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Big City
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Big City

original German edition

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Ages Play Time Players
10+ 45-70 minutes 2-5

Designer(s): Franz-Benno Delonge

Manufacturer(s): Goldsieber

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Product Description

At the beginning of the 20th century, new buildings seem to burst from the earth as though grown from seed. As they grow, they change the shape of American cities. Powerful land developers scheme to forge this new look for the cities while building large fortunes for themselves. In the beginning, building is limited to residences and businesses. When the city has matured and built a city hall, the restrictions come down and players can build streetcar lines, banks and other exciting new buildings. Each building earns points for the builder and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Franz-Benno Delonge

  • Manufacturer(s): Goldsieber

  • Year: 1999

  • Players: 2 - 5

  • Time: 45 - 70 minutes

  • Ages: 10 and up

  • Weight: 1,371 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. An English translation of the rules is provided.

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 12 reviews

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The biggest family fun!
June 26, 2001

Yes, this game has a fair dose of luck, and, yes, I really did rate this game 5 stars. When I think about games that I have played that have been totally overlooked, 3 come to mind: [page scan/se=0908/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Entdecker, Manitou, and Big City. I don't know why Big City isn't one of the best selling games around. It is medium complexity, accessible to non-gamers, interesting enough that even my 'gamer' game group enjoys playing it, and it has really cool bits. Replayability is ultra-high with this game as it is completely modular--and that quality alone ought to interest anyone making a game purchase.

As far as family games go, this is one of the best, maybe very nearly the best. This game is a bit hard to learn initially (with all the different building scoring), but the player aid card they provide is so well designed that you could start playing the game immediately, have everyone just read their player aid card, and they could manage it quite well.

I can't say enough good stuff about this game. I would recommend this to every family as their first game purchase--even before Settlers of Catan. Settlers has more complexity, but can only be played by 3 or 4 players (Big City is 2-5) and Settlers doesn't play all that well with 4.

Big City has all the right parts to be a family classic. Only the lack of shelf space at your local Toys R Us for quality games keeps Big City from such lofty status. Big City, Entdecker, and Bohnanza are no-brainers for family game nights.

A city you'll never tire of visiting!
September 02, 2000

Big City is still one of our favorite games after over 40 playings. It's not unusual for us to play 3 or 4 games in one sitting, each game lasting 40-60 minutes. We've played excellent games with as many as 5 players, but find that 3-4 is ideal. Like the best German games, its simplicity belies a variety of subtle strategies. New players recognize this in their first game and want to play again immediately. The bits are first rate. To be sure, there is some luck involved in the card draws, but this is partly mitigated by the rule that allows a player to exchange cards.

We love this game, and hope that an expansion will someday be released.

Fun, fast, and easy to learn
August 06, 2000

My wife and I played Big City with another couple this past weekend and we all had a blast. My wife and I played it earlier just between ourselves and it didn't work that well with two people. But with four, it was great fun. There is enough strategy and luck to make it fun and unpredictable. Our friends had never played such a game before--they play cards though--and they really enjoyed it. We played it twice and it took only an hour per game. They want to play it again and so do we. What more can you ask?

Big City, Big Praise
April 16, 2001

While many of the critiques in the reviews stated herein are valid, I don't think that the 'random' element makes the game any less enjoyable. Having played this game more than a couple of times, it takes a bit of luck, planning, and skill, to really do well. In one game, I'd hoarded a bunch of cards for one neighborhood. I was ready to plop down my various businesses and (hopefully) a shopping mall and a church. Not satisfied with the plots I had, I spent time building the trolley line out to my neighberhood. While this occurred, one of my competitors decided to play the large industrial complex right in the middle of the neighborhood (as in, 'there goes the neighborhood...'). I was wiped out. I had to turn in 3 cards, and the rest were nearly useless single plots with depreciated value. Luck? Oh, yeah (bad for me). Skill? Well, my opponent caught me hoarding and saw what I was up to. Planning? Definitely. And did we have fun? Oh yeah. While it's not a pure gamer's game, it's worth the time to play it, and it's very fun. It's also nice because there are multiple strategies for winning (score early, score often; build the trolley line; hoard spaces; etc...) Give this one a play!

