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Subject: Deeper than most people think rss

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I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
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Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
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Sunken City was just another Tanga purchase for me. I read some fairly positive reviews and decided that almost any game is worth $12. If nothing else, I get the thrill of opening the box and looking at the new bits whilst puching cardboard. Thats really one of the things I enjoy most about a new game. But would that be the only thing I enjoyed about Sunken City?


Rules

The goal in Sunken City is to collect the most treasure. Each player has the same 11 treasures they are trying to collect before time (tracked by actual game pieces) runs out and the city sinks forever.

Each player has 1 pawn of their color to move around the board. Additionally, parts of the city must be raised above water for the players to travel and explore. Both of these tasks are dealt with by playing cards. Each player has the same set of 6 cards. These cards tell you how many city features (buildings and roads) you can raise, how many actions you can take, and that you can move Neptune (more on him later). The number of action points basically signifies how far you can move and is directly correlated to the number of city features you can raise. More AP = less features and vice versa.

Each player also has a treasure board with 11 face down treasures numbered 1-10 and 12. Whenever a player moves onto a building, he can flip over the corresponding treasure tile. If the player successfully moves back to their camp (1 for each color in the 4 corners) the tile can be taken off the treasure board and is set aside for endgame scoring. If Neptune sinks you, the tiles are flipped face-down and must be collected again.

Neptune, the god of the sea, isn't very fond of people stealing his treasures so he sets out to re-sink the city. On a player's turn, he can move Neptune either 4 spaces (if Neptune starts in that player's colored area of the board) or a number of spaces determined by a die roll (which changes based on number of players). Every time Neptune moves off a tile, its sinks back into the ocean. If he moves off a tile with a pawn on it, that player flips any treasures face-down and returns to their camp.

The game has a built in timer which is kept by the road tiles. Everytime a road is sunk, it is placed on a track. When the track moves down to the last space and all the roads are taken, the game ends and the player with the most treasure is the winner. A player may win early by getting all 11 of his treasures back to his camp.


Components

If nothing else, Sunken City is a nice looking game. The board is made up of a grid of squares and has a different color camp in each corner. Player's start in their respective color and must get treasures back to the camp for them to score. The grid is comprised of dark blue and light blue squares in a diamond pattern with a single brown square in the middle. The board is rather attractive and works well with the theme.

The street tiles are fairly large and cover two of the squares on the board. They are made of a quality piece of cardboard and are covered with a matte finish. The artwork on these pieces is nothing special, but it works well enough.

The building pieces are pretty unusual. They are plastic squares, about the size of a golf ball and feature nice artwork. Each building has a number which corresponds to the treasure tiles so players know which tile to flip over. Again, the look and feel of these pieces is unique to this game and makes it stand out by adding a 3D effect to the board.

The player pawns are really nothing special to look at but at least they are made of wood. Neptune isn't much better, being a larger piece of blue wood with some etchings in the general resemblance of a man's torso. These pieces are nothing special, but they do the job.

I'm a fan of dice, so I was pleasantly surprised to see three wooden dice in the box. I like wood dice. I like the way they bounce, the way they roll, and the way they sound on the table. This in no way affects the game, but its a small thing I really appreciate.

The Action cards are nice for the purpose they serve. They are printed on quality stock and adorned with nice artwork, covered by a matte finish. Again, these cards are adequate but nothing special.

One additional note is the box size. The box is really large and will require a good amount of shelf space. However, the insert is really well designed and holds the various pieces really well. Still, I think the box could probably be downsized. This isn't really important, but you should prepare space on your game shelf for this big boy.


Gameplay

Sunken City gets a bad rap as a light family game with too much "take that" to be good for the family. I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but I think anyone lumping it in that category is missing the point. While this is not a deep gamer's game, there are plenty of choices to be made. The "take that" factor will always be present, but it is not interal to winning the game or enjoying it.

The main decision that needs to be made every turn is which Action card a player should play. The tricky part is that you don't get your cards back until you've played them all, making your decision that much harder. You will primarily be influenced by which treasures you still need to claim and where your opponent is.

