30 Sep 2013

First Time Playing: "La Città" & "Quicksand"

Aside from my (near) weekly attendance at my table top group (whenever my work schedule doesn't prevent me), I will from time to time attend separate game nights with friends. Usually I don't get introduced to new games this way (because it tends to be at my place with my games), but this time I did. Two games, in fact. They have virtually nothing in common, but I've chosen to combine my two first time experiences into one post simply because it's convenient. If it's something I will continue with in the future remains to be seen.

So, let's start with the first game that hit the table (after we had played the one that I brought with me), which was La Città. The game is about building and expanding cities on a map that is built up a little differently each game. Part of the game felt familiar to me, like the aspect of playing cards to build buildings, earning money and food from building certain things. Part of the game did not feel that familiar, like how you could not stock up on food, so if you overproduced one round, the excess did not go over to the next one. Also, I'm mostly used to there being some kind of scoring or scoring indicator throughout the game (especially if you fail at something), but in this game all scoring happened at the very end.

When you build a city, you have a certain number of inhabitants per city. To keep your inhabitants alive you need to make sure your combined cities can provide enough food to feed them each round (if you don't, not only will the amount of inhabitants that you cannot feed die, you also have to spend part of your next turn making amends).

The people also have certain demands that you need to meet, expressed through four polling cards containing one of three colours. Only one of those cards is visible and merely acts as an indicator of what the people might demand at the end of the turn (if a specific action card is available, you may be allowed to peek at some of the hidden cards to see what colours they are). If at the end of the turn your city have more buildings with that specific colour than a neighbour (a city one or two spaces away from your own), one of their inhabitants move into your city (if they don't have a surplus of inhabitants it might result in them losing a building). If there's a tie between the colours of the cards, you choose which colour counts for your cities (in terms of you stealing inhabitant, not in terms of whether you lose one). In order to be able to steal an inhabitant, there must be room in your city for them (you need specific buildings in order to increase your population beyond a certain amount - market square to go over 5, a water building to go over 8).

In each game round, players will get five actions (one at a time), where they may choose between cards available on the board, or one of their own cards (which can each be played once per round). They can build a building (buildings cannot be empty, so they need to have an inhabitant in the city to put on it), some of which needs to be adjacent to certain sources (farms have to be next to fields, quarries have to be next to mountains, water buildings need to be next to a water source). They can add population to one of their cities, they can (as previously mentioned) sneak a peak at the polling cards, they can double the production of a specific farm or they can increase the importance of a building. They can also can earn money or found another city on the board.

After six rounds of playing, you have a final shift in population, a final feeding, where you have to depend on the regular production of your farms, instead of short-cuts made available by cards. And then you score points based on how many people live in your cities in total (if you cannot feed them all in the final phase you are deducted five points), and how many cities you have which contains buildings of all three colours (three points each).

So, how newcomer friendly is this game? Well, I've played both simpler and more complex games than this one, so I would rank it somewhere in the middle. You have a lot of different buildings, but the game doesn't really separate between them all too much, and for the most part you just need to pay attention to the three types; buildings that produce something (farms and quarries, which give you food and money), buildings that allow population expansion (market place, and fountain/bath house), and buildings that determine the influence you will have on inhabitants in neighbouring cities (basically you just need to pay attention to how many white, blue, and/or black symbols are on the buildings).

Tracking your food production and your population is a pain in the ass, to be frank. You have some tokens that you can use to represent your food production, but you need to count the little figurines on the board to keep track on the population (for feeding purposes). The cards are symbol and not language based, which can be both a good thing and a bad. Because some of the cards look somewhat alike, but do different things (like one card adds an inhabitant to your city, while another just temporary allow you to place a similarly looking token on a building to increase its influence or production).

It's not a game I'd recommend as a first game for someone. I think if you want to try out a strategy game, Kingdom Builder is probably the very easiest to get into. The way you need to place your pieces a certain way to score the most points in Kingdom Builder is somewhat similar to the strategy you need to place your cities and buildings to optimize your production (of food especially, but money helps as well). The two key things to keep on top of this game is balancing out your income and outcome (enough food for your inhabitants and enough money to expand your cities), and stay on top of your cities' influence (how many arcs of specific colours are on the buildings within the cities) to maximise population growth (the more additional inhabitants you get, the more buildings you will be able to add in coming rounds).

Did I personally enjoy this game? To a certain degree. I might play it again if the opportunity presents itself, but I doubt it'll wind up in my own personal collection.

This game is most definitely a quick filler type game, but we need those just as much as we need the longer, more immersive games. The whole game is about getting your player token through the jungle before the other players. The kicker is that regardless how many are playing this game, there will be six tokens on the boards, and any player can play cards to affect any token. No one knows which player is which token, so there's a lot of trickery involved.

Firstly, you can only play cards of one specific colour each turn (there are wild cards that counts as any colour you want) or you can play as many quicksand cards as you want. If a piece is blocked and not enough cards are played to move it past whatever is blocking it, it stays in the same spot. If a piece is moved to a colour space that matches the piece, the player may discard one of their cards. The same thing happens if the piece is moved to a wildcard space.

When quicksand cards are played, the player choose the same amount of player pieces as there were quicksand cards to turn upside-down (the same is done to a player piece if it lands on a quicksand space). To turn the piece back up, a player needs to play a card of that colour. To move a piece turned upside-down, a player needs to play one card to turn the piece right-side-up and then any number of cards of the same colour to move.

Players must always have six cards on their hand, so they need to draw the same amount of cards as they play. Whichever player gets their piece over the finish line first wins the game. Players then reveal which colours were theirs.

It's a quick, fun and easy filler game which involves a little bit of strategy and a little bit of trickery. It's quick to learn and is very newcomer friendly.

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