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Subject: Abstract City Building rss

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Philip Pack
Canada
Nanaimo
British Columbia
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First off, I won't be going in to details of the rules or mechanics, just my feedback from the 5 plays that I've had up to now (with 2, 3 and 4 players).

I really love SimCity, who doesn't. When I saw this game first announced, I was very excited... and I still am excited when I get the chance to play Urban Sprawl. This game is a crazy multiplayer SimCity, just highly abstracted.

All of my games have averaged 3 hours; shortest at 2.5 and longest at 3.5. The play time isn't really that bad, there's lots of interesting decisions and events that will cause wild swings in wealth and prestige... the game will always be action packed. However, the time in between your main decisions can get very lengthy. Even with experienced players, the main downfall of a 4 player game is the lengthy waits (averaging 10 minutes or more) in between your turns. This game works great with 2 or 3 players, best with 3... I might never play a 4 player game again.

All of my players had previously played Agricola, which was the 'heaviest' weighted game in my collection before Urban Sprawl arrived. Urban Sprawl isn't extremely difficult to learn... there's just lots of little rules to remember, just like Agricola. It's just that Agricola's little rules, are all fairly logical (need wood to build fences, need fences to keep animals in, etc). While the basic building in Urban Sprawl is simple (you need correct building permits, to fulfill a building contract), the payouts (of wealth and prestige during the refresh phase) aren't really explained why they are happening and they seen to happen at random. And picking up a strategy your first time, isn't very clear... but after multiple plays you'll notice the few strategies that are available (focus on high valued buildings of a specific zoning to gain those elected officials, or focus on vocations to become the mayor). These factors makes the game a little bit more confusing for new players, when compared to Agricola.

Overall the game is very enjoyable, everyone who has played has given good feedback. They like the close and competitive game play, they like the conflict between players (with urban renewal and the contractor), they liked the intriguing decisions of what buildings to build (if you go for vocations, or go for immediate results). The only thing we didn't like... needing to calculate and recalculate the most valuable buildings (for elections), counting and recounting the markers in rows for payouts, and the wait between turns.

This is easily an 8 in my mind. It's a game that I really enjoy, and would suggest to play with my advanced players who have the time available. Two reasons it's not a 9 or 10 in my books... First is the length of the game (longest in my collection), this will limit the opportunities that I get to play this game. Second, the game will not be suggested for 4 players (due to lengthy downtime between plays)... just 2 or 3 players at a time.
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Ade Lewis
United Kingdom
Wiltshire
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Thanks for your opinion. Really liked the concise nature.
I got this from Santa this christmas and have yet to open it.
After the somewhat divided reviews this one has given me heart to open it up sooner rather than later.

Thumbs up thumbsup for the clarification on time vs players.

As a start this will be a two player for me (most new games in my house start that way) with a view to three player if the evening allows and four for those arranged nights.

Appreciated review!
 
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I'm a little unsure on the length of the game being an issue, but of course, I could be wildly unqualified to make that stick as I've played 1 4-player learning game a a 2-player game.

The game ends when you reveal The Olympic Games card in the Metropolis Deck. This card is at least the 16th and up to but no further than the 21st card in that deck from the top. The "trigger" cards are placed in the same manner in the Town and City decks, which trigger the opening of the next deck. This means you have a finite number of turns in the game, unless you are constantly overpaying for cards from the Town and City Decks after the Metro Deck is activated in the high AP slots. This would, of course, extend the game because you are not burning the lower AP slots that get refilled only from the Metro Deck, but those are probably undesirable mostly due to their cost in AP's.

Seems to me the game should play similar timewise regardless. I don't see a wide variance in time to play.

Thoughts?
 
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Philip Pack
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Yes I agree. There isn't much overall time variance between 2-4 players... it's always been around the 3 hour mark.

Just the gap between your actual turn that gets longer and longer with more players. It's been mentioned in other reviews: other games that may have downtime, you can plan your next move while waiting... you can't do this in Urban Sprawl since the cards available keep changing (as other players use them) before your turn comes up.

With the deck setup; I personally cut the deck in approximately half and place the trigger event card there, just cuts down on prep time a bit. Because there is always cards being used to create buildings, the end time is always about the same. This contributes to another factor of having more players, and that is there are less decisions you get to make before the end of the game. Like Carcassonne, which is limited by number of tiles divided by number of players (more players = less turns).

On a final note, if you watch Tom Vassel's review (just recently watched it)... he hated the game due to levels of randomness, large points swings due to the random events, the games obvious catch-up mechanics and the election system. There are lots of events that can occur, but there are good events and bad events at an equal level... only time I find it can be frustrating is when they occur back to back to back, just adds up on that downtime (clean-up) in-between turns. And I have no issue with the catch up mechanic, as the 'contractor' position will switch hands pretty quickly (at the next election) if that player is able to move out of last place... it is a powerful position, but it won't be yours forever. And the elections system is just fine in my books... they give you something to focus on as your strategy. Do you push for a valuable building of X type (Residential for Police Chief, Industrial for Union Boss, etc), do you focus on Vocations for their payouts and to become the Mayor, do you focus on immediate payout benefits with specific building benefits/events. Without the election system, it would limit the available strategies for the game.
 
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