Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Carcassonne – Inns and Cathedrals: A Textbook Expansion

Lately, the movie industry seems to be swamped with sequels. Sequels have become extremely popular among Hollywood execs and almost any movie has the potential for one. The board gaming equivalent to the movie sequel is the board game expansion. And just as sequels seem to have been the rend this decade, so to have board game expansions become popular among this new Eurogame wave. Carcassonne, one of the premier Eurogames, is particularly known for its plethora of expansions. Inns and Cathedrals, the first of many to come, has since proven to be the prototype of a textbook expansion, a model of what expansions mean for the games they accentuate.
So what do expansions mean? What is there purpose? This is a hard thing to define since expansions can do so many things. They have a fine balancing act to maintain as they try to add something new to their base game while still maintaining the basic aesthetics of that game. It can’t change the game too much or players will be turned off. Sometime expansions are used to simply improve upon the basic components or open up restrictions built into the original game. Expansions or a board game can be varied but their purpose may be just as their name suggests; to expand, in whatever form that takes.
Inns and Cathedrals is a wonderful example of how an expansion can be used and how an expansion can walk that fine line of adding something new without changing too much. An extra element of risk is added to the gameplay even though the game still feels intrinsically like Carcassonne through and through. Components are improved as tiles are included which aid in point scoring, and restrictions are loosed as the physical area of the game is also expanded as there are new tiles available, and the limit of five players is even increased to six. If someone wants to know the purpose of a board game expansion, they need only to look at Inns and Cathedrals to find out.

New tiles have been added to the game which add a very subtle change to the gameplay, yet a change which is very effective. Predictably enough,these new tiles are inns and cathedrals. When inns are added to roads or cathedrals are added to cities, they will double the values of those roads or cities. However, if the road or city is not finished, no partial points are scored. This adds more of a risk element to the game and makes it just that tiny bit more intricate yet doesn’t really affect the basic gameplay enough to change the tone and feel of Carcassonne at all.
One more gameplay addition is the introduction of Big Meeples. These oversized versions of our favourite little pawns count as two people when placed in a city, farm, or road. This adds a little extra fuel to the fire when there is competition for these structure. Another subtle yet effective add-on.
At the component level, apart from these new landscape tiles there are also a number of 50 points and 100 point tile cards which assist in keeping track of the score. Since the score track only goes up to 50 points, these tiles are used to keep track of how many times a player has gone around the track. This is a good example of using expansions to simply improve the original components of the game.
Yet that’s not all. Included with this expansion is a set of grey meeples, allowing a sixth player to join the fun. Just one more way that Inns and Cathedrals shows how expansions can make a great game better.

This expansion seems small at first, but there’s actually a lot going on here. The two game changing additions, the new tiles and the big meeple, have a small effect on the game yet the effect is enough to make it that much more interesting. Meanwhile, the scoring tiles and new set of meeples open up some of the restrictions of the original Carcassonne game. Inns and Cathedrals in a textbook example of how board game expansions should be used.

Expansion –
Base Game –
Base Game and Expansion –

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