Feb 20, 2018

[Games] Carcassonne: Abbey & Mayor Review

I recently picked up a few mini-expansions for Carcassonne and that got me remembering the fact that I still haven't written reviews for all the sets that we do have. There's still a lot to cover, but I'll eventually get around to it I'm sure.

Carcasonne: Abbey & Mayor is one of those expansions that we don't get to play with as much as it's a little more straightforward to explain the mechanics of other expansions more than this one. This doesn't necessarily make this a bad one to add to you collection, just one that feels a little tricky but also doesn't quite add someting mind-blowing to the game either.

I'm expecting to see more expansions released in the coming months given how the English publising license has moved from Rio Grande Games to Z-Man Games. We've already seen a subtle change to the look and feel of the tiles with the new releases and I'm on the fence about it. But I am curious to see what German-only releases they'll eventually publish in English.

Carcassonne: Abbey & Mayor is the fifth full expansion for Carcassonne and was designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. As with the other Carcassonne expansions, it require a base set (including Wheel of Fortune) to play the game.

The expansion introduces several game elements to your Carcasonne games that can vary play. First everyone is given an Abbey tile, which includes a thick red outline. You can place an Abbey in any gap completely surrounded by other tiles (the center of a 3x3 grid) and it completes all features connected to the Abbey. This is great for completing tiles that no longer seem viable given the limited distribution of pieces in the game.

Then you have 3 new wooden figures. The Mayor can only be placed in cities and his strength is determined by the number of pennants in the city in question. The Wagon counts as a meeple and it can move to another feature on the tile that completes the feature it is in. Thus a Wagon in a city can move to a road on the tile that completes the city, thus optimizing scoring a bit. The finally there's the Barn allows for mid-game scoring of farms and it's harder to kick out as it's not a meeple.

What I Liked: The pieces introduced by  this set can be quite tricky, especially when it comes to Barns. Farm math is always one of the more complex aspects of Carcasonne and it's hard to add in something like the Barn. But it's very clever and when used well can help you dominate a growing farm early on before other players can start competing for farm control.

The other great aspect to this set is the Abbey, which is tricky to use but wonderfully satisfying to place when you get down to it. We've all had those gaps in our game boards that seem to linger for most of the session until the right piece comes along - or in this case the Abbey.

What Could Have Been Better: The Wagon is cute but not that groundbreaking when you get down to it. Plus it feels a little redundant with other pieces like the Phantom, which can be a bit more effective at picking up quick scores mid-game when you place tiles. But it felt like an afterthought added to this game.

I'm not sure about the full utility of the Mayor, as it's such a narrow focus given it can only work in cities. Sure this makes sense and cities are still one of the more typical ways that people score but at the same time I think Cloisters need more support to make them a bit more interesting beyond a means to join farms together.

TL;DR: Carcasonne: Abbey & Mayor is still a clever expansion and one that adds a lot of power to farms, which is probably why I both enjoy playing it and also fear using it since it gain strength quite quickly. I can skip the Mayor and the Wagon even, as the Barn is the main reason to get this set. Thus the expansion gets 3.5 Farmers kicked out by a Barn out of a possible 5.

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