Author Topic: Under The Big Top - revisited  (Read 1205 times)

Offline cicerunner

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Under The Big Top - revisited
« on: February 29, 2020, 12:41:00 PM »
I came to the forum to make a straightforward post of my own first thoughts and impressions of Under The Big Top, but found the existing Carcassonne: Expansion N°10 Under the Big Top / Manege frei thread which was started when the community was still anticipating the release of the expansion and concludes just after it was released.

Having read all 16 pages, I'm not sure I've got much new to say, so I'll (mostly) use your words instead ...

Expansion name
Fritz_Spinne helpfully answers a specific question I was going to ask about my German copy ...
In Germany the director of a circus welcomes his guests and ends it shouting "Manege frei!", something like "Let the show begin!"

But, until reading the following, I hadn't really considered the stylistic naming of the expansion ...
the Dutch box "Het Circus" translates in English to "The Circus", so I would bet $5 that is what the Expansion will be called in English.
Indeed the Finnish name is my favourite, because it follows the tradition of naming the expansions in the format "A & B" or "A, B & C" according to what it contains.

Likewise, it hadn't occurred to me to reflect on the ...

Medieval theming
I'd have preferred something like "Troubadour & Jester". Circuses are just so NOT medieval.
I don't think they had big tops back in the Middle Ages, so there's that fairly standard complaint, too.
... the so-called ringmaster ... doesn't seem to live in medieval times

... But now that you've gotten me thinking about it, I find I do have quite strong feelings! The Ringmaster and Big Top are particularly jarring in terms of (lack of) medieval theme and it seems a shame that the name of the expansion overall, in English at least, breaks the stylistic naming convention.

It'd have been much better if the ringmaster was named and modelled as a troubadour since he doesn't actually combine directly with the Big Top anyway and It would make sense that a troubadour would perform in the vicinity of other acts. (Plus a troubadour was specifically French.) So "The Troubadour, Acrobats and ... The Fair?" The Big Top is a fun mechanic, bit it's hard to think of a medieval equivalent.

Three different expansion elements that can be used together or separately ...
The pedant in me needs to point out that the ringmaster can't really be played in isolation can he? He just becomes an extra meeple?

But yes, there is lots of strategic interest ...
The 10th expansion is a feast for strategists since it requires strategy to obtain the maximum bonus points.
I could also see players trapping pyramid meeples on their tile
Hope that you like it as much as I do. It goes very well with the watchtowers too, as the game mechanic is similar.
I have the Watchtowers and it was partly my experience of that, which made me think I'd like Under The BigTop.
Everyone knows the real game within the game of Carcassonne is stacking your meeples, so the human pyramids are a fun idea

Which brings me to my primary impressions of the expansion ...

Just played a 2 player game. The scoring potential of Expansion 10 is amazing!
... it wouldn't be difficult to score 21+ points on the 7 point elephant!
(I experienced exactly this in my first game.)
It's definitely not something where you can just ignore the newly introduced bits and bobs and hope to win just by generating points in the classic way.
I don't mind high-scoring games but it is important that everything is balanced, otherwise newly introduced concepts can easily negate the usefulness of, or interest in some of the more traditional features while players concentrate purely on building pyramids or placing their meeples near to the next circus tent in anticipation of a huge points payout. I do think this expansion is a little unbalanced in this respect.
I too find the expansion a little overwhelming in terms of its influence on the scoring (and hence on what features I spend my energy pursuing). Just how many other expansions do you have to add for Under The Big Top to feel 'bedded in' rather than 'dominant'? (Personally, I quite like seeing the Acrobat and Big Top pitches in the landscape, but their frequency can be overwhelming visually too.)

PresetM thinks this will become one of the best expansions.
What has the community decided after some experience and reflection?

« Last Edit: February 29, 2020, 03:42:03 PM by cicerunner »

Offline Meepledrone

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Re: Under The Big Top - revisited
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2020, 04:56:15 PM »
Hi cicerunner!

Thank you for this summary and your personal impressions.

I could only play Exp. 10 once up to date. I got it in August 2019 and played a 2-player game with my wife. It was just base game + Exp. 10.

I don't remember the exact scoring, but my impression is that the expansion boosted the scoring, normally high for a 2-player game.

My wife became the queen of the acrobats... she got almost all the acrobat tiles and created an acrobat-ville zone or the board dominated by her. Tons of points rained on her. She also got plenty of points from her ringmaster and the big top.

So if you are lucky with your tiles, this expansions becomes a magnifying glass.

Regarding the theme... Well, my impression was that many topics didn't match the Middle Ages: a ringmaster? A big top? Wild animals like a tiger or an elephant?

In those time you would find jesters, minstrels, acrobats, and probably a tamed bear... a tent or a wagon...

The C1 conversion of Exp. 10 by CarcF does a better work changing the wild animals into acrobats and artists... See here if you are a CarcF member:

Questions about rules? Check WICA:

Offline dirk2112

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Re: Under The Big Top - revisited
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2020, 08:17:11 PM »
We have played it with just the base game and with one or 2 regular expansions.  We haven't tried it with megacarc, but I imagine that would water it down a bit.  Then again, the points that can be generated by the circus tents are hard to ignore.  If you get the tile at the correct time and use it near a cluster of your meeple, points galore (possibly).  I remember one game I had 4 meeples near one tent and my wife had 4 near another.  I drew the flea, she drew the tiger, and that was a huge 20 point swing.   

In games we have played with Under the Big Top, the winner is usually 50 points or more ahead of the second place player.  In games without this expansion, usually 15 to 20 points is the norm.    My wife likes this expansion as she seems to win more with it than without. 
« Last Edit: February 29, 2020, 08:21:47 PM by dirk2112 »

Offline cicerunner

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Re: Under The Big Top - revisited
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2020, 01:40:30 AM »
Yes, maybe it's the variable animal values that makes it quite so overwhelming ... And it can introduce large random swings as you say.

Perhaps I will try removing the flea and the elephant, thereby reducing the potential swing between Big Top performances from 1-7 (700%) to 3-6 (100%) ...

Offline Halfling

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Re: Under The Big Top - revisited
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2020, 10:25:58 AM »
We usually have 4 players in our weekly lunchtime game at work. Expansion 10 is often included with base game and one or two other small expansions so that we have about 100 to 110 times. There is a definite tactic of 'tent chasing' where we all try to get our meeples near the big top. It is a shift in tactic which, for me, isn't a problem as we all know the expansion and accept it. Similarly we change our style of play when using expansions 3 and 4.  These two expansions are traditionally disliked by the purest...not as much as expansion 7.....but the base flavour is shifted enough to force a change in tactics.  As a player of all the expansions and wheel of fortune I see this variety as a strength as our lunchtime games are never stale. Every 4 weeks I get to choose the expansions, never a dull moment. Incidentally I never balanced meeples until I played expansion 10, I do balance my unused wood now though!
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