10 Mar 2014

First Time Playing: Suburbia

This is a game where each player work to build a city. You construct buildings of different types trying to balance out population growth and income in order to stay afloat. Suburbia was described to me as the board game version of Sim City, which I found to be a very fitting description. The main goal is to construct the city which ends up with the largest population, but in order to get population you need to stay on top of both population and income growth as they will decrease as your city expands.

There are four different building types; green (residential), yellow (industrial), blue (commercial) and grey (civic). These buildings tend to have two different effects, a primary effect from the building itself, and then one depending on what else is on the board (this can be restricted to neighbouring buildings, to buildings you personally own or any building any player has). These effects can either be positive or negative, like a parking lot will increase income for every tile of commercial or civic category placed next to it - likewise a landfill will decrease population growth for any building placed next to it.

Every player start out with a small town consisting of a residential tile, a industrial tile and a civic tile. In addition to that the player gets the choice between two possible hidden achievements (which can be anything from owning more buildings of a specific type, having the most or least money, and so forth). There are also some open game achievements that any player may win. All of these will give the player a population bonus at the end of the game and possibly push them past another player for the top spot.

During a turn, the player has a choice of buildings to purchase. The two to the right can be purchased without any additional fee, but the further left a player moves, the higher the fee they will have to pay for the privilege of buying the building they want. The player may choose not buying any of those buildings and instead of doing one of two things; choose one of them to flip and lay down to earn some quick cash (this can be a strategic way of avoiding negative neighbour effects as a flipped tile do not count as any of the four building types) or build one of the three base type buildings (like the ones you started with) and then choose a tile of the six available to trash in order to prevent an opponent from getting it (the fee applies if the player chooses to trash a building further to the left).

Once a player has chosen a building tile to place in their city, they will score income and population growth (it is possible to wind up with negative income and population growth). The population board is filled with milestone markers, and whenever a player's population moves past one of them, their population growth and income will decrease by one. These start out far apart, but as you move up the ranks, they will move close and closer, and it becomes harder to climb (towards the end of the game I played, I lost somewhere between 3-5 in both income and population growth in one single turn).

I'm quite the math-geek (my friends have nicknamed me "the calculator"), so this really is my kind of game. It relies very heavily on quick calculations, problem solving and planning. You need to measure every tile's current cost against not just what you may get out of it right away, but also what you could potentially get out of it in future turns. You need to weigh the cost of paying a high fee to get a certain tile against potentially losing the chance of buying it by waiting for it to move further down. Another player may choose to snap it up or trash it if they realize you want it.

I do realize that it will not have the same appeal for someone who didn't enjoy math in school. But for those who did, I would say this game is moderate in terms of newcomer friendly. There are many different effects to keep track of, especially as your city starts getting big, and you will feel a little overwhelmed right at the start, because until you get through a couple of rounds, get your city properly running, it's hard to determine what is a good investment. However, when you are further into the game, not only will you have learned from observing the other players choices and outcome, not to mention be more familiar with the flow of the game, but the tiles you have already placed in your city will also help you narrow down your choice. 

All in all a fun game for math geeks, but should probably be avoided by people who don't enjoy logic and math-heavy games.

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