New characters, new cards, new mechanics, and up to eight players! Wonderful additions to an already perfect game. Be prepared to cycle through the deck faster than a grease-slicked polecat sliding down a lightning bolt!
ADDED BONUS: Get ready to have TWO dynamite bundles lit and in play SIMULTANEOUSLY!!!
The point tiles are nice for taunting, though the sixth player is waaay too much. It's cool to have a different color, but after two games at 6p I'm pretty much done with "full boat" Carc.
UPDATE: I really like what this does. The all-or-nothing gamble of the eponymous tiles adds a neat way to blow out some massive points on your side while prolapsing the bowels of your opponents on the other:
"Here—" [drops cathedral into the outskirts of an unfinished megalopolis near game end] "—the Pope says you totally got this."
UP-UPDATE: Can't ever see playing Carc without this—the base game alone feels incomplete in comparison. It's the must-have, always-mixed-in keeper.
Besides, there's never a reason not to include the acromegalic BOSS MEEPLES in all games of Carc from this moment forward, forever.
So, dipping the tippy-toes in with our first game using all the new expansion rules but no modules—yet. We'll add those in one after another for an experience snowball—Bernals & colonists, freighters, GW thrusters, Futures—to get both the full effect of each and to prolong the experience. That means, what, like 12 plays before we're spun up to the full game? Shucks, I guess we better get crackin'.
Some notes from the first play:
• With the Income op at 2 and white cards selling for 4 out of the gate the economic system—so tight and shavey in the previous incarnation—is kinda bloated. WT is easy to come by, speeding up the game and mitigating the effects of crap-blowin'-up but at the cost of tension. I'm imagining that this will tighten back up with all modules on. (?)
• ExtropyInspiration via Events and triangle burns is genius—definitely speeds things up. It's cool to move, cycle a deck and then Research the next card.
• Having single factories poot out multiple black tech cards is TREMENDOUS.
• The new Solar Cycle is kinda brutal, with events kicking off every other round like clockwork. I had a Martian resupply/rescue mission* get a hole punched in it three times in a row from back-to-back CMEs and Space Debris.
♪ That's High Frontier! ♫
UPDATE: I really like the Idea Turns to get things started quickly, though I'm still suspicious of how much bloat the full game will add—our Legacy games never went more than two hours, even with 5p and all Expansion modules on—and it would be a huge bummer if this tight, tense experience became an all-day sucker.
UP-UPDATE: (6 plays) Though it's been a rough start, I really like what Colonization does. It's got a ton story built into it, with an exponential arc of explore-industrialize-colonize-ascend. There are real reasons to push politics, as well as to go to war. (Operation Scrub the Space Pope, anyone?)
It's ponderous and clumsy until you get the process of establishing dirtside Bernals down, but once you're there, it should sing. (Much in the same way getting factories was initially so daunting in the base game, but once you got that down the game rolled hot.)
I get the impression that this might fit into a three-hour timeframe with experienced players and all modules on; at least I hope that things radically snowball once labs get built and everyone's promoting cards. We shall see...
*Yeah, people still get stranded on Mars in this one. Sigh.**
**I know you're scratching your head and thinking, "But Chris, that's a total rookie mistake—how the hell did that happen after 30-some-odd games?" And all I can say is that when you're the UN, your first patent is a solar sail, and Mars is open for business, you just kinda go for it. It's not until you slide your Corvette into the valet lane at Chez Valles Marineris that you realize your hot date is just a blow-up doll filled with hydrazine.
The best expansion for a great game. Finally, after two other expansions, you get to assemble the Fellowship entire. As has been stated ad nauseam elswhere, the battlefields are abstract flowcharts, a fact that bothered me at first—but all doubt fled as we commenced play. We played two games back-to-back and I didn't even notice. It felt very much like arraying troops for battle. Shouts of "Get Aragorn on the left flank," and "We need Gandalf in there NOW!" were common. Cries of triumph erupted from the group when an enemy was supposed to be activated but was already dead or hemmed in by the warrior heroes of the Fellowship. Likewise, the first time the Balrog turned up in Moria we crapped our pants.
What at first appears to be a Power Point presentation on the logic flow of an abstraction of a "battle" mechanic concept actually turns out to be the other five members of the Fellowship coming to the rescue, leading to real feelings of elation and dread as they give their all to delay the forces of darkness long enough to let the Hobbits run for their lives.
We were so used to the cooperative nature of the main game that we were unprepared for the hatred and scorn directed toward the Sauron player. I personally felt "bad" when playing as Sauron, killing off my friends and essentially ending the game for them.
Fig. 1 — "Shall we spread a little alarm and despondency?"
UPDATE: Played scenarios 4-8 as a campaign (using the rules included with the Winter/Desert Board) and the attrition dice between rounds made for some interesting decisions. In at least one instance, they directly helped the whipping-boy underdog score a stunning victory.
UP-UPDATE: After playing through the Battle of Gazala campaign a second time I'm convinced that this is what the expansion is all about. The first three scenarios get you used to the new units and rules so you can dive into the full campaign. The fact that the five connected scenarios can be played to completion in three hours makes for a fantastic evening with scads of drama & narrative potential.
I figured that after we played both sides we'd be done with it, but I find myself wondering if I couldn't do better and am itching to puzzle out the problems inside the five battles again. And again.
From here on out, "playing Med Theater" means doing the Gazala campaign in one go, flipping roles in the following session & comparing scores.
The experience completely blows away single-scenario play.
Wow. Just... wow. Everything about this set is completely off the charts. The art on the terrain hexes is gorgeous and evocative, the winter rules make the game feel exactly like you'd expect—vehicles are slowed and you can't see much of anything beyond immediate contact. You can fire into the fog and hope for the best, or you can maneuver into close combat and savage each other. Tense and brutal.
The Winter Combat cards add a huge amount of thematic immersion and crazy turns of event. I have watched what should have been dramatic, game-winning turns (Their Finest Hour) end up completely repulsed and negated by a couple of flopped Winter cards. Out of Fuel, Out of Ammo, and, oh, an Ambuscade, to boot! Sorry 'bout your offensive, there.