Monday, February 29, 2016

Cities the board game is a relaxing little vacation

As I have grown older, I have come to put a higher and higher value on quick, relaxing games. Actually, it doesn't have anything to do with growing older per se. It has a lot more to do with with being the dad if a two-year-old. :P

Honestly, it's not that hard to find games like that. I already had plenty in my collection so I haven't had to go looking very hard for too many more.

After reading about Limes, which reimplements Cities, I realized that Cities is a perfect example of the kind of game I'm talking about. It takes about ten, fifteen minutes to play. Not only does it not have any direct conflict, it doesn't have any interaction at all. It's a puzzle that everyone to solve and you just see who solves it better.

Cities belongs to what I call the Take It Easy school. That's when everyone has identical pieces and one player calls out what piece to use, just like bingo. The difference is that bingo offers no choices but Take It Easy and it's kin are all about your choices.

In Cities, everyone is trying create the ideal city for tourists. Everyone has twenty-four identical tiles but they'll only be using sixteen of them, which means you can't count on a given tile being in a game. 

Over the course of the game, you will lay out a four by four grid of tiles that will show a city made up of yellow attractions and green parks and blue lakes and burnt orange pavilions. 

And here's where Cities really breaks out into its own compared to Take It Easy. You have a set of meeples to act as tourists to populate your cities. After you place a tile, you can put a meeple of one the four sections in it. You can also jump a previously placed meeple onto a just placed tile or have a meeple walk from tile to tile.

Those meeples are what score you the points at the end of the game. There are three levels of scoring, with the simplest just scoring the areas of yellow attractions and green parks that meeples are in. The higher levels take surrounding features into account. My favorite being how meeples in pavilions score points for their view of parks and water.

What I particularly like about the scoring, and I have never played with anything but the level three scoring, is that as abstract as it is, it all makes perfect sense. Yes, the parks with plenty of lakes or the pavilions with great views or the attractions with plenty of places to get snacks are going to more popular with tourists.

When I first discovered Cities, I thought of it as the gamer's Take It Easy. After all, it has meeples and intricate scoring. However, I'm not sure if that's really what it has shaken out to be.

Take It Easy is a very pure and simple game, that is very easy to understand. However, it is also a very unforgiving game where one tile can completely break someone's game. Cities, on the other hand, between a more forgiving scoring system and your ability to move meeples about after you place them, is actually a lot more relaxing.

Cities makes me think of what Chicago would be like if it only consisted of Lakeshore Drive and the Miracle Mile. It is an idea of the city where tourists can cheerfully mosey around with nothing but beautiful things to see. Cities is a tiny little vacation for your mind.

Cities is not the brilliant masterpiece of tension and simplicity that Take It Easy is. It is not a puzzle that will keep you on the edge of kyour seat. However, it is a quiet little game that is very relaxing to unwind with. It is like a cup of hot cocoa at the end of the day.

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