Better than Carcassonne
April 08, 2001

This game reminds me of a meatier Carcassone with scoring that is somehow more complex, but easier to track. Indeed, both games have a similar scoring track. I think the key difference is that when you place your Big City buildings (which equate essentially to the tiles in Carcassonne), you immediately score the points instead of waiting for another event to be completed, or waiting to the end of the game as in the case of the farmers. This factor allows you to have better control over the placement of your buildings, and consequently, better planning for the endgame.

I disagree with previous reviewers frowning upon the loss of points for the placement of City Hall and Streetcars. Yes, you lose some points in the short run, but these tiles are the prerequisite for the truly grand plans of a master city-builder. In other words, not a game for the short-sighted.

The SimCity-ish theme melds perfectly with the gameplay (my son loves the idea of building up a mini-city). All this plus awesome bits makes for a great game.

by David
They are right about the bits
April 06, 2000

Every review I have read on this game raves about the components. It is very breathtaking to open the game for the first time and see layer after layer of stuff. As a bonus it is not a bad game either. The game is so simple it can be played with preteens. There is a strategic game in the box belaying its simplicity. The first time I played I went through the motions of placing the best buildings down while my girlfriend was setting up high scoring combos. I wanted to play again right away to use some of her strategy. If it ends up to not be your cup of tea all is not lost. You can still pull it out and drool over the cool bits.

Big Fun in the Big City
November 18, 1999

Many have now had chance to try this city building game from designer Franz-Benno Delonge and reaction has generally been favorable. Some have complained about the 'luck of the draw' problem as well as a few other points, but I personally feel these points are very minor and are easily overcome by the game system and mechanics itself. The game, although enjoyable by 'real' gamers, is really excellent for those who aren't as immersed in the hobby as we are (or should I say obsessed?) as well as families.

The first thing that grabs you about this game is the bits. Awesome. Right up there with the best bits of all time. There are houses (in 1, 2 or 3 plots size), businesses (again, in various sizes), post offices, cinemas, banks, factories, parks, churches, shopping malls, a city hall and even shiny silver streetcars. These are stunningly done in 3D plastic and are quite beautiful. Good thing, though, that the designer of Die Mauer didn't have this idea and make these in pewter. The game would probably cost about the same as my annual income!

The mechanics of the game are fairly simple. It has a very similar feel to both Metropolis and Ransom, but is actually a bit 'cleaner', albeit simpler, and doesn't have the heavy negotiation and trading aspect that these two have. Each player receives plot cards corresponding to lots on the board wherein they can construct buildings. The 'board' is actually a compilation of eight different neighborhoods, a portion of which is laid out at the very beginning by the players after they have received their initial draw of cards (one from each of the first four, five or six neighborhoods, depending upon the number of players in the game). The other neighborhoods may be added by players as their action on a turn, but only after the pivotal City Hall has been built.

A player may take one and only one action on his turn. There are five alternatives:

  1. Construct a building. This is done by laying the appropriate plot card or cards and placing a building on those locations. There are restrictions on where building may be placed, and various bonus points if other conditions are met. For example, houses earn points based on their size, plus gain additional points if they are built on the city outskirts, next to a park, and/or next to a streetcar line. Until the city hall is built, only residences and businesses may be constructed.
  2. Exchange cards. Not happy with your card mix? Then you can exchange as many cards as you'd like. However, you may not draw more than two from any one neighborhood pile.
  3. Add a streetcar. We used the basic rule wherein a streetcar line may only be extended from either end of an existing line. No branches allowed. Again, this can't be done until city hall is built.
  4. Add a new neighborhood. Again, one must wait until city hall is built. (Funny, in this game a building boom ensues when city hall is built. In New Orleans, city hall is generally blamed for the city's demise. Oh, well.)
  5. Pass. Do nothing. Admire and fondle the pretty, pretty bits.

