Author Topic: Mayor - the failed concept  (Read 400 times)

Offline DIN0

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Mayor - the failed concept
« on: September 04, 2021, 05:40:26 AM »
With the current discussion on the 5th major expansion ongoing, I decided this was ripe time to post the topic i had in mind for a long time.

Let's discuss the titular component of this expansion box - The Mayor.

Mayor is the first of the highly specialized meeples tied to a specific feature-type, namely the cities. It's main function is simple enough, it is meant to serve as a guardian of your main big city you are currently working on. The intention is that if used correctly, Mayor would thwart the invasion efforts of the opposing players by making it so demanding and resource expensive, that such tactic would quickly become inviable. With such overwhelming support, the city would be guerenteed to be in the ownership of the Mayor-player when completed and net great points, or if not completed trap a lot of enemy meeples for the cost of one (Mayor).

All of this sounds very good and promising on paper, but this is where the problem comes. The concept is good, however its actual implementation is an utter failure. Let me elaborate...

Mayor can only be deployed to a city and its majority value equals the number of pennants (shields) in the city it occupies. This has potential to grant it tremendous majority strength. Other players would surel need a lot of meepels to overpower a Mayor right? Not exactly.
Let's look at the way a pypical city invasion usually occurs.
Player A establishes a city with a single meeple.
Player B places a nearby city tile and places their own meeple with intention of joining.
Player A places a tile inconveniencing Player B by making the joining more difficult.
Player B lucks out and draws a tile he needs anyway and joins the cities into one. Both players have equal strength 1A=1B.
Player A does not intend to go down that easily and prepares a new nerby city segment with a big meeple. He succeeds in joining it to the big city. 3A>1B.
Player B now needs at least two meeples to neutralize the majority of Player A, and an extra meeple to gain majority of his own.

This goes on until the city is completed and one of the players gains majority and points. Other player can join too in the process. The players go back and forth by joining in individual meeples (or rarely more than 1 by single tile placement if set up beforehand), which translates to majority values of 1, or perhaps 2 if using big meeple. Majority is generally gained/lost by increments of 1 or rarely 2. Larger the increment and/or the number of increments, larger the necessary amount of actions (tile and meeple placements), thus total value change requires an equivalent amount of setup.

How does Mayor change this dynamic?
Let's modify the previous scenario with the Mayor included. Player A builds a city with two of his normal meeples. Player B invades by joining a big meeple catching up 2A=2B. Player A in subsequent turns joins in the Mayor. The city already has an X amount of pennants (let's say X is an arbitrary number bigger than 5). Player A just swung the majority largely to his side by minimal effort, which is the intended function of the Mayor.
Player B is now in a position where she needs a very large investment to overpower Player A. Or does she?
Player B proceeds to join a city segment with her own Mayor. Since all Mayors draw their strength from the same pennants, Mayor B will have exactly the same strength as Mayor A, effectivelly neutralizing it on the spot.

And this is the problem with Mayor. It does not matter how many pennants there are in the city and how powerful your Mayor becomes as a consequence. All the opponent ever has to do is to invade with their own Mayor and the advantage will be lost instantly with the same minimal effort. The increments by which the majority changes, regardless of how large, are always the same for all Mayors.
There is no difference between a normal meepele and Mayor fighting for the majority: its is either +1A=+1B; or +XA=+XB. You gain majority by one tile/meeple placement, then opponent catches up by one tile/meeple placement, equal effort.
This effectively negates any special privileges Mayor has.

Whe there is big city on the map, the opponents WILL try to join in. Original owner would want to increase his/her presence in that city and Mayor is the obvious joice, but it is rendered functionally useless because opponents can just proceed wit the invasion with their own Mayors, making the process no different from when just normal meeeples where included.

