Originally posted at http://gameswithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/10/save-our-city-urban...
My search for that perfect city building game continues. I don't know what fascinates me about this theme, but the idea of city building has always intrigued me to the point that I'll be driving through town and try to picture what a city could look like. I'll wonder what a few bulldozers, wrecking balls, and cranes could do to revitalize a failing area. What would happen if people were fighting to build and live in an area that is all but forgotten by the mayor and city council. As I ponder these things from time to time, I also search for a game that builds a city from scratch or rebuilds a city. So, my search has brought us to a new game from Mayfair, Urbania.
Summary of Game Play
Urbania is a 2-5 player set-collection, hand-management, and action-phase game that plays in 45-60 minutes. The games is designed by Simone Luciani and is published by Mayfair Games. The basic premise of the game is that a city has fallen into disrepair. There are 45 buildings that need to be fixed, and it is your job to hire project managers and construction crews to rebuild these condemned buildings. Once an area of the city has almost been completely repaired or the project managers become too pricey to hire, the end game is triggered. A final round is played and then players calculate who scored the most points. The game play is very simple. On your turn, you will do 2 actions. There are four available actions to choose from. You can pick up 2 cards. These are either cards to build buildings and hire project managers or you can pick up project cards that can score you points at the end of the game. The second thing you is build a building. You can select any building that is adjacent to an already built building and pay the construction cost. Once the building is built, you score victory points and have possibility of drawing a card based on what is on the building tile. The third action is hiring a project manager. There is one of these for each building type. They will score you points at the end of each turn based on how many buildings have been built in their area of expertise. Finally, you can select a project from your hand to play. You can play a total of three of these throughout the game. These will score you points at the end of the game based on what's on the tile. These range from points for different project managers, the number of buildings that was built of a certain type, the number of building built in a certain sector of the board, and straight up victory points. When the end game is triggered, you make sure that each player has an equal number of turns and then you begin the end game scoring and see who wins.
Oh, Components! Why do you bring this game down? Yes, they are that bad. The wooden pieces, board, cards, and tiles are all good quality. The problem is with the graphic design and color schemes. They are just awful. You could hardly tell the buildings apart. Once they were built, it was difficult to tell the finished and unfinished buildings. The game says to flip these tile over and leave them on the board, but I have heard it suggested to just remove them--this made it much easier. The colors on the cards also didn't always match the colors in the game, and the use of tan, grey, and brown just made the game feel dull. I really think that spending some more time on the graphic design would have done this game some favors. Artwork in games is supposed to enhance the experience, this stuff really detracts from it, which is disappointing. The price is point on this is great at $35. I am glad to see Mayfair trying to hit this range for most of their new games, however, it is not without a cost. These games seem to be less polished and in need of some minor tweaks that would make them a better game experience.
Urbania has some good mechanics. The project manager cards that are constantly switching hands makes for some intense play. We were handing the hospital specialist back and forth the entire game. The card-drawing mechanic reminds me very much of Ticket to Ride and the fact that you use them to build buildings is similar to building track in TtR. There are a lot of interesting decisions to be made in Urbania and lots of different ways to score points. The Eurogamers are going to have fun with this one, but I really didn't. The game fell flat for us, and there were several reasons for this. First, the components made it difficult to enjoy. Second, the lack of theme was very disappointing. I was hoping to for a true city-building feel, but this one just didn't have it. Third, the game ended suddenly and unexpectedly. Mrs. Games with Two was playing her turn and I realized that I had triggered the end game an entire round before I realized it. This anti-climatic ending made me feel like there really wasn't much of a narrative arc to the game; it just ends and that's it. There maybe more of an arc with more people, but with two it just wasn't there.
How is it with Two?
With just the two of us the game really fell on it's face. I think it would be a better game with 3 or 4 players. There would much more player interaction and players going for different things. Our problem was that we both thought we had the same project card (Mrs. Games with Two mis-interpreted the poorly designed project card) and thus we both cleared one area fairly quickly and brought a swift end to the game. With more players I think you would really get the feel on fighting for project and specialist and getting the contract another player was vying for. I believe player interaction helps drive this game, and with two it just isn't there.
Well, the search continues for a city building game that makes me feel like I am playing Sim City in board game form. Hopefully, we will see it soon. Until then, if you are wanting a Euro-style game that has a pasted on city theme and terrible graphic art, Urbania is waiting for you, and you can see if you have what it takes to save the city from destruction.
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