original German edition
from 12 customer reviews
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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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
Don't fight this City Hall--use it to increase your score. The first pleasure is opening the box to discover the bright components tightly packed in three layers. Just wait until the city unfolds! Eight neighborhoods, with eight or nine plots each, correspond to eight suits of numbered cards, which are played from the hand to place properties covering one, two, or three spaces. Points immediately earned vary with location; for instance, residences on the outskirts are the most valuable. Opportunities and scores multiply when someone places City Hall. It allows new neighborhoods to be added to the initial array, increases the value of properties subsequently built adjacent to it, and permits the addition of very lucrative special buildings. It is also likely to herald the arrival of the Tramway, which doubles the value of adjacent properties. Try not to become too fond of any one neighborhood: Opponents might place factories there, reducing its future value. This thoroughly pleasant game is flexible enough to permit several suggested variants, including trading among players.
When you've got several new games to try which one do you go for? You don't know? It's the one with the nice bits! And Big City has very nice bits. As you peel away the cellophane (with the obligatory deep intake of breath) you are confronted with the scoring board. A good solid one with 0 to 100 in decent-sized squares. Underneath is the set of rules, pleasantly in English, (which it should be since it came from Rio Grande) and cardboard summary sheets showing the scoring options and pre-requisites for the various buildings. These are double sided and in colour with large print and a clean layout. No glasses required here for the short-sighted.
Delving further into the box is a layer of plastic pieces. Looking pretty chunky and in several colours and shapes, it's like the top layer of a box of chocolates. Unlike the chocolates, this one doesn't have a repeating pattern underneath. Another layer of pieces of different shapes and colours. Just when I thought that life couldn't get any better, there was a third layer, even more different than before! In a way it didn't matter how the game played, I was hooked.
The game reminds me of the classic from Ravensburger called Metropolis, in which players compete to place buildings of different sizes on a pre-designed map of a city, points being scored according to the location of other buildings in the city. Big City is very similar to Metropolis in that respect, except that points are scored as you play the buildings to the map. The other major difference is that the city is generated from eight blocks made up of 4 x 2 and 3 x 3 squares that can be combined in a multitude of ways to make the map board.
To begin with, each player receives a hand of plot cards with one card from each of the city blocks that are in play at the beginning of the game. Each city block is named and numbered: so block 1 is Midtown and is numbered 11 to 19, since it is a 3 x 3 grid, while block 2 is Downtown, is 4 x 2 and is numbered 21 to 28. City blocks are then laid to enable the city to have some starting shape. Players take turns to place the blocks (one each) in a way that will be advantageous to them -- this usually means making two of your plot cards adjacent.
The opening session of play sees players placing buildings down on the grid, surrendering the relevant numbered plot cards in order to do so. Early scoring tends to be low. One square residences or businesses have a basic score of only 2 points. Those occupying two squares or three squares have ones of 6 and 10 points respectively, but of course the problem with these multi-square properties is that you must own suitably adjacent building plots. However, there are also bonuses to be received and this is where the higher scoring starts. Residential housing likes to be on the edge of town, whereas businesses prefer the city centre, so there is a +1 advantage for locating these in their preferred areas. This is pretty easy to achieve as there are normally many options.
After placing a building, your hand is refilled back to its original number by selecting cards from one or more of eight face-down piles. Each pile corresponds to a city block, so you know which block you are getting, but not the exact plot. You can only take two from any pile, so it takes a while to build up a good set of cards from one pile. In addition there are factory and park tiles -- see below for more on these. One thing that we asked when first playing the game was how we could trade plots since larger buildings (2 and 3 plot sizes) score more points. The trading is carried out with the bank via the decks of outstanding plot tiles, but since you can only do one action per turn and since your new card is again a blind draw, this tends to be non-productive in terms of your points scoring.
