Author Topic: The Barbarian Report: A Little Bit of Everything (20th Anniversary Expansion)  (Read 544 times)

Offline Whaleyland

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Note: This is only a review of the 20 extra tiles in the game. This is not a review of the edition as a whole.

Carcassonne has been around for over two decades now, so it is pretty impressive that expansions are still being released annually for it. The only other game with such a track record is Catan. That being said, many of Carcassonne’s expansions have been less than impressive, and some have been downright dull or confusing. The 20th Anniversary Expansion—or rather “inspansion” since it is exclusive to the 20th Anniversary Edition of the base game—chose to play it safe, but as a result it sort of just makes parts of the first three full-sized expansions redundant. Let me explain…

Pride & Prejudice
  • I’ve Seen This Before – Hans im Glück loves its legacy and it knows that the first two expansions, Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders, are the most popular expansions in the series. They have been included in every Big Box as well as several combo boxes over the years. So, instead of developing something new, the designers of the 20th Anniversary Edition decided to borrow the most popular concepts from the first three expansions, namely Big Meeples, the Builder, and Magic Portals (from The Princess & the Dragon). This is all done through 20 extra tiles (15 are marked with a lazy “20” watermarks on them—the remaining 5 are new River tiles with nothing interesting to note except for the double-sized source tile with a “20” emblazoned in the middle) that are shuffled into the rest of the tiles. The tiles are uninspired—many are just base game tiles with the new mechanic on them—and the actual mechanic is lazily depicted in a relatively small blue arrow that can be difficult to differentiate. Furthermore, playing a game of Carcassonne using both the 20th Anniversary Expansion and any of the first three expansions will inevitably result in confusion and a general feeling of repetition between features and rules.
  • Double the Punch, Half the Impact – While there are certainly tactical advantages to the new mechanic where a player can double-up their meeple presence on a feature, thereby replicating the effect of the Big Meeple from Inns & Cathedrals, the end result may be that two of your meeples are now stranded on a feature for the rest of the game. Inns & Cathedrals addresses this by providing an entirely new meeple that doesn’t cost you one of your normal meeples. The mechanic in the 20th Anniversary Edition, however, does the opposite. It now costs a player two meeples from their core supply of 7—that’s a high cost! If someone manages to trap those meeples, they are there for the rest of the game unless you also mix in an expansion like The Festival, that helpfully can be used to remove trapped meeples from tiles. While the benefit of dropping a second meeple on a feature can be shocking and game-altering, it is a risk that rarely equals the reward.
  • Bad Strategy, Now With Punishment – One mechanic I always dislike in games is account-keeping. It’s just annoying. Whenever I play The Princess & the Dragon expansion, I ignore the bonus points from the Fairy. In 2-player games especially, it rarely moves so just continues to accrue points each turn for whoever happened to move it last, and trying to remember the +3 points for completed features with the Fairy is futile. Other than the Fairy, Carcassonne hasn’t really had a ton of account keeping. But this game has it twofold. First, if a player places a tile so that the bonus action arrow is not pointing to an adjacent tile, then the player receives two points. This is just dumb. Don’t reward a bad move. If the player didn’t get the bonus action, it’s probably because they had a more valuable use for the tile. But then to add a dumb rule to a dumb rule, a player in a later turn can place a tile adjacent to an arrow and activate the bonus action. I get that this is to further emphasize the importance of these bonus tiles, but just no. We forgot about that rule at least twice when playing, and also forgot about the +2 points for not using the bonus action. And then there is the situation where you don’t want to or can’t use the bonus action but don’t qualify for the bonus points. It’s all a bit too much.

Sense & Sensibility
  • Return to a Land of Magic – Introduced in The Princess & the Dragon as a way to claim vacant features left incomplete from previous rounds, the Magic Portals are by far one of the most popular and useful features introduced to Carcassonne. Thus, their return in the 20th Anniversary Expansion, albeit in a slightly modified format, is extremely welcome. Any player of Carcassonne knows that there are situations where a player must leave something vacant because something else is potentially more valuable. This little addition corrects for that by allowing a player to claim any vacant feature left over from a previous round. And I mean ANY, including empty Gardens or Monasteries, or unclaimed Fields. This feature can be a game changer in all the right ways!
  • Churning Those Tiles – Another popular mechanic from an expansion is that of the Builder, which allows a player to take a second turn if they expand a feature that has their Builder figure on it. In the 20th Anniversary Expansion, players only have to draw and place the appropriate tile to receive this bonus, but the benefit is still very nice. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like getting a second tile to place in a row, and this mechanic also helps go through the tiles a little faster.
  • More is Better – Perhaps the simplest but best feature of this expansion is the fact that it adds 20 new tiles, however simple they may be. Among these new tiles are 2 new Gardens, which are always welcome since they are slightly less represented across the line than Monasteries, and a new Monastery, which increases the number in this edition to eight total. I have always felt that Monasteries, which are limited to 6 in the base game (7 with The River), get short shrift in Carcassonne despite the fact that 10% of people in the Middle Ages were directly involved in some capacity in the Church. Adding new Monasteries and Gardens helps increase the odds that a player will pull one of these tiles, increases the chances that they will be able to claim a Garden, and provides for a more exciting play experience. The other additional tiles, including the new double-sized source tile, the new lake, and the 3 other new River tiles, are always welcome, although I wish this version of The River expansion had its own unique watermarks like those on the Big Box 6’s River tiles.

