Author Topic: The Barbarian Report: Revolting Peasants and Reclining Meeples (Peasant Revolts)  (Read 1221 times)

Offline Whaleyland

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    • Derek R. Whaley, PhD | Librarian, Historian, and Writer
The Carcassonne universe has seen lots of conflicts over the years, but The Cathars, The Siege, and The Besiegers are probably the most blunt in their intent. The Peasant Revolts returns to this classic theme and perhaps attempts to replace it, since none of those earlier expansions have been re-released in the newer art style. Yet peasant revolts were a very real thing in the Middle Ages, so how well does this expansion recreate the revolting serf experience?

Simply Horrendous
* The Upsidedown – The entire premise of this expansion is that the peasants are revolting. There are three ways you can tell this on the tiles: by the pitchfork watermarks, by the marching army of peasants carrying said pitchforks, and by the crappy little sepia icons on each tile. I have never been a fan of instructional icons on Carcassonne tiles. Indeed, both the 20th Anniversary Edition expansion and the newest Signposts expansion includes terribly-themed icons that make me wish for anything else. But even thematic icons like those in The Princess and the Dragon or the Carcassonne Minis expansions are ugly. These are no exception. And the fact that all three of them look the same at a glance doesn’t help. Anyone with the slightest vision problem will need a magnifying glass to see whether the icon shows a City, Road, or Monastery. Surely the designers could have thought up a better, more thematic solution.
* Predictably Annoying – There’s a randomization mechanic used in many games where a certain number of cards or tiles or some other object is shuffled and then a small percentage of said item is discarded unseen. No matter what the game, the mechanic is always clunky and annoying for the person setting up the game, but the payoff is usually increased randomization. While it usually doesn’t bother me, in Carcassonne, it seems to go against the very nature of this countryside-building game. During set-up, players are instructed to shuffle the 12 tiles together and then discard three at random, without looking at them. This is done in order to vary the number of each type of bonus in the game. But I want to play with all my Carcassonne tiles, darn it! The Hills expansion from Hills & Sheep at least puts those tiles to some other use that fits the theme without entirely sacrificing the tile. Discarding three and never seeing them in any shape or form for the rest of the game just seems like a waste that could have been avoided.
* The Inevitable Incompatibility of Expansions – Hans im Glück has repeated since 2015 that it would not provide FAQs or instructions regarding how to play promo expansions with each other. They encourage it, but they don’t support it. For the most part, that has been easy enough to work around, but this is the game that finally breaks compatibility entirely, namely with one of Hans im Glück’s very first non-Spielbox promos: The (German/Dutch/Japanese) Monasteries. Namely, when you “protect” a meeple from revolting peasants, you set it down flat on the board in the same manner as a Farmer in a Field. The only problem is that Monks placed in The Monasteries as Abbots (Goodness, Hans im Glück has to get its terminology worked out!) need to also be placed a certain way. What if you want to protect a Monastery with an Abbot So, in situations where both expansions are used (and I would argue The Monasteries is one of the best and simplest of all promo expansions so it should be used a lot), players now have to determine a third way of marking a protected Abbot in a Monastery.

Hiding in the Springtime Grasses
* Meeples in Repose – The extension of reclining meeples to all standard features is long-in-coming and, despite the misstep mentioned above, is overall welcomed. While I am not certain this was the best use of the mechanic, I think the idea of laying meeples down to “protect” them is quite visually useful, especially since the Farmers are always protected from the peasant revolt tiles. By the end of my two play-throughs with this expansion, most of the meeples were lying flat, fearing the inevitable arrival of a peasant revolt that had already passed them by. The randomness of the revolts, while annoying, also ensures that players aren’t able to count precisely how many of each type of revolt may strike, so it is usually a safe move to protect a meeple unless you are certain that a specific revolt type has run its course.
* Long-term Investments – Carcassonne has traditionally not been a strong push-your-luck game. There have been auction elements, dexterity mechanics, various forms of randomness, and aggressive attacks, but this expansion allows players to take a gamble. They can choose to save their points and leave their meeples unprotected, or spend some points in either fear that someone will draw a revolt tile or hope that someone will pull several, in which case they may earn their points back (or even in excess). The more valuable the feature, the more likely a player will want to protect their meeple. This is truly novel for Carcassonne and can prove quite fun for people that like playing the luck game. By itself, the reward for surviving a single revolt is rarely enough to justify the cost of protecting the meeple, but compounded with the risk of losing the meeple and, by extension, the claim to the feature, now that can be costly. But, I mean, 4 points is 4 points, and that sometimes can make the difference at game end! Argh!
* A Revolt-load of New tiles – It may sound obvious, but I love myself some new Carcassonne tiles, and this expansion gives players a dozen new ones. While most are standard arrangements from the base game, there are a few stand-outs, including a “witch’s hat” City that is good at separating Fields, two disconnected Roads allowing a large Field to merge, and a dead-end Road with a Garden. And more Gardens are always nice. Ironically, this expansion doesn’t include a new Monastery even though most 12+ tile expansions do and this expansion in particular includes a Monastery-related mechanic. Still, the new tiles are nice, the art with the revolters is fun and welcome and nearly in scale, and I personally really like the new crowded Cities.

This expansion is a mixed bag, much like most of those released from December 2020 to November 2021. Its core features are quite fun and provide nice new mechanics that are not like anything in Carcassonne before. But the execution is sloppy or even lazy, and the lack of consideration for other expansions is really showing a dirty corporate side to Hans im Glück’s operations. More generally, this expansion really needs to be paired with The Flying Machines or The Magic Portals from The Princess and the Dragon, because it will cause several tiles to become vacant with no way of easily reclaiming them (especially Monasteries). As a stand-alone expansion, it shows promise but also a lack of forethought, but some of those problems can be addressed through careful selection of companion expansions.

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


Offline Meepledrone

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Great review, Whaleyland!

I was missing your reviews a lot. ;D

This incompatibility issue between placing a meeple as an abbot on a German (or other special) monasteries and protecting a meeple is something that drove a bit crazy... The same as when HiG didn't use the abbot meeples on German monasteries instead of keeping  this "place as an abbot" thing to benefit from the new scoring mechanic.

When asked, I suggest to mark protected meeples with a Map Chip underneath (when possible of course), although I also have some wooden discs that I may use as tunnel token replacements in case of need... But wait... We have another option now: we can use Meeple Flags on protected meeples placed as an abbot >:D

+1 merit from me.
Questions about rules? Check WICA:

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