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Subject: A City of Wonder, A City of Iron rss

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Drew Sonnenberg
United States
Rock Hill
South Carolina
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City of Iron has a lot of elements that, initially, feel very familiar: a track of cards that you can purchase, various goods that you are trying to get the majority of, cards depicting characters that give you various different actions. However, what struck me most about City of Iron upon playing it for the first time is that it feels unlike any other game I have played. Sure, at its core it’s just a set collection game where whoever gets the most victory points wins, but it’s much more than that.

The first thing you can’t help but notice about the game is its theme. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on steampunk, but I can tell you this: This game is cool. The various goods you are collecting are not boring things like Wood, Stone, Clay, and Grain. You get to collect Glow Moss, Bottled Demons, and Srikas.

Where the theme really comes out is in the Character Decks. This is also the aspect of the game that is most unique. Each player has two decks: Citizen and Military. Everybody starts with the same two cards in each of these decks (four cards total). However, after the first round of play (and every round thereafter) you have the option to purchase additional cards from your private store. Everybody has the same cards available to them (with a few exceptions, which I’ll get to) which leaves everyone to choose their own strategy. You can go all-out military and attack neutral towns (another source of resources and income) or you can focus more on exploration and acquiring new lands which gives you more space to build more buildings or you can go somewhere in between. These are all viable options.

What makes these decks different than other “deck building” games is that you do not shuffle them. The order in which you use cards is the order in which they are discarded. Therefore, in order to get a card back that you just used, you have to make it all the way through your deck. You could use actions to draw cards, and sometimes you will have to, but this wastes valuable time. By exploring new lands, building districts onto your city, or building certain buildings, you can generate free card draws at the end of each round. The other thing to consider is that, unlike in many “deck building” games where you can trash cards in order to thin out your deck, once a card enters your deck in City of Iron, it stay there. This leads to a lot of difficult decisions. Buying cards puts them straight into your hand, which makes them available for immediate use. Therefore, it’s often tempting to buy an extra card or two to use either for their ability or to power another card. However, doing so can easily clog up your deck. For example, buying the Scientist is a good way to obtain 2 Science quickly, but it may get in the way when you are trying to get your Explorer back from the bottom of your deck so you can explore another land. Players also have the option of playing the game using their Race’s special powers. Some of these include additional Citizen and Military cards that are available for purchase or even in the players starting decks. These help give a different feel to each player and can assist in playing different strategies.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how spectacular the artwork in this game is. Even in just a prototype stage, with not all of the artwork complete, this game is visually stunning. Each of the different building cards has colorful and vibrant artwork. The Citizen and Military decks with (I believe) have artwork unique to each of the different races. The board itself deserves to be framed and hung on a wall of your gameroom. All of this adds to the overall appeal and helps reinforce the theme.

I have not even begun to explain all the different facets of the game, but I am probably not the best person to do so. Instead, I will finish by giving my thoughts on the general feel of the game. It is best to go into a game of City of Iron with somewhat of a plan. Do you want to explore new lands? Do you want to conquer towns? As I said earlier, any of these are viable options for any player, but they require many actions over the course of several rounds to carry out. However, this is also a game reactions. You could plan to stock up on cheap goods (such as Turnips and Srikas) early, but if none of them come out in the first round, you are going to have to make adjustments. Similarly, you need to adjust to the play of your opponents. Oftentimes, it is necessary to get in their way, or your opponents will get in your way. In either case, you must divert from your original plans. For example, perhaps you hold the lead in Srikas as a scoring round approaches. However, one Srika pasture shows up in the final round before scoring. If you take it, you will ensure that you hold the lead, however, if your opponent takes it, they will steal the lead from you. This is not a situation you could have forseen at the beginning of the game, you must react as the situation presents itself.

The game offers a deep, satisfying experience with tough choices coming each and every turn. However, given how deep the game is, it can play in a relatively short amount of time. The rulebook states that it takes about 30 minutes per person, however, once players get used to the various cards and rules, games can go much quicker. My 2 player games have taken about 45 minutes and 4 players games only take about 1.5 hours (with 3 players games being about halfway between those numbers). Additionally, the games scales well for all numbers of players. My SO and I are always on the lookout for games like this that play well with 2 players but accommodate more than 2. This game has quickly moved up her list of favorite games to play with only 2 players.

By this point, I’ve rambled enough. Hopefully something in the paragraphs above has gotten my point across. In case I didn’t, here it is: Do yourself a favor and get a copy of City of Iron.

Disclaimer: I was a playtester for this game. I do not know Ryan personally and have no affiliation with Red Raven Games. I have played 15 games so far ranging from 2-4 players.
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Scott Douglass
United States
Minnesota
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Nice review.

I've been keeping my eye on City of Iron. I wanted to play test it, but doubted I would have the time to get enough games in. The game looks even cooler than Empires of the Void.
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