Expansion Madness #1 Carcassonne Catapult

6 Jan

Expansions are a great way of extending the life of a board game, so join me as I look at some of the best and worst that are currently available. First up I’ll be taking a look at Caracassonne The Catapult.

Carcassonne is a brilliant game that I always have trouble pronouncing properly, and sometimes even spelling properly. While it appears deceptively simple – you do little more then lay tiles each turn, which edges must match other tiles that are already on the board – it proves to be a deceptively strategic game. A game that my 6-year is absolutely amazing at, constantly trouncing me by a good 70 points whenever we play. She’s like the Rain Man of board games, so good is she at grasping the mechanics of most titles. But I digress.

You get 12 new tiles with Carcassonne Catapult. I like the one that looks like a cat's head (top left second in).

There are many expansions for Carcassonne, befitting for a game that’s so popular, and it’s a typical ‘Gateway’ title, essentially a stepping stone to other types of board games. Although there’s a certain randomness to the game (in so much that you don’t know what tile you’re drawing) it’s balanced enough that you’re rarely stuffed by a draw, as there’s always somewhere that you can place the tile.

Sadly, Carcassonne The Catapult, ignores this careful beautiful structure and throws a barrel load of chaos into the mix with a healthy side order of randomness. In short my six year old loves it.

Here's the catapult itself. It appears to be made out of a sturdy balsa wood. I've included a bumper pack of Pringles for comparison purposes. The Pringles were very nice.

The main draw of Carassonne Catapult is the catapult that comes with it. It’s a fairly sturdy construction and i’d imagine you’d have to apply a lot of pressure in order to break it. Which you’ll want to do, as it’s one hell of a frustrating addition to the game, mainly because it’s about as accurate as hitting a square peg into a small round hole. Whenever you flip the catapult it rarely lands where you want it to. While this randomness delights young children, it becomes very frustrating as it’s possible to lose larger number of points due to randomness that’s completely out of your control. Take a look at the following new cards to see what I mean…

The new tiles from left to right: Target Hurling, Catch, Knock Out, Seduction. I hate you all.

Each player is given 4 tokens, one of which can be played whenever you draw a Catapult tile from the bag or pile of tiles you have. The first tile shows a bullseye and is ‘Target Hurling’. If you play this, you must take it in turns to try and hit the last placed tile. Whoever gets closest scores 5 points. The icon showing a ball is called ‘Catch’. Here players use the included measuring tile to mark a halfway line between an opposite player. You must then attempt to flick your tile past this line. Points are scored by your opponent if they catch it or you don’t shoot far enough, and you score points if they miss it or you shoot to their side. Next up is the blue knock out tile – one of the most horrid tiles in all Carcassonne creation (at least in those I’ve played). If this little bugger comes into contact with an in-play meeple, it immediately removes it from the board (you can lose your own this way as well) as horrible as it sounds. Lastly we have the yellow ‘Seduction’ tile. Successfully land the tile on the board and you can switch the nearest meeple of an opponent with one of your own. It’s a nice idea, but like all the other options, is flawed due to the unpredictability of the catapult itself, which turns the game into a complete luckfest. Fine if you like that sort of thing, dreadfully frustrating if you don’t.

While I recommend Carcassonne The Catapult to those with small children, the sheer randomness and the low precision targeting of the actual catapult makes it hard to recommend to anyone else.

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