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The City: Designer Update/Preview
by Tom Lehmann



The City now has an English edition, courtesy of Eagle-Gryphon Games, who are adding it to their Gryphon Bookshelf Series (#21).



This new edition features all new art and graphics by João Tereso, VP chips for ease of scoring, several card tweaks for better game balance, and 2 copies of a bonus card that adds a new strategy.

In addition, Eagle-Gryphon is also publishing, for the first time, The Expanded City, an expansion.



This adds a 6th player and 33 more cards, over half of which are brand new (plus some reprints, to maintain overall deck balance).

Play Overview

The City is a quick "filler" game. 2-5 players race to construct the most prestigious city, by building Airports, Opera Houses, Department Stores, Central Parks, Freeways, Strip Malls, and so on.



Each turn, players simultaneously place a card into their tableau and pay for it by discarding other cards from hand. Which cards do you build, which do you spend, and which do you keep for the future?

After paying for cards, players score all cards in their tableau. If anyone has 50 or more points, the game ends. If not, players collect their income and continue play. A typical game lasts 7 or 8 rounds.

Cards interact, with some cards scoring VPs or collecting income for other cards or symbols -- cars, fountains, or shopping carts -- present in your tableau. Placing buildings that combine well with each other is one key to victory.



A few cards score for all cards of a given name in play or the symbols in both your tableau and any one other player's tableau, so keeping any eye on other players' tableaus and incomes is useful.



If a player cannot or chooses not to play a card in a round, that player instead Surveys, drawing 5 cards, mixing them with those in hand, and then discarding 4 cards (for a net gain of 1 card), before scoring and drawing income normally.

Background

I designed The City in 2004. I considered modern cities and distilled aspects of them into four broad concepts:

* prestige/happiness,
* how cars connect a city proper with its suburbs,
* how shopping can vitalize either a suburb or a city center, and
* how a vibrant core of parks and public buildings can provide civic pride.

Prestige/happiness became VPs, explaining how such diverse things as a skyscraper, park, museum, or stadium can generate substantial numbers of VPs. The other items became the three card symbols (cars, carts, and fountains).



In 2011, The City was published by Amigo and made Fairplay's list of best card games for that year.

Amigo sub-licensed German, Polish, Dutch, and French versions to various publishers, but never could agree on terms with a publisher for an English verison. I wanted to see an English version, so after the rights eventually reverted to me, I began offering it to publishers.

During this period, I also designed Jump Drive, which shares The City's basic structure (cards as what you play, pay with, and income; scoring every round, and 50 VPs to win). If you enjoy one, you may well enjoy exploring the other -- they aren't reskins of each other, but completely separate games.

Managing Game Tempo

Since all cards score every turn, the game accelerates rapidly.



While building a large income is certainly useful, the typical "build a huge economy, then build victory points" approach will often lose to someone who increases their income some while scoring victory points early and often.



Judging when a game is likely to end is important: a plan that would total 80 points on round 8 but only 45 points on round 7 loses to someone who just barely scores 50 points in 7 rounds (and who would only have ~65 points if the game went to round 8).



Game Tempo is also affected by the Construction Crew, which allows a player to place 2 cards of cost of 4 or less in one round.

Improved Scoring and Factory

To assist players in scoring VPs, this Eagle-Gryphon edition includes scoring chips, allowing players to place them under each card and then simply score the "delta" that a new card provides, adding them to the previous round's chips. This avoids recounting VPs every turn.



With scoring chips, this edition restores a card removed (with my consent) from The City by Amigo, the Factory. This card provides nice income but scores negative VPs (pollution). Amigo removed it as scoring negative VPs via pencil and paper was awkward. Using negative VP chips allows players to place and then later cancel negative scores easily, so I'm quite happy to see this strategy reappear.

Survey markers are provided to mark turns spent surveying, so that players can easily track their turns and to aid scoring with chips (as a player who surveys still scores and collects income, placing those VP chips beneath their survey marker).

