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Robert Rossney
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Urbanization is an excellent, tight economic game with many hard choices tucked into a quite-short playing time. Every one of the 30 decisions you get to make in the game matters, and correctly predicting your opponents' behavior is the key to victory. It's a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are not going to have the chance to discover this. They'll make a couple of critical misinterpretations of the rules, and the game won't work, and they won't have any fun. They'll think Urbanization stinks.

Well, it doesn't. What stinks is Queen Games's botched job of developing the game. The rules and components are misleading, and the physical design is weak enough that the people I played it with at BGGCon all found it irritating and annoying. "This is just making me angry," said one of them.

So what's wrong? I'll cover the game-breaking problems first. There are two.

In two separate games, one I played and one I observed, the groups who taught themselves to play Urbanization from the rules got the "attract industry" rule catastrophically wrong.

Both groups believed that an industry cannot be attracted until all three spaces on the tile have action markers on them, and that the third "take work orders" action earns the player who takes it $1. After all, the third circle on the tile has a $ in it, and the "take work orders" rule tells us that the player who places his action marker on the last work order space on the tile gets $1. Both groups interpreted the phrase "industry space" in the "attract industry" rule to be the picture of the industry itself.

It is only if you look at the diagram on the first page of the rules that you see that the $ space is identified as the "attract industry" space.

I'll tell you this: in a game in which your only reward for making it possible for the next player to take an industry tile is $1, nobody does this. And if the only way to take industries is to use the Industry Boss card, the game doesn't work.

How easy this would have been to fix, too: just put "+$1" above the last "work order" space, and something else - it could be an icon, it could be a question mark, it could be a picture of a kitten, really it could be anything except "$1" - in the "attract industry" space.

(Why does it have to use an action marker at all? You get the marker back immediately, after all. The only reason to require an action marker is to prevent someone whose action markers are all on the board already from being able to take an industry. But you have 10 action markers, and you'll lock up at most 6 of them in land claims. Since you can only take four actions in a turn, the only way you could tie up all of your action markers would be to have left them, in a previous turn, on work order spaces on industries that nobody's attracted and that didn't get obsoleted. This is remotely possible, I suppose, and maybe it does happen in some extreme endgame circumstances. But I'm suspicious.)

The second problem is almost as bad: During the "hire a character" phase, the player with the fewest VPs is given the Mayor character. This card ought to be a different color, say, like the Governor in San Juan, since it is not actually the player's character for the turn. But no, it looks just like the other character cards. It's far too easy to miss the note in the margin of the rules telling you that the player with the Mayor may choose another character, and our group did. (Also: "May"?) Since this turns a catch-up mechanism into a boat anchor around the neck of the player in last place, it's a big freaking problem.

There are many other problems with the physical design. They're not game-breaking, but they're irritating or confusing, and all of them could easily have been corrected:

Why don't the character cards tell you which action they modify? The character that lets you get two grain for free, say. Why do you have to look in the rules to find out that you only get this grain while you're taking the "trade grain" action?

Why doesn't the summary of VPs for each building on the player summary card also list their costs? Why is this information only found in the rulebook?

Why doesn't the summary, on the player aid, of the remarkably elaborate end-of-round procedure tell you when to count VPs? (And yes, it matters a whole lot whether you count VPs for grain before or after you feed your citizens.)

Why are there action-marker-sized circles anywhere on the board if you're not supposed to put action markers in them? (This is forgivable if the Invention expansion, which none of us used, requires them.)

Shouldn't the character card that lets you take two free grain markers from the field make it clear what "the field" is? Also, would it have killed them to include iconography explaining how much grain can go into the field?

Why on earth are the skyscrapers practically indistinguishable from the factories?

Why are administration buildings even in the game? They don't occupy building spaces, they don't perform any function, all they do is let you convert money into VPs. As far as I can tell, the only reason that they're buildings at all is so that the Architect gives you a discount on them. They don't even fit on the map - not that it matters where they are on the map, since they have no effect. You can just buy them and throw them in the box. (Again, if the Invention expansion uses them, this makes more sense, but there's still no excuse for them not fitting on the board if they have to fit on the board.)

Why are there $10 bills in the game at all, let alone a huge thick stack of them? I never saw anyone with $10 in his possession at any point in our game.

I have a couple of quarrels with the rules, too. They should spell out what happens when you upgrade a factory that has already produced during the turn.
I presume that upgrading a factory does not clear it out so that you can produce again that turn, but who knows? And the Union Leader card says that it lets you produce goods of any color. There are no goods in the game.. It lets you produce using work order cubes of any color. (The work-order concept in this game is very poorly explained. It makes sense, once you understand it, but for a time this game reminded me of Mall World, and nobody wants their game to remind you of Mall World.)

