The Design and Care of a Tile-Based City Builder

Tile-based city building games are among my favorites. That’s in large part due to the creativity that they introduce. I mean, I’m one of the generation that grew up with SimCity (1989), obliviously building until the sun began to flood into my college dorm room, suggesting that it was time to be off to bed. I love being able to put together the puzzle pieces of a city, and a good tile-based city builder lets you do that.

City TycoonThe General Shape of the Game

When I’m talking about tile-based city builders, I’m specifically limiting my consideration to game designs that meet several criteria:

  1. Obviously, they allow you to build cities out of tiles: usually square tiles, but occasionally hexes.
  2. Often, you’ll have your own city that you’re working on … but quite a few games instead have you contributing to to a joint city.
  3. The tiles that you place are complete and coherent buildings, businesses, residences, or other structures within a city. They’re not just parts of a whole.

There are probably hundreds of tile-based city games that I could have picked from in writing this article. I opted for the ones that I know the best, because I’ve played them. I’ve mostly focused on recent ones. My complete list for this article includes: Acquire (1964), Alhambra (2003), Between Two Cities (2015), Big City (1999)Carcassonne: The City (2004), Chinatown (1999), City Tycoon (2011), Key to the City: London (2016), Quadropolis (2016), Saint Malo (2012), Suburbia (2012), and Urbania (2012). Obviously I could have picked others (and I may expand this article in the future).  Continue reading

The Alea Analysis, Part One: Ra (#1), Chinatown (#2), Taj Mahal (#3)

Over the course of 2009, I deliberately played through all 22 games then published by Alea, from Reiner Knizia’s Ra to the brand-new Alea Iacta Est. As I played each game, I wrote an analysis of it at my livejournal. If you wish, you can still read the original 22 Alea posts there.

Rather than keep all that material locked up on a non-gaming site, I’ve decided to bring it over here, where I’ll be revising and regularizing the content to make it into a more coherent series. So, here is the first of several articles on Alea, based on my thoughts from a couple of years back. I’ll be publishing more every 2 or 4 weeks, so as not to dominate the blog with this material. Continue reading