What's New

Besides the new art, graphics, two added Factory cards, scoring chips, this new edition gave me a chance to tweak several cards to achieve better play balance based on lots of feedback:



* Bridge, Fairgrounds, and Convention Center each got 1 extra symbol, while Casino got increased income, strengthening these cards slightly.



* High Rise Apartments got a new power, increasing the viability of a High Rise Apartment / Professional Building starting combo.



* 1 Civic Center was swapped out (from 4 to 3) for a 2nd University. This reduces the "fountain" strategies a bit (which many players found slightly too strong compared to the Cars or Carts lines) and greatly increases the viability of the Industrial Park / Research Center / University line.

The Expanded City

This expansion gave me both an opportunity to add lots of "missing" thematic city elements (Cafe, Neighborhood Pub, Church, Hotel, Waterfront, Historical District, etc) and to strengthen some relationships among cards.



* The Fashion District and Upscale Bar help the Upscale Boutique / Upscale Restaurant line.



* The Neighborhood Pub and Cafe help the High Rise Apartments / Professional Building / Townhouse Row line.



* The Bakery, Children's Park, and Library give School a boost.



Various cards boost each of the different symbols and provide some nice cost 6-7 cards to help players transit from the mid to late game.

To keep the overall deck balance, I added more copies of the base game buildings based on symbols (Freeway Intersection, Mall, Central Park, Civic Center). I also added an Office Building (which numerous cards key off of), a 7th Luxury Homes, another Research Center and Hospital, plus a 3rd Construction Crew.



32 more game cards is enough to support 6 players, so I added a 6th General Contractor.

The only rule change for The Expanded City is that when playing with the expansion the Survey option now draws 7, not 5, cards to better manage the variability that comes from a larger deck.

Deja Vu All Over Again

After so many years, I am proud to see The City finally in English. Thanks, Eagle-Gryphon Games for doing this and for giving me an opportunity to revisit and expand this game. Enjoy!

Here is my original 2011 BGG Designer Preview: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/1932/designer-preview-cit...

Here is the Eagle-Gryphon BGG crowdfunding item re: The City's availability:

All card images used in this article are from my private gallery; I have permission from the publisher to upload and use them for publicity purposes.
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chris saman
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Thanks for sharing your insight. I enjoy playing Jump Drive. but to be honest I was always hoping for the original 'city' theme....personal preference. this is very exciting and it looks phenomenal.

I do have one question: with the changes in urban planning (active transportation, mass transit, green technology, and a design shift away from the 'burbs), do you have any plans to add extra content later on that might represent future trends in urban planning (and more strategies)
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Chris Leder
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I’ve been waiting a long time for this day! Congrats on the rerelease and for the quick funding! Can’t wait to play this!
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Tom Lehmann
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csaman wrote:
with the changes in urban planning (active transportation, mass transit, green technology, and a design shift away from the 'burbs), do you have any plans to add extra content later on that might represent future trends in urban planning (and more strategies)
That's a good question. I can certainly think of ways to add a few cards that could showcase these ideas. I think it would be tricky to bring them into the design in a big way, though, due to two factors:

* The car symbol is pretty fundamental to the current game design. And, while some "1st world" cities are moving away from cars in various ways, the reality is that many burgeoning cities in the developing "3rd" world are still becoming more, not less, car-based.

* Managing the variance as the deck expands is crucial -- and tough. Right now, there are 107 + 32 = 139 cards in the deck (not counting General Contractors). I can't see adding many more cards without the variance getting too high. But, it might be possible to add a few promo cards in this vein if the game does well enough...

All this being said, I think that Mass Transit is already pretty well covered with Park 'n' Ride, Subway System, Train Station, Bus Depot, etc. This isn't complete, of course, one could add "Ride-Sharing" to the mix, but it's a decent representation.
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Serge
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I like the layout, much larger art!
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Eric T
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MantaScorp wrote:
I’ve been waiting a long time for this day! Congrats on the rerelease and for the quick funding! Can’t wait to play this!