None of these is a problem with actual gameplay. This is a terrific game and I recommend it to anyone who likes brutally competitive games where money is tight and every action counts. Having played it correctly, I'm probably going to buy it myself.

But this game was very poorly developed. I think that this game could have been a great success if its design were as carefully worked over as (say) Suburbia's. The publisher did the designer a disservice.
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Bartosz Popow
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An interesting read. Once I get in hold of my copy and carefully read the rules, I'll make sure to return to your article. Thanks.
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Don D.
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UhhhClem wrote:
Urbanization is an excellent, tight economic game with many hard choices tucked into a quite-short playing time. Every one of the 30 decisions you get to make in the game matters, and correctly predicting your opponents' behavior is the key to victory. It's a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are not going to have the chance to discover this. They'll make a couple of critical misinterpretations of the rules, and the game won't work, and they won't have any fun. They'll think Urbanization stinks.

Well, it doesn't. What stinks is Queen Games's botched job of developing the game. The rules and components are misleading, and the physical design is weak enough that the people I played it with at BGGCon all found it irritating and annoying. "This is just making me angry," said one of them.

So what's wrong? I'll cover the game-breaking problems first. There are two.

In two separate games, one I played and one I observed, the groups who taught themselves to play Urbanization from the rules got the "attract industry" rule catastrophically wrong.

Both groups believed that an industry cannot be attracted until all three spaces on the tile have action markers on them, and that the third "take work orders" action earns the player who takes it $1. After all, the third circle on the tile has a $ in it, and the "take work orders" rule tells us that the player who places his action marker on the last work order space on the tile gets $1. Both groups interpreted the phrase "industry space" in the "attract industry" rule to be the picture of the industry itself.

It is only if you look at the diagram on the first page of the rules that you see that the $ space is identified as the "attract industry" space.

I'll tell you this: in a game in which your only reward for making it possible for the next player to take an industry tile is $1, nobody does this. And if the only way to take industries is to use the Industry Boss card, the game doesn't work.

How easy this would have been to fix, too: just put "+$1" above the last "work order" space, and something else - it could be an icon, it could be a question mark, it could be a picture of a kitten, really it could be anything except "$1" - in the "attract industry" space.

(Why does it have to use an action marker at all? You get the marker back immediately, after all. The only reason to require an action marker is to prevent someone whose action markers are all on the board already from being able to take an industry. But you have 10 action markers, and you'll lock up at most 6 of them in land claims. Since you can only take four actions in a turn, the only way you could tie up all of your action markers would be to have left them, in a previous turn, on work order spaces on industries that nobody's attracted and that didn't get obsoleted. This is remotely possible, I suppose, and maybe it does happen in some extreme endgame circumstances. But I'm suspicious.)

The second problem is almost as bad: During the "hire a character" phase, the player with the fewest VPs is given the Mayor character. This card ought to be a different color, say, like the Governor in San Juan, since it is not actually the player's character for the turn. But no, it looks just like the other character cards. It's far too easy to miss the note in the margin of the rules telling you that the player with the Mayor may choose another character, and our group did. (Also: "May"?) Since this turns a catch-up mechanism into a boat anchor around the neck of the player in last place, it's a big freaking problem.

There are many other problems with the physical design. They're not game-breaking, but they're irritating or confusing, and all of them could easily have been corrected:

Why don't the character cards tell you which action they modify? The character that lets you get two grain for free, say. Why do you have to look in the rules to find out that you only get this grain while you're taking the "trade grain" action?

Why doesn't the summary of VPs for each building on the player summary card also list their costs? Why is this information only found in the rulebook?

Why doesn't the summary, on the player aid, of the remarkably elaborate end-of-round procedure tell you when to count VPs? (And yes, it matters a whole lot whether you count VPs for grain before or after you feed your citizens.)

Why are there action-marker-sized circles anywhere on the board if you're not supposed to put action markers in them? (This is forgivable if the Invention expansion, which none of us used, requires them.)

Shouldn't the character card that lets you take two free grain markers from the field make it clear what "the field" is? Also, would it have killed them to include iconography explaining how much grain can go into the field?

Why on earth are the skyscrapers practically indistinguishable from the factories?

Why are administration buildings even in the game? They don't occupy building spaces, they don't perform any function, all they do is let you convert money into VPs. As far as I can tell, the only reason that they're buildings at all is so that the Architect gives you a discount on them. They don't even fit on the map - not that it matters where they are on the map, since they have no effect. You can just buy them and throw them in the box. (Again, if the Invention expansion uses them, this makes more sense, but there's still no excuse for them not fitting on the board if they have to fit on the board.)

