So I don't know if anyone will actually care about this - particularly since #Suburbia came out in 2012 and whoever was going to play it probably already did by now. Though I suppose with #Suburbia: Collector's Edition being a fairly recent thing, some of you might be interested. But I've told both @R0land1199 and @Marshwiggle92 I'd give my thoughts on it after I gave it a go.
As a huge fan of games like Sim City growing up and now of course Cities Skylines, I've always been interested in #Suburbia to try and get some of those same feels just in a board game. I've heard it's probably the best implementation of a game like Sim City that there is, so when I was finally able to pick it up in a math trade, I was hyped. Since I received it, I played it both solo and at 2 player and just wanted to share some thoughts.
Nothing too special here, just loads of cardboard hexagonal tiles. It does come with a nice wooden first player marker in the shape of a skyscraper. The boards are modular, though I'm not exactly sure why. And of course with my copy being used, it's a little beat up around the edges but it still looks great! I'm not good enough to take pictures with my posts :P so you'll just have to look up the art for yourselves, but it's nothing special. I've heard the Collector's Edition has much better art and a nice insert to fit everything not only to store but for easier play. I saw a video Rahdo posted of it where it also appeared to have a neat looking tower for holding the tiles which I will admit would have been a great edition.
This game is fairly simple and the rulebook definitely makes it easy to follow. They give some pretty clear examples for how the tiles play off each other and the order of the how you should look at things. There is a supplemental rulebook that lists all the different tiles for your reference just so you know what may come up in the game.
So the way the game works is you have 3 stacks of a set number of tiles depending on player count. Stacks are A, B, and C (creative I know). You start off by setting up your suburb with the basic tiles. Remaining basic tiles are always available to purchase and add to your suburb if you so choose. As long as they're still available that is..
You fill up the market with the first 7 tiles from the A stack. Each tile has a set base value printed on it and on the market track an added cost ranging from $0-10. When it's your turn, you buy a tile from either the market or the basic tiles and place it in your suburb. Most tiles have an immediate effect that will either increase/decrease your income or reputation. Many tiles also award adjacency bonuses which are checked after immediate effects. Then you have to check for your previously placed tiles adjacency bonuses, plus any other tile bonuses in either your own or your opponents suburbs. All bonuses will award you further increases/decreases of income or reputation or in some cases, give you straight cash or population. You may also play a tile as a lake. To do this, you take the tile, paying only the added cost from the market track, flip it over and place it in your suburb. Lakes grant you $2 per adjacent tile. When you place a basic tile, you must additionally remove a tile from the market, paying only it's additional cost, so that you can adjust the market. As you'd expect, the market tiles slide down and therefore get cheaper as the game goes on.
If you don't want to place any tile, you also have access to 3 multiplier tokens. Instead of taking a tile, you place one of these on an existing tile in your display, paying the base cost for it again. It will double the effect for that tile for the remainder of the game, but they can't move so you have to use them wisely. As with the basic tiles, you have to get rid of one tile from the market. We didn't use these tokens at all so I'm not sure how much they add.
After you place your tile (it's a lot faster than my explanation trust me lol) you collect your income per your income track along with bumping your population according to your reputation track. These can be both positive gains or negative losses and range from -5 to 15. The goal is to get the most population by the end of the game. The game end is trigger by a certain tile shuffled into the C stack.
I should also mention, on the main board there are red lines between numbers on the population track. Should you ever cross these red lines, and you by all means should but not too quickly, you are required to drop your income and reputation tracks by one. The cost of having a bigger suburb I guess. And finally there are goal tiles. Both public goals equal to the number of players and private goals. Public goals can be won by anyone - in the case of a tie no one gets anything - and private goals can only be won by whoever has that tile. These are pretty standard things like most numbr of commercial buildings in your suburb or highest income.
Still awake? Good lol. The rulebook gives rules for 2 separate solo variants. One is strictly a solo setup beat your score type where you don't use the end of game goal tiles. You set up for a 2 player game. The only real differences are after you've purchased your tile, you must also discard a second tile from the market and when you pass a red line, you drop your income and reputation by 2 each instead of 1.
