3 Chits, 3 Giggles
"Madam, we're delighted to tell you that you've got the position. You'll be the new Mayor of Gigglesville."
"That's excellent news! Please, book me a car there right away, I want to see my new empire, from which I shall bring forth a new era of prosperity, wisdom and happiness."
"You are here. This is Gigglesville."
"What? But there's nothing here! This place is empty, there's not even a Sainsbury's Local around."
"Yeah, why do you think you got the job? You haven't got any relevant experience, you're practically a beginner. Besides, you only brought four architects with you. You're building a city, not a model village!"
That in a nutshell is Quadropolis, the newest game by popular publisher Days Of Wonder; not a company that I have often heard referred to as a 'game a year' type operation, merely one that produces a lot of quality games on a semi regular basis. And when I say quality, I mostly mean it in the literal sense. Components in their games set a high standard for others to follow, with an emphasis on durability and beauty, surely the two most important attributes when it comes to board game pieces.
So what is this game 'Quadropolis'? It sounds like some sort of Monopoly type off shoot, making me think of that hilarious Simpsons sketch ("Edna Krabappoly"), but of course it isn't anything of the sort. It does share the city building element, with you starting your own property empire from the ground up, but that's about where the similarities end. Here, you play the Mayor and you are tasked with constructing multiple types of buildings represented by tiles in order to draw inhabitants into your city and generate power, while utilising both of these resources effectively in order to score the most points possible. Once constructed, buildings generate resources, and often require one of the two to be activated which is how it is able to score at the end of the game.
I will say this; if you like Days Of Wonder games, you will do well with this one. It is inarguably an entry level game, much like their most popular title Ticket To Ride, but with strategic elements that will satisfy fans of Small World and Five Tribes i.e you can make smart decisions and future plans to maximise your score. The style is something to admire and very familiar, with bold cartoonish artwork and some of the most fun meeples I've ever seen in a box. There are also two larger tokens included which represent who is the first player and something called the 'Urbanist' who can block your opponents, and both of them are chunky and charmingly opaque.
Lets' get back to the mechanics though. Each round (there are four rounds in the game, with four turns each and four 'stages' in each turn, making the name QUADropolis most apt) you will populate the construction site, a grid like board in the centre of the play area, with that round's buildings. After shuffling, placing, then revealing these buildings, you will take turns placing one of your four architects next to the grid to select one of the buildings. Not to get too complicated, but this really is the crux of the game. Utilising the architects well and planning ahead is essentially half the strategy, and not being able to pick a building later in the round, let alone the one you wanted, can really damage your final scores. The urbanist adds further frustration as it moves around the construction site blocking other players from certain spots, but ultimately this never really impacts the game as much as it should do.
The other half of the strategy can best be described by the following popular phrase; location, location, location. You each have your own board that represents your city, with four rows, four columns and four districts. In a clever twist, the architect you use to pick the building affects where you can build it, which can sometimes leave you with a tricky choice, but in my experience this also never amounts to much if you've been paying attention throughout the game. There's almost always a way around your predicament, and there are enough choices on the table for everybody in all player numbers to do something useful on their turn. In theory it feels like you perhaps shouldn't have so much choice yet you often do. Would I enjoy this game less so if it was more difficult in this situation? I'm not sure. I don't think it's a big deal.
It's fun. That is what everybody I've played with seems to agree on. The combination of simple rules with very little aggression is a combination that will appease most and annoy few. And for those who miss the player vs player interaction, there is Expert mode. This involves making all architects neutral, so instead of having your own you take one at a time from a shared pool, and there are also five architects per player. Additionally, the city board you build on is now different, with five districts and the numbers being jiggled around a bit. It's more mean spirited than the Classic mode, which is why I wouldn't necessarily play it with some of my less experienced gaming friends, but it's a nice inclusion and widens the game's appeal.
Of course, everybody is raving about this game, and for good reason. I find it easy to suggest you add this one to your collection, as right now I don't feel like there are any similar games out there, all aspects considered. However, this only applies if you're a casual gamer. I'm still torn about whether to recommend it for those of you used to more in depth experiences, as a loss in Quadropolis often feels like you played poorly as opposed to outwitting your opponents. It's still fun, but whether that fun maintains over repeated plays? Who knows!
"Well congratulations Mayor, you did it. You built a great city."
"Thank you. It was all team work at the end of the day. It's a shame that the tower block had to be yanked out there at the last minute though. They were good people."
"What matters is that you beat that other city by scoring more points. They really were poor decision makers."
"I suppose that's why they called it Chittyville!"
"Um, Mayor, that's not how you pronounce that..."
Review by Russell Chapman