Why are there $10 bills in the game at all, let alone a huge thick stack of them? I never saw anyone with $10 in his possession at any point in our game.

I have a couple of quarrels with the rules, too. They should spell out what happens when you upgrade a factory that has already produced during the turn.
I presume that upgrading a factory does not clear it out so that you can produce again that turn, but who knows? And the Union Leader card says that it lets you produce goods of any color. There are no goods in the game.. It lets you produce using work order cubes of any color. (The work-order concept in this game is very poorly explained. It makes sense, once you understand it, but for a time this game reminded me of Mall World, and nobody wants their game to remind you of Mall World.)

None of these is a problem with actual gameplay. This is a terrific game and I recommend it to anyone who likes brutally competitive games where money is tight and every action counts. Having played it correctly, I'm probably going to buy it myself.

But this game was very poorly developed. I think that this game could have been a great success if its design were as carefully worked over as (say) Suburbia's. The publisher did the designer a disservice.


Plus queen just kinda sucks as a company in general. Nice review, I'll pick it up still but am now going to be über cautious when reading rules. Thanks for the warnings.
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Bruce Murphy
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Rules can be patchy, but I think queen have done lots of good stuff. Where did sucks as a company come from?

B>
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Don D.
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thepackrat wrote:
Rules can be patchy, but I think queen have done lots of good stuff. Where did sucks as a company come from?

B>


Well I could list a lot of reasons such as gross overproduction, box air, etc...but if I'm being honest with you the real reason I say that is I'm still very bitter about tenno's court.
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Ethidium Bromide
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That is interesting and even more worrying post. This game was first mentioned to appear in Essen 2011 but failed. Queen Games failed to release the game in Essen this year too. This big established company choose to use the Kickstarter for Urbanization and the game is not even ready to be shipped to the backers. And I am one of them. Waiting.
And now this - the poor production design. What is with you QG?

As Bart said I will get back to this post, once I get mine copy of Urbanization. The clarifications of rules should be put as a file next to rules on BGG. Could you summarize them in points and publish here?

Last but not least. Are you sure you've got the rules correctly? ninja
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Bruce Murphy
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Scheer.

TennisTenno's court seemed like an expansion for a game that didn't need one.

B>

edit. stupid autocorrect.
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Don D.
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thepackrat wrote:
Scheer.

Tennis court seemed like an expansion for a game that didn't need one.

B>


Yes, for starters lol.
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David Hailey
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I agree with every single point you made. I was in one of those frustrated groups. I love BGGCon for the 'try before you buy' benefit, and I won't be buying this one (perhaps a 2nd edition).

I was responsible for reading the rules and teaching this one Saturday morning. The Attract Industry action had me baffled until mid-game - the examples finally helped, but there has to be a better way to word that rule and the circled dollar sign is outrageously misleading. I also cannot imagine how proper playtesting would not fix many of the problems you mentioned. The production issues are too numerous to not be caught early in development. A skyscraper falls over and it now looks like a factory? How does this get past anyone?

Calming down a bit, I would also suggest that the use of tall cylinders be avoided by all game publishers. I like the hexagonal prisms of the same size that have found there way into a number of games. Those cylinders have a mind of their own once they get to rolling.

My frustration definitely influenced my impression of the game. I made more than my usual number of mistakes interpreting the rules and am willing to accept much of the blame (I'm certain my fatigue level had something to contribute), but still feel the rulebook and iconography should be better. I don't often feel like giving up on a game half way through. We did finish and most agreed it was a tight, well-designed, if not well-implemented, Euro. However, I don't see myself playing it again.
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Joshua Miller
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dond80 wrote:
Plus queen just kinda sucks as a company in general.

While I wouldn't quite go this far, they do have a history of underdeveloping and overpricing.

They do a nice job when re-packaging games that have already been extensively developed by designers who self publish (all the Dirk Henn games, Peter Prinz's Thebes, the Winsome games) or who have a history of extensive self-development (Vaccarino's Kingdom Builder).
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Johnny Ebsen
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Hi,
I can confirm that the rules interpretations made by Robert are spot on.

UhhhClem wrote:

Why are administration buildings even in the game? They don't occupy building spaces, they don't perform any function, all they do is let you convert money into VPs.


During end game a situation can occur in which a player cannot use the last 1 or 2 actions in any meaningful way, even if he has a bucket full of money. In this case it gives him the opportunity to convert the money into points.