So how does the Mayor change the dynamic of city invasion? He doesn't - at all.
If you want to effectively use your Mayor, you would have to wait until the opponents are already using their Mayor in a city of their own. But why would they do that? Surely not for defensive purposes, that would mean they are trying to defend a big city, which would just invite the other Mayors including yours. They wouldn't waste their Mayor in a small city either because then they couldn't join in with the others Mayors in some different large city when opportunity arises, leaving them out of big points.
Even if one or two players did have their Mayors stranded, chances are remaining enemy Mayors will invade anyway.
There is one other situation when one could use the Mayor ability with no fear of it being negated - that is when all every single player has their Mayor deployed in their own city. But by that point, if used correctly no one will even try to invade the other's Mayor-ruled mega-cities. Additionally, when such cities are completed and scored, big point gains will roughly equalize each other, making the Mayor usage once again inconsequential.

So the only two optimal ways to use Mayor meeple are either the opportunistic invasion leding to all mayors being in the same mega-city negating each other, or each Maor being in their own city where no one gains any advantage from them. This makes Mayor completely useless.
The only instance where Mayor's intended function would be used effectivelly is when opponents make suboptimal play. In other words, if all players play well or at least decent, Mayors end up in one of two situations where they are useless, and it is always a bad idea to play them otherwise.

So far I described how the special ability of Mayor is useless, but it is actually far worse then that. One could argue that if not for its special ability, Mayor could at least be used as an additional meeple. This is where the specialization comes to haunt the Mayor once again. It can only be played in a city, so its overall usefulness is reduced significantly. And when inside the city, not only does it not provide any advantage, but it can very easily be worse than a normal meeple. Since it draws its value from the number of pennants, if there are 0 in the city Mayor alone cannot score any points upon completion. This forces the player to make the cities with Mayor bigger and more valuable which in turn invites others for invasion, where Mayor once again fails to do its job.
So you effectivelly end up with a meeple without any special ability, which can only be placed specifically in a city and even there it is worse than a normal meeple. :o

One has to reach to other expansions and combinations in order to look for some kind of saving grace for this meeple, but do not be surprised to be dissapointed even there.
There is some invading potential when combined with the Count of Carcassonne or Flying machines. A surpise attack with massive majority value can be advantageous, but it only prolongs the inevitable equalization by the enemy Mayor, or Mayor-Count counter strategy.

There is the interesting tidbit about Mayor being able to be the Knight in the castle from Exp. 8, but this curiosity is useless, because the castle cannot be scored due to no pennants. The only exception to this is playing with carcassonne Maps, which do in fact have convertable small city segments with a pennant, so one could have a Mayor in castle here which can be scored. But keep in mind these special segments are always located on the edge of the map, making the value of th castle lower because of the reduced castle area. So while somewhat viable if you wish to make such castle but not dedicate a meeple that could better be used somewhere else, this is still not a major advantage. The fact that the best way to use Mayor is to make it a throwaway piece that shall not be missed if its castle will go wrong (and only when playing with Maps), does not paint a pretty picture for this piece of wood.

So because of all I described, I consider the Mayor to be the most useless splinter of wood to ever be introduced to the world of Carcassonne. And yes that includes the Catapult - I genuinely consider it to be more useful than Mayor.

 :orange-meeple: :orange-meeple: :orange-meeple:

So now that we established all that is wrong with the Mayor, is there a way this could have been averted or corrected?
I propose a modification that could have been made when concieving the rules,one that actually allows Mayor to do what it is supposed to:

General rules of Myaor remain the same with one adjustment - the pennants in the game are subdivided into six colors based on the player color. When a Mayor is deployed to a city, it only gains value based on the pennants of the same color. This way, Mayors inside the same city have different values and this number can be adjusted by adding additional pennants of the chosen color. It creates further tactical decisions when deciding where to put you Mayor.

Of course this might introduce few difficulties of their own such as the need to keep the number of pennant colors at least roughly equal. But it's not like this i impossible - games like Bang! the card game have been doing something like this for years. Each expansion there seeks to keepthe suits of the cards balanced and percantages at their set values. This could surely be solved when it comes to Carcassonne.
Another issue might be the fact that Mayor comes in the 5th Expansion, so there would be a lack of foresight from the previous material released. In the original C1 release perhaps, but what about C2? There is a lot of foresight and forward planning in C2 already, the farmhouses and sheds, the robbers at the roads. All of these are elements that had no function upon first release and then for some time, but were clearly included with some function in mind later down the road. Not to mention the still as of yet unused water towers. All of C2 material could have easily included pennats of six colors from the very start and only make use of them when Exp. 5 was re-released in C2.
Changing or adjusting the functionality of already existing elements from C1 in C2 is no new concept either - look at the wagon. The fact that its change occured in the very expansion where the Mayor comes from makes this a no excuse situation.

