PIN International has been releasing a series of wooden games, mostly abstract in nature. The games are being distributed by Out of the Box, apparently giving them a wider audience. Normally, I would not be a member of that audience, as I’ve never really been a connoisseur of such games. While I’ve always appreciated the tactics and skills required to play them, I’ve generally found them to be rather dull and a bit too confining.
Well, I must say that the PIN line seems refreshingly different. There are over a dozen games in the line, and I’ve played a half-dozen or so. Most seem to be original designs, with one or two being remakes of earlier titles. Of those I’ve played, City Scape is one of the most lavishly produced, and perhaps the most novel.
Players will take turns placing hunky wooden blocks onto a 4 x 4 grid, attempting to stack the blocks so that their four secret goals are met. There are 25 blocks in total, five each of five different sizes, and they stack evenly and solidly, allowing for tall skyscrapers to be formed without toppling.
Each player receives four diminutive dice and a holder sporting the name of a famous city. Players will secretly insert these dice into the holder, aligning each die with one of the columns on the board. The number atop each die represents the target or goal the player is attempting to accomplish for the corresponding column:
• If the player has placed a 1, 2, 3 or 4 on top of a die, then he will attempt to arrange pieces in the corresponding column so that, respectively, 1, 2, 3 or 4 buildings are visible from his perspective.
• If a “5” is face-up on the die, then the player is attempting to get at least two buildings of the same height in the corresponding column.
• If a “6” is placed face-up, then the player is attempting to have the tallest building on the board in the corresponding column.
The challenge is to place blocks in such a fashion so as your objectives are met. Each player views the board from where he is seated, with the actual line-of-sight being from the tabletop. Thus, a taller building will obscure a smaller or equal-sized building located behind it. Of course, when attempting to place blocks so satisfy your goals, you could be helping opponents meet theirs. More often than not, however, your placements tend to impede the objectives of your opponents, much to their consternation.
While there is a certain thrill in attempting to meet your goals, in reality, one really doesn’t have a huge degree of control, particularly when playing with four players. Not only are each player’s goals likely to be different, but even when their dice match yours, their seating and board perspective will likely cause any matching objectives to be in different rows. So, for every block you get to place, there will be multiple blocks placed over which you have no control. Usually, you have to eventually choose two or perhaps three rows on which to concentrate. Very rarely someone will score all four rows, but that is inevitably largely a fluke.
Since there are 25 blocks to place, one or more players will have less blocks to place than their opponents. The game addresses this unbalance by suggesting the game be played over the course of a number of rounds equal to the number of players. That’s fine, but when playing with a full complement of players, four rounds just seems a bit too many.
At the end of each round, points are tallied for each row wherein a player has met his objective:
‘1” = 10 points
“2” = 20 points
“3” = 30 points
“4” = 40 points
“5” = 10 points for each building of equal height
“6” = 25 points for having the largest building in this row
Since it is more difficult to have three or four buildings visible in a row, greater points are awarded for achieving such a task. So, players must decide whether they wish to play conservatively and attempt to achieve one or two buildings visible, or “go for the gusto” and try to meet more lofty goals.
The reality hits you after a round or two that there really isn’t much control here. Still, strangely and perhaps inexplicably, I still find the game fun to play. There is a certain sense of achievement when goals are met, even though you know that it was mainly accomplished via sheer luck. That really should bother me … and it usually does. But for some reason, I still find myself enjoying this game.
Gail, Jim, Jared and I vied to construct the skyscrapers and meet our objectives, knowing that we would likely not play four full rounds as we were expecting the arrival of Ray at any moment. Sure enough, Ray arrived midway through our first round, so we opted to cease play after its completion. Jim and I both scored a “3” row and 25 points for the tallest building.
Finals: Jim 55, Greg 55, Gail 50, Jared 50