Tag Archives: French

We Built This City – Card City review

Card City COVER

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.

It's all going WRONG.

It’s all going WRONG.

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!

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The International Language of Screaming – Kloo review

Time for a brand new guest reviewer to step up to the plate! Dear readers, please welcome the splendid Ben Douglas to the team, kicking off with… an educational game? What?

How do you make a successful educational board game? I’ll give you a Kloo

Crappy puns aside this is one of the most accomplished attempts at an “educational” game I’ve come across.  I put “educational” in quotation marks as one could argue unplugged games nearly always have an educational element to them.  From the strategic thinking and forward planning you gain from playing Chess, to the historical overview you receive from games like Memoir ’44 or 1960: The Making of the President, most games leave your brain satisfied and potentially a bit cleverer for one reason or another.

But an “educational” game is when the main focus and reason behind the game is to teach, and as soon as you put a teaching agenda in a board game it usually muscles out the fun. With Kloo this does not happen. Andrew Finan has managed to make a game where the driving force to win the game is to learn vocabulary and build sentences in a foreign language and, remarkably, he makes one the most arduous parts of learning a language genuinely fun.

(I played the Spanish version, but there’s a French deck available too.  This review is of the main rules but there are 15 other games that can be played with the same deck.)

The game consists of a deck of multicoloured cards, each with a Spanish word on them.  A player begins the game with 7 randomly dealt cards and starts his sentence with a “Red” starter card.  The aim is to then play as many cards as possible in a line.   Each colour card tells you which other colour can be played on either side of it.  Once this simple task has been done, you have a string of words.  Together they make a grammatically correct sentence.  It may be nonsensical but the grammar will always work.  Every time.  Every single time.  The first reason why this game is so clever.

You get one point for every card you play.  You then get to translate the words and every correct translation gains you one extra point.  You claim those cards into a pile in front of you and the un-translated words from your sentence go into the middle to form a “pot”.  The player picks up new cards until he has 7 again and play moves to the next person, who then has a chance before his own sentence to translate the cards in the “pot” for a bonus 3 points per correct translation.   This is by far the most effective way to gain points – learning vocabulary actually wins you the game.

Ou est le chien? Le chien est dans l'arbre!

Now for the second reason why I reckon this game is very clever: on the bottom of every card you get a “Kloo”; a translation of another word in the deck.  So the cards in your hand, and the cards you have claimed by translating, now give you numerous “Kloo’s” to help you translate the words in the “pot” for your next turn.  This leads to frantically reading and trying to memorise every “Kloo” you have so you can grab as many bonus points you can.

That’s why the game works.  The learning of vocabulary is part of the winning.  Once you find a difficult word that no one else can translate you get a buzz of excitement.  You just learnt a word no one else knows – Get In! Andrew Finan has constructed a game that is self-teaching and makes you actually WANT to learn new words.  If you hated learning vocabulary as much as me I have a feeling you will be pretty impressed. I certainly was.

So who is the game for? You’d be mistaken if you think the only place for it is a classroom.  This works at home too and would be a fantastic tool for parents to introduce their children to a language or enhance what they bring back from school.  I played it with several University students who had undertaken a beginner’s module in Spanish and they all loved it, though having played the game with these fellow non-Spanish speakers, I feel the game would work better with a Spanish-speaking mediator to verify any attempted translations.  This makes the game perfect for classrooms where you would hope the teacher could play that role.  At home, a Spanish dictionary would have to be used – it’s less ideal but does the trick.

Looking at Kloo from a teacher/parent/learner perspective, I think this game is terrific.  If you’re a hardcore gamer you’ll most probably not put this game at the top of your wish list but then you’re not really the core audience. Kloo has been designed to make learning fun and it does that with gusto.

Kloo is designed by Andrew Finan and was originally released back in 2010. It’s available from Amazon and other good online stores for around £13.  The game comes in French and Spanish versions and sixteen different rulesets can be found, along with some nice new video tutorials, at www.kloogame.com.


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