The second variant includes an AI player, "Dale." You play as both yourself and Dale and have to select his tiles based on some math-y stuff to basically get him the most optimal play. For this set up, you put fewer tiles in the market and Dale gets a discount on the tiles he purchases. The scoring was listed as the same for both variants therefore I saw no reason to have the added upkeep of a bot player, so I opted for the solo only variant.
Boy do I wish I played with Dale instead. I found it extremely difficult to gain any kind of meaningful income throughout the game and even if I did, I would end up passing a red line and being forced to drop it. I didn't realize that certain tiles also gave benefits based on your opponent's tiles which is where Dale would have been most useful. I barely scored more than half of the first threshold for scoring. Meaning that to get to the next level I would have needed 60 points. I scored a whopping 35. It was wonderful haha. I'm going to have to give this another try with the Dale variant for sure because I think this could be a great game solo.
Gameplay at 2
Here we go! My fiancée loves watching me play Cities Skylines on the Xbox so I thought she would love this game and love it she did! It was a pretty back and forth game with me jumping out to an early lead, her catching up and flying ahead, then me getting a big population boost towards the end to overtake her. She had an awesome money engine going and could have bought just about any tile she wanted the whole game. My private goal was to have the least income so I was perfectly okay with letting her beat me there. Little did I know, her private goal was to have the most income (go figure) so that was basically a wash. She won one of the public goals, most reputatio, and had a ton of money to convert into population (every $5 is 1 population at the end of the game). What really killed her was miscounting how many commercial buildings I had built. We each had 5, tying the second public goal, so neither of us got anything from that. I won in a nailbiter 91-88.
In my opinion, the theme really works. For the longest time, my suburb was just heavy industry and freeways and I kept having to drop down the population track. And that totally makes sense. Certain tiles, like the parking lot, generate money for commercial and municipal buildings adjacent to them which again makes sense thematically. It really felt like you were building up a suburb and trying to get people to live there.
I'm really glad I finally got this game. I'm a little bummed that they came out with the Collector's Edition shortly before I did if only because it looks a lot nicer than my version. That being said, we agreed that the upgraded components weren't totally necessary as the game is perfectly fine as it stands. My fiancée really enjoyed the puzzle of it all and didn't seem to mind so much when I took a tile she had her eye on. Just a quick "uggghhh" then she moved on haha. That's a huge plus for me as she seems to rarely like anything new, so it was refreshing that she got some genuine enjoyment out of this one. I think it's become a must keep for my collection.
I typically judge a game's solo potential based on accessibility, puzzly fun, and thematic ties/immersion. The more thematic the game, the more I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of the accessibility, while for a puzzly kind of experience, I'd prefer a game with quicker setup and minimal upkeep that allows me to get in and get out after a solid brain teasing session.
So where does #Tapestry fall in this spectrum? Here are my first impressions after playing through ~50% of my first game (I had to wrap it up quickly before my son woke up from his nap).
The "4 page rulebook" is great - I've previously read through criticisms regarding the short rulebook, that it doesn't give enough room for clarifications. Based on my solo play, I was pretty amazed how simple the rules are to pick up. It'll take time to learn the icons though and you'll find yourself referring to the reference sheet quite often in the beginning.
The Automa in this game has a slight learning curve but runs smoothly - Oddly enough, the solo mode rules are longer and take more time to digest. I can see why though, because compared to a game like #Viticulture: Essential Edition, the Automa in this one needs a more complex decision tree to be able to offer good competition. But the Automa still runs very smoothly and involves little upkeep.
Setup time is just "okay" for me but likely great for veteran solo gamers - Depending on the person, setup clocks around 5-10 minutes. In the beginning, taking out the minis and placing them down on their respective areas (on the board where players will be taking the minis from) will take you more time than you'd imagine! Also, if you're primarily a solo gamer, you'll want to store the Tapestry deck separated in two different baggies or something. Of the 50 cards, 13 of them need to be taken out when playing against the Automa. Teardown time goes super quickly because there aren't that many different pieces involved considering that it's a civ-like game.
There's randomness, and quite a bit of it. Presents a great challenge for solo gamers but it could be problematic for multiplayer sessions - Luck factor is received very differently among gamers, and some will be optimistic about it and focus on making the best out of the situation (similar to what you'd experience in #Viticulture: Essential Edition pre-Tuscany expansion), and others will not enjoy this. The synergy of your civ's power and the right card draws can absolutely kick off your engine, while a series of bad draws will slow you down quite a bit. There are ways to mitigate this by taking actions to draw more cards, but it does mean that you'd potentially use up your resources and turns to advance along a track that's not the best for you. And while luck can leave room for less experienced gamers to catch up while presenting a serious challenge for experienced players, the opposite could also mean a bad experience where you're completely behind and feel like you won't ever catch up.
