#18 – Carcassonne: Traders & Builders [Expansion 2]

Traders and Builders 003Base price: varies wildly ($18 for Carc 2.0, you could probably assemble one of the 1.0 edition for ~$20 on eBay).
2 – 6 players (8 with the Big Box)
Play time: +10-15 minutes (additional) (maybe)
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)

That was actually a tough expansion to put together legally. Look at all the incomplete cities! Anyways. Keeping with the current theme of Carcassonne expansions, let’s talk about the next one in sequence — Carcassonne: Traders & Builders.

Traders & Builders (T&B) is Carcassonne’s second expansion after Inns & Cathedrals (I&C), and it also adds a few new features, new meeples, and new scoring mechanics that you should be aware of.

Contents

What’s New?

T&B doesn’t mess around. It’s bigger (24 tiles rather than 18), weirder (look at all those weird city pieces!), and adds more meeples (two! What madness is this?) than I&C, and you’d do well to understand what they do before you play with them. Basically, they’re broken up into three separate parts: Traders, Builders, and The Pig. Let’s look at each in detail.

Again, in order for this to make sense, you might want to read the Carcassonne Setup and Gameplay in my earlier blog post if you’re not already familiar with the base game.

Traders

Traders and Builders 002

So, in keeping with the trader title of this expansion, there is some notion of trade within Carcassonne, now. To do this, three “Goods” have been added: wheat, fabric, and wine. Every city tile (with the exception of two) in this expansion has at least one of those symbols on them, somewhere. But how do they work?

Each of the symbols match up with a Good token, which should also have been included with your copy of the game (if not, don’t blame me):

Traders and Builders 001

There are six wheat tokens, five fabric tokens, and nine wine tokens (also the same number of symbols for reasons which are now obvious to me). Now, whenever you complete a city with one of these symbols in it, you gain one Good token per symbol in that city. Note that, for those of you keeping score at home, you don’t have to control the city to gain the Good tokens. This means that you could complete an opponent’s city to give them the points and gain the tokens for yourself.

Traders and Builders 008

This city was just completed and had a wine symbol on one of the tiles, so Blue gained a wine token.

Now who cares about tokens? You might, as the person with the most tokens of each type scores an additional 10 points at the end of the game. This means that if you control the majority in each you’re looking at a cool 30 extra points. Might be worth completing someone else’s city for them. If two or more players have at least one token and are tied for the most, they each score 10 points. Trade is not something you want to miss out on in Carcassonne. Thankfully (or not), many of the city tiles are subtly frustrating to play, so it’s often slightly difficult to finish cities.

Builders

Traders and Builders 004

You ever have a frustrating set of turns where all you draw is road tiles or city tiles that you don’t need, so you end up building a giant city or a super-long road in the middle of nowhere? The builder can help. On your turn, when adding a tile to a feature that isn’t a field with at least one of your meeples on it, you can add the builder to that feature as well. While the builder doesn’t count towards controlling a feature, it more than makes up for its minor worthlessness with a cool ability: once per turn, when you add a tile to a feature with your builder on it, you can draw and play an additional tile. Normal placement rules apply to the second tile, so you can still add a meeple to it when you place it. It’s just handy for either building huge cities or long roads or having a place to put tiles you don’t necessarily want.

Traders and Builders 006

On blue’s subsequent turns, adding a new city tile to this feature would let blue take one extra turn (per “turn”, so you can only have two turns total).

Note that this even applies if the feature the builder is on is completed that turn — you would still take the second turn.

The Pig

Traders and Builders 005

oink

The pig is pretty straightfoward. On your turn, if you place a tile that adds on to a field you have or share control of, instead of placing a meeple you can place your pig in that field. This means that completed cities are now worth four points, rather than three, at the end of the game. I would contend that this was added because builders tend to create larger cities and the tiles tend to split fields more aggressively, so farms were somewhat weakened by this expansion. Not that that’s particularly bad. As with the builder, the pig doesn’t count towards control of a feature.

So, Traders, Builders, and The Pig. Other than that, a ton of city tiles (most of which are weird), and that’s about it. Let’s get to the rest of the review!

Setup

Make sure each player gets a builder and a pig in their color, and then throw the T&B tiles in whatever bag you’re hopefully using to draw tiles from with your other expansions. If you’re buying T&B separately, I think this expansion comes with a tile bag, as though specifically suggesting you should use it. Unfortunately for us Big Box purchasers, we get nothing. We lose.

Anyways. For more information on general Carcassonne setup, please see my previous explanation in my Carcassonne [Base Game] review.

