On my podcast this week I reviewed a free Print and Play expansion for the well known and very popular game Carcassonne.
The "Well and Donkey" is a story that originates in the city of Carcassonne itself and in particular focuses on the big well found in that city.
The well itself is huge and of course when tourists see it, they have to walk over and have a look in. It's not just tourists, everyone feels drawn to look in and maybe that's where the story started, springing as it were from the mysterious drawing power of the well.
The story goes along these lines. A bunch of archers were carousing loudly in the city one night and went as far as swearing against the saints. They spotted a donkey passing by with a really swanky bit of cloth on its back, and one of the archers couldn't resist jumping on its back. Then another archer did like wise, great fun! In the end all of the archers jumped onto the donkeys back! Then it set off running through the city, only pausing next to a graveyard where the graves opened and the dead sang a lament. Then the donkey ran to the big well and jumped in taking the archers with it. Of course it wasn't a donkey, but was really the devil!
So enough with the background what about the game bits etc?
There are 8 tiles in this PDF, which by the way is available in the files section of the Carcassonne page at board game geek. Two of the tiles feature the Well and Donkey, these are city tiles. These two tiles have a drastic effect on gameplay. When a city gains the Well and Donkey, the meeples in the city are removed from play! That's it they are gone for good, and you get no score out of it.
The other 6 tiles in the set are pretty average nothing special type things. This is good because obviously you're always going to be able to tell the home made tiles from the ones that came in the box when you brought the game. These extra 6 tiles effectively "water-down" any decision related to taking one of the new tiles.
What effect does this have on game play? Significant. Until both of the well and donkey tiles have been played players are reluctant to claim cities because they know that as soon as they do then their opponents are going to zap them by dropping the well and donkey into the city!
This reluctance to leave meeples in cities means a lot of very tiny cities get built which in turn means farmers and farming becomes immensely more important. The playing of farmers has always been a major strategy in my gaming group and this expansion intensifies that part of play and makes it very enjoyable.
When we play we always have the tiles in stacks on the table so players can choose which tile they are going to play ( only from looking at the backs of course! ). With these cards in play it is obvious which ones they are but as I said only two out of 8 are the killer tiles, so you have to make a choice, do you keep picking the expansion tiles to get rid of the donkey tiles as soon as possible or do you try and save them to attack with later, but if you do that, will your opponent beat you to the tiles!
Because we play openly this effects our play. When the tiles are drawn hidden, from a bag or some such, players feel they can risk bigger cities and that is fun to play as well. Imagine it, your opponent has a meeple in a four tile city and you draw a Well and Donkey tile, oh how you can tease him/her...
The tiles in the PDF are well drawn and print very well. Mine were printed to thin card, and mounted with spray glue onto thick card. The PDF does contain tile backs, but provided your mounting material is plain, then they are not really required.
An alternate rule that we've played with, that you might also like, is where rather than removing the meeples in the poisoned cities you simple score nothing for the city when its closed, at the end of the game, or for farming it.
All in all this a good expansion, it is simple and straight forward, no complex rules to remember. It makes enough difference in play to make the game interesting and of course that tease factor has to be worth a few points. If you've never made a print and play add-on, this would be a good first one!