Johnny
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Curt Carpenter
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If the summary here is: "first-time players grossly misplay game at con", or even "rules and/or graphic design is misleading" I would ask, where's the news??? Games like Mage Knight and Trajan, just off the top of my head, had very ambiguous rules in a least one critical place. Games where everything is crystal clear are the exception, not the norm. Sure, it would be great if that weren't the case, and perhaps if I felt strongly enough I'd vote with my wallet, but I don't. I care more about the underlying game design. If it's good I'll buy it, even if it means playing the game three or four times, fixing one rule each play, before finally getting it right (which was the case for both MK and Trajan, and many other great games).
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Robert Rossney
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It seemed clear why administration buildings were in the game. I think a separate "buy victory points" option might have been preferable. The current mechanism involves adding a special case to the building rules, along with adding pieces to the game that literally serve no purpose. Especially if that part of the component budget could then have been spent making factories and skyscrapers look different.

I think the examples of Mage Knight and Trajan are inapposite. One is a vastly complex game, the other is from a first-time publisher. There's no excuse for a major game publisher to put out a straightforward economic game with problems like this.

Yes, they're fixable, and if you know to fix them the result is an excellent game. But we can and should hold Queen Games's feet to the fire over these issues.
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Curt Carpenter
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UhhhClem wrote:
But I think Queen really needs to get their act together.

Well, they still have a lot of goodwill in the bank from me for Lancaster.

UhhhClem wrote:
There's no excuse for releasing a $50 game with this many easily-fixed issues.

Maybe due to time pressure to satisfy Kickstarter supporters? I did at least vote with my wallet that way, and wait to buy it at retail, rather than support it via Kickstarter.
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Robert Rossney
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Sorry, I edited my post to make it a bit clearer while you were replying to it, so now you're quoting things that no longer exist. I too wonder if Kickstarter played a part here.
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james napoli
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i played this game at the con, didnt enjoy it.

"In two separate games, one I played and one I observed, the groups who taught themselves to play Urbanization from the rules got the "attract industry" rule catastrophically wrong. "

I read through your review, and i must say i'm still confused at exactly how this rule works? How does one attract industry?

we played it that after x spaces were filled, the next player would be able to 'take-it', i think with an action.

i wasn't really mad at the game per se, but there were a lot of cards with a lot of text, and sort through the options to play optimal verse trying to not be an AP player likely hindered my experience.
If this game came out 5 years ago, and i played with a group who played it many times, there might be a decent game in there.
For me, in the huge landscape of gaming options, this one i believe to be a pass.

-
James
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Robert Rossney
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How industries work:

The first industries in the game have three action spaces on them. The first one gets you a cube. The second one gets you a cube and a dollar. The third one gets you the industry.

The game you played wasn't Urbanization. It was a different, vastly inferior game played with the same components.
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David Siskin
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dhailey wrote:
I would also suggest that the use of tall cylinders be avoided by all game publishers. I like the hexagonal prisms of the same size that have found there way into a number of games. Those cylinders have a mind of their own once they get to rolling.


Amen to that, brother!
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Bruce Murphy
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Better than Vino, though.

B>
 
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Ethidium Bromide
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sorry for off-topic
thepackrat wrote:
Better than Vino, though.

B>


I don't get it. What is the matter?
cheers
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Bruce Murphy
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Play Vino. Tell me if you still think cylinders are so bad.

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Robert Rossney
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I've never once had a problem with the markers in Vino falling over.
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Bruce Murphy
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UhhhClem wrote:
I've never once had a problem with the markers in Vino falling over.


Technically true. I've spent a lot of time chasing them though.

B>
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Jeff Wood
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Well, sounds like my label maker is going to get some work once my copy arrives. A few 'addons' to the cards and board would seem to make the first experience much more explainable and enjoyable from what I hear here.
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Matthew Mesina
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One thing to help, the buildings fit along with the cubes in the work order and grain field and return area spaces, so you can store them on the board with the numbered space that corresponds to their cost. You can put the factories on the grain return or the upper corner of the board, for ease of discernment vs. skyscrapers.

As soon as I read the rules I wondered why the buildings weren't given a space in the upper corner of the board, replete with price lists, or among the overly large cube storage areas.

I don't think there is really an issue with what specific action each of the character cards are associated with. Once you explain to players that there are 9 characters that correspond to the nine actions, it is easy to remember when they are used in relation to their description/name. That said, Queen should have probably just printed the info on the cards for ease of use.

I will say that I gave a careful reading of the rules and I had none of the issues your group did. You absolutely must take the time to read the first two pages, which illustrate what each term in the game (such as "the field") refers to, as well as to look closely at the diagram examples. It is often times difficult to learn a game on the spot with a group of people present.
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