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Chris
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Though here at journey's end I lie in darkness buried deep, beyond all towers strong and high, beyond all mountains steep, above all shadows rides the Sun, and Stars forever dwell: I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell.
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Originally posted on menwithdice.com. I didn't ask for permission, so don't tell anyone.

I’ve often said that the most basic fundamental thing that I value in a board game experience is interesting decisions with an exciting payoff. Blue Moon City delivers half of that expectation. The decisions are challenging and interesting, but the exciting consequences of those decisions are absent. But sometimes, even though you don’t get everything you want in a game, where it is strong, it is good enough so that it can compensate for other shortcomings.

Blue Moon City takes place in a sci fi fantasy city that’s been destroyed for some reason, and players are somehow supposed to care about rebuilding it. For about 60 minutes, anywhere from 2 to 4 players can cash in sets of cards to make contributions towards rebuilding the districts of Blue Moon City.

Quickie Overview
The board of BMC is composed of tiles representing districts. A district is built by making one or more contributions. To make a contribution, you cash in a set of cards of matching the required color and at least the required value. So for example, to make a contribution for a black 5, you could trade in a black card with a value of 3 combined with a 2 value black card.



The Economy of Blue Moon
It all starts with cards, which players always draw at the end of each turn. These cards can be used to make contributions to districts. As districts are completed, contributors are rewarded with crystals, cards, or dragon scales. Dragon scales are also awarded by making a contribution in the presence of a dragon. Dragon scales will be converted to crystals. Crystals are used to contribute offerings to the obelisk. Obelisk offerings is what wins you the game.



So what decision points will you be faced with?
Hand management
Many of the cards have multiple uses. They can either be played for their number/color value in order to directly contribute towards a district. Many cards also have a special power, such as moving dragons, gaining extra movement, or providing flexibility if played in combination with other cards. This creates a hand management decision point – how will you play each card? When will you play each card? Which is more important – it’s direct value, or its special ability?

You always draw at least 2 cards per turn. In addition, you may discard 1 or 2 cards in order to draw 1 or 2 extra cards. There are many cards with special abilities that are only valuable or most optimal in combination with other cards. The optional card discard ability to get bonus card draws allows players choose on whether to hold a card, hoping to find one to pair it with to make it more valuable.



Obelisk strategy
The game incents you to go to the obelisk early because whoever get’s there first gets the cheaper spots. However, it’s not an obvious decision to always race to get the cheap spots. The player who ignores that race will instead be accumulating crystals, and will be spending his turn making contributions and gaining additional crystals while others are using an entire turn to just cash in crystals.

Normally you’re capped at one obelisk offering per turn. Some cards allow you to make multiple offerings to the obelisk in one turn, but at an increased cost. In short, your decision is between being efficient with your time at the expense of crystals, or efficient with your crystals at the expense of time.

Places to go
You can only go to one district per turn. You want to go to many and all of the districts if you could, to drop off contributions everywhere. Deciding where to go each turn is a key prioritization decision point. The cards in your hand may give you several options of where you could possibly contribute. You have to decipher how to maximize the crystal income your cards can get you. The board is laid out randomly, so this evaluation is different each session. There’s an interestingly designed variability in the rewards completed districts offer, making it a tough decision to figure out what contributions are going to give you the best return on investment.

Sharing vs taking
A lot of the districts you complete will be done through collaborating with other players. When multiple players contribute to the same district, all will benefit. If you made the most contributions, you get a modest bonus. There’s no opportunity to steal a district or compensation from another player. Your choice is to share the contribution and both get rewarded, or do it yourself, paying the full price but enjoying the riches all to yourself. You’re unable to completely avoid helping others. It will inevitably happen to at least some degree. The challenge this game provides is to decipher which contributions will have the best ratio of helping yourself the most and your opponents the least.

Sequence
Once a district is built, it will then produce a neighborhood bonus. All adjacent districts will give this neighborhood bonus to all contributors upon completion. This makes a secondary decision point on determining the best order of operations in order to maximize the benefit received from neighborhood bonuses.

Limiting Factors
BMC no doubt is an elegant design and has satisfyingly thoughtful decisions to make throughout each game. There are still several elements that are not present that I value in a gaming experience. BMC has no narrative, no chances to really screw my opponents, and no player interaction. You may or may not care about these things, but for my personal tastes in games, these are typically important prerequisites.

Narrative
When I’m done with a game, I love being able to retell the story of what happened. It’s rewarding after Battlestar Galactica to talk about how Roslin was thrown in the brig, turned out to be human and was released, and then became a cylon later in the game. Even in games without a strong narrative tone, I can at least end a game of Puerto Rico summarizing it by saying Lenny went for corn, Carl focused on getting his Factory humming, and Homer picked craftsman every turn. With Blue Moon City, at the end of the game, there’s really nothing to report. Everyone drew cards, everyone played cards, no one got hurt, there was no drama, and there was no exciting climax in the flow of play. We all enjoyed the mental challenge to win the battle of efficiency, but there’s nothing worth repeating.