One would hope there is still a chance for this amazing concept with a failed implementation in the future.

And if someone can find some special niche actually useful usage or interaction with the Mayor please post it here. Other ideas for adjustments to the basic rules are also welcome.

Linkback: https://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=5458.0
« Last Edit: September 04, 2021, 05:46:09 AM by DIN0 »

Offline kothmann

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2021, 06:40:43 AM »
I mostly agree with you, don’t like the Mayor and never use it.  Actually, I don’t like any specialized meeples.  I don’t even really like specialized tiles.  For example, Inns could be replaced by giving each player small wooden houses that are placed on a road under certain conditions..  Base tiles + regular meeples + “fixed wood” expansions make a great game.

But let me try to mount a defense of the poor Mayor.  To score, a big city has to close.  And to close, it has to be one tile away from closing.  If you mount a Mayor invasion at that moment and get lucky to draw the connecting tile before your opponents are able to block or counter, you can glom on.  If your opponents have concluded that their Mayor is useless for defensive purposes (per your analysis), you might get an outright steal.  And of course it isn’t all luck.  You can try to set up favorable conditions, such as getting two road edges facing the completion square, so that when you place your city cap with the Mayor, the only tile that fits will be a CCRR, of which there are 5 in the base game!  (Mayor tiles include a CCRR city splitter, perhaps to counter this very idea?)

In other words, when playing the mayor, follow your advise about the barn:
Quote
...put in the work, be creative and just get better.  Come up with a counter-strategy and select the right expansions to make it work. That is the beauty of Carcassonne, you can always find ways to adjust and balance the game.
;)

Your idea to fix the Mayor is interesting, but it seems too unlikely to me that a player would be able to exploit the pennants of their color.

Here’s another thought: what if the Mayor worked similarly to the barn?!  Some sort of restriction on when a Mayor could be placed, perhaps only if a city has at least 3 pennants, for example, a Mayor can be placed in a city with other meeples.  The player with majority control when the Mayor is placed scores for a completed city, and all non-Mayors are returned to the players.  Any time other meeples join the city, they score for an incomplete city and are returned.  The Mayor only scores once and is never returned.  This would give players strong incentive to avoid mega-cities, which I think would be a good development.  There may be other reasons this wouldn’t work...

Since I don’t use the wagon either, maybe it should do the same thing for a road...

Anyway, thanks for such a detailed and interesting post.  Really enjoyed thinking about it.

Offline Bumsakalaka

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2021, 07:04:35 AM »
Yeah. All of expansion change basic game. And that's the point.

Invasion is one of the regular strategy of game. And you have to count with it.

or

You don't like Mayor. What's the problem, don't play it. There are plenty of expansions (large / mini / fan) which can enlarge you game experience.

Choose only expansions you like. Don't you like whole large expansion, then choose only part of it.

Enyou the game.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2021, 07:12:35 AM by Bumsakalaka »

Offline DIN0

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2021, 07:34:18 AM »
Quote
But let me try to mount a defense of the poor Mayor.  To score, a big city has to close.  And to close, it has to be one tile away from closing.  If you mount a Mayor invasion at that moment and get lucky to draw the connecting tile before your opponents are able to block or counter, you can glom on.  If your opponents have concluded that their Mayor is useless for defensive purposes (per your analysis), you might get an outright steal.  And of course it isn’t all luck.  You can try to set up favorable conditions, such as getting two road edges facing the completion square, so that when you place your city cap with the Mayor, the only tile that fits will be a CCRR, of which there are 5 in the base game!  (Mayor tiles include a CCRR city splitter, perhaps to counter this very idea?)
Thanks for the response!
Your proposed scenario is certainly plausible, but I do not believe it is sufficient to grant Mayor a strong role. If one were to set up a situation where one tile is necessary to complete a large city, and that tile would simultaneously lead to joining of enemy Mayor, the city-owner can purposefully evade this by filling the gap by their Abbey tile (which is once again included in the very same expansion ::)), which would cut off the invading Mayor. And since they would see the enemy Mayor coming, simply by turn order, they could do this beffore it had a chance to join.
Although I do agree with your surmission that one could take advantage of the "no use in deploying a defensive Mayor" conclusion of the city-owner. Perhaps there could be a set up with an incomplete, non-extendable, Mayor-free big city, needing a last tile to completion, where one could use a flying machine with their Mayor to invade the metropolis. Then the Abbey would not help and the original owner would need to rely on a random chance of drawing another flying machine and sucessfully landing in their city.
That could work, but I am not convinced that as sufficient for a stable role of flying invader. One, this could be quite situational (although not extremely rare), two after the first time someone pulled this off, it would incentivise other players to include Mayor in their big cities devolving the meeple back into a formality.

