I’m a bit of a sucker for good deals. You may have already realized this if you’ve been following my Frugal Gaming updates, wherein I can’t seem to say no to buying anything remotely hobby related if I think I can resell it and make a quick buck (or a really slow buck, as it typically is, since I’m too lazy to list things on ebay). So, when I found a recommendation to buy a game that was on sale and highly rated, I wound up jumping in–I mean, how fun does it really have to be to justify a $2.99 price tag?
Having never heard of the game before (and not knowing anyone who played it), and a real lack of an in-depth tutorial, it was a little difficult to pick up. The premise of the game is that you’re a city planner (I guess) and are laying out various residential, commercial, and industrial areas to arrange a city (I’ve omitted whatever they call the gray areas, which consist of things like schools, municipal buildings, etc. I guess they’re government zoned?).
Each town has three difficulty levels which, after unlocking, lead to expanding to more towns/difficulty levels. Each town has it’s own mission that needs to be accomplished that typically involves some variation of ensuring a minimum/maximum level of:
- City income
- Cash on hand
The easy level isn’t easy in most examples (in fact, some of them took me upwards of a dozen attempts to beat on the easiest setting), and the hard levels seem to be designed so that tiles have to come up in a specific order for them to even be possible to achieve (I’ve only beaten a couple of cities on that setting, despite my efforts).
In total, there are about 10 different cities (forgive me, I’m going from memory here), each with their own twists. Beating them tends to unlock another city/difficulty level, and they culminate in a city in England (Essex, I believe). The weird thing is that many of the cities seem to have nothing to do with unlocking a path to Essex, so I guess they’re just there for fun?
The weirdest part about the game is the scoring. Each tile has stated ramifications to the various score tracks. So, when you place a tile on the board, it may be affected by other nearby tiles. But the scoring seems almost arbitrary. If you place a tile with +1 appearance in one section, it might give you +1 appearance, but it might also give you +0 or even as low as -5. I’m sure that the game is basing this upon other qualifications that I have no understanding of, but it almost seems whimsical how each piece/location affects a given score. It’s because of this seemingly random behavior that I can’t beat the games on the hardest setting (I swear that when I put a +10 population tile in San Francisco at the end, it only gives me +2 population for some reason).
It’s also because of that factor, that I fear playing the game in real life would be completely unmanageable. If I can’t grok the scoring at all through the digital game, how difficult would it be to manage in real life?
I find that I played it for a few hours and am pretty much done with the game now (despite not beating every city/difficulty level). Was it worth $3? Sure, but what isn’t worth $3 anymore? I would love to understand how the scoring system works, but I don’t think I could recommend this game as a board game. If you’ve got $3 burning a hole in your pocket though, you could certainly do worse than this…