Chief EGG Head(lorna)United States
The second game on my hot list was Town Center. I have enjoyed and admired the maps that Alban Viard has done for Age of Steam and was quite curious to see what he had designed in a stand alone game.
Town Center is currently only available in a small home-made print run from Alban. It'd be cool to see a nice production but the current is perfectly functional and it's quite small in size as well.
Town center is playable by 1-4 players. The game involves drafting buildings and placing them in your city to maximize points. The rules seemed easy enough intellectually but conceptually it took me a few rounds for them to click.
Each player has there own board or town a 3 x 3 grid with 4 "suburbs" along the edges. You start with a City Hall (purple cube) and $3. The active player draws # of cubes = 2 x the # of players and makes stacks of 2 cubes. The active player then drafts the first cube and the draft proceeds in order Settlers style so the first player gets first and last cube.
The available buildings are Parking lots/Elevators (black), Power Plants (yellow), Shops (blue), Apartments (green) and Offices (red).
After drafting you construct the buildings just acquired. A single black cube is a parking lot and earns income. Stacked black cubes require power and form elevators. The height of buildings is limited by the height of a powered elevator in your town. Power Plants power orthogonally adjacent buildings. Shops earn income during the game. Apartments are worth points at the end of the game. Offices cost $5 to build and help with development. Here is a Town in progress in a solo game.
Then, depending on the building type and its adjacent buildings development automatically happens. You cannot construct Shops next to Shops or Apartments next to Apartments but they can develop into larger buildings that are worth more.
The slightly confusing part at least to me is considering the third dimension (height) in thinking about adjacency. This is also the fun part of the game in trying to work out the puzzle in maximizing your building acquisitions.
The games ends when all cubes have been drafted. You earn 1 VP per $5. Powered Apartments earn VP for the number of cubes in the apartment and the height of the apartment. You lose 1 VP per cube in the suburbs. The player with the most VP wins.
A finished Town
Town Center has a fitting theme but the play and production and gives it a somewhat abstract feel. I happen to like abstracts, but this may be off putting to some. It also has a bit of multiplayer solitaire although the drafting is quite interesting. It is puzzle like in maximizing VP but again I like that part of the game. Not a game for everyone but I think some people will really enjoy it. I am certainly looking forward to more plays.
We also had the fun of playing on Alban's new Age of Steam Expansion: Tibet and Cyprus. We chose to use the Tibet side because getting to use Sherpa is just cool. The Tibet map plays very tightly with 4 and several of the cities are bordered by the Himalayas. This means you must use Sherpas to move goods over the mountains. One Sherpa per one good. The Production actions is replaced by getting a single use Sherpa in the auction phase. I had fun with the map even though I came in a distant 3rd. Here was the final map