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Subject: Gaming with my Girls - Part XII: Chinatown rss

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Brian Homan
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This is part eleven in a series of reviews that I am writing about the games that my family plays, why we love them and what you should know before making a purchase. I have three unique daughters, ages 12, 10 and 7 who love to play games with me, and a wife who sometimes likes to join in. Finding games that we all enjoy can be a challenge, so I am constantly trying to introduce more games to the family to build a collection that we can all appreciate. Today's review:
Chinatown

For so long this game has sat on my shelf and mocked me. I got it at a local auction a couple of years ago and never had the chance to play it. Then, a few weeks ago, one of my fellow geeks made me a trade offer for it, and I was torn. It was a VERY good offer, but I don't like to trade away games that I have not yet had the chance to play. I told him I would play it with my family and then decide on the trade. So read on to see if I made the trade or not...

Chinatown is a chit-draw/player negotiation game. There's almost nothing that you can't trade! The game begins by choosing a start player and giving all of the players their starting money and player markers. Next, cards are dealt to each player of which they will choose a set number to keep and a set number to return to the deck. the number of cards a player receives and the number they get to keep is determined by the number of people playing the game, and which round of the game is currently being played. (It's also spelled out quite nicely on a player aid.) In general, players want to keep cards that represent building locations that are close in proximity to one another, to that player's existing buildings, or to another player's existing buildings. (More on that later...) Once all players have their cards selected, they simultaneously place their markers on the corresponding building locations on the board.

Next, players will draw chits out of a bag that represent the various businesses that may be opened in Chinatown. The number of chits to be drawn is dependent upon the number of players in the game and which round is currently being played. (This is also spelled out on the player aid). Once all players have drawn their chits, the negotiation round begins!

In the negotiation round, players may barter for business chits, building locations, businesses on building locations, and money. You can even jump in on a deal that one player is making with another, to try to make a more enticing offer! The goal is to build the most profitable businesses. Business chits that are placed next to one another on the board (and are owned by the same player) serve as a single business that occupies two or more spaces. The bigger the business, the more profit it earns. Each business has a maximum size, at which point it is considered complete and earns it's maximum profit. This maximum size is listed on each business chit. Therefore, if you place four identical chits adjacent to one another, but they have a maximum business size of three, then you have two separate businesses: one of size three and one of size one. Players who are too stingy, and do not want to trade will find themselves left in the dust. The goal is to trade away what you can't use to get what you need for larger businesses.

After all negotiations have concluded, players are each paid for each of the businesses that they own. The larger the business, the more they get paid for it. (The payout is listed on the player aid as well.) Once all of the money owed is paid
out, the starting player card is passed to the left, the round marker is advanced and a new round begins. The game ends at the conclusion of the sixth round. The winner is the player with the most money.

So what's so great about this game:
arrrh Trading and negotiating! This is probably the most fun in a family environment, because everyone's true colors come out. I remember my wife saying to one of my kids, "You better make your Dad pay a lot for that business! He's going to have a complete set!"
It's great fun! All of the plotting and planning, wheeling and dealing is what breathes life into this game. If your family is at all boisterous, then this is probably a good fit for you.
It teaches kids valuable skills. The art of negotiating is a skill that many Americans sadly lack, which is why so many of us hate used car salesmen (My apologies if the reader is one blush) It also helps them understand the value of what they have versus the value of what someone else has. Many kids learn this the hard way when trading Pokemon cards or some other such thing with some older kid, only to realize in the end that they have been royally hosed in the trade.
cool The artwork. The board feels like the mid 1960's, and the business tiles are quite attractive to look at.
whistle It's not a long game... well, at least it doesn't feel like one. My wife and kids have an aversion to "long" games that take more than 45 minutes to an hour. We played this for an hour and forty-five minutes (learning game for all of us) and none of us felt like the game was too long.
ninja Swooping in on a deal in progress. Not only is this fun (and frustrating at times), but actually encouraged. In fact, if you have a hot commodity, the more people you have clamoring for it, the better.
It's highly interactive! Your success in this game is directly related to your negotiating skill (and whether or not you have ticked off any of the other players recently).
laugh You'll be talking about the game, even after it's over. The sign of a great experience game is how much the players recount the events therein, even days later. You'll get a lot of fun and a lot of laughs out of Chinatown.