Quote
In other words, when playing the mayor, follow your advise about the barn:
Well I did do that  :D after all I included some potential scenarios in my post as well, but I was unable to find anything reliably or consistently viable, no real niche. There are many ways to counteract the barn, one can let imagination loose on that one, but built something up as a ueful piece is more difficult than counter an already useful piece. Anyway, this is something I hoped others would propose (as you did).

There is something else that comes to mind and that is to make an anequal playing field by capturing Mayor(s) with the Tower. This would create actual opportunities to make use of your own. But this would have to be timed really well, because it is easy enought o reclaim your Mayor from captivity - exchange or straight up ransom payment.

Quote
Your idea to fix the Mayor is interesting, but it seems too unlikely to me that a player would be able to exploit the pennants of their color.
That was a simplest solution thatcame to mind. I agree there are certainly better ways to do this by not using the pennants altogether. Pennants being six colors would dillute the useful ones in terms of Mayor value and that would need to be solved by inflating total pennant quantities. Then again this exact "problem" may prove to be another strategic choice (majority value vs point value of the city with risk of stronger enemy Mayor), but this would have to be tested.

Quote
Here’s another thought: what if the Mayor worked similarly to the barn?!  Some sort of restriction on when a Mayor could be placed, perhaps only if a city has at least 3 pennants, for example, a Mayor can be placed in a city with other meeples.  The player with majority control when the Mayor is placed scores for a completed city, and all non-Mayors are returned to the players.  Any time other meeples join the city, they score for an incomplete city and are returned.  The Mayor only scores once and is never returned.  This would give players strong incentive to avoid mega-cities, which I think would be a good development.  There may be other reasons this wouldn’t work...

Since I don’t use the wagon either, maybe it should do the same thing for a road...
I do not think making them barn equivalents for other features would be possible. The barn relies on the fact that fields are never complete, which is not true for roads and cities.

Quote
Anyway, thanks for such a detailed and interesting post.  Really enjoyed thinking about it.
Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed it. I am looking forward to further constructive discussion.



« Last Edit: September 04, 2021, 01:08:56 PM by DIN0 »

Offline kothmann

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2021, 07:48:08 AM »
Yeah, right after I posted I remembered the Abbey!  Was hoping you wouldn’t notice.   8)

In our small games, we don’t use the Abbey either!  And I don’t have flying machines.

I don’t think there should be any problem with having pieces that get placed once and remain.  In fact, I prefer it to different types of meeple.  Making more things work like bridges, pigs, barn (olacement rule only) makes the game better I think,

We played a Mayor variant years ago where the Mayor stayed in a city and scored points at the end for every farmer in a neighboring field.  Don’t remember other details but I like that idea — works well for a central city with several bordering fields.  I suppose you could also award points for a barn in a neighboring field to balance the barn...or maybe the mayor scores whenever farmers are temoved from a barn field...

fun stuff

Offline PapaGeek

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2021, 10:06:52 AM »
The Mayor was anything by a failed concept for me in one of the games we played last weekend!