To illustrate this, let’s look at an under utilized metric: The boardgamegeek session report frequency rate. BMC has been out since 2006. Since then, as of this posting, there have been 38 session reports. By comparison, The Fury of Dracula, released the same year, has 147. Risk Legacy, released less than 3 months prior to this posting, already has 36. A session of BMC just doesn’t create a story worth telling.

Punitive
BMC also doesn’t give me any opportunities to be nasty, cruel, and underhanded to people who are otherwise my friends. That may be well and good for your tastes, but for me, if I don’t have the chance to get my friends to throw cards at me, then this game doesn’t have everything I’m looking for.

Interactive
Along with the lack of screwage is the lack of player interaction of any significance. There’s no game element that induces conversation. There is 0 direct conflict. You can’t even block your opponents from taking actions. The worst taunt you’ll be able to make is “ha ha, I’ve completed your district for you, and now we both have to get crystals!”

Status of Cool Plastic Dragons
Yes, I can confirm cool plastic dragons are present. So it’s got that going for it.



Judgement
In short, Blue Moon City has the interesting decisions, but doesn’t have the exciting payoff. For your personal preference in gaming, perhaps this is a positive thing. For my tastes, BMC just doesn’t offer what I’m looking for. I don’t fault Blue Moon City for not having these characteristics, for that isn’t the experience this game tries to deliver. That’d be like going to an Italian restaurant and complaining there was no General Tso’s Chicken.

While I could go on infinitely listing things that do not exist in BMC, the reason I brought them up is because while they are weaknesses from my personal perspective, still nonetheless illustrate how strong BMC really is. Even though many gaming experiences I value are not present in BMC, I’m nevertheless glad it’s in my collection. Even though the exciting payoff is missing, the decisions are still interesting. Interesting enough to keep the game engaging. It has a low “cost” of time and rules density, making it cheap to bring out despite what it lacks. The rules density is at the gateway level but the challenge of the decisions is a step above the gateway game phase. It nicely fills the niche of a 2-4 player game that will be done in an hour that has enough depth to keep it appealing without having to play Dominion for the 100th time.

So while Blue Moon City hitting the table will never be cause for thrills like General Tso’s chicken, it’s still worth occasionally bringing out, because after all, sometimes it’s OK to just have Italian food.
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Mark Saya
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Excellent review, right on the money in every regard. I try to introduce my gaming friends to the original Blue Moon card game first, so that when we get to Blue Moon City its unengaging theme resonates at least a little bit.
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
BMC also doesn’t give me any opportunities to be nasty, cruel, and underhanded to people who are otherwise my friends. That may be well and good for your tastes, but for me, if I don’t have the chance to get my friends to throw cards at me, then this game doesn’t have everything I’m looking for.

This could be arranged.
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Christopher Dearlove
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SoRCon 11 23-25 Feb 2018 Basildon UK http://www.sorcon.co.uk
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
Blue Moon City takes place in a sci fi fantasy city that’s been destroyed for some reason, and players are somehow supposed to care about rebuilding it.


The backstory is in the game Blue Moon. It's distributed over 300+ cards, and needs a little work to put together. I could go into more details, but essentially the eight peoples of Blue Moon lived in harmony in their city until a whole lot of things happened that ended up in a civil war between two apparent contenders for the throne. After various things, it became clear that the appropriate answer to the question as to which Royal Heir should succeed was ... neither of them. And having realised they'd been fooled into this war, the eight peoples decided to rebuild their city together.

All of which preceded the game design. So the game had to be competitive (another purely cooperative game wasn't what was wanted) but had to have competitive elements. And it became this game.
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Doug Adams
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Solid review, but I'm not sure I agree with the lack of interaction. BMC is all about interaction - you can't win by going it alone.
 
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quelf elf
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Solid review of one of Knizia's great designs. You may enjoy narratives, but I'd rather have nail-biting finishes. The margins of BMC are so thin that everyone usually ends within a turn of winning: makes for a great race.
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Paul Owen
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Darth Headbutt wrote:

Narrative
When I’m done with a game, I love being able to retell the story of what happened. It’s rewarding after Battlestar Galactica to talk about how Roslin was thrown in the brig, turned out to be human and was released, and then became a cylon later in the game. Even in games without a strong narrative tone, I can at least end a game of Puerto Rico summarizing it by saying Lenny went for corn, Carl focused on getting his Factory humming, and Homer picked craftsman every turn. With Blue Moon City, at the end of the game, there’s really nothing to report. Everyone drew cards, everyone played cards, no one got hurt, there was no drama, and there was no exciting climax in the flow of play. We all enjoyed the mental challenge to win the battle of efficiency, but there’s nothing worth repeating.


I really like this criterion for appreciating a game - the narrative aspect. I never thought about it before, but the games I enjoy most are the games I can talk about afterward.
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