I believe the "take that" factor is over-emphasized by many people. While it may first appear that Neptune's only purpose is to sink your opponent, the true purpose of Neptune is to sink pieces so you can place them in a position that is better for you and worse for your opponent. If you need the 10 building and it is on the other side of the board, you would be much wiser to use Neptune to sink it so that you can then place it closer to your side of the board. This leads to another key principle: staying close to home. If you venture out too far into the middle of the board, it will be easy for your opponent to use Neptune to sink you.

The gameplay really revolves around balance. You need to balance your ability to collect treasure, to move around the board, and to keep Neptune in a position where he can neither hurt you or help your opponent. Its all dependent on how you play your cards, which are also balanced in their movement/building relationships.

Gameplay shouldn't take longer than an hour for two players and not much longer than 90 minutes for 4. While the game is labeled as a 2-4 player game, I believe it is best with 2. A 4-player affair will probably turn quite chaotic and result in the winner being the player who got luckiest or who flew under the radar.


Compare it to....

Sunken City is a Kramer/Kiesling game and is based around the Action Point system, so you can compare it in principle to their classics such as Torres, Tikal, Java, and Mexica. This game is nowhere near as deep as the Mask trilogy, but I think it is a much better game than Torres. Torres is basically an abstract with a painfully thin theme while Sunken City is a tile-laying exploratory adventure which is both serving and served by its theme. The action point system is all that is really common in these games, but it is enought to draw comparisons to other games by these authors.


Overall

I think Sunken City is really misunderstood. After the success of the Mask trilogy and Torres, K&K catch a lot of heat for producing games that are too light. While Sunken City may not be the Analysis Paralysis producing affair that Tikal is, there is certainly room for thought and decision making. The game moves pretty quickly with constant changes in the board forcing you to think tactically. There is no room in a game like this for strategic decisions even if you have a long-term plan. There is just too much chaos for strategic positioning because it can be undone the next turn by your opponent.

Despite what the nay-sayers say, I think Sunken City is a fun game. While not as deep as many games, there are a lot of choices to be made. Making the right choices will undo the small luck factor and greatly reduce the "take that" element. Again, balance is everything in this game. As long as you remember that, chaos should be held in check.

I rate Sunken City a 7/10. Its a deceptively complex game hiding behind a lighter front. Once you get into the layers, you'll find all sorts of choices and play style that really add a lot more depth than most people give it credit for. This is not a gamer's game, but its also a lot deeper than standard family games. I would classify it as a light-middleweight. If this comes up on Tanga again, I highly recommend people pick it up. The price they sell if for is a steal.
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Jerry Dziuba
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I think it plays much better as a two player tit-for-tat type affair than it does with more people.

For what little that is worth.
 
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Bob
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Thanks for the review Steve. Reminds me I still have a copy in the shrink. Guess I'm overdue for trying it out...
 
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I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
United States
Howell
Michigan
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Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
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I would Bob. Its a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Halfway through our first game I was ready to call it quits. Then I figured out what I should be doing.

Jerry, I agree, best with 2. A bit chaotic with more.
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Clarence Chambers
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Interesting take, Steve. I'll think about picking this one up.
 
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Johan Pettersson
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A good title of the review for this game.
 
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skrebs
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stormseeker75 wrote:
I would Bob. Its a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Halfway through our first game I was ready to call it quits. Then I figured out what I should be doing.

Jerry, I agree, best with 2. A bit chaotic with more.


I found the opposite. With two, the player interaction was minimal - so minimal that I felt I wasn't even playing my opponent. With more players, Neptune comes out more and the game really felt interactive.
 
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B. Huddleston
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I enjoy playing this game with my kids. It has great production value, well written rules, and interesting gameplay (action points with a push your luck element). Although, I don't think it is a very deep game at all and for this reason it works well as a family game. The bonus of the Neptune chip off-sets the penalty of being sent home without treasures, which diminishes the take-that element of Neptune.
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Clarence Chambers
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trojandoc wrote:
It has great production value


The game certainly is great to look at!
 
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