Inconclusion
This expansion was certainly not Hans im Glück’s best, but it also was far from its worse. At least everything was fairly straightforwards, which is more than can be said about the Carcassonne Minis and half of its promo expansions over the years. Nonetheless, I feel that this expansion was a missed opportunity to do something that respected the legacy of the series but in a new way. Simply copying mechanics from the first three expansions doesn’t respect the legacy, it undermines the first three expansions! In 2011 and 2016, The Festival was released as a new expansion with a simple but useful mechanic. I think that 15 bonus tiles (not the new River tiles—those are fine) could have done something similar, perhaps by borrowing concepts from some of the most popular spin-offs or creating something equally useful and new. This is not the place to propose alternatives, but it is the place to say that Carcassonne deserved something more useful and interesting to commemorate 20 years of an amazing game. Fortunately, Hans im Glück is giving us The Gifts at Essen this year, so there is perhaps some little bonus expansion that will satisfy, if not replace the disappointment that is the 20th Anniversary Expansion.

Playability: B+
Affordability: D
Compatibility (with other expansions): B
Aesthetics: B
Learning Curve: B
FINAL GRADE: B-

Linkback: https://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=5508.0
« Last Edit: October 17, 2021, 01:13:55 PM by Whaleyland »

Offline Meepledrone

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Great review!

+1 merit from me.

The HiG rep on Discord told me this about the 20th Anniversary Edition back in April 2021 when asking about interactions with the double-sized river source tile:
Quote
The anniversary edition is not a Substitute for the base game. So the same statement applies here: We won't give you official rules for combinations of expansions.

So it seems they included the 20th Anniversary expansion as if it was never supposed to be combined with any other expansions. Really?

This all sounds kind of too lazy to me.

But at least the rules explain how to score a monastery adjacent to the river source, something I asked them about when discussing double-sized tile with them back in January 2021...  :o
« Last Edit: October 17, 2021, 03:55:15 PM by Meepledrone »
Questions about rules? Check WICA: wikicarpedia.com

Offline Whaleyland

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That's true! This edition finally seemed to address the double-tile issue in a satisfactory manner. Of course they count as two tiles in most situations, why was this so hard of an answer to come to?

The fact that Hans im Glück thinks this edition is some quasi-spin-off and not a base game is ridiculous. I still had not purchased a copy of the base game in the new art style until I got this and without this, I probably wouldn't have bought one at all (my partner is still wondering why I bought it...at least until I told her it has an exclusive expansion, then she just rolled her eyes). Instead of using the 20th anniversary to try to attract new players while also providing something fun for old players, they made this: a beautiful box with beautiful tiles that neither satisfies old players nor attracts new ones. I feel it's a wasted opportunity. Wheel of Fortune was far more bold and even the 10th Anniversary Edition with The Festival at least provided an interesting, if basic, expansion.

Offline carlium

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I know that making the 20th-anniversary edition a quasi-spin-off is a bad idea, as you both mentioned, but I hope this becomes true. I don't want to buy any mini-expansion or maxi-expansion that includes that iconography. I can deal with the clipped buildings  :'( ; however, those icons in the 20th-anniversary expansion are so discordant with the entire aesthetics of the game that I wish they just discard and never use them again.

Really, I wish they "catapult" them!    ;)


Offline Bumsakalaka

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Bad news is, that it looks line new design standard. We can call it 2.2? Or 20 but this can be replaced with 2.0. so I prefferen 2.2 used in Peasant revold for first time. We will see how it will be when otherimi will be released. I hope that it will be on december, like last year

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Offline Meepledrone

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Will be the Spiel '21 tile the last instance of C2.1 our eyes will see?  >:D

Offline Bumsakalaka

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Will be the Spiel '21 tile the last instance of C2.1 our eyes will see?  >:D
I hope (maybe 0.5% change) that you will not be rigth. But as I said, only for 0,5% (for english men [who is in new york] 200:1)

Offline Whaleyland

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Bad news is, that it looks line new design standard. We can call it 2.2? Or 20 but this can be replaced with 2.0. so I prefferen 2.2 used in Peasant revold for first time. We will see how it will be when otherimi will be released. I hope that it will be on december, like last year

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I would definitely call it 2.2, especially since it did not originate with the 20th Anniversary Edition. I suspect like the roll-out of 2.1 that it will take a few years to trickle down from Hans im Glück to its distribution partners, but I also assume the Spiel '21 tile is the final official iteration of 2.1, just like the Spiel '17 tile was the final of 2.0.

I am in the minority with this, I know, but I welcome the change. The tiles look tremendously better than 2.0's tiles and work fine with the 2.1 tiles since the colors still match, but these tiles are the first in Carcassonne's 21-year history to actually depict a lived-in city. It just seems right even if the aesthetics around the edges are less than ideal. The fate of any tile-laying game is that things will be unusual around the edges—Carcassonne has avoided this problem somewhat by making the edges really boring, but making them more exciting naturally leads to other problems.

Offline carlium

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Yes, for sure C. 2.2 (a.k.a. clipped buildings) are here to stay, but what I was trying to say is about the iconography of the 20th expansion, those blue arrows. I feel that they do not fit well with the aesthetic of the tile itself.



 :red-meeple:

Offline Bumsakalaka

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Yes. Arrows are by C20 design of box. Which is funny, that rules are "middle age book design" and box and arrows modern design. Sure, they don't fit together.

Offline Whaleyland

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Ah yes, the blue arrows. Too small. Too aesthetically displeasing. They aren't the first time that Hans im Glück has gotten lazy with designs, but they are far lazier than the Fliers, which is probably their closest equivalent.


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