Author Topic: The Barbarian Report: All Along the Watchtowers (The Watchtowers)  (Read 1235 times)

Offline Whaleyland

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    • Derek R. Whaley, PhD | Librarian, Historian, and Writer
How do you watch the people of Carcassonne? From the watchtowers, of course! Scattered throughout the cities and countryside of Carcassonne can be found twelve imposing bastions of bonus points, ripe for the picking. But are these new features worth watching out for, or are they there to trick you into letting your guard down? Let’s find out…

Gaudy Guardians
* An Early Modern Imposition – As per usual, Carcassonne has shifted away from its medieval roots to tilt toward convenience. Round towers were around in the Middle Ages but they were not overly common and rarely did ones of this magnitude stand alone, especially in Languedoc. So adding twelve of them to the landscape is both jarring and anachronistic. Aesthetically, they are also not visually appealing. The whitish walls make them stand out from Cities, but they also dominate the tiles in somewhat unwelcome ways, and their perspective is just weird. And the obvious instructions printed right in the center of each tower is just plain ugly.
* Rolling Them DiceCarcassonne has always been a game of luck of the draw, but adding twelve tiles that can often result in immediate or near-immediate points, which are in addition to points gained from completing the connected feature, is a lot. Places strategically, these tiles can result in many bonus points to the player who drew and claimed it, but everyone else is left out in the cold. If one player through luck obtains many tiles with Watchtowers, the entire game can swing hard in their favor.
* Today’s Number (again) is Nine – Oh yay, another expansion that bases its main scoring mechanic on a central tile and the eight tiles around it. We sure haven’t seen that idea before, no sir! Honestly, though, when can we finally get more creative with how we score things in Carcassonne? German Monasteries tried the orthogonal cross idea—great! Wagons could actually travel on Roads—awesome! And The Markets of Leipzig turned Sheds and Farmhouses into actual scorable features—AMAZING! But no, we get more of the same with The Barber-Surgeons, Castles in Germany, Darmstadt (*shutters*), and Watchtowers.

Bold Belfries
* Equal Representation – Few expansions touch on nearly every core feature in Carcassonne. However, Watchtowers can benefit from adjacent Meeples, Cities, Pennants, Roads, and Monasteries. The only feature left out are Farms which a) aren’t officially considered a core feature anymore, and b) wouldn’t make sense to benefit from the mechanic of this expansion. And for the most part, these bonuses work really well and are straightforward. Most add a single point for each meeple or feature on that tile or any of the eight adjacent tiles. Monasteries, because they are more rare, add 3 points each. This whole concept makes placing and scoring for the Watchtower so much more strategic because you may want to score it fast, if the opportunity presents itself, or you may want to build it up slowly to maximize points.
* Fill ‘Er Up! – More tiles are always welcome, especially ones that add a good mix of Roads, Cities, and Farms, and because of the core mechanic of this expansion, the former two are definitely in high demand—the only thing left out are Monasteries for reasons of space on the tile. These tiles are all in the new style, but before things got crowded in the Cities. As one of the earliest Carcassonne 2.0 expansions, the Farms and Cities also slightly darker and the backs of the tiles differ slightly from later tiles. But thrown in with a good mix of other tiles, you’ll hardly notice. And most importantly, these are twelve new, useful tiles that will enlarge your Carcassonne tile pool.
* Mixing It Up, Expansion Style – Few expansions work seamlessly with other expansions, but this has to be one of the best. By focusing on adding bonuses to only the core mechanics, there are plenty of options to maximize points even when this is mixed in with many other tiles. The bonuses are also unlikely to get watered down since all tile-based expansions will add more Roads, Cities, and Monasteries. The expansion may, indeed, benefit from Magic Portals and The Flier since all of the tiles have at least two claimable features, only one of which can be claimed when the tile is placed (unless using The Phantom). Move over previous player, I’m getting in on this bonus too!

In the end, The Watchtowers is a decent expansion that adds a lot to a game of Carcassonne without taking much away. But the luck aspect of drawing the Watchtowers can definitely cause an imbalance if one player draws several and can use them to good effect. That makes this also one of the more strategic expansions and one that probably benefits from mixing with other expansions, especially those that provide ways to claim features on previously-placed tiles. The aesthetics of the tiles are also more practical than artistic, which can be jarring or upsetting to some players. The expansion is still worth trying out, though, if for no other reason than the twelve new tiles it will add to your collection.

Playability: B+
Affordability: B
Compatibility (with other expansions): A
Aesthetics: C
Learning Curve: A-


Offline Meepledrone

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Re: The Barbarian Report: All Along the Watchtowers (The Watchtowers)
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2022, 12:05:06 PM »
Great post!

+1 Merit from me.

This is a expansion that I keep revisiting in order to reach a conclusion on how to count meeples and features on adjacent Halflings and double-sized tiles (placed in various positions). I think of:
* Halfling tiles sharing the same space, each if them with city segments and/or road segments.
* Long roads on Leipzig tiles
* The city quarters of Leipzig itself
* Meeples in German castles
* Meeples in neighboring Exp. 8 castles
* Meeples on long roads on Leipzig tiles
* Meeples on long fields on Leipzig and German castle tiles
* ...

Note: Some of these indefinitions also affect The Land Suveyors (check the Pilgrimage Route and Hermit Monastey scoring tiles).

I sent some questions about all this to HiG almost a year ago but you can imagine the rest...

On the bright side, I discussed some of these issues in my long list with Kettlefish a few months back:
* The scoring with multiple meeples triggering the same watchtower
* The order of scoring when multiple watchtowers are triggered by the same tile placement
* Watchtowers and meeples in neighboring castles
* Watchtowers and bridges

So, at a certain point, I will reopen the discussion about the remaining issues in order to define some Community Rules for them. ^-^
Questions about rules? Check WICA:

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