We were also playing with Inns and Cathedrals, two of the players were working on a large city with a Cathedral and about 10 tiles with 5 coats of arm.  When it came to my turn they had closed all sides of the city except one.  I placed a city edge at 90 degrees next to their single needed tile and placed my mayor on it, zero coats of arm, so it was useless where I places it.  Then, the first player did not draw a city tile.  The second player drew a 3 sided city tile which he decided not to place on the possible connection that I made, then I got lucky and drew the two sided city tile, with coat of arms, that I needed!  The city they worked on for a long time was suddenly mine and I thanked them for all of their hard work and the points that I got!

The final score was 12 tiles plus 6 coats of arm times 3, I scored 54 points!

Part of the game is building features for yourself, part of it is joining in on someone else’s hard work, and part of it is taking features away from others.
Totally addicted to this game

Offline kothmann

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2021, 10:17:21 AM »
Oh there you go!  Just be sure you connect the Mayor before the completion square is surrounded so the opponents can’t close it with the Abbey.  Nice.

Offline DIN0

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2021, 02:03:45 PM »
Quote
We were also playing with Inns and Cathedrals, two of the players were working on a large city with a Cathedral and about 10 tiles with 5 coats of arm.  When it came to my turn they had closed all sides of the city except one.  I placed a city edge at 90 degrees next to their single needed tile and placed my mayor on it, zero coats of arm, so it was useless where I places it.  Then, the first player did not draw a city tile.  The second player drew a 3 sided city tile which he decided not to place on the possible connection that I made, then I got lucky and drew the two sided city tile, with coat of arms, that I needed!  The city they worked on for a long time was suddenly mine and I thanked them for all of their hard work and the points that I got!

Yes, this is certainly one of the few ways one can actually use Mayor - last minute forced joining to a city without opponent Mayors. Kothmann mentioned it his previous post and I agree it is plausible. But it is too circumstantial and can be averted in too many ways - the Abbey, placing the separating tile you mentioned, placing an ideal Halfling etc. It is a good opportunistic usage if you can manipulate it into such situation and have necessary luck at the right time. But I cannot proclaim it as something that makes the Mayor a good and functional piece in consideration of all its problems.

Quote
Oh there you go!  Just be sure you connect the Mayor before the completion square is surrounded so the opponents can’t close it with the Abbey.  Nice.
Well of course  :D but even if we squint and disregard the possibility of other players both surrounding and filling the final gap, leaving the city extendable or reachable creates opportunities for other Mayors joining.

I will also continue to try and think of something useful.

Quote
We played a Mayor variant years ago where the Mayor stayed in a city and scored points at the end for every farmer in a neighboring field.
Interesting idea! Not exactly a direct fix to the Mayor, but very good unrelated ability. Reminds me of 1st edition farm scoring.

Offline DIN0

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2021, 06:25:23 AM »
Ok, so there are two things I think are worth exploring. Both are related to Carcassonne Maps:
1) Germany Map + Chips = the chips allow you to upgrade one of your meeples to increase its majority value. The ability to do this at any given moment stems entirely from how the player played the game up until that point and it is fully under his/hers control. Depending on how it works, this could be beneficial to the Mayor.
Here the rules are unfortunately quite vague, they state: "During a scoring an upgraded Meeple counts as 2 Meeples in the respective area (like the big Meeple of the 1st expansion)." This makes perfect sense for a normal meeple and all other meeples who have base majority value of 1. However it does not make it apperent as to what happens when you upgrade a Big Meeple of a Mayor.
It all comes down to how the big meeple anility works in the first place (something we did not need to discuss nor clarify until now). Is it a +1 bonus, or x2 bonus, or is it replace the current value with 2 bonus? Depending on which one of these three it is the results would be: a) Mayor becomes N+1, Big Meeple becomes 2+1=3; b) Mayor becomes N x 2, Big Meeple becomes 2x2=4; c) Mayor becomes 2, Big Meeple remains 2.
Options a) and b) benefit Mayor and Big Meeple, option c) disadvantages Mayor and is neutral toward Big Meeple.
The wording of the Chip rule and the original Big Meeple rule is only partilly helpful - it states that the meeple in question counts as 2 meeples This might indicate a x2 bonus. It then goes to clarify that it works "like the Big Meeple from Exp. 1"  which would indicate replacement for 2 bonus or +1 bonus.
But in reality it merely tells us that the chip upgrade gives the affected meeple the ability of a Big Meeple. Since no meeple type aside from the Big could have this ability until now, we simply do not know how exactly it works. Based on the wording it would seem to be: "take the meeple in question and count it as two copies of itself". The original Big Meeple does this to regular normal meeple - the bigness is an inherent permanent upgrade. The chips would then ugrade it further by making it the equivalent of two Big Meeples. Likewise the upgraded Mayor would become an equivalent of two Mayors whose strength depends on the pennant count.
If this is the case mayor would become truly useful on the German Map with Chips.

