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Subject: Brain-teasing filler or perfect gateway game? Both! rss

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ErikPeter Walker
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Whether you're looking for a good filler for up to four players, or a way to introduce non-gamers to the world tile-laying and meeple-placing, Cities might just be the way to go.

In Cities, players create a city center using tiles representing attractions, terraces, parks, and lakes. In addition to laying tiles, players place tourists (meeples) into their city center; at the end of the game, tourists score points based on the type of zone they have settled in: each zone type scores differently, and therein lies the strategy.

Despite offering instructions for three progressive levels of difficulty, Cities is very easy to learn. Unless you're teaching the game to a little kid you should begin at the highest level, since . each difficulty level just adds a single scoring rule--even your mom should be able to retain three rules without much trouble.
(She told me so last night. )

Cities uses a mechanic that will be familiar to anyone who has played Take it to the Limit!: Each turn, players draw from an identical set of tiles and add to their city centers in what amounts to multiplayer solitaire. In my opinion, the tile placement/orientation and tourist scoring creates many more interesting choices than in Take it to the Limit. This draw-and-place mechanic is pretty much the only similarity between the two games.

After starting with a base of three tiles, placed corner-to-corner however the players wish, one player draws a random tile from their stack and each player draws the same tile, adding it to their city. They also may place a tourist on that tile, as in Carcassonne, placing it in one of the four quadrants (except for lakes--tourists are not permitted to swim!), or move a tourist they placed earlier in the game.

As the game continues tourist placement becomes more critical, and players must take care to move tourists into high scoring positions before the end, which occurs once each player's city center reaches 16 tiles in a 4x4 arrangement.

Scoring is based on three simple aesthetics that overlap in a delightfully brain-burning matter: Tourists like to visit big parks surrounded by lakes, big attractions surrounded by terraces, and get good views from terraces that look out over parks and lakes. The player with the most aesthetically pleasing city center (i.e. the most points) wins.

Despite being relatively straightforward, essentially solitaire abstract, Cities is an excellent filler--one of the best, in my opinion--because it manages to pack a lot of puzzlement into 15 minutes, which is a refreshing change from the typical set collecting or push-your-luck fillers. You might not sit down and play two hours' worth of back-to-back games, but the random selection of tiles and the nature of the puzzle should insure that Cities will continue to be entertaining whenever you come back to it.

As I mentioned earlier, Cities is a great gateway game as well: the short playing time shouldn't scare away any non-gamers, who usually will want to play again once they have a better understanding of the scoring possibilities, and the mechanics of tile-laying and meeple placement/territory control are common among many meatier games.

I think most players will enjoy Cities, at least for a while, and it might pave the way for longer and more strictly competitive games. I have taught this game to many players, young and old, and everyone seems to enjoy it. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend picking it up.



One final tidbit: Cities may pack a lot of puzzle into a little game, but it packs a lot of ego too! As BGG user erak pointed out in this humorous thread, the designer, Martyn F, decided it would be a good idea to print his name eleven times on the back of every tile, either not realizing or not caring how much eye-rolling this would illicit from every player, ever. Still, don't take his word for it, take mine! Cities is a great game!
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Rich Dodgin
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This review is spot on - I agree with every point you've made here.

Cities is a great game and works brilliantly as a introductory game for non-gamers (I played this at Xmas with my non-gaming Dad and he really enjoyed it) but also has more than enough depth for the more experienced gamer. I must have played over 100 solitaire games of Cities and I haven't got bored with it yet - there's always a feeling of "just one more game" !
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Betty Dingus
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Thanks for the review -- I wasn't even aware of this game but it sounds like it would be good for my homeschool group.
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Shawn Kirkham
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Also just a note:

If you buy 1 cities game you can play from 1-4 players, but note you can have multiple copies and have more players since each player plays with his/her own tiles and Meeples. (So in reality you could have unlimited amount of players, based on the number of game sets that are available).

Not a big deal, but I thought I would add that because some gaming groups are looking for games that play more than 4 players at a time.

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