Carcassonne – The Tower: Tensions Rise High
Hollywood has a number of franchises which are mainstays of the movie industry and continue to come out with new entries; star Wars, Harry Potter, James Bond, etc. This also exists in the world of board games, and no franchise is more dominant than the Carcassonne family of games. Carcassonne seems to come out with a new expansion or variant every year. Each addition adds something new and has the potential to drastically change the original game.
The range of effects which Carcassonne’s expansions bring is pretty wide. The first couple of expansions, Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders, enhanced the game with subtle additions which didn’t really change the nature of the game a whole lot. Then Princess and the Dragon came out which changed the game drastically, turning Carcassonne into a viscous battle for the board. Carcassonne’s fourth expansion, The Tower, manages to find some middle ground between these two ends of the expansion spectrum. The Tower adds a much more competitive aspect to the game without being quite as devastating as the dragon, and adds an interesting placement strategy to the mix.
As far as components go, there are really three major additions with this franchise. There are the wooden tower pieces, new tiles which correspond to how these tower pieces are played, and an actual tower which can be used to store all of the tiles in the game and allows people to draw their tiles from the top. The tower pieces look great and really capture the style of Carcassonne well. I love the notches on top which allow for stacking and for meeples to sit on top. The tile tower is quite unnecessary however, as it can never replace the drawstring bag from Traders and Builders. Passing a tile bag around is much more convenient then everyone reaching over to grab a tile from the tower.
The changes to the gameplay come from the ability to build towers in various places around the landscape. These pieces may be placed on any of the new tiles with building sites. Any player who places a tower on these sites, or builds to an existing tower, may actually capture any other player’s meeple who is within site of that tower. The higher the tower, the more spaces away it can capture other meeples from.
Once you have captured another player’s meeple you will hold him captive until that player tries to get them back. They may either capture one of your own meeples and carry out a prisoner trade, or may buy back their player at a cost of four points to them and a gain of four points to you.
The ability to capture other meeples creates a very competitive element in the game without being quite as cutthroat as the ransacking ways of the dragon from Carcassonne’s previous expansion. The hostage taking aspect of this add-on it very thematic in the way that you can do a prisoner exchange or pay a ransom int he form of points to get them back. This is a cool new element to the game which makes it that much more interactive between the players, albeit detracting a little from the original atmosphere of the base game.
Placing and building the towers adds an interesting strategic twist to the game as you must try to build towers in places where you can capture meeples while also having to think about where to place your meeples so that they wont get captured. However, in practice this new strategy is more frustrating than anything and really just adds a lot of undue tension to the game. I think the bad tension comes from the fact that this new strategy is more based on the luck of the tile drawing than carefully planned placements.
The Tower is an interesting expansion to Carcassonne and is neat to play for something different. However, the heightened competitive play does change the nature of the game a little too much and can really stack up the frustration. The added interaction through capturing and ransoming prisoners is neat to have but not enough to make this one of the must-have expansions in the Carcassonne franchise.
Base Game –
Base Game & Expansion –