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Subject: 2 player experience- first game rss

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keith carroll
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Urban Sprawl has been on my radar since it's first release but I finally got a chance to play it 3 days ago. It was a 2 player game and lasted about 6 1/2 hours. By the end of the game I was mentally exhausted, emotionally deflated and slightly outraged by how hard the game kicked me in the nethers towards the end.

Holding a lead of about 80 points going into the Metropolis deck, I felt I had a good handle on the game and, while I knew my opponent was going to come back strong at me in the final stage, I assumed that by some careful play I should be able to hold out long enough.

I lost by 85 points, a final score of 349 vs 274 or thereabouts.

Every building that came out in the third stage seemed to offer me nothing but pain. Every event, and there were a lot of them, seemed to punish me in big ways. On top of that, I had no access to Urban Renewal until my score was overtaken since the Contractor card stayed with my opponent. The final experience was somewhat deflating.

Yet, I can't stop thinking about the game.

The following day, feeling less sorry for myself, I began to dissect exactly what went on in the game; what I did, what my opponent did, why things hurt me so badly in the end game and allowed my opponent to slipstream past me so comfortably. I realised I had made some terrible oversights and that my opponent had evaluated potentially important aspects of the game way better than me. While some of the things I have learned from this one game could not have been known previous to playing, some of it was probably obvious, had I thought about it better beforehand.

An early jump on Res and Civ buildings had seemed like a nice points scoring engine which was working well early game, but was punished heftily in the late game. I couldn't have known this previous to playing without some research. So, now I know.

Other things, however, evolved purely by my own lack of foresight. I allowed my opponent to control most of the politicians for far too large a portion of the game. While I understood that there was going to be a points haul for that at the end of the game, I hadn't realised early enough how valuable they are throughout, and thought I would try to steal them late on. I also didn't pay enough attention to optimizing board position with a view to the future game state. Some of the high value blocks were impossible to wrest from his control, especially while the contractor was allied to him.

He also adopted a policy of slowing the game to a crawl once we hit Metropolis, to give himself time to catch up, a policy he played out expertly (and which, no doubt contributed to the 6 1/2 hour play time) but which, in hindsight, I probably could have mitigated better by forcing through the Metropolis deck regardless of whether I wanted those buildings.

In short, I think it's easy to decry the random nature of the game's events and card abilities, as I did initially, but after a bit of thought it becomes clear that the game is expertly balanced to reward the better player and punish the lesser. My house was made from wood and built on sand- it went up quickly and I made it pretty while my opponent was still labouring on the rock foundations of his own. When the storm came, I decried the unfairness of the world and wept in my muddy puddle while my opponent grinned at me from his castle window.

I absolutely cannot wait to play again, hopefully with a better understanding of what to expect and where to prioritize.

I am curious to know what sort of scores are considered standard in 2 player. I had never expected numbers this large, but am wondering if the final tally simply reflects the fact that the game slowed to such a crawl for the last section (The city deck was actually wiped out).

Thanks for reading, and I appreciate any feedback.
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Bryan McNeely
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The huge swings are definitely common, however I am very surprised to learn your session lasted as long as it did. Nevertheless, I admire not only your willingness to look beyond the surface and give the game credit, but to openly admit that the experience, though perhaps not wholly wonderful, did result in at least some positivity for future plays. I had a bad first experience with Tragedy Looper, but I had a hard time putting what the game was trying to do out of my mind. It just hung around, begging me to not give up on it.

I also loved your house-on-sand reference. I never really thought of it in that way, but you are right: Rewarding good play and punishing poor play seems to be very much a vibe of the game.

I hope you get to play it again!
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Most people hate this game but I love it. It's two player only though, more players add nothing but frustration .
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keith carroll
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What sort of scores are standard for your 2 player games?
 
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A. B. West
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I think 3-player is optimal for this one - 4 is just too much down time. This game routinely crushes me - I don't recall ever winning. But I love it - it's one of my favorite long games. To me, it definitely is evocative of the theme and I personally love the chaos and brutality in it.
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Richard Lea
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Spot on! There's a lot more to this game than is at first apparent.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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ktartandude wrote:
What sort of scores are standard for your 2 player games?


I only play like once every two years so I don't recall, apologies.
 
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Pseudo-Monopoly on Steroids, but nothing like Monopoly!

Great game, but 6.5 hours? OMG, did you go out for dinner during the game? I'd get at least two games in that amount of time! 2-player? Use a chess clock, 1hr each! Keep it moving, people! Keep it moving! Games are about making mistakes and getting punished and see who laughs the loudest!

Perfect play is for the Chess Board.

AP players need not apply.
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Chadwik
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markgravitygood wrote:
Keep it moving! Games are about making mistakes and getting punished and see who laughs the loudest!

Perfect play is for the Chess Board.

This. I like this.
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You have to compete for the politicians throughout the game, is what I think. The points and benefits add up against you if you don't get them.
 
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Tom Stearns
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This is a really good and under rated game. I refer to this as a war gamers city building game. It is designed by Chad Jensen who also designed Combat Commander and all it's iterations. I have played multiple games of Urban Sprawl at all numbers. By far 2 player is the least preferable to play with because as the OP pointed out the wild swing that the politicians cause. Once one player has them it's difficult to get them out of their hands. Three and four player games are much more balanced and therefore more fun. A game shouldn't take more than 3 hours. The events do wreck havoc and you have to know they are coming. The way the deck is created they tend to come in bunches too. Our games have tended to be relatively close. This is by far my favorite city building game. Due to it being an under the radar title you can pick this up usually NIS for around $15, which is steal considering what you get in the hefty GMT box.
 
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Good point on the lack of interaction with only 2 players, I hadn't thought of it that way. Unfortunately I only know one other player who will play it with me
 
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Chad Jensen wrote:
markgravitygood wrote:
Keep it moving! Games are about making mistakes and getting punished and see who laughs the loudest!

Perfect play is for the Chess Board.

This. I like this.


Chadwik,

Do you find that you must compete for the politicians in the two-player game or you might be sunk? Seems crucial to me. What is your take on that?

So, assuming that, each politician rewards you for having the "most valuable [XXX] bulding(s)", to gain the benefit. This will make you want to build in the high-value blocks, which can get expensive.

I probably have not played it enough to say for sure.
 
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Chadwik
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I find the politicians tend to be undervalued no matter the number of players. But, yes, certainly don't ignore them with only two players or your opponent may run away with things quite handily.
 
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