2) Great Britain Map + Chips = the second idea is minor but has potntial and is more concrete than the previous one. On this map you can buy additional turns by sending your meeples away to the Isle of Man. You get them back back by paying the price in chips. This makes Mayor more interesting in several ways. You can send it away without losing a valuable piece to get the extra turn. Or you can wait until opponent does so and attack with yur own Mayor. The availability of necessary chips is largely under the players control, so one could deprive them of what they need to get the Mayor back. Alternatively, you can launch a surprise attack by getting a double turn and by clever chip play get the Mayor back right away and use it with the extra tile for innvasion.

So these are my two proposition on how to actually make better use of the Mayor. Number 2) is definitelly possible, but provides minor yet versatile benefits. Number 1) depends on how the Big Meeple rule actually works.

Offline kothmann

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Re: Mayor - the failed concept
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2021, 06:17:14 AM »
It seems like this thread is morphing into a Variants brainstorming?  That's excellent!

So, I did some googling for other ideas.  Along the way, I found this quote in @Walleyland's "Barbarian Report" on Expansion #5 on BGG, supporting the original argument:
Quote
Coincidentally, the mayor meeple, which looks like a sumo wrestler meeple, is relatively useless unless you get lucky. It is worth exactly the amount of pennants in a city. Therefore, if the mayor is in a city with no pennants, it is worthless (literally). When a mayor is in a city with a lot of pennants, the odds are that no other player has gone near it, except with their own mayor, negating the entire mayor effect. Thus the mayor rarely plays an active part in Carcassonne and, for me at least, sits on the sidelines picking up small cities when the opportunity arises.

The mayor was also featured as @Walleyland's Element of the Week #15, with most of the comments being unfavorable.  I want to just take this opportunity to say that @Walleyland's contributions to BGG & CC have been a treasure trove--really amazing for stuff that is often 7-10 years old.   :(y)

Anyway, in that thread, @jungleboy threw out a couple of suggested variants:
Quote
Maybe we could experiment with some house rules to try to change this dynamic. Two that come to mind are:
- The mayor can only be used once in the whole game (like the big follower in the Ark of the Covenant), so choose wisely!
- Only one mayor can be in any one city at a time, so the first person to add their mayor has an advantage. If two different cities, each containing a mayor, join up, the city that had the most tiles before they joined is the one whose mayor stays, while the other mayor is booted out but can be replaced by a regular follower if desired.
Note that @danisthirsty suggested pennants instead of tiles as the Mayor tiebreaker.

I'm going to try to make time to play-test the following Variant:
--Mayor can be placed that in a city that contains: no other Mayor AND no knights belonging to the player placing the Mayor.
--If cities with Mayors merge, the Mayors share the city, except that a Mayor that is merged into a city with knights belonging to the same player is removed from the city and returned to the player.
--Mayor stays in city until the end of the game, when it scores for each opponent's farmer in a neighboring field, with the score for each farmer being equal to the number of pennants in the city that the Mayor occupies.

So, this Mayor is a bit like the Pig, but requires that a player NOT already occupy the feature.  I think this could be quite interesting.  It allows a player to defend against a large city without creating a runaway battle that leads to megacities.    Limiting the points to opponents' farmers prevents a player from dumping otherwise useless farmers around a large city at the end of the game.  And the Mayor requires interaction with other players, which I like.  Each player having only one Mayor is well balanced with the number of pennants in the game, and makes it a minor modification, so it doesn't overwhelm the basic mechanics, but can still swing the game at the end, which is how I like expansions to be....

Edit: Added link to Barbarian Report on BGG.


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