Carcassonne is a fairly well-known European-style-tile laying game. The players take turns placing squares to expand a map of fields, roads, monasteries, and walled cities meant to evoke a region in France. As they do so, they place their little wooden pieces, called meeples, to score points based on a variety of terrain features. This review will be most interesting to those that have played the original game, but I'll discuss a few general design features at the end.
This add-on struck our fancy because it fits well with my wife's preferred play style: filling in gaps in the map rather than sprawling off to the sides. This is an aesthetically pleasing play style and one that fits the theme of the game as to my knowledge there are no gaping holes in reality in the French countryside.
Traders and Builders uses multiple methods to achieve this goal. First, it reduces the incentive to block other player's cities by providing a reward in the form of trade goods to any player that finishes a city. Second, it adds a "builder" piece that allows a second turn each round if you lay your tile in a way that connects to an existing city or road. This has the virtue of focusing one player's attention and keeping the game from slowing down despite the addition of new pieces. Third, a new "pig" piece increases the bonuses received from a single field. Fields are one of the mechanisms from the original game that encourage players to play in a concentrated area, either to reap points from ever-expanding pastures or to firmly enclose the grasslands of another player. Finally, the new tiles, in addition to introducing trade goods, seem well-chosen to match up with difficult-to-fill spots from the base game.
Traders and Builders could be fairly critiqued for adding three new elements, and thus sacrificing some of the original game's simplicity. However, I think all the pieces interlock well and show signs of carefully considered balance and play-testing.
I might not have noticed Traders and Builders if not for the advice of a clerk at the Family Game Store at Savage Mills, who broke out the virtues in a way that made the choice over "Inns and Cathedrals," another add-on, an easy one. Typically, I think of game add-ons as introducing a new element to an existing game. I think it's a far rarer breed that also reinforces the core game while adding a fun new aspect.
Fellow players for the review: Kate, Andrew, and Monica. Thanks all.
Image from BoardGameGeek.com
Source: My mother given to Kate. Thanks Mom for the gift and Kate for letting me play!