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Michael nut
Australia
Canberra
ACT
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So first attempt at a review, hopefully it's useful. The review is solely on the benefits and changes the expansion introduces and whether they're worth it (short version, yes!). It's written on the basis that you've played the original game and understand the rules.

The game comes in a box essentially the same design as the originial game but with a brown border. Same dimensions except it's only half depth.

Obviously the expansion is designed foremost to allow 5 or 6 players so you get two extra sets of meeples and master builders (in orange and white), an extra resource card (1 sand for 1 worker), some extra craftsmen (2 per turn) and some more privilege and event cards as well as extra resources (which unfortunately don't quite colour match with the original). The game scales as well so the amount of resource cards and craftsmen available varies depending on how many players you have (so the tight tussle for these remains).

You get a half size board to place alongside the original, the artwork matches and flows well between boards. The board provides a number of other master builder placement options which take place in phase 9 after rolling for taxation. These are:
Tax collector which provides not only immunity from tax but allows you to collect the rolled amount in gold and is key if finances are tight as it's a double win
Crusades, there are four new meeple placement options allowing you to gain victory points for your workers (rather than making any leftovers into shearers for gold)
Shiring privilege card space, privilege cards are split into ongoing effects (which remain in the two spots on the original board) and instant or one off which are placed here
Inspiration in St Denis which is a clever addition that allows you to reuse one of your own craftsmen or another person's craftsman at minus one capacity, very handy if you missed out on a metal using craftsman but have metal available
Lastly is the coast which is similar to the resource market but there's only one spot and you can only sell, the trade off is everything gets a better price.
Across the top of the board is the Master builder track which is used in 5/6 player games and helps balance the order of master builder placement, only two MB's go in the bag and whoever comes out first places their third MB onto position 5/6 on the track, second takes the next highest position and so on until all the MBs are out of the bag and then the track is used from 1 - 6. So if your first MB came out first, your last one will be last.

There are 12 new craftsmen, 2 per turn and without breaking them all down they add flavour to the game without upsetting the balance, there's a craftsman who converts sand into stone, another who provides VPs for MBs placed in the market. Last game there was much humourous discussion about how exactly the beggar (who gains a resource from the market) was gifted with a lump of stone or a handful of sand....

There's also the black master builder who is place in the bag with the other MBs and allows you to reserve a spot on the board and replace him with your next MB, last game he saved me 5 gold and scored me the craftsman I wanted. He can be excellent if he comes out of the bag early but there's a bit of luck involved. You can pick him up with one of the new privilege cards.

Overall it's an excellent expansion, the game remains about decision making and weighing up the benefits of each action and each placement. The expansion provides variety, scales well (there's more things to do but still not quite enough to go around) and retains it's replayability by always having cards that aren't used (there's more privilege, craftsman and event cards than you'll use in a game). Also, unless it's a 6 player game you'll get a different resource mix each turn as well.

It remains a simple game, people who've played before quickly pick up the nuances from the new board and as the mechanics are the same new players learn the rules for the new board at the same time as the original. I've introduced a heap of people to this game and by the end of the first turn they've always understood the rules and are quickly competitive.

I really enjoyed the base game and this has added to that, not only the ability to play with extra players but more choices for a 3/4 player game (although these are generally much higher scoring!). I've given it 9.5 out of 10 cos it is pretty well perfect. Played it with two noobs this week and in turn three one looked at the other and said "This is a great game, I reckon we should get it." I reckon they should too!
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Klaus Brune
United States
Torrance
California
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I'd definitely highly recommend this expansion as well. However there are some minor irritations people should be aware of.

While the art on the boards may match nicely, one cannot say the same things about the cards. They are noticeably off-color, to a degree that I find myself shuffling the resources and craftsmen beneath the table so I don't notice the backs.

The cubes for wood were also off-color in my print run, so much so that I complained to Mayfair and they were nice enough to send me some replacement cubes so that now they all match. That may be quibbling a bit, but hey, in a game this good-looking, little annoying things tend to stand out.
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