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Klaus-Jürgen Wrede





Being a seasoned gamer, you might actually state that the most certain indicator that a new gaming year has started is the fact that HANS IM GLÜCK has released a new expansion for the best selling game Carcassonne. Thus, driving the concept of creating an "ever-expendable" game farther and farther, HANS IM GLÜCK now has released Carcassonne - Der Turm, the fourth major expansion set for Carcassonne.

As might be guessed by the title which translates to "The Tower", the new expansion introduces a new dimension into the "classic" game of Carcassonne by making available towers which can be erected on certain landscape tiles. Thus, the new expansion comes with a total of 18 new landscape tiles showing new spaces where a tower can be built, and a stockpile of stackable tower pieces from which the towers are constructed.

The game is prepared as normal, with the exception that the new landscape tiles are mixed into the common stockpile of tiles and that each player receives a certain number of tower pieces which he may use for tower building. During his turn, a player now has the following additional options for actions:

  • Placing a tower piece only an already placed landscape tile with a tower space; or
  • placing a tower piece onto an already started tower; or
  • putting one of his henchmen on top of a tower and thus finishing it.

The advantage of a player for placing a tower piece is that whenever he takes such an action he is allowed to take an enemy henchman for prisoner. Thus, depending on the height of the tower at which the current tower piece is placed, the active player now may check horizontally or vertically (NOT diagonally) adjacent landscape tiles for henchmen of enemy players, and if there is one or more henchmen in range he may chose to take one of them for prisoner. He places the figure in front of himself, and the former owner of that henchman only can get his figure back either by an exchange of prisoners (if he succeeds in capturing a henchman of the captor) or by ransoming him through surrendering three victory points to the captor.

As indicated, Carcassonne - Der Turm introduces a 3D-element to the "classic" game of Carcassonne, since the players now have the possibilities to erect towers of different height. The higher a tower gets, the bigger gets the area for the potential capture of an enemy`s henchman, and this in turn may result in a decisive weakening of an other player`s strategy due to the removal of a henchman from a position crucial for a major scoring. The rules work well and integrate smoothly into the basic playing mechanism, and the included tower for the handy keeping of the landscape tiles is a cute additional gadget, but the question remains whether this expansion is an absolute MUST-BUY...

As a matter of fact, I think that Carcassonne-fans should not miss this new expansion, since the new option for the removal of henchmen offers a whole lot of new strategic options. Unlike the last expansion Burgfräulein und Drache, this expansion puts less emphasis on luck and more on strategy, so that the game remains better predictable and advance planning stays easier. However, I have also gone through a playtest of Carcassonne - Der Turm together with all other expansions released so far, and here I faced the fact that the game gets too crowded with optional rules and scoring mechanisms so that the former fluent gameplay suffers considerably. With all expansions present, players are somewhat overwhelmed by the options for their course of action, so that I got the impression that such a "grand-size" game gets less competitive due to the fact that each player follows his own strategy without much disturbance from the others.

I think that Carcassonne - Der Turm is best enjoyed alone or with just one more expansion present, since it unfolds its full flavour best under these - unhampered - conditions. If compared with the other "major" expansions, I would rank Carcassonne - Der Turm to be the best of all these expansions, since the building of the towers changes the game dramatically, whereas the other expansions more or less were satisfied with enhancing the existing rules.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany