It’s well documented on this here site that I am a bit of a tart for games that involve building cities. Stemming from a childhood passion for Sim City on the SNES (seriously, who wouldn’t love Bowser stomping through their business district?) I love the idea of creating this little engine made up of areas that feed off others while supporting even more. Suburbia, released last year by Bezier Games, is invariably one of the better examples out there – however, two games designed by Alban Viard that are based around the same theme were also unleashed at Essen 2012.
The first, Town Centre, has already been reviewed here on The Little Metal Dog Show. A brain-meltingly good little game, it was essentially a homebrew project by Alban that came in a home printed box filled to the brim with LEGO 2×2 bricks. Town Centre is actually the second in his city building series, the first one being Card City published through Ludibay.
If anything, Card City is a little easier to get your head around than its bigger brother. Rather than working in three dimensions, you’re focusing only on two this time. However, with only a limited amount of space at your disposal (you must keep your city within a virtual five by five grid) that doesn’t mean that this version is any simpler. Prepare for a lot of thinking, gnashing of teeth and cries of “why did I do that?!” when you sit down to play this one…
Beginning with a single card before them – the City Hall – and a few coins, you’ll be looking to develop your city by adding Residential, Industrial and Commercial along with Leisure and Parking areas. There’s no need to worry about keeping residents happy, powering up areas isn’t necessary – it’s strictly about organising areas and building chains that will hopefully expand at the end of each of the game’s ten rounds.
Depending on how many are playing, double that amount of cards are drawn at the start of the round, with each player ending up with two cards for them to use. These have to be added to your city, placed next to an already existing card – no attempting to set up a remote region, everything must be linked. The cards you choose are vital, with each one having a different effect on what you’re building.
Industry, for example, is required because without it you’re limited in the amount of cards that can be in your city. No industry limits you to a maximum of five, one bumps that up to ten, two to fifteen and so on. Leisure spaces (including the City Hall) allow you to expand, adding an extra Residential card to certain areas. Having an increased amount of Residential areas near Commercial ones let those develop too. These are much needed because – as you’ve already worked out – throughout the whole game you’re only going to pick up twenty cards and you’ve got space for twenty-five. If all of those spaces aren’t filled up, you’re going to lose points at the end.
Parking only scores you points in the advanced version of the game, otherwise simply taking up space in what’s already a very limited area to work within. Commercial districts bring in much needed money after each round, allowing you to buy increasingly expensive Industry cards or save up for points. After the ten rounds have been completed, points are awarded for your Residential zones and the money you have left over, with the highest total taking the glory.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Card City can take some getting used to. The rules are a bit fiddly, but once you get your head around the fact that Leisure helps develop Residential, Residential develops Commercial and Commercial gives you cash, you can start concentrating fully on making sure you don’t screw up your purchases too badly. Because believe me, you will – a lot. Early plays will leave you feeling like you’ve gone ten rounds with the local planning committee (which you kind of have done…) but it soon clicks and before you know it you’ll be well on the way to completing your own little metropolis.
The folks at Ludibay have kept it simple from a production standpoint – you get generic plastic tokens to act as your coins and enough beautifully designed cards for four players to get involved. Sure, it’s a small box but there is a lot of gameplay in there. Having played it a fair few times now, I’m finally working out strategies to (hopefully) mitigate the randomness of the card draw, when to blow money on bringing in Industry and how to start those Leisure – Residential – Commercial chains. If you fancy giving the game a go yourself, there’s even a single player variant over on the wonderful boiteajeux.com, the rules of which can (of course) be used should you pick up a copy of the game in real life.
I’m sure that city building itch will never go away but whether I’m looking to spend a couple of hours in Suburbia or thirty minutes developing my own little piece of Card City, I’m a happy chap. I look forward to seeing how Alban takes his concepts yet further in the third game of his City Series because between this and Town Centre, the guy’s got a lot of talent.
Card City was released in 2012 by Ludibay. Designed by Alban Viard with art by da-fanny, the game is not yet available here in the UK. However, if you’re desperate for a copy, head on over to Amazon.fr where one will set you back around 23 Euro. C’est magnifique!