The game, although really simplistic in its mechanics, really does have quite a bit to manage. One must attempt to obtain the proper cards in order to place more valuable buildings, but must also try to insure that he optimizes his points by (a) getting a streetcar line to run by the plots wherein he is planning to build, (b) trying to build ... or get opponents to build ... certain types of buildings on neighboring plots so you can build more valuable pieces, (c) placing neighborhoods in the proper fashion so as to align lots to the plot cards you possess. Since a player may only take one action per turn, the choice of what to do on a turn can be tricky. Further, the supply of each type of business is limited, so one must keep a careful eye on what is available and not wait too long to build lest the type of piece you were planning on be depleted.

Once city hall is placed, the building boom ensues. Plus, players frantically try to maneuver the streetcar line so it will pass the plots they own (but haven't yet built on). This is dangerous, however, as it is quite possible an opponent may build a line which bisects plots you own, thereby preventing the construction of that nice, large complex you had planned. I speak from experience as in one game an opponent turned the line between two of my plots, thereby eliminating the very real possibility of me constructing the incredibly valuable shopping mall (worth a whopping 30 points). Aarrgghhh!

The other insidious pieces in the games are the factories and parks. These are represented on cards, but require no plot cards to build. These are the 'take that!' cards. If a player holds one of the four cards depicting either a factory or park, he may play that card and plop down the appropriate piece wherever it fits. This usually covers lots where players had plot cards, rendering them worthless. They are powerful weapons and help prevent someone from constructing large, point-rich developments. I was the 'hoser' and 'hosee' of these tactics during one of my games, erecting an ugly factory on the edge of a streetcar line, causing groans and moans from two of my opponents who had been feverishly collecting cards from the neighborhood which bordered the line. Later, however, another opponent developed Central Park directly over two of my adjacent plots, preventing me (again) from building a large business. Pretty park ... but rotten for business!

The game ends when no further buildings can be constructed or when everyone passes in succession.

To add a bit of spice, there is a trading variant as published on the Rio Grande website and it works very nicely. Basically, a player may, as his action on his turn, offer one or two cards for trade. He must only state the neighborhood(s) of the card(s) he is willing to trade and which neighborhood(s) he is seeking cards from. If the trade can be executed, fine. If not, he can instead use the exchange option as outlined in the regular rules. This new variant does add a small trading element to the game and allows players to secure some needed cards. I like it and will now use it in matches with gamers, but probably leave it out when playing with my family and 'non-gamer' friends.

In spite of the game's simple and straight-forward mechanics, there is some depth here. Deciding which cards to choose, which buildings to construct, when to hold off in hopes of gathering more adjacent land plot cards--which carries with it the risks of opponents using the buildings you were planning on constructing, diverting streetcars away or through your properties and the tragedy of having a park or unsightly factory erected over your property--can all be tricky and sometimes agonizing. For gamers who enjoy trading and negotiation, it is not as rich a game as Metropolis or even Ransom, but it still very rewarding in its own right.

Several have aimed criticisms concerning a few aspects. As mentioned, most buildings cannot be built or steetcars and neighborhoods cannot be added until City Hall has been constructed. Problem is that constructing City Hall counts as a player's only action on a turn and it yields no points. Some feel this is a huge disadvantage to the player who actually builds City Hall as it allows his opponents to swoop in and erect buildings next to this government building (which doubles the points earned for most buildings) before he gets a chance to. I disagree. Timing is the key here. One should wait to build City Hall until he possesses one or more plots adjacent to the location he will construct it in. This insures that he will be able to get the benefits of spending a turn in its construction.

We also try to compensate for the player who was last in placing one of the initial neighborhoods by allowing him to draw one extra card BEFORE he places his neighborhood and allowing that player to play first. This seems to work just fine.

No doubt, Big City will seem a bit 'light' for some hard core gamers. I feel, though, that there is more 'meat' here than originally meets the eye. Plus, it is simply fun to play and can easily appeal to both gamers and non-gamers alike. A winning combination.

