“Card City XL”
Designed by Alban Viard, published by AVStudio Games
The Quick Summary: With the cards at your disposal, you are in charge of building the highest scoring city. With a crafty card drafting system, where the first player creates small decks of partially hidden cards for other players to choose from, “Card City XL” requires some long-term planning to optimize your town by fitting the best cards within a 5×5 or 6×6 square. You can place cards to grow your city, but optimal card placement can allow some districts to develop by themselves and grow without actually using cards from your hand! The key feature of the game is that it comes with 240 different ways of playing. Some of them are pretty similar, just easier versions of the same game, but it does have a lot of possible variations.
A lot of potential variety when it comes to winning conditions and objectives.
Many different levels of difficulty.
Will appeal to both casual gamers and more strategic gamers.
Comes with a solo variant that allows you to try to create your own metropolis.
The nice combo of tile placement and organic growth of your city makes for interesting decision-making.
The many different levels and winning conditions can be confusing at first glance.
A good insert to store the cards would have been nice.
Solo variant only measures your success based on your score. You can’t lose. You simply compare your score to the chart in the rulebook.
The size of the city, once you reach a certain amount of cards makes it very hard to manage. You need a BIG table (or a lot of moving your city around) for 3-4 players games.
Keep it or leave it? This is a keeper since the more hardcore gamer can be satisfied because of the long-term planning required and it will also attract more casual gamers (just lower the difficulty).
designed by James Ernest and Mike Selinker, published by Mayfair Games
Journey back to the beginning of the Strip and wheel and deal your way to become the only Lord of Vegas! (Not on the box. Maybe they should use this). Players vie for victory point supremacy by owning lot, building casinos, making cash to convert into larger casinos and swallowing up their smaller rivals. Each round players will draw a card representing one lot on the board and one of the five casinos. Then they get ownership of that lot, money if they have casinos of that color, and victory points for the total size of that casino of that color as well. They then take as many actions as they can afford: build a new casino, sprawl an existing casino and take over an empty lot, remodel a casino to change the casino color, gamble to make some extra spending dough, or even re-organize the dice on the casino tiles to change who the boss is, and who ultimately controls that casino and scores those points. Most interestingly, the game offers open negotiations among players for nearly everything in the game to really mix things up and give that the game that freewheeling vibe of Old Vegas. The true Lord of Vegas is determined when the “Game Over” card is drawn, everything is scored on more time, and the player with the most points comes out on top!
With its use of randomly drawn lots determining ownership, the game resembles Z-Man’s “Chinatown.” While that game emphasizes the importance of negotiation more, the extra mechanics here offers paths other than negotiation. In fact, the freewheeling nature of the negotiation is almost under-emphasized, being the next to last section in the rules. Nonetheless, there are plenty of deals to be made as you trade, consolidate, and hope you guessed right about the next payout.
One Line Verdict: For players looking for a game that is equal parts luck, strategy, and negotiation. Just like going to Vegas…not really.
designed by Bruno Faidutti, published by Fantasy Flight Games
Build your destiny in this game of “medieval cities, nobles, and intrigues” (yup, from the box). Each round, players will draft a noble from the common pool and then pass the remaining nobles to the left. Each noble has a special power: for example, the assassin lets you “kill” another noble and take away their turn, while the king scores points depending on the buildings you have already built and lets you go first the next round. The thief lets you steal gold from another player while the warlord lets you destroy one of your opponent’s buildings. Players take turns also depending on the number of the noble: 1 goes first, 8 goes last. When your turn comes up, take 2 gold or draw a card, then build a card, and at some point, you can activate the special power of your noble. First player to built 8 buildings in their district ends the game, most points win!
Really, a social deduction game as you try to figure out who has what so you can either avoid getting your character’s throat slit or figuring out which character’s throat to slit. Even though it’s the older game, it feels very much like next-level “Love Letter” with the added dimension of building your district.
One Line Verdict: I would say a modern classic for good reason, but can be seriously mean. I mean SERIOUSLY.
designed by Francois Gandon, published by Days of Wonder
Become the master planner as you build your very square city district. Each player has a separate 4×4 player board, and on your turn, use one of your four architects to choose a tile from the main planning board. The architect number determines two things: first, the building you get from the main board, and then the district on your own board you must place the piece. Build power plants to power your district, apartment towers to gain residents, parks to absorb pollution, and retail to keep your residents shopping! But make sure everything balances out: each extra power or resident counts as negative points! After four rounds and (hopefully) sixteen tiles, calculate the points: each building scores differently, the most points win! And just a pointer, diversification is a good thing.
The architects make it seems like you are constrained choice-wise, but there are so many options: not good for the analysis paralysis prone. And there’s a Expert game too! The very definition of “elegant” gameplay.