Author Topic: The Barbarian Report: Castles in Germany: German Lords in All the Wrong Places  (Read 3338 times)

Offline Whaleyland

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    • Derek R. Whaley, PhD | Librarian, Historian, and Writer
After a year of monastery expansions in 2014, I was excited to hear that an entirely new mechanic was coming in 2015 with double-sized tiles. The resulting Castles in Germany did not disappoint. Although the name duplicates the feature from Bridges, Castles & Bazaars (as well as the common name applied to Cities in general) which repeated the faux-pas of The Monasteries of 2014 in naming a feature after an already-named feature, the expansion still proved to be both visually appealing and fun. Let’s see what made this expansion a worthy addition to the franchise.

Further Confusion in the Land of Conformity
 >:( The German Invasion of Languedoc – For the third time now, Languedoc has been invaded by the Germans. Carcassonne is inherently a French-themed game taking place in southern France (Languedoc) and focused crudely on this setting. Yet with German Monasteries, Darmstadt, and now German Castles, there is definitely a profusion of Germania in our beloved French provincial community. Beauty aside, it’s about time to have French Monasteries, Toulouse, and French Castles become themes, because I really don’t want to be playing Carcassonne German-style.
 :o More Junk for the Peons – A full game of Carcassonne with all the expansions has a lot of player pieces. From meeples to Catapult tokens to tunnel chits to towers, there are a lot of pieces. Add to that mix a giant hulking double-tile and things have gone from strange to ridiculous. Not that the tile isn’t a good one, but I have enough junk in my player cache without adding a giant tile to the mix.
 :'( More of the Same – Despite all the funness that comes from German Castles, it still feels like a combination of things that have already been around. The Castle itself acts as just an overlarge Cloister and the Roads and adjacent Cities get a bonus rather like a Cathedral or Inn is on them. Sure you don’t lose points in the same way and the bonuses are a set amount, but the idea doesn’t really seem revolutionary or novel, just a slight variant on the same.

The Gods of Beauty and Fate
 :violet-meeple: Beauty Incarnate – One thing that nobody can say bad about this expansion is that it’s not beautiful, because it’s amazing! Doris Mätthus on what may well be here last Carcassonne expansion went above and beyond her usual calibre to deliver stunning depictions of these six German castles. And just to add to the wonder, Hans im Glück made sure to include historical descriptions of them all and weblinks in case you’re in the neighbourhood. Between these two things, I personally feel a strong desire to visit these castles in person and see how grand their gardens really are.
 :red-meeple: Controlling Fate – Despite the annoyance of having so many items in your inventory, I must admit that being able to control when I place the Castle and where I place it are both good things. I’ve used Castles to fill in gaps (while using the Phantom, no less) and also to immediately score bonus points for Cities. They’re great for quickly surrounding Cloisters, and they also are nice for finishing Roads. In other words, they are all around nice tiles to be able to control, even if your collection of parts may be growing unmanageable.
 :neutral-meeple: Variety Unchained – Lastly, even though each tile features a Castle, two Roads, and a City segment, they are always arranged in different ways. This subtle aspect of the expansion makes it so your tile won’t fit everywhere and will vary from game-to-game depending on what you’re dealt. It’s honestly not much, but it does add to the enjoyment of the expansion and makes it so your opponents may not see what you’ve got coming.

There are a number of things I didn’t mention here, primarily that the expansion is a bit fiddly with other expansions. The double-tile causes the usual confusion with expansions that allow you to land on “a tile”. There’s also the usual problem of Roads looping back (they’re only worth +3 points, not +6). And of course there’s the two- to three-player rules that allows everybody to have two Castles instead of one. Still, despite its many random downsides, this is one of my favourite expansions in recent years and its adds a surprisingly amount to the base game despite the fact that all of its mechanics are reused from other expansions. The visual appeal of it, the novelty of the double-tile, and the strategic benefit of controlling the use of the tile all make this an excellent addition to any Carcassonne collection.

Playability: A
Affordability: B
Compatibility (with other expansions): B
Aethetics: A+
Learning Curve: B


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