Review of Carcassonne: King & Scout

Review Summary
Playtest Review
Written Review

December 17, 2003


by: Shannon Appelcline


Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)

A tiny 12-tile expansion for Carcassonne and kin-game Hunters and Gatherers that adds a lot to both.

Shannon Appelcline has written 679 reviews (including 357 board/tactical game reviews), with average style of 4.03 and average substance of 3.85. The reviewer's previous review was of Lord of the Rings.

This review has been read 17713 times.

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

Cost: $5.00
Year: 2003

SKU: RIO230


Review of Carcassonne: King & Scout
Carcassonne: King & Scout is a small expansion for both Carcassonne and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers. See the original games for full information on number of players, time, difficulty, etc.

This supplement was originally given away at the Essen game fair and by various German game shops. Here in the U.S. it's been packaged in a nice little box by Rio Grande, and is available for a modest price.

The Components

This supplement comes with:

Tiles: The tiles are exactly as you'd expect from Carcassonne, with appropriate artwork printed on textured tiles. The 7 Carcassonne tiles feature 5 new land tiles and special tiles for "The King" and "The Robber Baron", each of which has very nice artwork. The 5 Hunter & Gatherer tiles feature 4 new land tiles and a special tile for "The Shaman", which has fair artwork.

Rulesheet: The rulesheet is a small, color rulesheet which has the rule additions for Carcassonne on one side and Hunters & Gatherers on the other. It's a bit terse and as a result some of the Scout tiles required some clarification, but it overall does a fine job.

12 tiles for $5 was a bit expensive, but ultimately well-worth it, especially when you consider how much these tiles add to both games. Nevertheless, this expansion rates an average Style rating of "3" out of "5", mainly on the basis of component cost.

The Gameplay

Carcassonne: King & Scout introduces new game play for both the Carcassonne and Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers games.

Carcassonne Gameplay

The 7 Carcassonne tiles are composed of 5 land tiles and 2 special tiles.

Land Tiles: These 5 land tiles each feature a city and some other land feature. Two of the tiles (two cities crossing; and a city and a cloister) merely introduce new feature combinations not seen in previous Carcassonne sets. The other three tile combine cities and roads in ways generally intended to: make it easier to fill difficult spaces on the board; and better divide fields. These two trends simply extend the tile distribution policies initiated in Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals and continued in Carcassonne: Traders & Builers.

The King & The Robber Baron: The King tile is given to the first player that completes a city and thereafter moves to any player who completes a larger city. The Robber Baron acts just the same, but for roads. Each tile just sits in front of the player as a marker; it never gets played.

Whomever has the King tile at the end of the game gets 1 point for each completed city in the game. Likewise, whomever has the Robber Baron tile at the end of the game gets 1 point for each completed road in the game.

Here's an update of my master scoring chart with these two new possibilities:

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
w/Pig Pig N/A 5/completed city adjoining
King King Tile N/A 1/completed city
Robber Baron Robber Baron Tile N/A 1/completed road

As a suggestion: choose some type of marker to go with each tile so that you can keep track of what size the last largest city/road was, and don't have to keep recounting. I use unused meeples, as long as there are at least two unused meeple colors in the game. Coins or even tick marks on a paper would work equally well.

Hunters and Gatherers Gameplay

The 5 Hunters and Gatherers tiles each give a player a special power in the game. They're shuffled and handed out one to a player at the start of the game (2 to a player in a two-player game). All of the tiles except the Shaman must be placed on the board with a meeple before their special power can be used. These tiles fit with the terrains of the board normally & the normal rules for meeple placement must be followed.

The Shaman: Power is usable at any time. Player may recover one of his tribe members (not huts) from the board at the end of each turn.

The Scout: Tribe member must be placed in the forest on this tile and scores for that forest normally, but stays on the board afterward. Allows a player to reject each first draw of a tile (including bonus tiles), but he must take the second one.

Hunter on Bridge: Allows a hunter to be placed so that he counts in fields on either side of a river without actually bridging those fields.

