Cities: Skylines - The Board Game
Cities: Skylines – The Board Game is a co-operative game based on the popular computer game of the same name by Paradox Interactive.
Gameplay starts with four land boards being visible, the exact number varying depending on the scenario. The goal is to finish a number of milestones and to make the inhabitants of your city happy. At the start of each milestone, one additional board is bought, flipped over from its nature side to its developed side. Players have personal cards that show what they can build, and ideally they discuss and plan with the other players how to best develop the city. The cards show what effects the building will have on the city, for example increasing the need for garbage collection, decreasing crime, or giving a bonus if placed next to a park.
Cardboard tiles represent residential, commercial, industrial, and other buildings, and they have varied base shapes that are placed on the developed boards on the grid.
When the players have developed the city to the next milestone, they choose which new board to buy to expand the city, score their current happiness, and start a new milestone. When the last milestone is finished, the game ends, then the total happiness score is summed. There is only one city treasury, and all players add to it when they make money for the city and take money from it for building a hospital or buying a new board. Making sure you have enough money is an important aspect of the game for if you run out of money, you go bankrupt and lose.
A series of scenarios teach the game in steps, with each new step introducing new parts of the game. Each step is easily varied, such as, for example, switching out which unique buildings are used during a playing session.
Tile placement, Hand management
Designer: Rustan Håkansson
Artist: Fiore GmbH
Category: Tile-Laying, Hand Management
Price: $33.44 Amazon.com
Cities: Skylines is a cooperative city-building challenge based on the computer game of the same name. In this game, players work together to manage all the aspects of a big city, from water and electricity to traffic and pollution. It is an interesting tile-laying game for fans of city-building games.
Cities: Skylines – The Board Game puts 1-4 players in the roles of city planners, trying to turn an undeveloped area into a bustling metropolis. At the start of the game, players arrange a number of tiles face-down, representing land that can be cleared for development.
A main “Administration Board” lists all of the city’s vital signs, from the crime rate to citizens’ overall happiness. Players’ available money is also stored on this board – they begin with $12. The rest of the money is placed nearby as a supply/bank.
Each land board has a development cost, and before the first turn, players choose 1 board that they wish to buy. (Usually the lowest-price board is chosen first.)
In the example above, the chosen board cost $2 to develop, so players paid this cost and flipped the tile over to its grid side. It can now receive building tiles.
On a player’s turn, he/she may take 1 of 3 actions:
- Play a construction card, which adds a tile to the board and triggers the listed game effects
- Pay $2 to exchange 1 card for another
- End a milestone (essentially, complete a “chapter” of the game)
Most commonly, players will play construction cards. Below is a sampling of them:
Each of these cards affects the tracks on the Administration Board. The Bus Station, for example, costs $1 to build, but it reduces traffic by 2. When a construction card is played, a matching tile is added to the board and the Administration markers are moved accordingly.
Many cards work off of others, providing benefits if certain criteria from a different card are met. For example, the blue Commercial Zone provides a $3 bonus when built in the same district as a Bus Station. This means it would be strategic to play the Commercial Zone card after the Bus Station gets built, to make it the most profitable.
After a card is played, a replacement card is drawn from any of the three construction decks. The decks scale appropriately, such that higher-numbered decks have better, but more expensive abilities.
Instead of using a card, a player may exchange a card on his/her turn. This can be a powerful action, but the $2 price tag makes it something that should be done sparingly, at times when just the right card is available.
Lastly, if each district on the board has at least 1 tile in it, a player can choose to “end a milestone” on his/her turn. This action can be thought of as triggering a scoring round, based on the city’s current conditions.
For the sake of brevity, I won’t go too deeply into how the scoring works, but essentially, players earn points for “good” conditions (e.g. sufficient water/electricity), and they lose points for “bad” conditions (e.g. an overabundance of garbage). They also lose money if employment becomes unbalanced, either from a shortage of jobs or a shortage of labor.
When a milestone ends, players pay to flip over an undeveloped land tile, and a new milestone begins. If all land tiles have been revealed and all districts have at least 2 tiles in them, a player can end the last milestone (and thus, the game).
Players’ success in the game is determined by their final score – the more points they earned, the better they did! 30 or fewer points is considered a loss, and 31 or more is considered a victory.
I have not played the electronic version of Cities: Skylines, so I cannot compare it to the tabletop version. That said, though, I found the board game to be enjoyable, especially as a solitaire experience. It is a nice optimization puzzle that requires strategic planning and turn-by-turn decision-making.
In a way, the players decide how long this game will take, which I find to be an interesting aspect. There is no game timer in the traditional sense, no “Doom Track” or round counter. Instead, players can call for the end of a milestone… whenever the time seems right. And scarcely will this timing be perfect. There will almost always be some Administration track that needs work. This means it is up to the players to weigh their potential gains and losses and make the right call at the right time.
The card effects are thematically appropriate: new housing developments mean a higher demand for water, new bus lines cut down on traffic, etc. Though the city-building theme doesn’t get me super pumped, it does some through strongly. When a tile gets added to the board, it makes sense within the game’s context why the associated effects happen.
The production of Cities: Skylines looks nice, with a strong, computer-game vibe. I suspect the imagery actually does come from the PC version, but again, I haven’t played it, so I’m not sure.
Cities: Skylines is a neat game, but I think I prefer the Rustan Håkansson/KOSMOS team-up Tribes: Dawn of Humanity a little more. I found that game to be slightly more engaging. I imagine that fans of the PC version of Cities: Skylines will enjoy the tabletop version a lot, though, so for those folks, and for fans of city-building games, I recommend checking this one out.
A review copy was provided by KOSMOS.
+ Interesting mix of tactical decisions and long-term planning
+ Open-ended game length is a really cool idea
+ Imagery has a strong computer-game vibe
- City-building theme does not excite me
- Card iconography takes a bit to get used to