Big City plays with 2 - 6 players, but seems best with 3 - 5. It plays to completion in little over an hour and would rate a '3' on the complexity scale of 1 - 10 (1 Low, 10 PhD required). I would rate it a '7' for overall enjoyment.

Wish it were an even BIGGER City...
November 02, 1999

Counter Magazine and other folks have done a great job in reviewing this game and listing all the mechanics. One more review praising it can't hurt.

Let me start by saying I've never played Manhattan or Metropolis though I've read reviews on them and heard they're good. What appealed to me about Big City was the ease of play and lots of bits; also, I'm a big fan of the computer game Sim City and longed for human interaction not present there.

OK, so why buy this game?

  1. It plays well, heck - even great. There is some luck in the cards that are drawn from different blocks, but part of the strategy is in deciding which blocks to try and build upon. On the other hand, you might need to draw from a pile your opponent is drawing from to prevent him from laying down that shopping mall.
  2. The rules are easy to grasp. Furthermore, the rules give you tons of extra options to add to make the game less random or vary the way certain items (like streetcars) may be placed. The cheat card given to each player is well designed and you could almost play the game off it without reading the rules. Lots of pictures help explain away any questions.
  3. The game has replay potential. The neighborhoods will end up being placed differently every game giving a new game board. The cards will always come up diffenent changing where buildings are placed.
  4. There is a fair element of strategy involved. Do you place the park in hopes of more points in your future building placement, or do you place the industry to thwart your opponents' plans, yet forego your own point-scoring this turn? When should you place that city hall to allow placement of special buildings that earn more points?
  5. The game plays fairly quickly. You can always kick the slow players. It clocks in under an hour with two players and less than 2 hours with four.
  6. And my favorite, there are tons and tons of bits in the box. Each building has its own place in the trays and the materials are of good quality.

What's not to like? For me, I wish there were even more bits and rules for them. Buildings like schools, hospitals, trash dumps, stadiums, and on and on. I've used some of the pieces from the game Cathedral that seem to work well. The one- and two-square buildings can be used to make a hospital or school (set your own placement rule and point scores).

Overall, this game gets an 80db (out of 100) on the Mulder Meter. It's a solid game that leaves you wanting more. The city building theme may not apply to all players. This might dampen the broader appeal as a family game. If you like the balance between luck and strategy, and lots of quality bits, then buy this game. If you're a city planner and need to get away from your job in the evenings, don't buy this game (it might be just like being back at work again).

A fun & quick play, Big City has lots to offer!
September 07, 1999

Just so I don't repeat everything that's been said about the game play of Big City, I will focus on the positives and negatives. Here goes:


Great components, easy to understand, not too long, introduces some strategy... neat cat & mouse game when played with two players, scoring is good and continuous, rules for placing items make a lot of sense, overall enjoyable!


Too much luck with the draw of cards, with more than two players... planning is impossible, that's about it!


I agree with a previous writer about scoring. The first time I played, I tried to wait for three-block businesses, and shopping centers, and I got beat up. Now, I try to score on every turn. In a two-player game, I literally try never to make moves of placing blocks or trading cards. I want my opponent to do that so I can continue scoring. I will place the City Hall if it is really advantageous to me, but my son and I now really watch each other in two-player games... we are careful about non-point scoring turns. We also play more defense... placing trams to cross a block that we believe the other person plans to build a large building on. Lots of neat ideas come about in the two-player game. Also, I have found that if a shopping center gets placed, that person usually wins the game. One game with my son and his friend, two shopping centers were placed, and those two finished within a couple of points of each other, with the other person a distant third.

This is a game we enjoy playing and would recommend it highly!

Big City, big fun
July 13, 1999

This game has a classic German-game feel. Every turn you find yourself wanting to do two or three actions even though you are only ever permitted one. So you find yourself having to give priorities to everything, all the while hoping that an opponent isn't going to plant a factory down where you want to put your big-bucks shopping mall.

