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Messages - Whaleyland

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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-

Quizzes, Puzzles and Challenges / Re: Sunday Quiz 2022
« on: July 10, 2022, 04:02:33 AM »
Red scores 4 Roads x 2 (for Inn) = 8 Points
Yellow scores 3 Roads = 3 Points

To the best of my knowledge, an Inn doesn't lend its bonus to a Bridge since the Bridge passes over the tile, not through it.

Other Games / Re: KICKSTARTER (watch your purses)
« on: June 06, 2022, 03:09:30 AM »
I'm strongly considering backing this new special edition of Castles of Burgundy.

If you already own the game, it might not be a good deal, but it seems great for people who don't have it yet.
I'm super interested too. Like, dangerously so. But I already have three Kickstarters in various states of production and I'm not sure when I'll play the last one I received. I also barely have time to play any of my games these days! The struggle is real.

News and Events / Re: Mists over Carcassonne
« on: May 20, 2022, 07:31:32 PM »
The initial version that HiG presented with the rubber ghosts, in my opinion, was more original and beautiful than this last one in wood.
Considering those are laser-cut meeples in the photos above, I think there's still a good chance of transparent ghost meeples in the final product.

General / Re: Zamek and OCD
« on: May 08, 2022, 03:45:52 AM »
Not at the moment—I have a potential alternative option. But if it doesn't pan out, then I'll probably try the option posted on the other thread.

General / Re: Zamek and OCD
« on: May 08, 2022, 12:06:13 AM »
I love the Castle, but it only works with 2 people so it fills a slightly different niche than base Carcassonne. I could only bring one with me to New Zealand, so the Castle remained in the US. But I am finally going to get ZAMEK hopefully, so that'll finally be fixed.

I am also OCD and I actually like the Castle because the wall around the tiles really works for me. The only thing that bugs me (although it has to be a case for gameplay reasons) are the holes in the landscape at the end of the game. The tiles themselves actually work with the roofs of all the buildings just mashing together. It's relatively accurate for a walled city that different roofs would do that, and the roads still have to be continuous, so there's some order still. It does take a brain shift, though, to suddenly not have to worry as much about mismatched tiles.

General / Re: What is your number 2?
« on: May 08, 2022, 12:01:50 AM »
It doesn't have as many expansions as Carcassonne, but they tend to be more expensive.
As a former Catan collector myself (I haven't played the game in probably a decade now), I disagree. For every one promo Carcassonne releases, Catan has at least three! It also has nearly as many spin-offs and is quickly catching up on the number of full expansions to the base game it has, although they aren't as cross-compatible as Carcassonne's are. Rivals for Catan alone has two full-sized expansions and at least 10 single-card promos, not counting at least one cut-out promo. Catan also has many more gameplay accessories.

General / Re: What is your number 2?
« on: May 06, 2022, 06:51:40 PM »
Guillotine or 7 Wonders+Leaders+Cities. Guillotine is my favorite game just because it is so straight-forward yet has so much back-stabbing, plus I love the theme since I'm a French historian. But 7 Wonders I think is the best for a larger group and it is also very straight forward yet has a lot of strategy, especially once the Leaders and Cities expansions are added.

I look forward to your message. And woof! That is one long explanation for why things are taking so long to arrive from DHL. I wonder if that was the case for the Advent event on Cundco. I think it took about 60 days to arrive, IIRC. I love how international media is making things seem so dire for New Zealand. It's annoying and things are certainly more expensive than usual, but it's not so bad and we are finally opening up again. Our national daily Covid cases have been sitting around 8500, which isn't awful although much worse than it was a year ago (0 except at the border).


Good find. Cheaper prices and shipping. However, I can't seem to find the base game of Zamek on their store. Do they not carry it? I need both—my copy of The Castle is in long-term storage and I prefer the new art anyway.

Did you ever find somewhere you were able to order these from? I'm kind of interested here in Australia, but so far had the same sort of luck as you. Wondering if you had any kind of success yet?
No, none at all. And I’d love to still get them.

News and Events / Re: Castles in Germany and The Festival in C3
« on: April 25, 2022, 12:27:38 PM »
I would buy The Festival again if the expansion finally had a proper watermark, but alas it does not, so I see no reason to own it. After all this time, I still don't understand why The Festival doesn't have a watermark. Expansion elements don't stop other expansion tiles from having them.

Some comments (repeated the first one here - you didn't see my previous update):

2) Monastery control: Majority in a monastery can also be affected by a flier, but this requires a certain amount of luck as well... >:D

3) Typos to fix: Check words marked in red.

