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Subject: A lot to love rss

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Andrew Rae
New Zealand
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There is a lot to love about Chinatown, from classy brightly coloured art, to the simplicity of trading. It is the most basic mechanic you can imagine and everything is up for grabs. Yet ironically Chinatown also has a dark side, that may on occasion rear it's ugly head and leave you flailing your arms and struggling for breath.

Chinatown looks good. Before you even open the box it is stylish and endearing with a cartoon style of art that has soft lines and flowing curves. The board and components are naturally the same with large numbers and clearly defined board divisions.

The colours used are nice but good be more diverse. I say this because there are many many types of shop, and as a result some of the browns/yellows and greens and blues can be confusing and just a little bit too similar. I might also have liked the board to indicate how many slots were available in each area (since there is a difference). Yet these are minor things that do not impinge upon the play. Overall the production and quality is good (except for those silly tiny cards so many people insist on) and there is a nce weave of theme and style. Its a game you can be proud to own.

It's gameplay is extremely simple. Trade to maximise your value. Everything can be traded, and often is, making this a negotiaters dream. Initially you are given a number of random cards from which to sleect a few of them. These cards indicate lots which you own on the board (numbered 1 to 80) that you can build buildings on. When these have been revealed players also randomly draw buildings which are open in front of them. Each building you own can be placed upon a lot you own, and groups of buildings earn you cash at the end of the round. Cash is king, and larger groups of buildings score more points. In addition each building has an optimal number for the group. When you reach that number you have completed the group and it provides you with a completeness bonus. The larger and more complete the group the more points you receive.

In essence then a player attempts to trade for adjacent spaces and identical buildings. Your success depends on how well you trade. There are six turns and so completing a group early allows you to score that completness for more turns. There is some luck that comes into this though in the distribution of tiles and cards. Cards and tiles are random, so although you get to choose your lots from a slightly larger selection you are still subject to teh whims of luck as to getting good or bad slots. A early slot that is well away from other players provides you little early capital and puts you behind the eight ball. Buildings are more whimsical because you do not have a choice, but they are more easily traded.

Chinatown is a nice balance between a game with trading as the primary mechanic and a little strategy and a little luck. It does a good job of bringing people out of their shells, but may bring you just a little too far if things don't fall your way. But heck we're all grown adults so we should be able to handle ourselves in public right!

In any case this is a goodlooking light to medium game that anyone can play, and it will fit nicely onm your games shelf. Nothing too memorable, but a solid 7 out of ten that you will rate higher if you like to trade.

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