Ditto...instant backer.

Good luck
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Jérôme
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While probably sticking to my German Amigo, I’m tempted to jump on board because the new artwork is wonderful. Also, the Factory is interesting (I might sacrifice 2 Architect cards and write a big black F on them).

Anyway, congratulations on he new release!
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Congrats Tom. I've been waiting for this for awhile.

Can you please elaborate on the differences between The City and Jump Drive? I can see at the very least that The City plays in around 20-30 mins while Jump Drive usually plays in around 10.
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dshortdesign wrote:
Congrats Tom. I've been waiting for this for awhile.

Can you please elaborate on the differences between The City and Jump Drive? I can see at the very least that The City plays in around 20-30 mins while Jump Drive usually plays in around 10.

The City is definitely the quicker game. My group finishes The City in less than 10 minutes (almost always with 7 rounds) and we are 15-20 with Jump Drive (2 phases and 6-8 rounds).
 
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Tom Lehmann
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dshortdesign wrote:
Can you please elaborate on the differences between The City and Jump Drive?
They're not "re-skins" of each other, so if you enjoy one, you may well enjoy exploring the deck of the other one. They do share a basic "framework": pay to play cards, score every turn, first to 50 wins.

Jump Drive has the option to both play a development and a world during a turn. So, a lot more of that game is about the interplay between devs and worlds and whether you can stretch to place two cards at once or just one. Its lower hand limit (10, not 12 as in The City) tends to tighten that tension.

In The City, you're (mostly) playing just one building at a time, so it's more accessible to many people. The interplay is between buildings from round to round as opposed to possible dev/world combos within a round. Both the symbols and "requires/allows/scores with" tends to loom larger than they do in Jump Drive.

Since you're only playing one building each round, your economy doesn't need to be built up as much in The City as it does in Jump Drive (though building a huge economy is certainly one strategy). This gives The City a bit wider strategy space in this dimension: I've won The City with an economy of 1 card/round and I've won it with an economy that grew to more than 12 cards/round. Tempo also looms a bit larger in The City, since you can't vary it as much as you can in Jump Drive.

Quote:
I can see at the very least that The City plays in around 20-30 mins while Jump Drive usually plays in around 10.
Most people find that The City's rounds go a bit faster than they do in Jump Drive, but there is typically one more round in The City. They are both fast games, with The City typically being a shade faster.

(The different time #s on the boxes represent more what different publishers choose to emphasize: average time for average # of players reasonably familiar with the game or a good amount of time to allow when choosing a game.)
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David Short
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
dshortdesign wrote:
Can you please elaborate on the differences between The City and Jump Drive?

In The City, you're (mostly) playing just one building at a time, so it's more accessible to many people. The interplay is between buildings from round to round as opposed to possible dev/world combos within a round. Both the symbols and "requires/allows/scores with" tends to loom larger than they do in Jump Drive.

Since you're only playing one building each round, your economy doesn't need to be built up as much in The City as it does in Jump Drive, (though building a huge economy is certainly one strategy). This gives The City a bit wider strategy space in this dimension: I've won The City with an economy of "1" and I've won it with an economy of more than 12. Tempo also looms a bit larger in The City, since you can't vary it as much as you can in Jump Drive.

Wow, I'm even more excited to snag this. Thanks for the prompt reply.
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Tom Lehmann
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Tsaar wrote:
While probably sticking to my German Amigo, I’m tempted to jump on board because the new artwork is wonderful. Also, the Factory is interesting (I might sacrifice 2 Architect cards and write a big black F on them).
And then there's the 33 card expansion included with the base game pledge -- just to add a bit more temptation! ;-)

Quote:
Anyway, congratulations on the new release!
Thanks!
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Raphaël Langella
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Those illustrations are beautiful. I really like them. Much better than the previous version.
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Tom Lehmann
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galehar wrote:
Those illustrations are beautiful. I really like them. Much better than the previous version.
João Tereso has done incredible work, particularly given there are so many illustrations (53 in the base game + 16 more in the expansion) and this is a game with a fairly low price point (and, therefore, lower art budget).

