[Review] Carcassonne: the Princess and the Dragon
- (I'm assuming that those reading this review already know how to play
I have to admit that I'm a sucker for expansions to Carcassonne - the
basic system is great, and each succeeding expansion has added to the
game. While each expansion certainly isn't necessary to enjoy the
game (in fact, I'd recommend new players to get Carcassonne: the City
first), they add enough options to make the game interesting. Even
with all of the current expansions added to the game, Carcassonne's
complexity isn't that high.
But you're here to read about Carcassonne: the Princess and the Dragon
(Rio Grande Games, 2005 - Klaus-Jurgen Wrede). It adds a level of
confrontation hitherto unknown in the Carcassonne universe - one that
will please many people and possibly annoy others. It certainly
raises the "mean" factor of the game with meeples being removed from
the board. There are some who don't enjoy this added level of
harshness, but for me it adds just enough confrontation to make the
game fun. A small level of chaos is added to the game with the
entrance of the dragon, but more choices are also allowed.
1.) Dragon: By far, the dragon, a large wooden "meeple", is the most
intimidating part of the new expansion. There are six volcano tiles
included in the expansion - a normal tile with a volcano on it. When
a player adds one of these tiles to the game, they immediately place
the dragon on the tile, rather than one of their meeples. There are
then twelve tiles that show the picture of a dragon on them. When one
of these tiles is added to the board, play pauses for the dragon to
move. The dragon moves six spaces, with the following restrictions:
- The player who placed the tile moves the dragon the first space,
with each player taking a turn in clockwise order.
- The dragon cannot go to the same tile twice. This may mean that he
may hit a dead end and be unable to continue six spaces.
- The dragon may not enter the same space as the "fairy" meeple.
- Every meeple piece, regardless of type, that is on a tile that the
dragon comes through "dies" and is returned to their owner.
This, of course, makes the dragon a very dangerous entity. If
multiple players are playing, they can gang up one person who is
building a "mega city". The dragon makes the meeples who control the
huge farms not quite so dangerous. Players must always be on the
lookout for the dragon and keep tabs on its location - so as to avoid
getting killed. At the same time, I've seen players kill their own
farmers, pigs, etc. just so that they can use them in other locations.
Some people hate having their meeples killed, but they can either use
the fairy as protection or try to avoid the dragon altogether.
2.) The Fairy: The expansion is called the PRINCESS and the dragon,
but the most interesting piece in the game is the fairy, a little
white meeple. Whenever a player plays a tile but places no meeple on
that tile, they may place the fairy next to any of their meeples on
the board instead. The fairy protects that meeple from the dragon, as
well as giving the player who controls the meeple three extra points
when scoring the farm, city, road, or cloister that the meeple is on.
Also, if a player starts their turn, and they already control the
fairy, they gain an additional point! No one wants to see anyone else
pick up a free point each turn, so the fairy gets moved around a lot.
This gives players a decent amount of options. No longer will players
complain when they don't draw the tile they need (okay, I'm kidding
here - the complaining will always occur), because they can instead
choose to move the fairy. The fairy is a desperate maneuver to
protect your meeple in the "mega city" and also a way to get extra
3.) Princess: Six city tiles have a picture of a princess on them.
When a player places these tiles in a city, they must remove one of
the meeple knights in that city from the game. While the dragon is
annoying, at least you can see it coming. The princess is EVIL and
cannot be defended against by the fairy. I really don't have much of
a problem with using the princess, however, because she causes players
to focus on roads and cloisters a little more, instead of trying to
score myriads of points from cities.
4.) Magic Portals: Six tiles show a magic portal. When a player
draws one of these, they can place their meeple either on that tile or
on any feature in the game that is both unfinished and unoccupied.
This adds a neat twist to the game and makes these some of the most
valuable tiles there are. See an empty cloister that's almost
surrounded? Now your meeple can "warp" in thanks to the portal tiles.
5.) Other tiles: Some of the dragon tiles have some cool features -
like a cloister in a city and a road that goes under a city. Others
have good combinations that allow holes in the grid to be filled.
Still, better combinations have occurred in other expansions - the
dragon and fairy are the reasons to buy this set.
6.) FAQ: I saw a few complaints about how the Princess and the Dragon
were confusing when combined with all the other expansions.
Apparently there was a necessary FAQ on the internet that was long,
detailed, and annoying. So I looked up and read the FAQ online, and
was surprised at how short, simple, and easy it was. In fact every
question that was asked I had already figured out the correct answer
for! Yes, compared to the shear simplicity of regular Carcassonne,
this expansion is more complicated - but only a little.
I really enjoyed this expansion; it's my favorite so far. The
competitiveness of the expansion, and the fact that the board becomes
less static, makes it a much more interesting game for me. No longer
will the largest cities win the game. No longer will farmers dominate
in huge fields; the dragon eats all alike with no mercy. The dragon
and fairy meeples look cool on the board, and the new tiles fit in
seamlessly with the rest of the game. If you like Carcassonne, but
wish it had more of a "take that" feel, then this expansion should be
your first choice.
"Real men play board games"