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Product Awards:  
Major FUN
Award Winner, 2008

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 30-40 minutes 2-5

Designer(s): Kory Heath

Publisher(s): FRED Distribution

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Product Description

Uptown is a tile-laying game that can be played by 3-5 players (special rules for 2). Uptown is great for serious gamers, new gamers, families, friends... in other words, everybody! The rules are very short (see below), and a typical game lasts 30-40 minutes. But allow more time because you will want to play again and again!

What's the goal? The goal of the game is to try to connect your tiles together into as few groups as possible (maybe just one!). A group consists of adjacent tiles of the same color, but diagonal Placement Rules for Uptown connections don't count. The player with the fewest groups at the end is the winner!

So how do you play? Everyone chooses a color, takes those tiles, and places them face down in front of them. Then draw 5 of these tiles randomly into your rack so only you can see them.

Let's begin! On your turn take one of the tiles from your rack and place it on the board. As shown in the picture to the left, number tiles go in one of the nine spaces in the corresponding number column, letter tiles go in one of the nine spaces in the corresponding letter row, and symbol tiles go in one of the corresponding symbol spaces. Your single "money tile" ($) can go anywhere!

Placement Rules for Uptown You may place your tile on an empty space, or you may capture an opponent's tile by replacing his tile with your tile. However, as shown in the picture to the right, you may not capture an opponent's tile if that action would split that group into multiple groups.

When you capture a tile, take it tile and put it face up in front of your tile rack for all to see. At the end of your turn, draw another one of your tiles and put it in your rack. Next player!

All done? Play until everyone has no face-down tiles remaining, and then everyone plays one more turn. The winner is the player who has the fewest groups on the board, and the tie-breaker is fewest number of captured tiles. If you're still tied... you should play again!

Kory Heath, the author, has put together an Uptown strategy guide to get you started:

Uptown Strategies (322 KB - PDF)

Product Awards

Major FUN
Award Winner, 2008

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Kory Heath

  • Publisher(s): FRED Distribution

  • Year: 2007

  • Players: 2 - 5

  • Time: 30 - 40 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Est. time to learn: Under 5 minutes

  • Weight: 744 grams

  • All-Time Sales Rank: #46

  • Customer Favorites Rank: #149


  • 1 board
  • 140 tiles
  • 5 tile racks
  • rules

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.5 in 5 reviews

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Simple rules make interesting decisions
October 07, 2007

Some of the other reviews tell you nearly all the rules, because there are not many of them. Each turn is short and sweet, and so the game moves along. However, since every tile you have can be played in many places, there are still lots of decisions to make. There are many reasonable strategies, and Funagain has a link to a strategy guide. The game rewards long-term thinking and good positional play.

I enjoy the variety of strategies, how each game feels different, and the short turns. I'm good at positional games, and this game is short enough that if you do terribly, you can play again and learn from your mistakes. And yet, a player may have failed to plan for certain tiles and have to make one or two new groups near the end, handing the win to another player who may have seemed to be losing for much of the game. I've seen both aggressive and passive strategies work, when done well, and I've seen them both fail. And although there is some luck, experienced players nearly always beat new players.

Like all of Kory Heath's games, this one is new and different from all other games on the market, and different from his own games. This game has been a joy to play.

Abstract, fun, and fast.
October 03, 2007

Kory Heath is certainly a versatile designer. From deduction to logic to party games, he seems to be intent on creating games of several genres. And with hits like Zendo and Why did the Chicken?, his games have become fairly successful. So it's really not a surprise for me to see him delve into the abstract strategy realm with Uptown (Funagain and FRED, 2007 - Kory Heath). Apparently, there is some sort of theme if you read the back of the box (I think), but it's an abstract tile placement game for two to five players.

And it's an exceptionally well-designed game! I balked at playing it at first, merely because it looked like a Sudoku board (and I am SO tired of that theme). But it has nothing to do with Sudoku (and Kory told me he had never even seen that puzzle before designing the game), and I've found it quite delightful. There are some elements of luck within the game, but the game counters it by giving players a chance to play almost all of their tiles. The game requires planning ahead and counters deadly competition with an interesting tie breaking rule.

The board is made up of a grid of eighty-one squares. The nine columns are numbered from "1" to "9"; the nine rows are lettered "A" to "I"; and the squares are broken into nine smaller groups of nine squares - each with a different symbol (such as playing cards, a ring, etc.) Players get a set of tiles in their color - one with each symbol, letter, and number on it, and one with a "$" symbol, which acts as a wild. Players mix up all their tiles face down in front of them and place five of them in a tile rack in front of them. One player is chosen to go first, and then play passes clockwise around the table.