It's why I requested that João be given a front box credit.

(I've been privileged to work with good artists on many of my games, not only João Tereso on this project, but also the Race art team -- Martin Hoffmann, Claus Stephan, and Mirko Suzuki -- and, now, Julien Delval on the upcoming Res Arcana.)
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I have a few issues with the rulebook and cards that is unclear on the cards.

* "Unless a card has a 1 Yellow symbol, you may build multiple copies of it in your tableau."
This seems too non-obvious. I feel like people will miss this and make mistakes, requiring tedious explanation of what they did wrong. What is wrong with the text "You can only build one of this building." It is much more clear.

* "Some cards score VPs for each named card in play; whether it is in yours or any other player’s tableau."
The term "in play" is unclear. In play in your tableau? For all players in the game? It might be better to say "Freeway Interchange in game" which possibly establishes it is for all players.


I only ask because I would hate to have to paste up the English version so that I don't have to explain to players the "May only build one copy" "For each in game".
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Tom Lehmann
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Solamar wrote:
Quote:
* "Unless a card has a 1 Yellow symbol, you may build multiple copies of it in your tableau."
This seems too non-obvious. I feel like people will miss this and make mistakes, requiring tedious explanation of what they did wrong. What is wrong with the text "You can only build one of this building." It is much more clear.
This proposed rewording does not capture the fact that you *may* build duplicate buildings except when otherwise stated. Many players assume that you cannot build duplicates.

So, under your proposed rewording, instead of one rule, you would now need two rules: one stating that duplicates may be built and another one that states that you can't do so if the building has a limit listed.

Quote:
Quote:
* "Some cards score VPs for each named card in play; whether it is in yours or any other player’s tableau."
The term "in play" is unclear.
This rule is defining what "in play" means.

Quote:
It might be better to say "Freeway Interchange in game" which possibly establishes it is for all players.
In my opinion, this term is confusing. "In game" -- does that mean in any player's hand? Cards in hand are part of the game...
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Tom Lehmann
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csaman wrote:
with the changes in urban planning (active transportation, mass transit, green technology, and a design shift away from the 'burbs), do you have any plans to add extra content later on that might represent future trends in urban planning (and more strategies)
So, I thought about this and spent part of the last two weeks designing and testing a "Eco mini-expansion", 6 cards featuring two new symbols to address some of these issues, which I then presented to the team.

Eagle-Gryphon liked the idea and this has become our 1000 backer stretch goal.

Unlike the iconic city replacement cards, which substitute for cards, these 6 cards when used would be added to the game -- if this stretch goal gets unlocked!

Enjoy!
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
csaman wrote:
with the changes in urban planning (active transportation, mass transit, green technology, and a design shift away from the 'burbs), do you have any plans to add extra content later on that might represent future trends in urban planning (and more strategies)
So, I thought about this and spent part of the last two weeks designing and testing a "Eco mini-expansion", 6 cards featuring two new symbols to address some of these issues, which I then presented to the team.

Eagle-Gryphon liked the idea and this has become our 1000 backer stretch goal.

Unlike the iconic city replacement cards, these 6 cards would be added to the game -- if this stretch goal gets unlocked!

Enjoy!

You just made it a tad harder to resist the new edition!
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
The only rule change for The Expanded City is that when playing with the expansion the Survey option now draws 7, not 5, cards to better manage the variability that comes from a larger deck.
Do players still discard 4 cards on a Survey with the expansion, or do they now discard 6, to maintain the net gain of 1 card?
 
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Tom Lehmann
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Pwned Pawn wrote:
Tom Lehmann wrote:
The only rule change for The Expanded City is that when playing with the expansion the Survey option now draws 7, not 5, cards to better manage the variability that comes from a larger deck.
Do players still discard 4 cards on a Survey with the expansion, or do they now discard 6, to maintain the net gain of 1 card?
6.
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