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In the game, every player is a candidate vying to become mayor of the city of Rocketville. Each turn, candidates travel to different precincts, making campaign promises. The player with the best promise earns popularity points. At the end of the game, the player with the most popularity points wins the election and the mayoral sash of Rocketville.
Rocketville is the latest game designed by Richard Garfield (Magic, Robo Rally, Net Runner, The Great Dalmuti and others). It has been released under the Avalon Hill label. As with the past few Avalon Hill releases (Nexus Ops, Vegas Showdown), there is nothing new in the mechanics; everything here has appeared elsewhere. However, as with these other releases, the mechanics fit well.
This is a light area majority game. The theme suggests that you are attempting to garnish votes in order to become the mayor of Rocketeville. I have played with several different groups of players and those that would be considered 'gamers' were unimpressed with the game. Family gamers found the game to be fun and challenging. It is definitely in the class of family games. Considering the competition in this area, I believe it is one of the better entries.
One of the first things everyone notices is the artwork; it is a retro-future (future-retro?) look popular in the late 50's and early 60's. The colors of the components add to this; it is interesting. (Note: if you are colorblind expect to have as considerable trouble with the scoring markers; as much as you do with the camels in Through the Desert. All of the other components, though they are the same basic color palette, have icons for easy reference.)
There are 36 spaces on the board split into six separate areas. One by one you bid on the spaces. These are blind bids which in other games I have played grew tedious but because this game plays so quickly, it didn't much matter. The winner of the bid places one of his markers, receives goodies if any are specified by the space and gets to move the rocket marker that determines the next space up for grabs. Each space has one of six icons that may provide benefits to the winner. These icons and the benefits are:
Residential - none
Wealthy - gains a popularity point (popularity points are victory points)
Tech - draws a bidding card
Shady - player with lowest bid loses a popularity (victory) point
Galaxy Bank - each player may discard any number of cards from his hand and gain that many popularity points
Quasar Broadcasting - each player may discard any number of cards from his hand and draw new bidding cards of equal number.
Galaxy Bank and Quasar Broadcasting appear only once on the board.
In addition to these icons there are special 'gifts' that may be attached to the icons. Some areas offer a +1/-1 in popularity, some have a robot head and some are in the shape of a star. The star shaped icons are worth 1.5 points when determining area majority (a tie breaker) while the robot heads allow the player to draw a robot card.
Robot cards present hidden goals that allow the player to score additional points at the end of the game if he meets the requirements on the card. For example you might draw a card that states you receive an extra point if you have but one bidding card remaining in your hand at the end of the game.
Included with the game are 31 'Endorsers' cards. These are cards that alter the game in some manner. Some give advantages to the winner of a space while others become a 'hot potato' that no one wants to hold. The card can only be held by one player at a time. In order to draw more bidding cards a player must bid a 'Campaign Planning' card during the bidding phase. If he is the sole player to do so, he receives the Endorsers card until someone else is the sole player to (in effect) bid zero. This is listed as an optional rule but I would recommend playing this in every game as it does increase the strategy if only a bit.
When all of the spaces have been acquired, points are totaled. Each of the six areas confers points to the first and second place player (ala El Grande, Web of Power, etc). Then the robot cards are revealed and these points, if any are added to the player's total.
There is a fair amount of randomness in the game. If I hadn't known that Garfield had designed this, I would have guessed it was a Faidutti design. The game plays very quickly - the box claims 45 minutes; our games required about half of that. I would place it in a group with For Sale and 6 Nimmt. I found the game enjoyable and easy to teach to non-gamers. The 'family gamers' actually preferred it to both For Sale and 6 Nimmt. It is not one of the best games ever however, in the family/light category I would suggest it is one of the better entries.