Here’s my feeling on the progression of the Carcassonne world:
- Carcassonne: one of the most overrated games ever. I sit here and twiddle my thumbs waiting for my turn to come around, I’m at the whim of the tile draws, no interaction, no fun factor … ugh. Plus, the scoring for fields at the end of the game is incoherent. In fairness, I’ve come around in more recent times a bit as Carcassonne does score as a simple game that does present interesting choices. But not in my top 10, that’s for sure.
- Carcassonne: The River: This helps a bit. It tries to break up those awful fields in the basic game somewhat, but it really doesn’t quite succeed.
- Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals: Again, we have one important fix (the Inns, which help out the poor, undervalued roads in the basic game) coupled with some gratuitous junk that really doesn’t help the game much. And who in their right mind wants to play this with 6?
- Carcassonne: Builders & Traders: Once again, we have one really good idea (the Builder) and some more junk.
- Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers: Now, at last, we’re talking. What happened? The fundamentals of the game were finally fixed. The Rivers now have fish, so are not as worthless as the Roads in Carcassonne. The bonus tiles help balance out the forests and give you more interesting play options. The field scoring is comprehensible. All in all, this is well-executed where the original was not, quite. It’s still got downtime and interactivity problems, but these aren’t compounded by other issues, and for me the game does work nicely.
And now we have Carcassonne: Die Burg, which is in my opinion the best of the lot. It’s restricted to two players, which is probably the best number anyway so is hardly that much of a limitation. The new tile style (in which you only have to match roads, not edge types) leads to more open and interesting play. The types of scoring (roads, markets, houses, and towers) are better balanced even than in H&G – this is Mr. Knizia after all. The special action tiles add a nice flavor to the game. All in all, I enjoyed this far more than any other Carcassonne game to date, and, more importantly, enjoyed it quite a bit. I look forward to playing some more.