Posted by: gschloesser | August 9, 2011

Metropolys

Design by:  Sebastien Pauchon
Published by:  Ystari Games and Rio Grande Games
2 – 4 Players, 1 hour
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser  

When I first saw Metropolys being played, I must admit that my initial reaction was, “Oh, my gosh!  What an ugly board!”   Fortunately, the allure of a new Ystari game was SO much stronger than any hesitancy I might have experienced due to the board.  You see, I have enjoyed every game the company has released, which is quite an impressive record!  The fact that the game was designed by Sebastien Pauchon, author of Mykerinos – yet another Ystari title I enjoy – certainly didn’t hurt matters. 

The game is set in the not-too-distant future, where architects are competing to build the tallest and most glamorous buildings in a rapidly growing city.  Players will attempt to manipulate matters in their favor so that they can construct their buildings in their preferred neighborhoods and meet their secret objectives. 

As mentioned, the board is not graphically attractive.  Still, after playing it many times, it is perfectly functional and I can see why it is designed in its present state.  The congested city is divided into five regions, with each region containing a number of neighborhoods.  These neighborhoods are of five varieties, each with distinctive artwork and color.  The problem is that all of these are located close together, and the canals separating the regions are difficult to discern.  The end result is a very busy, dark, and unattractive board.  It does take some getting used to.

Each player begins the game with 13 individually numbered towers separated into three different heights based on their values.  The higher-numbered towers are the tallest and ultimately the most powerful.  Players also receive one or two secret objective cards, depending upon whether the “family” or “expert” version is being played.  There really isn’t much of a difference between the two, and I almost always opt to play the expert version.  In this version, players have secret objectives wherein bonus points can be earned by constructing buildings in a specific neighborhood and/or areas.  

The board is seeded with three different types of tokens.  Two of these types – “trendy and “subway” tokens – award players victory points at game’s end, with the player acquiring the most subway tokens also receiving the subway card, which is worth an additional three points.  This card can change hands during the course of the game as other players acquire more of the tokens.  Further, players who construct on archaeological sites will lose one point for each of those tokens at the end of the game, and the player who builds last on one of these sites suffers an additional two-point penalty at game’s end.  Trendy and subway tokens are quite valuable, so players will often attempt to maneuver matters so that they can build on those sites. 

Game play is actually quite simple.  The active player will place one of his buildings in any neighborhood that does not already contain a building.  In turn order, players then have the opportunity to “outbid” the previous player by placing a building of a higher value in an adjacent neighborhood.  This “stepping-stone” process continues until all players pass, in which case the last player to place a building wins the round, and constructs the building.  All other players remove the buildings they had placed during this bidding process.  After constructing a building, the player takes any token located there, and then begins the next round by initiating yet another bidding round.  

The idea in this bidding process is to attempt to maneuver the path of buildings to a location that you desire, and then win the bidding by placing a building there that your opponents cannot – or will not – outbid.  Naturally, higher-valued buildings are best for accomplishing this, but if a player uses all of their high-valued buildings early, he will be far less competitive in this process as the game progresses.  Sometimes, the path can be maneuvered into a dead-end, where the placement of a lower-valued building will win the round. 

The game continues in this fashion, with round-after-round of bidding of placing and removing buildings, until one player constructs his final building.  Players then tally their final scores, earning points for their trendy and subway tokens and card, and losing points for archaeological tokens and card.  Secret objective cards are then revealed, and players earn points for each neighborhood that contains one of their buildings that match that depicted on their neighborhood card, and for meeting the objectives listed on their objective card.  These cards require players to construct buildings in certain areas.  For example, one card awards a player four points if he has constructed at least three buildings in a region, while another card awards five points for each group of at least three buildings he has constructed around a lake.  A few of the cards have objectives that are more difficult to achieve, but their rewards are greater.  After tallying all of these points, the player with the greatest amount of prestige points wins the game. 

Metropolys has not received as warm a welcome as many other games in the Ystari line.  Perhaps that is because it is not as “deep” as most of the other games released by the company.  When compared to games such as Caylus, Amyitis or even Ys, there is no denying that Metropolys is less laden with strategy and decisions.  Still, that doesn’t make the game a complete lightweight, as players do have some degree of control over the proceedings, and there are definite strategies to pursue.  

Of course, players should try to fulfill the goals of their objective cards as much as possible, attempting to maneuver the placement of the buildings during the bidding rounds so as to allow for this to occur.  Grabbing as many trendy and subway tokens is also important, as is constructing your low-valued buildings whenever possible.  Players should keep a careful eye on the buildings their opponents have remaining, which will often allow them to place buildings that cannot be outbid.  

That being said, maneuvering the path of buildings to one’s favor is not assured, and is often beyond a player’s control.  The best advice is to keep one’s options open, so that you can construct in numerous locations that will be beneficial.  Of course, that is not always possible, as each player has their own objectives they are attempting to meet.  

There is no denying that each round does have a “sameness” feel to it.  The bidding rounds are repeated over-and-over again, and some folks will find this wearisome.  I, however, find the rounds intriguing, as it forces me to properly manage the buildings I have, attempt to maneuver the building path in a fashion that best suits me, and make important decisions as to which buildings to place and where.  While I readily admit that the game isn’t as strategy-heavy as others in the Ystari line, it is still quite fun and intriguing to play.

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Responses

  1. I’ve never seen any game simultaneously combine auction bidding with area-control placements, and this is very novel. But Metropolys also feels a little samey. Once you’ve picked up a few critical tricks, each game will repeat those same moves over and over again. It’s fair to say that the ugly board doesn’t do Metropolys any favors, especially compared to the similar design requirements for the dazzling San Marco. (7/10)

  2. Early on the game is a game of chicken. Who is going to spend their high numbers first? Then it gets tight as you have less and less choices. I like the middle to end game. The first part is ok. Overall, it is a good game. 5/10


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