Larger scores only become available after the City hall is played. Unfortunately, this scores no points for the person placing it and so there can be a tendency to avoid placing it. However, properties adjacent to the City hall are doubled in value after all bonuses are taken into account, so it is possible to place it on an area where you have the most to gain. The City hall also allows the development of the tram system, with thin shiny pieces representing the route. These are placed by the side of buildings and also provide a doubling of the building's value. (Buildings adjacent to the both the City Hall and the tram route treble in value, rather than score both doubles). So the City Hall can be a big points earner, which ensures that it does get built.
The building of the City Hall makes other actions possible. The first is adding another 4 x 2 or 3 x 3 city section, something which will normally have been preceded by one person replenishing their plot cards with cards from this new section. And just in case one person looks like monopolising a section, there are the factories that can be placed. These begin as "right to build" cards in two of the decks and they give the person drawing them the right to place a factory wherever there is room for it and irrespective of whether or not they own the land which it will occupy. They have two impacts when played: firstly, they put a blight on all adjacent land, which means that businesses and residences built there will be reduced in value, and just as importantly, the plots that are covered by the placement of the factory are no longer available for building. Disgruntled players who were expecting to place a large housing estate or whatever are left with no choice other than to discard the relevant plot cards and draw new ones. If either factory is played near the end of the game, the options for getting good replacements cards are severely limited.
Parks are established in a similar fashion. Again, it is a matter of drawing the relevant card and then siting the park in a place of your choosing and just as with the factories, the cards for the plots covered will have to be discarded. However, unlike the factories, the parks add value to properties built adjacent to them.
I've skipped over the trams because of the many options involved. Once the first tram has been established, the tram routes can be extended from either end or branched off. The problem, as with City Hall, is that playing these scores no points, though by directing their route, the player should be able to set himself up for a double points score in a later turn. A drawback is that you may inadvertently lay track that benefits another player and hence find that your "sacrifice" of one turn's scoring may thereby have backfired. I understand the balance and decision making that this has introduced, but as a recipient of one such move, I'm not sure I like this game effect.
After several games now, the pattern of play is becoming established. The City Hall causes the game to move on apace, and the whole game only lasts about a hour. The main criticism to date is that it becomes obvious to score points as often as possible. This is for two reasons: the cards flow faster through your hands and you cannot guarantee that saving up for a big score will get you in the lead. I have found that the most secure way of scoring points is to score as frequently as possible and hope that a beneficial set of cards will allow me to place the better scoring buildings. This would lead me to want to allow bigger scores for the larger buildings. I'd be interested in how the play testers considered this because as it stands, the benefit of regular points and card flow would seem to outweigh the higher scoring of large buildings.
Overall, an interesting game, with excellent contents, clear rules and support materials. It is also not too long but as a person who enjoys more control in my games, I'd like a second opinion on the relative merits of the scoring.
SWD: Second opinion requested; second opinion offered. The theme is a good one, the bits are wonderful and the game is enjoyable, but the final impression is of a game that is not quite there. A large part of the problem is the one identified by Barbara Dauenhauer in the letters column: the game has too great a luck element. The first time we played I won by a large margin, the second time I was last by a similar amount and the difference was down to the plot cards I drew. Alan is quite right to say that you don't have enough control, but I don't think that increasing the scores for the larger buildings would improve this. Quite the reverse if anything, because they already tend to decide the game in favour of whoever managed to draw the grouping of plots that enabled them to build the shopping centre. I also think that the factories have too powerful an effect; the way that they are handled in Metropolis -- the game that was clearly the inspiration for this one -- is much better. In fact, I think that the game would benefit from one or two pushes back in the direction of its parent: the replacement of a blind draw by a selection from a small set of available plots being one and the possibility of players combining to build the large buildings being another. It would also be beneficial if players could trade plots.
Fortunately, Big City also has advantages over Metropolis. The older game had a very tight structure that made variants and house rules difficult; the new one has a looseness and a diversity that almost invites them. Indeed a whole page of the rule book is given over to suggestions for variants by way of getting you started. Overall verdict: far from perfect, but still worth considering if the theme appeals and if you enjoy tweaking.