Author Topic: The Barbarian Report: MEGA MINI MAYHEM!!!  (Read 5106 times)

Offline Whaleyland

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    • Derek R. Whaley | Historian & Writer
The Barbarian Report: MEGA MINI MAYHEM!!!
« on: February 12, 2013, 10:27:09 AM »
Chaos reigns in the County of Carcassonne. Mages and witches have moved in just as gold is discovered in the hills. Robbers ply their trade on unsuspecting travelers while messengers crowd the roads. Ferries clog the waterways even while flight is achieved overhead. And rumors abound of crop circles appearing in fields throughout the land. Carcassonne is no longer safe...

Prologue
In a short hour and a half last night, I ventured down the path of mayhem by combining all six minis plus both Corn Circles expansions. After having tested out the minis individually, I felt that each was designed in such a way that they limit their conflicts with other expansions. But even as the tiles were tossed in the draw bag and the other materials were set aside, I could see that the scoreboard would become a confusing morass of followers and followed.

Early Defeats
The game began with a raucous thud. The first tile out was a Flyer, with no real prospect for use. The second brought out the Robbers early, but the third also was a Robber tile, again proving to be a dud. As the game progressed, a long stream of vanilla tiles appeared, pushing the stream of expansion tiles to the end of the game. Cities were built, fields were claimed, and everything was set for confusion.

Crashed Fliers
The Fliers were the first expansion to bottom out. Used only once and just to tie for a long road, most of the tiles were brought out when no situations presented themselves for theft. Flyer tiles became field connectors, eventually merging one large field that spanned most of the board. Their original purpose was lost as heavy winds batted the courageous fliers from the sky.

Communist Gold
Another victim of bad luck and worse strategy became the Goldmines. Placed across the table, the gold bricks shone elegantly, but their wealth was dispersed. One-by-one, my wife claimed the treasure, but when her thirst was only whetted, I took the remainder, eventually tying and canceling out any bonus from the gold. The instructions sat at the corner of the table, scoreboard visible but ultimately useless. The gold rush was over and both players were left wanting.

Ferries to Nowhere
The Ferries had a better life, but their use declined as focus shifted toward cities and fields. Most of the Ferries came out in the middle game, and they were moved rarely if at all. A few large roads early on proved to be fought over, but the last five ferries were clearly in my wife's camp, and I didn't dispute her claim. Only once did I claim a Ferry-road, and that was more by accident than strategy.

The Sinful Habits of Traveling Mages
While the Mage and Witch appeared about mid-game, they rarely roamed the board for long. The Mage was used like a common Las Vegas streetwalker then discarded just as quickly, his bonus points added to the scoreboard. The Witch languished on one feature then another, only being used at the end of the game. While the Mage decisively gave me an edge in scoring three times, the Witch did little to hurt any player and ended up on a feature shared between us.

Robbers Among the Messengers
Robbers descended on the scoreboard early, but did not remain for long. Smart scoring ensured that my wife only ever received two points (from small cities) from her Robber, while she decided that since she has two followers on the scoreboard, she could just never move the one that was being tailed. Both strategies worked in the end, but one made the Robber and extra Follower worthless to her, while the other meant I never profited once off my Robber. Oddly, the Messages were about evenly claimed but neither of us used a Message for a decisive purpose. For whatever reason, whenever the Message was drawn, the last feature of that type had just been completed, triggering the scoring that triggered the Message being drawn. It was a vicious cycle that saw more default 2-point Messages claimed than I would have predicted. The "immediately score one follower then remove" Message was only drawn once and used to good effect -- my wife was out of followers. But that was the only time a Message was used well. In the end, the Robbers profited little and the Messages only slightly more.

Fight on the Scoreboard
Somewhere in the mayhem of Messengers and Robbers, however, the scoring itself came under peril. Circling the board, it was difficult to remember which follower had just scored, and if they had passed the "0", and if they had flipped their "50/100" chip or needed a new one. Technically I won...we think...but it is possible I flipped a chip twice in the confusion. Having six meeples on the scoreboard for just two players only is a prelude to what would happen in a Mega Mini game with six players. Eighteen meeples on the scoreboard is just too much, and the players have to be aware of their own scoring since it is important for determining which follower moves, since both the Messages (landing on dark spots) and Robbers (meeples will have stalkers) are important factors to consider when moving meeples.

