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Subject: Town Center- a hidden gem that needs a bigger audience rss

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Don D.
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This is the latest in my series of reviews of games from myEssen bought games list. While this was one of the very first games I got in from that list, I am just now getting around to writing the review on it. I have played it about a half dozen times in the past two months.

General conclusion:

Town Center is a fantastic game and a smash hit for me and most of my group. It needs a wider audience.

General rules overview:

I won't get too in depth here as the rules are easy to read and readily available. But essentially the game last ten turns. On each turn, the start player will randomly draw (2x the number of players) buildings (Legos) from a bag, then separate them into two piles each of which players will draft from. Then, each player will place each of the newly acquired buildings, adhering to zoning rules and possibly paying money for the building if it is a specific type. After that, some players' cities may develop and expand based on what size of certain types of buildings they have relative to the number of other specific types of buildings are adjacent (commercial buildings will develop when next to more different residence buildings than it has in it's own size and residential buildings will develop similarly based on the size of the residential building compared against the number of different adjacent community buildings . A major twist in this game is that the game uses all three dimensions, so adjacency covers the x y and Z axis. Players then collect income for their commercial buildings using a scale that accounts for both SIZE of a building AND HEIGHT of a building. At the end of the game, VPs are awarded for residential buildings using the same scale that income was awarded for commercial buildings. Money on hand is then converted into VPs at a rate of 5:1.

What the flaws in this game are:

Whether my review is positive or negative, I always try and include objective assessments of both strengths and weaknesses of the game. I try and get at least three of each. That will be difficult here.

thumbsdown The first edition using cubes is a practical disaster. The second edition using legos solves everything practically wrong with the first edition plus its super cool that it uses legos. However...

thumbsdown Only 100 second edition copies were made.

thumbsdown Umm. The box is cheap?


What is good about this game:

thumbsup The use of the third dimension is stupendous. So few games actually use the third dimension well. Many games use the third dimension in a superfluous manner, but few include mechanics that make the 3rd dimension truly involved in the game play. Java and Torres both come to mind as among the top spatial games that use the third dimension- both are among my favorite games, and Town Center easily joins the club.

thumbsup The "I split, we draft" mechanic of selecting buildings is so interesting in this game. It is a game within a game and really creates some very tough choices for the start player to make. Very few turns does the splitting up of the buildings seem obvious or easy for the start player.

thumbsup The game pulls between money and VP. You can try and do both, but you most likely won't be able to do both well. The game allows for a winnable strategy of going mostly for money and also allows for a winnable strategy of going mostly residential and shooting for the big end game VPs that brings.

thumbsup The way income and VPs are calculated is absolutely fascinating. The focus on both size and height really adds an extra layer of depth to this spatial game that other games typically lack. Maximizing yourself isn't an easy or obvious choice based solely on size and sticking things together, working the puzzle to account for how tall you can get a particular building is usually a very difficult task.

thumbsup While this is mostly an abstract game, the mechanics do make sense within the context of the theme. It makes sense that a sudden growth of homes in an area of the city would attract more businesses. It makes sense that buildings are valued not just based on their size but also their height- we all know high floors and great views sell. It makes sense that you can't create high rises in the suburbs portion of your city board.

thumbsup The elevator mechanic is brilliant. I didn't mention this in my rules overview, but a substantially limiting zoning rule in the game is that no non-elevator building in the city can be taller than your highest "elevator" shaft building. This is a bit of a stretch theme wise, but like I said this is mostly an abstract game. Forgetting theme, this mechanic is terrific. It adds yet another layer of strategy and analysis to the game and creates one more issue that is critical for players to manage.

thumbsup The power generator mechanic is similarly fantastic. Yet another limiting factor that the game forces players to manage is the need for power. One of the building types in the game is a power generator. You are free to build anything without it being powered, but buildings that are not adjacent to a power generator don't operate. If its an unpowered elevator, it doesn't raise your height limit, if it's an unpowered commercial building, you make no money from it, if it's unpowered residential, you'll get no VPs.

thumbsup Yet ANOTHER fascinating limiting factor the game places on players is the prohibition on non "natural development" growth. You can never add building pieces to existing commercial or residential buildings during the placement phase. The ONLY way you can grow them is through the development phase. This really places a premium on clever placement and maximizing efficiency with the spatial puzzle. Those who do this well will win and win big over those unable to arrange their buildings in a way that spawns growth.

thumbsup All of the above paints the picture of an incredibly deep, fairly difficult game. You would think then that the rules are complex. They aren't at all. The rules are two short pages and can be read and taught in 5-10 minutes max. The development phase can be a little tricky at first, but it is fairly simple once understood and shouldn't be difficult for players to wrap their heads around quickly. I am always paying attention to the depth:complexity ratio in games and heavily favor games that have a positive ratio there. When a game gets bogged down in tons of mechanics and various moving parts, then I find out that it doesn't seem to have much depth to it, I tend to not like it too much. Town Center is the opposite of that problem.