Dug-Out: Tribe member must be placed on one of the rivers on this tile and scores for that river normally, but stays on the board afterward. Whenever a river is closed anywhere in the same river system by any player the owner of the Dug-Out scores points equal to the larger of the two lakes adjoining the completed river.

Agriculture: Hut must be placed in the meadow on this tile, and that meadow may not contain any hunters. Scores one point for each tile in the meadow regardless of hunter scoring.

Here's an update of my H&G scoring chart with Agriculture and Dug-Out noted:

Follower Completed Incomplete
Forest Gatherer 2/tile + 2/mushroom 0/tile + 0/pennant
River Fisherman 1/tile + 1/fish 0/tile + 0/fish
Meadow Hunter N/A 2/prey - 2/tiger
w/Agriculture Hut Agriculture Tile N/A 1/tile
River System Hut N/A 1/fish
w/Dug-Out Dug-Out Tile 1/fish of larger lake N/A

Relationships to Other Games

The King portion of this supplement is the fourth expansion for the original Carcassonne, after the small expansion The River, which is boxed with the original game by Rio Grande, and the two larger expansions Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders.

The Scout portion of this supplement is the first expansion for Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers.

The Game Design

Despite the scant number of new tiles, this expansion can considerably change the gameplay of both Carcassonne and Hunters and Gatherers.

Carcassonne Game Design

I think Klaus-Jurgen Wrede made the right choice in this expansion by not adding to the orthagonal complexity of regular gameplay. Instead of new meeples or new categories of tiles we just have a new end of the game score mechanism, and thus some new goals for in-game play.

Here's the effects of the new Carcassonne pieces:

Land Tiles: In the original Carcassonne fields could be sprawling. The River expansion seemed to make this worse, with a couple of huge fields tending to gather at the head and foot of the river. Since then the Carcassonne expansions have added more city pieces and more intricate connections of roads, cities, and cloisters, which generally causes fields to be split up more. This expansion continues that trend to the general benefit of the game.

The King & The Robber Baron: These tiles do something fairly unwarranted in Carcassonne: they give an incentive to make roads longer & cities bigger. Inns & Cathedrals might have done this somewhat, with its extra-scoring roads and cities, but there it was always a bit of a Faustian deal, because if you got overzealous you'd lose all your points; here that's less of a concern. This new strategy, so different from normal Carcassonne play, allows players to seek victory in very different directions, thus allowing for a rich interaction of strategies as well as better replayability of the game.

Hunters & Gatherers Game Design

Wrede takes the opposite tactic in Hunters & Gatherers by giving each player one new thing that he has to think about during gameplay. Because this game is previously unexpanded, this was a good choice that adds to the rich in-game strategy without worry of too much complexity.

Four of the five tiles (everything but the Shaman) are really a nice aesthetic fit for the game because they operate through placing the tile on the board and investing a meeple. By using this core mechanic these tiles seem to really fit within the Carcassonne paradigm; it's a pity that a similar tact wasn't taken with some of variant of the Shaman piece.

Each of the tiles tends to shape the players' tactics in certain ways:

Given that the traditional gameplay is most likely to be risk-adverse and forest- or river-centric, it's really nice for other gameplay to be encouraged because it adds to the replayability of the game.

Game Design Rating

Overall the 5 Hunters & Gatherers tiles and the 2 special Carcassonne tiles add immensely to their respectives games through new and innovative forms of gameplay. As such the supplement earns top grades for Substance: "5" out of "5".

Conclusion

Though just 12 tiles large, the King & Scout Carcassonne supplement adds a lot to its respective games and is well worth purchasing.

And, if you own just one of the games, this is really a great excuse to pick up the other. Each game plays a fair amount differently from the other, and if you like the Carcassonne system, it's nice to be able to move back and forth between the two (and I say that as someone who's played about a dozen Carcassonne games this month, two-thirds of them the original game and the other third Hunters & Gatherers).

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