Skyline of the World
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Build floors and gain income by attaining top positions in the ever rising skyline. This game forces you to plan ahead. Will you gain control over the strategic areas, complete your secret assignment and build that third penthouse to ensure your victory?
Hans van Tol
The Game Master
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 60 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
Weight: 972 grams
Language Requirements: Game components contain foreign text that does not impact play. An English translation of the rules is provided.
Average Rating: 3.8 in 2 reviews
I first played Skyline during SPIEL last year. I enjoyed it very much. Especially when the game is played with other experienced players, you have to be very careful when you make your decisions. Do not focus too much on the money, because at the end you need to have the attractive penthouses at the strategic areas in the city, which deliver you the valuable points. Everytime I play it - often with my girlfriend - I try out a new strategy, but I do not have one winning strategy. You never know exactly what the other players will do, because the build up of the game differs every time. But you need to know what they are planning. This game is pure psychology! A must for all game lovers ...
Oooo, skyscrapers - tall buildings that are fun to work in games, especially when the three dimensional aspect is a feature of the game, such as in Manhattan and Capitol. I was therefore really excited about Skyline of the World (The Game Master, 2005 - Hans van Tol), which had a similar stacking method to Manhattan and represented many of the world's largest structures on the cards. There's something that just draws people to skyscrapers, and thus the theme of Skyline is rather attractive.
Folks, I really, really wanted to like the game - with the physical aspect of building skyscrapers, etc. The problem lies in that the game just isn't that interesting. When played optimally, it would seem that strategy often is the same from game to game, and at that point, a lucky draw matters more than anything else. The player who gets prime building spots first will do better, and I just had a very unsatisfactory experience with the game. Skyscrapers are fun, but the game itself wasn't!
A board showing a grid of squares on an island is placed on the table as well as a pile of money (each player gets 10 million euro to start). Players also get three "floor" pieces in their color - two worth one million each, and one worth two million. The remainder of the floors in each player's color (as well as six white neutral floors) are placed near the board. A pile of bonus cards are shuffled, and three are dealt to each player, with one mission card also randomly given to each player. One player goes first, with play passing clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, the first thing they do is gain income. They either gain income that is equal to the top floor of any building they own. If a player owns a series of buildings that are adjacent to each other, they can combine their income that they receive.
The player then must build at least one floor if they can. Each player can build a one million floor on any space on the map or can build the next higher valued floor (values are "1", "2", "4", "6", and "10") on top of ANOTHER player's floor. The cost of building a floor is the amount on it, which is paid to the bank for the first floor and paid to the player whose floor you are covering up otherwise. Each building has a maximum of five levels, but a neutral floor can be built in substitution for any floor except the highest.
Next, the player can buy new floors from the bank for the value printed on them, paying five million euro for neutral buildings. Players can also sell floors back to the bank for half their cost. Also, each player should check out their bonus cards, which show a formation of buildings. If a player completes the pattern shown on the card, they immediately discard the card - showing all players - and receive the amount of money shown on it. Players can only earn income from buildings and/or complete a bonus card by having the top floor in a building.
Whenever a player builds a "penthouse" (the top floor in a building), that building is finished. However, when they do so, each other player draws one free bonus card; and the penthouse can not be used for income, although it can be used to connect buildings for adjacency. As soon as one player builds their third penthouse, all other players have one turn left, and then the game ends.
At game end, each player calculates their prestige points. Each penthouse is worth one point, and each player who controls a building that was built on one of three special yellow squares (strategic areas) gains one point. Finally, if a player has buildings that equal the formation shown on their bonus card, they score two points. The player with the most points is the winner (with ties going to the person with the most penthouses).
Some comments on the game…
1.)Components: The components were what initially drew me to the game. Other than the purple box (which really isn't that attractive), the game pieces are bright and colorful - each of the building floors are plastic stackable blocks in four colors (purple, blue, yellow, and red) - with white blocks used for the neutral floors. The cards are also interesting, as they each show a different building in the background (though none from South Korea!), as well as the height of the building. This is irrelevant to gameplay but adds some flavor of theme to the game. The more important function of the cards is to show the pattern of buildings on the board, causing cards to look as if they're displaying a Tetris piece. The game also comes with cardboard coins, and everything just barely fits inside a cardboard insert in a long, thin (very purple!) box.
2.) Rules: The rules to the game were originally not in English, and it took me some going over the nine pages of rules to completely understand what was going on. Having to pay twice for each floor isn't really intuitive, and the neutral buildings took a bit to figure out. Once a game is about halfway through, players understand what is going on, but it took me a while to clarify the game for new players.
3.) Income: The way to gain income is one of the stronger points of the game, with players having to decide if a penthouse - a sure way to get points, is worth losing the income for. All throughout the game, income will be extremely tight, and I think it's possibly too restrictive. The bonus cards help out quite a bit, but only if players are fortunate enough to build their buildings in the correct combinations.
4.) Bonus: I like the bonus cards, but they can be distracting to the game; and I'm not sure how they are thematic at all - Do people really get extra money for having a specific layout of buildings in a city? But, as I said, they do bring more money to a player when they are getting very little from other sources. Once a player has to start selling buildings to make money, they've pretty much lost the game. Bonus cards are almost necessary to stay afloat, and that takes away from the meaning of their name.
5.) Interaction: At first I thought the game would be full of interaction, but it really isn't as exciting as I thought. Players are forced to build on top of each others buildings; but when the game is played, it almost feels like a forced annoyance, rather than the "take that!" feeling other games (such as Manhattan) provide. For one, when you cover someone up, you have to pay them, so the sting is rather mitigated, especially since they can use much of the money to cover you up! The game can stagnate near the end, since no one wants to set up their opponent for the penthouse, and so players basically circle each other until someone finally makes a move. The neutral buildings are supposed to help in this regard; but as there are only six of them, they are snapped up quickly by players. One simply doesn't have enough of them to do what they want.
6.) Board: The board shows the island of Manhattan, and is long and thin, with little room to maneuver. Players are going to quickly grab the three yellow spaces, and then use the two groupings of squares at each end for their patterns, which can cause the game to seem scripted, as the same things happen time and time again. In a four player game, it's very easy for players to ignore one of the sides, causing the game to feel like two simultaneous two-player games. A more open board might have been interesting.
7.) Fun Factor: The fun in Skyline should come from outbuilding your opponent and stopping them when they are about to do something amazing. It is possible to break up a nice income generating group of buildings, or to use a neutral building to place one of your penthouses, but for the most part - the game feels rather lifeless. There is almost a cooperative feeling, as players "need" each other to build the buildings; but there isn't any real incentive to help each other, other than to push the game to its conclusion. And if you're not winning, why do that?
Skyline just was a big disappointment to me, after the theme and components had gotten me so excited. I see that some have proclaimed it a game of great strategy on the 'net, but I and the players I've tried it with have found it a blasé yawn fest. There are good ideas in the game, but they just don't work out that well - there's a lack of motivation in the game mechanics, and that can be a death knell for any game! Having final scores that are incredibly low doesn't help, and I think that Skyline is going to be sadly pushed to the back of my shelves. Nice bits, but a lackluster game.
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