analog instead of digital
Cities Skylines Das Brettspiel
Cooperative urban dev elopment
Cities Skylines is based on the computer game of the same name, published by Paradox Interactive. Aim of the game is not simply a city as a compilation of buildings, but a city worth living in, a city where the residents love to live, and therefore - at the end - the happiness of residents determines the cooperative success of the game; however, the game is instantly lost if you run out of money.
For your first game you should play the introductory game and only use the scenarios and their rules in later games.
For the introductory game you use three out of six boards, marked A, B and E, in given arrangement and displayed backside up. Already the second step of preparation - placing the administration board - shows that there are a lot of parameters and symbols to consider during the game: Tracks on the board show Power, Water, Garbage, Happiness, Employment Bar, Pollution, Traffic and Crime, and there is a slot for the City Treasury with is supplied with 12 money tokens at the start of the game. Construction cards for three stages are stacked and each player begins with three to seven cards from the Stage I pile in case of four to one players. Then you determine the starting player and give him the Chirper token, the mascot from the computer game.
And then we begin with tackling the first Milestone, meaning the completion of a board part, and already we have to take our first cooperative decision. How much money shall we spend to turn over the board - A costs 2 money, B costs 4, and E costs 5 money to turn, and we do not really know yet what the boards have to offer. They always show city districts, bordered by streets and the board edges, and have a water area somewhere. The districts are made up of square grids, into which we place the building tiles during the game.
The game flow is basically very simple:
The active player
- Plays one of his construction cards and draws a card from one of the stacks, or
- Exchanges a construction card, or
- Completes a Milestone.
All player discuss what the active player should do, but the final decision is made by the active player.
Specifications for playing a construction card are:
- Cards for service buildings or utility buildings must be paid for as stated; construction cards for green residential, blue commercial and yellow industrial zones are free.
- Buildings to place must meet the requirements for building type, district, adjacent buildings, etc., to allow placement, and of course there must be room for them in the intended district.
- Each building has consequences for /effects on the tracks on the Administration Board; it can, for instance, raise pollution or crime, use water, produce garbage, provide power or raise happiness.
Deciding factors in the game are the City Treasury and those tracks on the Administration Board:
- If a payment must be made and there is not enough money in the City Treasury, you cannot play the respective card. When the City Treasury is empty, the game is lost.
- Cards that would move the markers for Power, Water or Garbage beyond the red negative track, cannot be played; you can play cards that would go beyond the green track part, but without effect on the track.
- On the tracks for Pollution, Traffic and Crime the top value cannot be topped; 0 can be passed, by does not give any advantages.
- The limits on the Employment Bar cannot be crossed in any direction.
- When happiness exceeds 25, the surplus points are immediately transferred to the overall Happiness score marker, the skyline token. BUT - if happiness falls below -5, the game is lost immediately.
If you do not want to play a card, but change a card instead, you pay 2 money - a very costly decision, as it equals your starting capital - and then you discard the card openly and draw a card from one of the three stack, or, if available, from the discard pile.
When all are of the opinion that all options and possibilities of a board have been used, the active player can decide to complete the Milestone. There must be, however, at least one building in each of the districts.
When the markers on the utility tracks for power, water and garbage are in the red, you reduce the happiness track by one step for each step in the red on those tracks; the markers on the tracks retain positions! Then the current happiness level is marked on the Skyline. If if would reach -10 or fall below -10, the game is lost.
Otherwise, then the City Treasury pay one money token for each step of the marker below 0 on the Employment Bar back into the bank.
Finally, you turn over - again by paying for it - the next board and align it correctly. This turning over of the next board can expand districts from the previous board and thus open new possibilities, you should try to plan ahead, especially if you are already familiar with boards and know what to expect. It is, by the way, of course possible to build on a board that has been scored for a Milestone!
Finally, all players can discard any number of cards they want and replenish their hand from the face-down stacks.
If you want to complete the last Milestone, there must be minimum two buildings in all quarters.
The last milestone is scored like the previous ones.
After that you reduce the Overall Happiness on the Skyline by 1 for each step below 0 for the markers on the tracks for pollution, traffic and crime.
If we did not lose due to lack of money, only unresolvable actions being available or happiness at -5 or overall happiness at -10 in the Skyline, we can now check the Success Table for what we have achieved:
0-10: City of now importance.
11-20: Ambitions City
21-30: Busy City
31-40: Showcase City
41-50: Boom City
51-60: Grand City
61+: Heavenly City
Scenarios provide new rules building on those from previous scenarios - Scenario 1 provides Unique Buildings for advantages, but needing lots of room; Scenario 2 introduces role cards with special abilities; and Scenario 3 comes with Policies cards, shuffled into Stacks II and III; they are played like construction cards, are paid for and discarded, but cannot be exchanged for two money. In Scenario 4 you use News cards, providing disadvantages and restricting options. They are shuffled into Stacks II and III, are displayed openly and are in effect until either replaced by a new News card or discarded at the end of a Milestone. For Scenario 5, you use any boards in any arrangement.
Definitely an excellent and well-working simulation, pleasantly also simulating a bit of reality by buildings effecting not only other buildings, but also the status of the city from water supplies to employment numbers. Accordingly, you have to take lots of factors into consideration and plan quite far ahead.
So far so good and also what one wishes, were there not - at least for me - one great disadvantage: Somehow I had, despite us managing not to lose the game outright - the feeling that I was played by the game; our cooperative decision were very often restricted to what was possible based on the available cards of the active player, and obviously additionally restricted by available room in the district or prerequisites of the buildings and the status of the City Treasury.
All the same, the overall verdict is that of a faultless, if rather abstract, urban development game using a plethora of symbols, which simulates very realistically the development of a city from scratch, will all the problems involved. Money, by the way, is, at least it was the case in our games, not that big a problem as we believed it might be.
Dagmar de Cassan
Designer: Rustan Håkansson
Artist: Fiore GmbH
Price: ca. 35 Euro
Publisher: Kosmos Verlag 2019
Genre: Urban development, cooperation
Users: For experts
Special: 1 player
Rules: de en
In-game text: yes
Good design using lots of symbols
Very often only few real options available
Urban development using complex fact interaction
My rating: 6
Dagmar de Cassan:
A well-working simulation and a sometimes hair-tearingly tight game; money is a deciding factor, but manageable, the requirements due to available cards and building are much more difficult.
Chance (pink): 2
Tactic (turquoise): 3
Strategy (blue): 2
Creativity (dark blue): 0
Knowledge (yellow): 0
Memory (orange): 0
Communication (red): 3
Interaction (brown): 3
Dexterity (green): 0
Action (dark green): 0