So what's not so great about this game?
cry It's out of print. Copies can still be found on the black market... er, I mean EBAY... and some users here may be willing to part with their copy for the right price or the right trade. Unfortunately, I have heard of no plans to reprint this beauty, so prices may skyrocket as time goes by.
zombie It stinks when played with people who don't like to trade. Get the right crowd for this one, or it will be an exercise in misery for you.
shake The player aids are typed in very small print on the same size cards that are used to draw building spaces. They will be difficult to read if your eyesight is less than 20/20 or if you are advancing in age. Luckily, there are some substitutes you can print out in the file section here on BGG.
soblue Frustration. You might be a great negotiator, but if luck of the draw gives you something that no one else wants or needs, you'll be twiddling your thumbs while everyone else is making a killer deal. Patience is the key, though. What nobody wants this round may be what everyone wants in the next.

Beka's Opinion: This is a lot of fun! I really like the trading part and trying to complete my businesses. Beka's rating: 9
Lindsay's Opinion: I mostly like selling everything I don't need. Getting people to bid their money for my stuff is great, because it's the player with the most money that wins! Lindsay's rating: 8
Abby's Opinion: I ask to play this sometimes, because I like building businesses and trading to get more of my stuff, and I like getting money or spots on the board when I trade away what I don't need. Abby's rating: 8
Kristin's Opinion (rare indeed): This is a lot of fun because we're all involved for 90% of the game. There's very little down time, so it doesn't feel very long. The trading part is a lot of fun too. Kristin's rating: 7.5
My Opinion:I can't believe I had this game for so long without playing it! It's simply excellent, and my go-to negotiation/trading game. My rating: 8.5
Final opinion: This is a game that we all enjoy, and I wasn't sure it was going to end up that way. We had a blast playing it the first time and have played a few more times since then. We seem to enjoy it more with each successive play. Needless to say, this is a keeper and I did not end up trading it away. If you want a fun game for the whole family (ages 7+), then this is a great one to have (if you can get your hands on one). Family rating: 8.2

EDIT: Hopefully none of us ate used car salesmen, but some of us do hate them. shake



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Patrick C.
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Milford
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I can't seem to get this game to the table myself, but there's no way I'm parting with it. I love Lords of Vegas and Chinatown shares a lot of the same rules and mechanics. Love the artwork of Chinatown. It's too bad it didn't get more love when it was in print.
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Brian Homan
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You can find the GeekList series of reviews here
 
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Agent J
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Coldwater
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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I loved it, but I ended up with Genoa instead. I like the enhanced player control in Genoa, with each player getting equal chances to control the board. In Chinatown, I felt that the players deals were built by unhidden chance, whereas in Genoa you can bid for an action like it's not a big deal and then end up playing a message and a small order for 70 spacebucks having only paid a nominal value. I felt in Chinatown that the trading was very much based on who drew what and if you drew the wrong things, too bad so sad, but in Genoa you'll get your chance and there are plenty of ways to mitigate the luck outside of the trading.
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Brian Homan
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I own and like Genoa too, but it's a bit more complex than Chinatown and my girls just aren't ready for that. Chinatown is a better intro game to negotiation/trading (IMHO) and is working well for my family at this point in time. I totally understand your love for Genoa, though, and I am looking forward to the day when we get to play that one too.
 
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Joseph Betz
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I really enjoy chinatown also.My mom also enjoyed this after she played it and will ask if I brought it when I come to visit and bring games.I think it has a good amount of strategy and it is rare to get dealt cards that are either all no good for you or ones that you cannot use to trade with another player because they need them.Usually I find it difficult which cards to discard each turn.I also like the tough decision about when to start laying down your business tiles as the sooner you get them down you can start scoring but sometimes it seems better to wait to get more tiles that are the same and wait until you have enough spots on the board to put a set because if you commit to early then you opponents can use that against you.I also like genoa but it is a much longer game and harder to teach to people.
 
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