$65 is great but $80? Hmmm... - I see that this game is now at $65 from Amazon, which is a lot cheaper than where Tapestry started out at upon release. I think that's a great value but knowing what Tapestry encompasses, I wouldn't have gone for it at an $80 price tag. Big part of this is that the minis (and the potion of the insert that houses them) comprise about 30-50% of the box's volume, and that's a whole lot of space and money for something that's mostly for visuals. I'll get more into the minis in the section for "Thematic Immersion".
Summary: Like most games from Stonemaier Games, there's a strong focus on accessibility. As I'll get into below, there's a whole lot of abstraction that keeps things simple and straightforward. So in return for a loss in thematic immersion, Tapestry offers a "civ-like" game that you can introduce to your friends and family without hesitation because it's light on rules, looks fantastic, offers satisfying gameplay, and doesn't have you beating up on one another like in #Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
Tapestry is a satisfying engine builder - More than a civ game, Tapestry comes across as an engine builder with several civ-like elements thrown into the mix. Similar to how #Wingspan offers a fun brain teaser with its 3 separate engines, Tapestry gives you four of them: Military, Technology, Science, and Exploration. The competition with the Automa and the Shadow Empire leads to making a lot of tactical decisions while your civilization's unique power sets the course for more strategic, long-term decisions. It's satisfying to push along your cubes across these tracks and have your moves grow ever more powerful.
Offers a spatial puzzle - Whenever you build a structure or score one of those landmark minis, you place them on your civilization board that has a grid pattern that notates habitable spaces. You score points in your income turn based on the completed rows and columns and certain sections on the board.
Automa presents a serious challenge - As a solo gamer, you will be playing against the Automa that's also assisted by the Shadow Empire. The Automa is the primary threat while the Shadow Empire keeps the race along the tracks (and the competition for the landmarks) even tighter. The game presents a tough mind puzzle of trying to figure out how to squeeze out the most amount of efficiency from your limited resources to make some serious progress along the tracks before needing to head into the income phase.
Tactile goodness! - Some might call it overproduced, but it sure adds to the experience. The big player "boards" and many other cards have a grainy, rough finish. The income generating buildings and the minis are rubbery and fun to hold. You have the smooth player cubes that you push along the track. You have the tiles that you place on the board as you explore beyond the territories you control. And lastly, the game comes with some cool dice that you can chuck.
Summary: If you're a fan of Stonemaier Games, you'll likely at least enjoy the solo mode. Tapestry is a different game but there's a familiarity about it in its engine-building puzzles, while also offering civ-like elements such as exploration and conquering (conquering part is admittedly not that exciting though, at least not on the level of YESSS like in #Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization). Plus, Tapestry comes with a rich tactile fun that I always seek in a great solo game (otherwise, zero tactile fun makes me think "why play this instead of an app?"
Thematic Immersion (in other words, is Tapestry a civ game?)
This question is loaded with subjectivity - For me, a civ game should ultimately deliver on a feeling of progression and story, where you can look back after finishing the game and easily reflect on its moments of triumph and downfall. Doesn't really matter how complex it is or how it achieves it, but I'd expect every move I make to feel like I've advanced a part of my civilization and hopefully made it for the better. And my answer to this is that Tapestry comes close, but not quite there for me.
There's a lot of abstraction that makes Tapestry accessible, but at the expense of thematic ties - Advancing along a track requires an increasing amount of resources in the form of coin, food, worker, or culture. It feels odd when you're making leaps in history and just paying two workers and a coin. It's also a bit anti-climatic that many of the benefits in advancement is in the form of taking an income generating building (see the yellow, gray, brown, and red buildings in the picture) and placing it on your civilization board, where during your income turn, you will generate income based on all icons revealed. So there's a bit of that engine-building feeling of progression, but you never quite get that satisfaction of taking a super inefficient building and upgrading it beyond recognition by the end of the era. Then there are the great looking minis, which only serve to act as points. As mentioned above, placing the buildings and landmarks on your civilization board is for scoring points based on a spatial puzzle, and all these minis are good for is for covering up more footprint. And while there are many other points I can get into, your civilization will also produce anachronistic technology, where the typical pacing of real-world history will not match yours and you will find yourself developing dynamite way before discovering currency.