Deus Ex Machina
The final determining factor in my ultimate victory (assuming scoring was correct) was the proper use of Corn Circles. The Corn Circles arrived in a perfect frequency for me, while my wife continued to discount them or forget about them. Three times they depleted my follower reserve, and twice I used them to deprive my wife of a feature. Corn Circles are most powerful when a player either has no remaining followers, and thus cannot place a follower while the other person can, or when a player has disposable followers on features while the opponent does not. The latter was my path to ultimate victory. Twice when "Shield" circles were drawn, I was able to sacrifice a low-value city in exchange for my wife having to sacrifice her share in a high-value city. Once, I even used the Corn Circle to complete the feature she had to then abandon before scoring. It was devious and evil. At the end of the game, I also ensured that the large field remained shared rather than become hers by smartly predicting that one of the last tiles would be a "Pitchfork" circle and placing an extra meeple in another, decent-valued field as insurance in case my wife tried to remove followers rather than add them. She wouldn't risk handing me the entire field, since she had no other field to remove followers from, so she forced an add-follower action, which I was able to do.

Conclusions After Armageddon
After the game, we discussed the game in some detail and determined that the Minis, while individually fun, are not meant to be played together. Despite their general lack of rules conflicts between them, the seven minis create a situation that does not entirely balance between them. We determined that most of the minis would go better with other expansions, such as:

The Fliers – The Tower, Princess & Dragon (expansions where features are frequently vacated, incomplete)
The Ferries – Inns & Cathedrals, Abbey & Mayor, Bridges Castles & Bazaars (expansions where roads feature prominently)
Mage & Witch – Not Inns & Cathedrals (concepts too similar)
The Messages – Not The Robber (too conflicting), works well with most other expansions
The Robber – Not The Messages (too conflicting), works well with most other expansions
The Goldmines – Works well with all expansions
Corn Circles II – Not Corn Circles I (too many Corn Circles makes them too powerful)

Perhaps the Corn Circles aggrandizement was the biggest problem. There were too many corn circles and they were randomly drawn which gave the active player an immense advantage in many cases. One set of Corn Circles is probably enough. Unlike the River expansions which just add an aesthetic appeal to the game, Corn Circles adds a distinct and problematic advantage to the drawing player that can't really be countered. In a 3+ player game, it can become downright devious.

Ultimately, the mayhem in Carcassonne receded to a dull grumble from my wife. While she enjoyed the game — it was actually pretty short — the relative strengths of the various mini expansions really came to light. Early on, we had to consult the instructions frequently, though we found no major conflicts between the expansions. Eventually, the game just went on at pace, with each new tile presenting new opportunities that were largely a waste. While adding fun mechanics to the game, the randomness of the draw still hampers these expansions and their relative strengths.



Linkback: http://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=50.0

Offline kettlefish

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Re: The Barbarian Report: MEGA MINI MAYHEM!!!
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2013, 03:05:13 PM »
Thanks for your review Whaleyland,
I like your reports so much.

Offline Carcatronn

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Re: The Barbarian Report: MEGA MINI MAYHEM!!!
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2013, 03:28:20 PM »
Agreed!  ;D
PM me for for a list of remaining items from the Carcassonne Shoppe.

Offline Carcking

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Re: The Barbarian Report: MEGA MINI MAYHEM!!!
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2013, 03:44:48 PM »
Excellent session report - coupled with a nice review on the minis in action. Nice!

Whaley - regarding your struggles with keeping track of laps on the score board - you should look at my method for using d6's. Here's a pic from an old session of mine from an 8 player game:

« Last Edit: February 12, 2013, 03:54:27 PM by Carcking »
I just drew the perfect tile for my MonKnighThieFarmer!


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