Review of Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals

Review Summary
Playtest Review
Written Review

October 8, 2003


by: Shannon Appelcline


Style: 4 (Classy & Well Done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)

A nice supplement for Carcassonne that offers some new tiles, pieces for a sixth player, and a few new types of gameplay.

Shannon Appelcline has written 681 reviews (including 358 board/tactical game reviews), with average style of 4.03 and average substance of 3.85. The reviewer's previous review was of Carcassonne.

This review has been read 13342 times.

 
Product Summary
Name: Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Line: Carcassonne
Author: Klaus-Jurgen Wrede
Category: Board/Tactical Game

Cost: $12.00
Pages: N/A
Year: 2002

SKU: RIO199


Review of Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals
Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals is an expansion for Klaus-Jurgen Wrede’s tile-laying game, Carcassonne. You need the original game to play this supplement.

Players: 2-6
Playing Time: 45-75 minutes
Difficulty: 2 (of 10)

This supplement was originally called Carcassonne: The Expansion, before the release of a second expansion resulted in the adoption of more informative naming schemes. It was originally produced by Hans im Gluck in Germany.

This is a rewrite and expansion of a review of Carcassonne: The Expansion originally published in August 2002.

The Components

This supplement offers a number of new components to add to your Carcassonne games:

Land Tiles: The tiles are up to the same quality as those from the original set. Mine matched flawlessly, but I've heard others complain that the coloration of the backings can slightly differ between the original game and this supplement, causing troubles if you were drawing from visible stacks of tiles.

A full description of all the tiles in this expansion appears at this web site. Just look at the tiles in gray. 10 of the tiles simply offer interesting new shapes for your game, such as a cloister with two roads, a couple of tiles with three city edges, and a few tiles with cities on two sides and roads on two sides. However 8 of the tiles feature new buildings that modify scoring: 2 cathedrals and 6 inns. They're discussed more below.

Point Tiles: The point tiles are printed on the same stock as the land tiles; they're placed in front of a player to show either "50" (front) or "100" (back) and are used when you've lapped the scoring board. Personally I find them somewhat inconvenient, as you have to look at the scoring board, and then at the player, to determine their total score; little pieces that went under the followers on the scoring board would have been better. Nonetheless, the inclusion of something was vital, as players will regularly lap the board once or twice, especially with this supplement pulling the total number of Carcassonne tiles up to 100+.

Gray Followers: The gray followers are just like the followers for the rest of the players, and allow easy inclusion of a sixth player.

Large Followers: The large followers which are, quite simply, larger than their brethren. Originally I thought the size differentiation wouldn't be enough to make them distinctive, but they actually worked fine in real play. These followers also require slightly different game mechanics, as discussed below.

Rulebook: This is 4-color glossy, just like the original rules, though it's only 2 sides. The rules for all the new components are simple, concise, and well-illustrated, though I would have liked a listing of all the tiles in the game, rather than just notable ones.

Overall, the quality of these components matches the original in both usability and quality. However, the overall value-for-your-buck is a little bit lower; still this expansion earns a Style rating of "4" out of "5".

The Game Play

As noted above, only three of the new components notably modify the game play of Carcassonne: the inns; the cathedrals; and the large followers.

Inns on the Lake: There are now 6 road tiles which contain an inn on a lake next to the road. If your road has an inn on a lake, it is now worth 2 points per tile if the road is completed, but 0 points per tile if it is not.

Cathedral: There are now 2 city tiles which contain a cathedral. If your city has a cathedral, is is now worth 3 points per tile or pennant if the city is completed, but 0 points if it is not. The following scoring table shows all the scores for both the core game and this supplement:

Follower Complete Incomplete
City Knight 2/tile + 2/pennant 1/tile + 1/pennant
w/Cathedral Knight 3/tile + 3/pennant 0/tile + 0/pennant
Road Thief 1/tile 1/tile
w/Inn Thief 2/tile 0/tile
Cloister Monk 1 + 1/adj. tile 1 + 1/adj. tile
Field Farmer N/A 4/completed city adjoining

Large Followers: Each player now has one large follower which may be placed instead of a normal follower. The large follower counts as two normal followers for seeing who takes control of a city, road, or field.

Relationships to Other Games

There are currently two major supplements available for Carcassonne: this and Carcassonne: Traders & Builders. They can technically be bought in either order, though if Traders & Builders is bought before this supplement you'll have two gray pieces that you can't use (because you won't have the meeples for the sixth player, which come in this supplement).

Two minor supplements have solely added tiles to the game. Carcassonne: The River has been incorporated into the main game. Carcassonne: King & Scout, due out later this year, will have 7 tiles for Carcassonne and 5 for sibling game, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers.

The Game Design

Remarkably the introduction of these new gameplay elements does little to increase the complexity of Carcassonne. A player only has to worry about the new inns & cathedrals if he's trying to build upon one of these structures--or trying to stop another player from doing so; the rest of the time, they don't even enter the complexity occasion. The addition of a second type of meeple does mean that a player has to constantly think whether he should place a small follower or a large one, but usually the answer is fairly self-evident, based on the importance of a particular terrain and what other players have already played.

Perhaps the most notable change made by this supplement is that it adds 18 new tiles. By itself this means that there are 25% more tiles than in the basic game. If the river is also used, there are a full 40% more tiles. This has two results: first, games are that much longer; and second, a player will have that many more turns to play followers, and thus is more likely to run out. The addition of the one large meeple doesn't keep up with the new tile additions, but at least helps.

The three main additions to this game each have different gameplay effects:

Inns: By potentially doubling the value of a road, the Inns do have some effect on increasing the importance of roads in this supplement, a good thing since they seemed somewhat underpowered in the original game. In addition, inns add an additional level of strategic deduction, as a player has to think about whether he'll be able to complete a road or not.

Cathedrals: Like the inns, these add a level of strategic deduction. Technically, they increase the value of cities, like inns increase the value of roads, but it's a much more minimal effect because there are only two cathedrals, and because the gain is 50% rather than 100%. If anything, cathedrals might have more possibility to act as a spoiler; placement of one on an opponent's city will both make it harder to close (because it has 4 city sides) and could result in the city being worth 0 at endgame. Of course, this could be a chancy move because there's potential upside too.

Large Followers: The main point of these seems to be to increase the competitive aspect of the game. It suddenly becomes much easier to beat out an opponent in a battle for a terrain, while at the same time gives a player a chance to shoot himself in the foot when he really should be cooperating.

Overall, the addition of inns, cathedrals, and especially the large followers, add some interesting strategic possibilities to Carcassonne that are fairly originally but not as overall innovative as the original game. It thus earns a "4" out of "5" on Substance.

Conclusion

Inns & Cathedrals is a very good expansion for Carcassonne. It adds more tiles and one more player, which would be enough given the very low price point in and of itself. However, the fact that it adds a few new strategic possibilities can add hugely to the long term replayability of the game.

If you liked the original Carcassonne, go get this supplement.

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