Once you places a Monk on a Monastery, it is yours unless some Dragon, Tower, or Plague comes along and boots you off

But with those caveats aside, it is a great addition to any Carcassonne game. Even the two cars not discussed above—Cash Out and Take 2—are useful.
Thanks! Corrections made. Not sure why so many snuck into this review. I'll have to fire my quality control editor.  O0

Concerning The Flier, I think there are a few others that could hypothetically impact Monasteries in various ways, but yes, The Flier does let you full on grab one, which is unusual.

Great post!

+1 merit from me.

One detail:

The Gifts is composed of 25 small playing cards that are awarded to a player randomly whenever they add on to another player’s City or Monastery.

You receive a gift when extending an opponent's city or road.... Monasteries are not in the equation...  ;)
Oops! Fixed. Thanks for that.

As a last hurrah in celebration of Carcassonne’s 20th (sic 21st) anniversary in 2021, Hans im Glück released yet another promotional expansion: The Gifts. Unique among all other Carcassonne expansions, The Gifts is composed of 25 small playing cards that are awarded to a player randomly whenever they add on to another player’s City or Road. The concept implies altruism but, in reality, this is one of the most brutal, cutthroat expansions released to date. These gifts are laced with arsenic.

A Spoonful of Poison
* Unhelpfully Helpful – Great strategy often hinges on a single tile, and when all of your opponents are trying to complete your low-value Roads and Cities to win themselves a Gift, it’s quite frustrating. Gone are the days when nice, mid-sized Roads and Cities are possible. With this expansion, the only ones you will get are small features—because an opponent “helped” you complete it—and large features—because your opponents still want to try and steal them from you.
* Monks Against Synods! – With exceptions for The Count of Carcassonne and The Shrines, Monasteries have been one of the few inviolable features in Carcassonne. Once you place a Monk on a Monastery, it is yours unless some Dragon, Tower, or Plague comes along and boots you off. You could always be assured that the points would come to you eventually, and you never had to worry about some other player raining on your parade. But no longer! Now, with a simple play of the Synod card, a player can add their Monk to your Monastery and share the points with you, or add a second later and even steal your Monastery. I will be writing the pope on this matter forthwith.
* Two Is The Loneliest Number – Say what you will about Carcassonne, but it is a great 2-player game. The competition between features, the ability to neutralize your opponent by sharing the feature, the sheer number of tiles each player gets to draw (36 each if playing with a 72nd draw tile). It’s nearly perfect, even if there are benefits to playing with more people. But this expansion is not so great with 2 players. Whereas in a larger game, people can help each build Roads and Cities in order to take down another player, in 2-player games, it’s just the two of you. There’s no informal alliances to make Gifts worthwhile. So the only reason to get a Gift is to screw over your opponent. So everything becomes a race to the bottom: How many Farmers can you get in a Field? Can you complete the City or Road fast enough? Are they going to share your Monastery? The entire game becomes something different, and not necessarily for the best since the cards are all randomized and any Gift could change everything.

Backhanded Negotiations
* The Enemy of Your Enemy is My Enemy – The Gifts is a game-changer, which is startling for a two-decade-old game. Never before has so little changed so much in Carcassonne. These cards destroy traditional strategies, make meeple placement far more strategic in the long term, and create far more opportunities for conflict. While many players enjoy the relatively peaceful nature of Carcassonne, it is undeniable that the game has a lot of untapped potential for conflict. This expansion, in reality, does a lot of what The Count of Carcassonne should have done, but didn’t. It makes stealing features, repurposing meeples, and tile placement itself a meta-game, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
* Lounge Rats – Ever miss that opportunity to take a Field by one turn or one bad tile draw? Well now you can just steal it later. The idea that a meeple could be repurposed from an adjacent feature and turned into a Farmer is surprisingly novel and remarkably effective. Now, low-value adjacent features can serve a double purpose, so long as you draw the right card. Large Fields especially are a risk since more tiles means more opportunities to move Meeples onto it. Now the other features themselves could be sources of new Farmers. And if, for some reason, a player overcommits, they can use the card in reverse to claim an adjacent incomplete Road, City, or Monastery, sweeping in for the steal. It’s frankly genius.
* Streamlining Traffic – Did you accidentally place a meeple on a dud Road? Are you sharing a high-value Road with an opponent? Have you unintentionally combined two of your Roads into one? Worry no more! With the Road Sweeper 3000, you can take all the Robbers off of any Road on the board for the low, low cost of one Gift. So take those Robbers, sweep them up, and rake in all those sweet, sweet points.* (*Disclaimer: Points are awarded to the player with the majority Robbers; players with fewer Robbers do not receive points; current player may place new tile in such a way that it continues the feature just scored.)