There's a lack of player agency in directing your civ's history - In a game like Viticulture, there's justification for luck of the draw because it's a game in which players are relying on nature to produce their goods. I feel like this doesn't quite work for Tapestry where players should be given more control over directing the course of their civilization.
Summary: With so much abstraction in place, Tapestry leaves a lot of room for interpretation and imagination. At the same time, it never quite takes players away from thinking in terms of VP's and resources. One thing's for sure, and it's that the narrative of your civilization will look drastically different across all of your plays.
Final Thoughts: So with that said, how do I feel about Tapestry? I definitely need to give it more plays to decide, but it's a great game with lots of wonderful ideas that comes across as more of a puzzly experience than a thematic one. I'm looking forward to getting into this more in the future and it sits in a good spot where the setup time is just within what I could tolerate for a puzzly (plus more) kind of gameplay with highly competitive Automa.
Jump Drive by Tom Lehmann is a stand-alone card game set in the Race for the Galaxy universe. Players develop technologies and settle worlds in a race for victory points.
There are 4 Survey Team cards with brown backs, 4 reference cards, and 112 general game cards.
For your first game, you can use a preset hand for each player (with A, B, C, or D in the corner) before shuffling the rest of the cards to create the draw pile.
In future games, all of the 112 game cards are shuffled together and 7 cards are dealt to each player. Each player chooses 5 and discards 2.
A Survey Team card is put face up in the middle of the table for each player, and the victory point chips and explore markers are placed within reach.
Each player may take a reference card.
Each player chooses cards from their hand or an explore marker, and waits with their cards face down until everyone is ready. Then, at the same time, everyone reveals their selection for that round.
There are two types of cards, developments (diamonds) and worlds (circles). If they are outlined in black, players must pay cards from their hand in order to build the card. The number inside the shape is the number of cards that must be paid.
You may build 1 development and 1 world on a turn. However, if you only build a world, you draw a card after paying for or conquering the card you chose.
If you only build a development, you get a discount of one card, so a 3 in a diamond requires 2 cards for payment. The Survey Team cards in the center of the table are a development with the cost of 1. If you select a Survey Team as your only card that turn, you may build it for free.
If the circle is outlined in red, it is a military world, and must be conquered. Military worlds must wait until you have built other cards with military icons.
Jump Drive has colorblind-friendly iconography. The colored worlds have moons in different positions for green, blue, brown, and yellow.
Some cards provide discounts to build other cards. Here, Galactic Advertisers shows -1 cost for Galactic Trendsetters.
Instead of choosing to play a card, players may play an explore marker to draw cards.
The number of cards drawn will increase as players have more explore icons in front of them, but the net gain is always two cards.
Players score victory points for the cards they have played. Some cards have a set VP amount, and some are calculated based on other cards already on the table.
If no one has 50VP or more, the game continues. If someone has 50VP, the player with the most points wins.
Income is shown on the bottom of each card. Players draw cards to represent their income. Some cards have a set income amount, and some are dependent on other cards that have been played.
Players with more than 10 cards must discard down to the hand limit of 10, and then everyone selects cards or an explore token to begin the next round.
Comparing Jump Drive
Jump Drive is visually and thematically related to Race for the Galaxy, but streamlined and mechanically similar to The City. Both Jump Drive and The City have a 20-minute play time (the rules sheet for Jump Drive notes that games are typically 6 or 7 rounds long), and so there’s not a lot of time for meandering. Once a player sees a viable strategy, they’ll want to go for it, build on it, and race to 50 VPs.
While there is a military element to the game, it is only in terms of having enough power in a certain category to build cards. Players are not attacking other players, or comparing military strength like in 7 Wonders. Jump Drive is about playing the right cards to get to 50 VPs before anyone else.
Jump Drive is portable and easy to bring along to a game night or a café. It is quick to set up and play, and short enough that you may want to play twice in a row. If you’re looking to introduce someone (including yourself!) to Tom Lehmann’s games, give Jump Drive a try.