Suburbia is a recent Essen release from Ted Alspach, a designer perhaps best known for designing and publishing a vast multitude of Age of Steam expansions.
Like Age of Steam, Suburbia involves cardboard hexagons, a track for income, wooden pieces and is a game that is good.
Anyway... In Suburbia everyone is in control of a borough of one City, and the aim of the game is to make your borough the best in the City, with best defined as being the most populous. To make your borough the most populous you need to place building tiles which improve the reputation of your borough, so people will flock to it. However in order to afford tiles which will improve your reputation, you’ll need some industry or commercial tiles which will generate income but sometimes come at the expense of reputation e.g. no one wants a landfill site next door.
The gameplay itself is relatively simple, take a tile, and place it adjacent to your existing tiles. This may generate a one-off windfall in income or population, and may then affect your income or reputation.
What’s quite nice about the game is that the tiles you place can not only affect the tiles you have in your borough but may affect everyone else’s borough. For example If I build a Freeway next to a residential tile, and next to a Commercial tile, it will damage my reputation for being next to houses, but increase my income for being next to Commercial buildings. And if I build a farm, every time someone (including me) builds a restaurant – my income rises. Or if I build a Hotel, every time someone except me builds a residential area it improves my income.
So improving your income generates cash, which you can then spend on tiles which will add population either through one-offs or by improving your reputation. Layed on top of this are goals. If you achieve a goal, and no-one else does you’ll gain a population bonus. Each person has a secret goal, plus there is one known goal per player in the game.
So how does the game measure up on things that really matter?
The game almost never feels like it's playing itself, there's plenty of interesting decisions to make throughout the game, without ever being so overwhelming as to cause AP. The game is easy to teach, all the complexity comes in how the available tiles can affect your borough and other players.
but only just. This is a personal thing, but I actually want there to be interaction between players. A board game with no interaction feels pointless to me, we might as well just all play a mobile game on our phones and then compare scores afterwards. Anyway regarding interaction between players, it's not up there with a stock-holding train game, conquest game etc but there's certainly more than your average worker placement game which is limited purely to occasionally denying other players actions. Certain choices won't matter a great deal to the other players, other than denying them the opportunity to purchase a tile but many tiles within the game affect everybody else, and there are some interesting temporary alliance situations.
A thumbs up without a doubt. First of all you will only be using just over half the available tiles each time, add the timing at which they come out, you will have a decent amount of variability. However it's goals that ensure that each game feels different. You'll only use a fraction of those available each game, and they really change how the game is played as they offer enough of a bonus to ensure they can't be completely ignored.
The quoted time of 90 mins is pretty close to the mark. With all the different tiles out there's a lot going on, but the system is coherent enough to ensure that the game flows smoothly with limited downtime. A few wrong choices in game design could've bogged it down in bookmaking, but thankfully this is avoided. It can be a bit of a brain burner at times, but this brain-burning time can be spent when it's not your turn so AP hasn't been an issue in our games so far.
Again theme is largely a personal choice, some like the theme of operating power companies, some prefer smacking a goblin in the face with a hammer. What is not so wildly subjective is whether the theme and the game gel together; game mechanics that clash with the theme are incredibly annoying and can be game breaking for me. Whilst this is nowhere near a simulation, the game mechanics gel nicely with the game and the tiles themselves and the effects they have are very thematic.
Easy to teach, lots of replayability, and plenty of interesting choices to make; for me it's a win. Whether I'd recommend it for you depends on how much interaction you want in a game. For me, although I would've preferred more there's just enough to ensure that it sits on the right side of the line.
I've heard a rumour that my copy is arriving at my game store today. After reading your review, I really hope it's true, as I'm looking forward to getting this one to the table...
Thanks for the review!
I agree with you completely. I had the opportunity to play this at BGG.CON and had a blast. We played a 4 player game and with all of us being first time players it took just shy of 120 mins. Overall the game was a lot of fun and very easy to learn. I enjoyed it so much I ordered it as soon as I got back in town. This is a great game for both board game veterans as well as introducing new people to board gaming.
Absolutely love this game and your review is spot on! Bought it in Essen and played it a fair amount of time since with various number of players and it just plays so well. A little gem.