The city starts off rather small. You draw a few cards - each card gives you building rights for one city block - and you usually try to gain points by building residences and office buildings. Eventually someone decides to play the Town Hall, which opens up a number of options such as special buildings, streetcar lines and parks. Location is everything in Big City and you really need to plan where your buildings are going to go in order to get you the maximum score.

Big City has enough variety to continue to interest, and even with bad cards you can still get a halfway decent score. Friends I have played it with tell me that it works well as a two-player game, but is stretched a bit thin with five, as too much is happening between your turns for you to adequately plan anything.

Getting plastic pieces in a German game is pretty unusual, but Big City's pieces are detailed enough that you end up not minding. Definitely an entertaining game.

by Dr Jay
Big City makes a dull metropolis.
June 18, 1999

Let me talk about anticipation. I expected Big City to be as good as Boomtown or Manhattan. In some respects, it is better than either of those games. You have beautifully molded plastic components of single, double, and triple residences and businesses, as well as shopping malls, post offices, cinemas, two churches, and three-level and four-level factories.

The concept of placing these components is simple enough. You lay three large tiles in a three-player game, for example. You look at the five cards dealt you and decide where certain point numbers on the tiles will give you the best advantage. For example, I was able to link two different numbers, 31 and 48, on different tiles to achieve the placement of a double resident (three sets of houses). You may, during your turn, just lay a tile or turn in all the cards or a portion of them for a fresh batch.

Soon you learn the doubling of point values represents the way to win the game. One of my opponents built street car lines (one and then as many as two after initial placement) and doubled his businesses placed nearby. I particularly like the feature of achieving an extra bonus point by locating businesses or residences on the edge of the tile, or the outskirts. As the game progressed, one player decides to place the city hall piece in some city center of some tile. One of my opponents cleverly placed the city hall piece near a street car line. Then, he built a single business near the city hall and achieved doubling and redoubling of his point values.

Certain restrictions on placement of special buildings cause consternation during the game. For example, a post office can only be placed near a business and a residence for 5 points to be achieved. We discovered in the three-player game we built too many double residences and businesses too early. After a while, little space remained on the tiles for constructing anything except a nasty four-level factory that reduced the value of anything placed near it by 2. We were also unable to build any three-level businesses (worth 10 points plus), because five of the large tiles were already occupied. After a short time, all the piles of 1-5 point value cards were used up, and we were relying on 6-8 point values. Those tiles were soon occupied, and all three players had cards with no place to build.

The game began to reach stalemate. We wanted to build a church on one of the large tiles, because it was worth at least 15 points. To achieve that purpose, one other person had to build a single business to complete the tile numbers on that square. When the church was built as the designated last building, that finished that large tile. None of us could build a three-level business or shopping mall (two levels), because we did not possess three cards with comparable double numbers in a row. The game came to a lame conclusion with the following scores: 90, 76, and 74.

Would we play the game again? I think so, because we all wanted to improve our strategies and hold back for large point values. The game caused a pleasant evening, but it needs more drama.

More like Medium Town
December 13, 2000

I really wanted this to be the boardgame equivalent of Sim City. It looks good, and gives the appearance of simulating a burgeoning city's early growth period. But it comes up short.

The first problem is that nothing really happens (except for pecking away at small potato points) until City Hall is erected, and it's rarely in one's best interest to waste an entire turn making that happen. Thus, people hold off until there's a compelling reason (like, no other way to earn points) to do so. Then, in very quick succession, the components are gobbled up, the town is bursting at the seams, and the game is over.

I don't know of a good way to make the game last longer and provide more bang for the time. About the only way to do it would be to have twice the area and twice the components, but that would have been cost prohibitive to the manufacturer. Another thought is to allow the player who places last to decide, up front, where City Hall will be placed, without losing his turn. I just don't know.

And because our gaming group can't come up with an acceptable way to 'fix' this game, it's been relegated to the 'neat looking, but never play anymore' group of games.

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