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CARCASSONNE: TRADERS & BUILDERS

Reviewed by Craig Massey

CARCASSSONNE: TRADERS & BUILDERS (Hans Im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, 30-45 minutes; $12)

Carcassonne: Traders & Builders is the latest expansion in what has turned out to be a very successful franchise for Hans Im Glück. The original game hit a sweet spot, appealing to the more serious game hobbyist as well as family and friends looking for a casual game. This certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise.The Settlers of Catan hit the same sweet spot and has spawned a large number of expansions and variations on the basic Settlers theme.

So what does Traders & Builders add to the game? Aside from twenty four new tiles with more configurations for cities, roads, and cloisters, there are three additions that change the game in small, but significant ways.carctb

The first and most significant addition are commodity tokens. Several of the new city tiles have symbols on them corresponding to one of three different commodities – wine barrels, grain, and cloth. If a tile is placed so it completes a city with any commodity symbols in it, the player who places the finishing tile gets one chip for each corresponding commodity symbol in the completed city. At the end of the game, the person with the most or tied with most chips in each commodity gets ten points. This addition is significant because with the basic game, you never wanted to complete a city unless you were scoring points. Now, it often pays to finish a city because you might pick up a commodity chip or two. Why allow a player to finish a city and get the tokens?

The second addition to the game, which is also quite significant, is the addition of the builder – a new type of piece that players can place on the tiles. The builder may be placed on a road segment or a city tile when a player already has one of his pieces. The next time a player extends the road or city with his builder on it, he immediately gets to place a second tile. Getting this extra turn is an advantage that players should try to grab as often as possible.

The final addition is less significant. Each player gets a pig token. Like the builder, players may place their pig on a tile in a field where they already have a piece. At the end of the game, any cities that are scored by the players’ farmers score an extra point if they have a pig in field. The pig token is a minor change with far less impact on game play than the commodity chips or the builder token – it almost feels like an afterthought.

The changes that Traders & Builders add as a whole make Carcassonne more of a “gamer’s game”. In particular, the commodities and the builder token add a richness to the game. I am a huge fan of the expansion and have found that it has added some depth and made the decisions on where to place tiles and how to manage your pieces more interesting. But these changes might not be as welcome with casual game players. The additional tiles make the game longer and the additional pieces make the game just a little more complex. When Traders & Builders is added to the game with the previous Cathedrals & Inns expansion, the game can easily take 60 minutes – especially with ponderous players. Given the choice, I would rather play with the Traders & Builders expansion, but for many the basic game will continue to be the game of choice. – – – Craig Massey


 

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