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[Review] Carcassonne: the Princess and the Dragon

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  • Tom Vasel
    (I m assuming that those reading this review already know how to play basic Carcassonne) I have to admit that I m a sucker for expansions to Carcassonne - the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 13, 2005
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      (I'm assuming that those reading this review already know how to play
      basic Carcassonne)

      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
      points.

      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.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
      www.tomvasel.com
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