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

New to Me: Winter 2014 — The Season of the City

Every three months I write about the games I played in the last quarter that were new to me. They’re mostly new games, but a few classics that I’m seeing for the first time also show up. This time around, the games date from 2008-2013. You’ll also find that my write-ups for this article are a bit more verbose than usual, as I’ve started writing this snippets shortly after I play the games, when the memory is still fresher. —SA, 3/30/14


The Great

RampageRampage (2013). A dexterity game where you flick monsters around, drop them on buildings, and launch vehicles through the air. I’ve always loved the creativity of a city-building game (and we’ll be getting back to lots of those this time), but it turns out that the destruction of a city-leveling game is just as much fun. There’s some actual strategy here, as you try to collect sets of (eaten) meeples, but the fun is mainly in tearing things down.

Continue reading