Carcassonne – Abbey & Mayor: Farms? Where we’re going we don’t need farms.
Carcassonne’s plethora of expansions each seem to have their own purpose. Inns & Cathedrals was meant to add more risk into the game while Traders & Builders added more rewards for growing and finishing cities. Princess & Dragon added a destructive element to the game while The Tower provided a more combative experience.
The purpose of Abbey & Mayor, Carcassonne’s fifth expansion, seems to be to reduce the impacts of farms in the game. Farms are the trickiest part of Carcassonne. Its a delicate balancing act to know exactly when, where and how many farmers to place. And they can have a hug impact on end of game scoring. For this reason, farms can frustrate a lot of Carcassonne players.
Abbey and Mayor tries to take the emphasis away from farms in a couple of ways. First it reduces the value of farms and removes much of the end-of-game scoring through the barns. Secondly, it tries to increase the quantity and ease of scoring through the other structures by means of the wagon, the abbey, and the mayor. With all of these elements in play, farm scoring is taken down a notch and players’ strategies much shift in order to accommodate these fundamental changes in the gameplay landscape of Carcassonne.
Abbey & Mayor adds four major components to the gameplay of Carcassonne which each add something different. The abbey is a special piece each player has which is like a magic free-for-all piece which completes every structure around it. The mayor can increase competition for cities as the mayor counts for as many meeples as their are pennants in a city. The wagon is like a meeple which can move to an adjacent structure after is has scored another one. And then there is the barn which can score farms immediately, providing the biggest impact of this expansion. Altogether, these four ideas can really change the base game around.
However, one of the greatest new additions is actually involved with the components. These are the twelve new landscape tiles, which are really interestingly designed and unique. They introduce some really neat possibilities into the grab-bag of tiles. There are also new wooden pieces for the mayor (a meeple with puffy pants? Too much kick-back money in his pockets perhaps), the wagon and the barn. These look great as always and fit in well with the rest.
My favourite addition this expansion provides is probably the new tiles, oddly enough. There’s some crazy three-way roads, roads to nowhere, and elaborate tunnels and bridges which can really mess up city construction. Very cool stuff here.
As for the gameplay additions, they really do provide some new challenges, as you have to change your mindset on how to score, especially if you are a player who usually depends on your farms since using the barns is quite an adjustment. The abbey pieces are actually not used a lot since the situation where you use them doesn’t come up a lot. The mayor is hard to get a handle on when to use as well, but does tend to increase city sizes. The wagon is a cool addition when you can use them and can also bump some scores up.
Abbey and Mayor has some cool changes, but it perhaps changes the game too much. Its neat to play with every once in a while, but not every single session. Its not as good as Traders & Builders or Inns & Cathedrals which are able to integrate themselves much more smoothly. But it still maintains much of the Carcassonne aesthetic, unlike the lesser two expansions Princess & Dragon and The Tower who change the game too much. Abbey and Mayor sits nicely and averagely in the middle.
Base Game –
Base Game and Expansion –