Sunday, February 13, 2011

Those Whacky Supplements

No, gentle readers, the Staff at "Gaming with Chuck" did not begin selling vitamins or other Dietary Additives. What I am talking about in this article are Add-Ons to games - expansions, kits, supplements - whatever you like. In particular, I am going to give a quick review of three that really stretch the theme of the original game that they were added on to. But, at least for some, that doesn't mean they are a bad add-on!

First up - the new (and very welcome) supplement of Alvin and Dexter for Ticket to Ride.
What do you get? Well, in the small box, you get two great figurines (for Alvin the Alien, and Dexter the Dinosaur), and a small deck of 42 cards. You also get a small rules brochure, with the rules printed in a handful of languages.

What does it do? After the initial set-up of a Ticket to Ride game (any board, apparently, works for this supplement), the last player then places one of the new Monster figurines on a city on the board. Then the next-to-last player places the other Monster figurine on another city. There are two decks of 20 Monster cards (one for each figurine), and two Monster Bonus cards for the end of the game - these all get placed near the board. Then play commences as usual. During the game, you may (in addition to your normal turn) play a locomotive card to move a monster figurine up to 3 cities, following network lines. You may play two cards to move the figurine up to 6 cities. You may only move the same monster twice with two cards, not each monster once. When you do this extra action (either one or two cards) you select one of the Monster Cards of the type you moved (either Alvin or Dexter) and place it in front of you until your next turn. While there is a monster card in front of someone, that monster may not be activated by someone else. Once your turn comes around again, you turn the card face down, but you keep it. While a monster is in a city, nobody can claim (build) routes into or out of that city. At end of the game, the player with the most Monster Cards of each critter gets the monster bonus for that critter. Tickets, at the end of the game, with a Monster on one of their cities, are only worth half. Uncompleted tickets with a monster on one of their cities, only cost half(!) as much.
Opinion Yes, Great!

Second up - the recent (2010) Agricola Legen*Dairy Forest Deck, which is a follow-up to the X-Deck.
What do you get?You get a small box with 24 cards in it, and a small rules folder.

What does it do? More cards for Agricola. This includes the Event deck, first from the X-Deck supplement. The cards here are all from a light hearted fantasy/fairy-tale motif. Quite a few have some Monty Python and the Holy Grail DNA injected into them (which is a good thing.
Opinion Yes, Great!

Third Up - the 2008 Carcassonne: The Catapult add-on for Carcassonne.
What do you get?You get a wooden catapult for launching(!) round cardboard tokens. You get a bunch of cardboard tokens that are to be launched with the catapult, and you get a handful of new tiles all with the "Faire" symbol on them.

What does it do?Whenever you pull and play a tile with a Faire symbol on it, that starts a Catapult round. The player who just played the Faire symbol gets to shoot a token from the edge of the board towards the middle of the layout of tiles. Depending on the token chosen (each player starts with one of each type), several actions are possible: Knock out tokens try to remove meeples; Seduction tokens try to swap meeples; Target tokens try to hit the faire tile; Catch tokens must be caught for points.
Opinion Nope, give it a miss!

Okay, so why did the "Gaming with Chuck" staff like the first two add-ons and not the third one? I think the reason is simple - framework. The first two listed are within the framework of the game they add on to - in the case of Alvin and Dexter, you are still just drawing and playing cards. Now you get to move an alien piece, but its effects mesh into the structure very well. In the second case there are just more cards to choose from - whether they are events (introduced in X-Deck), or new occupations or minor improvements. Each, in some way, adds to the Agricola experience by introducing new rules and/or actions - but each is essentially a basic Agricola component. In the third case, you are taking the basic structure of the game (decision-based tile placement and scoring) and adding in a wonky dexterity based shoot-it-up mechanic that is very different from the framework of the game. The faire tiles work within the framework, but the actual catapulting does not (again, according to the opinions of management, workers, and elves at Gaming with Chuck).


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