Gameplay

Again, please see my Carcassonne [Base game] review if you’re looking for a general overview of gameplay. Other than that, there are no new features that require major changes except traders, which remember:

  • The majority holder(s) of each Good scores 10 points per majority at the end of the game. I guess that makes them more than Goods, they’re Grrrrreats! Yeah, that was terrible.
  • You can only place a builder if you already have a follower on that feature.
  • You cannot place a builder in a field.
  • A pig of a player’s color in a field means that that player’s farmer scores +1 point per completed city at game’s end. Note that you must already have a farmer in that field to play a pig.

As always, the major changes are in strategy.

Strategy

Again, similar strategies as base Carcassonne apply, but T&B adds in a few things worth watching out for.

  • If you can neutralize someone’s builder, you suddenly get a MASSIVE advantage. Making someone’s city with a builder impossible to complete is a pretty great way to make them hate you forever, sure, but you also then have a builder and access to additional turns that they don’t.
  • Cities tend to be much larger. Plan accordingly. You don’t see as many small cities with T&B just due to the nature of the builders.
  • Be aggressive about splitting up fields. With The Pig in play, you really don’t want to give your opponent more points than you already would with a field. Luckily a lot of the new city pieces are aggressive about splitting up fields, so just leverage them.
  • For smaller cities with Goods symbols, it often can be useful to complete your opponents’ cities to gain their Goods. Giving them 6 points now so that you can gain 10 points later is a pretty reasonable deal. Moreso if you control the field that city is in. With the same logic,
  • It can actually be a bit dangerous to have almost-completed cities, as your opponent can complete them to either deny you an extra turn with your builder or steal your Goods. There aren’t really any ways to prevent this without having to do crazy stratagems, but it’s worth being aware of.
  • When completing a feature with your builder on it, you CAN place your builder onto the second tile if the first tile is what completes the feature. This is a great way to pass the builder from feature to feature and keep the train rolling with regards to playing multiple turns.
  • Don’t forget to keep an eye on how many Goods your opponents have. An endgame 10-point swing (or more!) can really wreck you.
  • (I&C) Cathedrals are weakened somewhat as a offensive play. Since a player can potentially play two tiles per turn with a builder, throwing a Cathedral onto their city to try and reduce their score might not be as good of a play as it was with just Inns & Cathedrals in play. They have a much better chance of finishing it, now. Just FYI.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Builders are awesome. Getting an extra turn is very nice, and it really mitigates some of the frustration some players feel when they keep drawing tiles that aren’t the tile they’re looking for — they can put their builder on that feature and keep getting an extra turn.
  • Weakening farms a bit is pretty nice, too. I think that encouraging larger cities as a gameplay mechanic (and longer roads, by the same convention) is good for Carcassonne. It also has the benefit of making the layout of the board a bit more interesting once it’s done.
  • Adding in a mechanic that rewards city completion (not just city control) is very interesting. Suddenly you can get a LOT of points by ending someone’s city, which adds a nice extra layer of tension to the game.
  • Plays very nicely with other expansions. It doesn’t feel quite as much like a part of the base game like I&C does, but it doesn’t cause any issues with other expansions, as far as I’ve played with it. Having the builders to protect you from malicious cathedral plays is a nice touch, I think.

Mehs

  • The Pig feels a bit thematically tacked-on. I think it’s just the nature of this being much more city-focused (and a bit more road-focused), but the pig doesn’t quite … fit with the rest of the stuff.
  • The builder can slow the game down. Usually with Carcassonne we have each person draw a tile so that they can have some time to think through their moves before it’s their turn. Unfortunately, with the builder, if you get an extra turn you should be able to draw those tiles, so that sort of pre-fetching doesn’t quite work. This makes the game take a bit longer as a result, since there’s more thinking happening on a player’s turn.

Cons

  • Some of the new city tiles are frustratingly difficult to play. This is mitigated by the fact that some of the city tiles are very specifically useful, but it can still be a pretty big irritation during the game if you get a VERY unhelpful city tile.

Overall: 9 / 10

Traders and Builders 009

Overall, I think this is a great expansion! I wouldn’t personally say it’s as necessary to the game as Inns & Cathedrals, but I often play with it and I think it’s pretty excellent. Usually, I’d say I&C, T&B, and then one other expansion of your choice is a fairly comfortable amount of Carcassonne (not counting mini-expansions), but it’s up to you. I like the emphasis on cities that this offers (as opposed to the slightly more road-focused I&C) and I think between the two of them you get a very nicely balanced feel of Carcassonne. I see no real reason not to get this one as well, as then you get a nice ability to mix-and-match and play with or without certain expansions until you find a good fit for you.

That being said, I’d still recommend getting the Big Box. It’s just such a good deal.

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