefish

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Re: The Barbarian Report: Little Houses Review
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2013, 02:04:33 PM »
In the old forum I wrote follows about the little buildings:
Quote
I don't really like the Little Buildings (Die Haeuser).
I have nothing against the rules (only that we all never would become official clarifications from HiG - It is a Spielbox expansion - and it is only for the basic game created.)
I have scanned the original landscape tile 45x45 mm and a mat 100x100 mm ("Tischuntersetzer" from the CundCo Shop).


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