"that's a smith and wesson, and you've had your six"
Got a chance to play Richard Breese's Keytown for his uber-rare "Key" series recently. I've seen this collecting dust on the shelf at a friends house, and recently we've been trying out older forgotten titles and this one stood out. It's considered a Tile Placement Area Control type game.
I'll start off with the components. Since this was published by R&D games, a small independent publisher, the components of the game are not up to par with other larger German publishers standard. No linen finishes, and the cardboard was heavy cards stock. The game hadn't been played in a long while and the board itself was highly warped. No problem though as I am the master of straightening warpage. Beside the board each player is given a number of people chits numbered "1" through "5" with a decreasing amount of eight "1"'s down to two "5"'s. The player is also given a screen to hide his contents. There is also 5 different colored cubes which corresponds to the five different resources on the board. Then for each resource there are two round chits labeled "0" and "2" in the corresponding color. There is also 3 player turn order cards, but they aren't all that useful. Finally there is a start player chit.
The game play is not overly complex, however the rules are very obtuse in its explanation. We encountered a few rules questions that the rule book was not entirely clear on. But they were minor issues, and logical decisions were agreed upon to play the game.
The play begins with bidding on turn order. Turn order is a little odd. Any time during the game a player may up the turn order bid and decide who goes "next", and I mean next. Like and interrupt. The bids go from "0" to "50". These are points the players must pay at the end of the game off their scores. Once the starting player has made the final bid, play begins in five separate phase.
First phase is placement of player chits. At the beginning of 5 player game each player receives six "1" chits, which leave two remaining in the general stock. In turn order starting with the start player each player places on chit on the board. It can be in any resource area Farms, Mines, Port, Forest, or Brewery, or it may be placed in any "free" spot in the cottage area or one of the three town areas. There is one special case however, each player get a purple "hooker" chit to play in the game. The "hooker" chit allows to first take another players chit off a town space and place it with the "hooker" in one of the free cottage areas. That area must have two free spots open for this to work. Then that player get to place a chit of his own anywhere on the board, including the space he just displaced the other players chit.
In phase two, each of the resource areas are analyzed. Starting with the player with the most value he is allowed to take either "one" of the remaining discs which are hidden, and or as many resource cubes as his value shows in that area. The discs are a one shot deal, and are usually taken in the first round or so. There is a finite number of resource cubes, so order does matter later in the game when cubes run out. You may get none!
Phase three is placement of the cubes. The point of the game is to upgrade you citizens in each town area, and make babies in each cottage area. To do so, the "3" lowest citizens in the town get upgraded to the next level (1 to 2, 2 to 3, etc). In each cottage area, the top scoring player get two "1" chits, or in a tie both make a "1" chit baby. This value can increase by placing cubes on other players. So in turn each player places his cubes, trying to make his own the lowest in the towns, or highest in the cottages. But then come in the discs. The discs are marked "0" and "2". The "0" makes all cubes in that town region of that color x0. The "2" makes all cubes of that color x2. So this can be used to help or hurt other players and yourself.
Once the cubes are placed or all players have passed, phase four begins. In each town the lowest three chits are valued, and each of those three get to upgrade to the next value, replacing the old value in the general stock with the new higher value, which the player keeps. Also each player get to keep the cube that were played on them for a later round.
On the fifth phase, each of the cottages are scored. If there is a chit with a single high value, that chit may bring in two "1" valued chits if he has any available. If it is a tie, both chits get one "1" to take into their supply.
At the end of the round each player picks up the remaining chits left on the board into their hidden supply and the next round begins.
The game is played in four rounds. At the end of the four round each player takes each chit and squares it (i.e. A "2" chit equals 4, and a "3" chit equals 9). Then they add those together and subtract the number that they bid for turn order, and that's the score. For ties, the greater number of higher chits wins, then the greatest number of cubes they have, etc.
Gameplay. It took us a round to really find a groove on what was going on. We found that in a 5 player game, upgrading chits to even a "3" was SUPER hard. I don't think anyone did it. To get the 5 level must be a real trick! Also the scores were so close at the end of the game, it really came down to the start order bid which lost it for a few people. I'm not sure the value of bidding at all for start player until a real strategy is formed. Since there is only four round in the game, really the first two of three rounds we just getting up the cubes and chits, before any real action happened. On the fourth round everyone just unloaded their cubes in order to try and get the most upgrades. I didn't like this aspect, because after the forth cube, you really didn't know what values would end up high, so it was just a crap shoot.
Overall not a bad game. Not and overly exciting game, but I could see it hit the table on occasion