On a player's turn, they simply place a tile on the board then draw a replacement. A number tile may go in any space in their column; a letter tile may go in any space in that row; a symbol tile may go in any of the nine squares that have that symbol; and the "$" tile can go anywhere. Tiles may either be placed in an empty space or may be used to "capture" an opponent's tile. Whenever a tile is placed orthogonally to another tile, they become part of the same "group". A player may only capture an opponent's tile, if by capturing it, they do not split a group into two smaller groups.

Play continues until players have drawn their last tiles. At this point, everyone gets one final turn, then the game ends, with each player having four unplayed tiles. The winner is the player who has the fewest groups of tiles on the board. In case of ties, the player who has captured the FEWEST opponents' tiles wins the game.

In a two-player game, players each use two colors and can only capture tiles of the opponent's colors. Other than that, the game is the same.

Some comments on the gameā€¦

  1. Components: The board and box have some deep shades of purple, with symbols and artwork from the American '20s era. The back of the box may feature the most ridiculous back-story to a game ever, talking about people finding the game Uptown and playing it for some strange reason. The tiles are nice and thick, and the colors are easy to differentiate. The tile racks, tiles, and board fit nicely into the small, square box.

  2. Rules: The rules are on both side of one sheet of paper and are extremely simple to understand. Even with color diagrams showing how to play and some details on the changes in a two-player game, there is still plenty of space. A few rules - a simple game, right? Well, that's true for the most part, but I found that several people tend to get hung up on what tiles can be captured. It's a simple rule; and after a couple times repeating it, most people get it quickly.

  3. Strategy: At first the game seems a bit simple, as players simply put together as few groups as possible. But there is a lot more to it than that. A player has to gauge how they are going to lay out future tiles, and watch and respond to what everyone else is doing. It may seem like the right thing to quickly lay down a row of tiles that one manages to get quickly, but you can effectively "paint yourself into a corner" if not careful. Being forced to start new groups that you have no hope of connecting is annoying and can be avoided by careful play. Each player also knows that they WILL see every tile during the course of a game, so they can plan accordingly and choose the four tiles they will not (and possibly cannot) play. I also think it's incredibly important to know exactly when to play the "$" tile. Playing it too soon usually causes regret later in the game - it's too powerful to waste.

  4. Interaction: It's interesting that the tiebreaker is determined by the player who has captured the FEWEST tiles. This is certainly a reason not to capture many of your opponent's tiles, but I've played many games in which I threw caution to the wind and started capturing other's tiles. Of course, not being able to break up their group seems passive at best (and some I've played with have complained about it); but if allowed, it would destroy the game play. Instead, players have to be canny and stop their opponents before they join two separate groups. Even more importantly, they must do their best to foil their opponents without adding a new group themselves. What good is it if you stop your neighbor only to have another group added yourself?

  5. Players: Some people enjoy the game most with multiple players, and indeed it is crowded yet enjoyable with five. Yet for some reason I keep finding myself drawn back to the two-player variant. Three seems a bit easy - many times a good player can get only one group if they play well. But with two, you'll find that your alternate color often chokes off the secondary color, and it adds a very interesting dynamic to the game. My wife quite enjoys the two-player variant, and I foresee it being the main use of my version.

  6. Fun Factor: I enjoy the game because it's fun to gauge what tiles have already been played (although one mustn't forget to look at tiles that have been captured, I've been burned before waiting for a tile to show up that was already played) and deal accordingly. Each space can only have three tiles placed in it (four if you include the wild); and if you wasted those tiles in other spots, one may leave a critical juncture open. In a lengthy game, this might become stressful and tiring, but I find it invigorating in a short game as this (about thirty minutes per game).

All in all, I found Uptown pleasantly surprising. It seems that Mr. Heath can nail the abstract genre also with this light and enjoyable tile laying game. While I found it most enjoyable with two, it seems that the majority I played it with wanted a full complement of players. Small, portable, and fast - Uptown is a great game despite its strange theming.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

Elegant and Fun
September 14, 2007

Another great game by Kory Heath:

Uptown is a very simple tile laying game that is surprisingly addictive. It is simple to learn, the turns are quick, and there is a great deal of interesting decision making that gets packed into 30 minutes of play. This is one of those rare games that will be enjoyed by your gamer friends as well as your non-gamer relatives. After your first game, it is pretty likely that someone at the table will say "Let's play that again."


  • Very easy to learn
  • Plays quickly (moves take 30 seconds at most)
  • Your decisions are interesting
  • Good replay value


  • The abstract nature of the theme will be disappointing to some people (but not me).

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