Final Thoughts:

Town Center is a really, really strong game. Terrific and fantastic come to mind. It is truly a shame that so few people have had the opportunity to play it. Luckily, it appears as though there will soon be aThird Edition made, though it seems as though it too will unfortunately have a limited run. This game deserves mass production- it is a no-brainer in my opinion. It is not going to be for everyone as not everyone likes games that are semi-abstract, but it is sure to be enjoyed by a significant number of people. I will say this, I have played this game with about 6 different people locally, and all but one immediately signed up for the pre order of the upcoming 3rd edition. One member of the group loved it so much, he handmade his own copy - WITH the designer's permission and after pre ordering a 3rd edition of course- just because he couldn't stand to wait a few months to get his hands on the game.

This game is easy to learn, easy to teach, but incredibly tough to play well. It is a brain burner and I love brain burners of this type. It is not just any run of the mill brain burner either, the decisions it requires you to make are truly unique and not found in many or any other games. That combination- brain burner and unique- is a formidable one in my book. It is, therefore, easy to put my stamp of approval on it. It will surely be in my top 10 games of the year, possibly even top 5.

My rating:

BGG rating: 9



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S. R.
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Fantastic review! Thank you!
And I am with you about 95%!

So just a few short infos that are not meant as criticism...

First Edition had 80 copies, second edition had 100 copies, and a third edition is already in the making. And as far as I know, a bigger print run is already debated. As it should be, because (as you rightly claim) this one deserves a wider audience!

As to the components and the boxes - well, these are games made by an individual, without a publisher, and without being a publisher. All are handmade by him, at home. The first edition did not really come with a box at all, only the postal package box...

Legos and cubes - well, I don't think that the first edition is such a desaster, as the cubes are big enough to not be that wobbly. Granted, they are a bit fiddly, and if you shake the table a bit too hard, the whole game crashes (literally). However, in an official publication Lego pieces will quite likely NOT appear, as this is, of course, a problem of marketing rights, and cost effectivity. Just saying...

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Gerald Squelart
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dond80 wrote:
the game uses all three dimensions, so adjacency covers both the x AND y axis.
AND z axis!

I got the first edition, a bit fiddly but still a good game. Thanks for the review and getting the word out there!
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Don D.
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gerald wrote:
dond80 wrote:
the game uses all three dimensions, so adjacency covers both the x AND y axis.
AND z axis!

I got the first edition, a bit fiddly but still a good game. Thanks for the review and getting the word out there!


Thanks for catching that, I had to go back and edit!
 
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Sam
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dond80 wrote:
This game is easy to learn, easy to teach

Really? I found it easy to learn, but some people around here had great difficulty in grasping adjacency and the rules for expansion. I didn't think I was that terrible a teacher... cry

Great game though, I love it too and am eagerly awaiting Small City!
 
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Bruce Murphy
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Small city post slow for you too, eh?
 
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Don D.
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srand wrote:
dond80 wrote:
This game is easy to learn, easy to teach

Really? I found it easy to learn, but some people around here had great difficulty in grasping adjacency and the rules for expansion. I didn't think I was that terrible a teacher... cry

Great game though, I love it too and am eagerly awaiting Small City!


Those are the two toughest parts of the game to grasp. I usually pull out some bricks and show examples while explaining.
 
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AlbaN ViarD
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Thanks Don for this review !
A third professional edition is actually debating.

We have all the prices except the price for the stickers : I would like to add some options for the roofs of the buildings at the end of the game for those that can be seen by a plane...

I am writing the backers levels for the crowdfunding project.
One bad thing is I do not have any account in the US to use Kickstartr so actually the project will be on Ulule only.

We try to evaluate the weight of the game very well to de tease the shipping costs since there will be 124 wooden cubes in 16mm. The box size should be 25cmx25cmx4cm with 4 big personal boards of the same size of the box!

As soon as we will have an US distributor for the first game Card City, I am sure that the same distributor will stock TC as well...


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d b
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dond80 wrote:

thumbsup The elevator mechanic is brilliant. I didn't mention this in my rules overview, but a substantially limiting zoning rule in the game is that no non-elevator building in the city can be taller than your highest "elevator" shaft building. This is a bit of a stretch theme wise, but like I said this is mostly an abstract game. Forgetting theme, this mechanic is terrific. It adds yet another layer of strategy and analysis to the game and creates one more issue that is critical for players to manage.


The elevator should be a crane. It makes more thematic sense. You can only build as tall as your crane can build the buildings.

Fun game. I enjoy it. I've got a lego version including the base(road) that allows me to play upside down if I like.
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john newman
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Tbe game sounds very interesting. Will there be a third edition or another printing of it anytime soon?
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LudiCreations
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johnpnewman wrote:
Tbe game sounds very interesting. Will there be a third edition or another printing of it anytime soon?


Yes, a fourth edition actually (1st was the mini-cubes, 2nd the legos and 3rd the 16mm cubes square box one). Official announcement to come soon, and Kickstarter campaign launch will be communicated to our newsletter subscribers first.
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