The Gifts is one of those rare expansions that changes up everything, generally for the good. Is it conflict heavy? Yes. Does it play well with 2 players? No. But with those caveats aside, it is a great addition to any Carcassonne game. Even the two cards not discussed above—Cash Out and Take 2—are useful. The former allows players to cash out meeples stranded on low-value features, while the latter lets players choose their tile from two tiles. At the end of the game, all unused Gifts are worth 2 points. The Gifts is a vicious expansion, moreso than almost any other one except perhaps The Plague. But the randomness of the expansion is all in the cards, which may be its greatest weakness. Although the cards are balanced between the five types, it would possibly be better for each player to only have access to one of each and be able to activate them whenever they help build another player’s feature. That would fix the obvious imbalance caused by a player, say, grabbing several ‘Change on the lie’ cards. But fan variants don’t belong here. This expansion is a wonderful addition to Carcassonne and it will definitely change your gameplay experience if you feel the game has become stale over the past twenty(-one) years.

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

Can someone tell me the way to Carcassonne? No? Okay, well is there a sign somewhere? Oh my... there are signs EVERYWHERE! Or so it seems with The Signposts, yet another annual promotional expansion available exclusively from Hans im Glück. I suppose in a game where road-building is one of the major mechanics, it was inevitable that road signs would appear. But have they really appeared? And who is marring my beautiful landscape with these unsightly arrows?! Darn, I've begun my review already...

Corn Circles III
* Aliens Have Invaded Again – At first it was strange shapes in corn fields – now it is strange arrows beside Roads. When will these strange occurrences end? Carcassonne has long abandoned some of its more visually pleasing elements in favor of blunt gameplay features, but The Signposts are definitely near the top in obviousness. Large arrows sit beside every road of this 12-tile expansion, and they are as ugly as they are easy to read. They less resemble Signposts (which, by definition, require both a sign and a post) than garish painting on an otherwise green lawn. They might as well have called this expansion "The Arrows" and just admit that's what they are.
* Math is Hard – If the arrows don't bother you, the sheer amount of math involved with this expansion may. You see, to make the most of your Signposts, you need to collect multiple ones – one of each type, in fact. But these must be valid Signposts for them to count, so if you have a tile with a Road that goes in the wrong direction or that dead-ends, then that won't work. Confused yet? And don't get me started on the tile with the two curving Roads, or the roundabout Road. Keeping track of what's a valid Road or not on a long Road can produce headaches. Tylenol is recommended.
* Now now, Stop Fighting, Children! – By this expansion – at last count number 761 – there have been a few Road-focused expansions released. You have the Wagon, the Inns, the Robber Baron, The Ferries, The School, German Castles, Bridges, Labyrinth, The Tollroads, etc. Some of these multiply Road points, some redirect the Roads, some give bonuses. And now this expansion encourages you to do some urban planning (in a "luck-of-the-draw"-based game, no less). Indeed, it could directly contradict some of the cards in the more recent The Gifts expansion. And in usual Hans im Glück fashion, the rules instruct you to simply only play this expansion with the base game – any other combination is at your own peril. Woe to ye who tries to play with several Road-based expansions at once!

Roads Get Around
* Expanding Out to the SuburbsCarcassonne has always had a tile balance problem. While the base game had a fairly safe ratio of Road-City–Monastery, most of the expansions have thrown this some to increase the benefits of its own features. Inns & Cathedrals included a lot of tiles that made large Cities and longer Roads. Traders & Builders was all about City-building. Princess & Dragon was more about sheer volume of tiles so that the Dragon could spread out its wings. This expansion is all about Roads, and the designers smartly realized that more Roads were needed to optimize it, so all 12 tiles have at least one Road, and there are some real gems, including a Roundabout and a Road-over-City. There are also balance-correcting tiles such as a new Monastery and Garden, and half the tiles feature City segments. In other words, this expansion is great for someone who wants a whole lot more tiles without imbalancing their feature ratio.
* Clarity Can Be A Blessing – Say what you want about the terrible visual look of the arrows, but at least they are very clear, which is more than can be said about other expansion features (looking at you, 20th Anniversary expansion!). And the different colors help differentiate the directions of the arrows, which is very useful for calculating the multipliers.
* More and More and More – Math is terrible, yes, but multipliers can really be awesome once you overcome the challenges. Carcassonne has never included a proper multiplier feature before, so it is certainly a novel development. If a player scores a Road with one type of valid arrow, they get 1 extra point per valid arrow. If they score a Road with two different valid arrows, each valid arrow get 2 extra points. And if they have all three different valid arrows, they get 3 extra points per arrow. The points can really add up if you make a long enough Road with several valid arrows on it!

The Signposts is really a mixed bag expansion. The vast number of well-balanced tiles is a wonderful addition to a Carcassonne collection, but the arrows are ugly at best. The rules are also very fiddly, although the potential return in points can make it worth figuring out. Perhaps the price of this expansion is its saving grace: it's quite affordable from and can be added to an order without usually increasing the cost of shipping. So while I can't strongly recommend this expansion, there's no reason to avoid it either.

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

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