Hubert Bartos &
Lukasz Kowal


No. of Players:
2 - 5

G@mebox Star



This new game from Hubert Bartos and Lukasz Kowal puts the players into the position of investors who have decided to build a new city right from scratch, and all the players receive for this venture is a decent amount of starting capital which they will need to pay for their first buildings. The game is played over a total duration of four rounds, and for each of the rounds exists a separate set of city tiles so that the available tiles get stronger and more expensive with each round. Set aside are stacks with tiles electric power stations and water works (six tiles of each), and these tiles are sorted so that the cheapest tiles are on top and the more-expensive, better performing tiles at the bottom of these stacks. To finish preparations, a small city center featuring four tiles including one electric power station and one water works is set up in the middle of the table, and during the course of the game the players slowly will build the city around these four initial tiles.

Each round begins with the players taking and shuffling the deck of tiles for the current round, and from this deck each player is dealt a total of six tiles. Following the "choose one and pass on" mechanism known from 7 Wonders, each player chooses one tile for his hand and passes the rest to the player to his left. Then, once again the players will choose one tile for their hand, and this procedure continues until all players have received a hand of six tiles which they will use during this round.

Taking turns, each player now can perform an action with a tile from his hand until all players have used all six of their tiles, and during their turns, the players may use the tiles for three different purposes. For one, they can be built if the player decided to pay the costs printed on the tile, and then they must be placed horizontally or vertically adjacent to an already placed city tile. On the other hand, a player who is short on money also can opt to discard a tile, and in this case he will receive a small amount of money which he may spend on later projects. Finally, a player also may opt to build either an electric power station or a water works during his turn, and in this case he takes the uppermost tile from the corresponding stack, adds it to the city and pays the building costs. In addition, one city tile from the player's hand must be discarded without compensation, because otherwise a player could gain a free turn from building an electric power station or water works.

But what can the city tiles actually do? When all players have taken their six turns the round ends with a phase in which the abilities of the tiles are used and energy/water cubes are consumed. Each player only may use his own tiles (they are marked with a little token of the player's colour upon placement), and most of the tiles have consumption values for electricity and/or water which - if supplied with matching electricity and water cubes - can result in the production of money or victory points. Once again taking turns, the players now need to move matching energy and water cubes from the power stations and the water works towards their own tiles, but here they face the restriction that only cubes taken from their own power stations and water works can be taken for free. If a player needs one or more cubes from another player or the public facilities in the town center, he will has to pay for acquiring these cubes plus every space through which the cubes are moved and which is not owned by the player.

If matching cubes are supplied, the production of the receiving tile is triggered, and the player may receive money, victory points or even a luxury goods cube (depending on the abilities of the city tile). Luxury cubes can be placed at tiles which have the ability to turn them into money and/or victory points as well, but usually the income generated by the consumption of such a cube will be higher than the income which can be created through electricity or water cubes.

While this all will sound fairly streamlined, it should be pointed out here that success in City Tycoon is depending to a very high degree in a good timing, because the supplies of electricity and water which can be used each turn are quite limited due to the scarce placement of power stations and water works. Usually all such facilities produces a fresh supplement of cubes at the beginning of a consumption phase, but with the players activating their buildings one by one the stockpiles or energy and water are drained rapidly. At this point the game actually gets quite captivating, because the players are faced with the dilemma that they want to use the abilities of their buildings in the most profitable order while at the same time they need to keep an eye on the dwindling supplies of cubes within the city. The abilities of other players' city tiles and the delivery routes and distances for energy and water cubes all must be taken into consideration, and this may result in quite interesting developments and activation sequences during the consumption phase.

The timing aspect is also stressed by the fact that the playing order for a whole round is decided on the basis how wealthy the players are after the consumption phase at the end of a round, and so the player with fewest money becomes new start player with all others following in order of their own wealth. While such a balacing act might seem unfair against a successful player, it must be kept in mind that money is not the same as victory points, and so the key to success also lies in the generation of victory points without hoarding too much money. After all, the players are investors!

The game also offers some very interesting possibilities for strategic gameplay, because it may be wise for a player to build a building directly adjacent to a power plant or water works erected by an opposing player. This new building now can consume cubes from that station for a comparatively low price, while the owner of the station probably would have preferred to use the cubes for consumption at his own city tiles. If they players are familiar with the composition of the city tiles deck for each round, they may also try to plan ahead for stronger tiles appearing in the following rounds, and so City Tycoon demands a quite good balancing between current needs and future designs.

Unlike other games where each player tries to hone his own production chain to perfection, the stepwise process of all players building the same city and the consumption phase which ends each round of play offer a much higher potential for player interaction than many other games. There are multiple ways to win the game, including the investment into buildings which create victory points on a one-time basis or by going for the production of luxury goods cubes on a larger scale. These cubes have the unbeatable advantage that a player takes them into his personal stockpile when they are produced, and he may consume them later on (even in a later round) in any of his city tiles anywhere in the city without paying delivery costs.

These differences give City Tycoon a quite outstanding quality in comparison to many other production-type games, and after the success of Polish publishers at the SPIEL 10 convention REBEL.PL once again has shown that they have not only catched up with the rest of the market, but they are actually able to produce games for hobbyists which meet very high standards.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany