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New York in the 1960's. A new wave of Chinese immigrants is moving into Chinatown. The adoption of the new immigration act has launched the district in a demographic boom! It now reaches Canal Street to the north and Bowery Street to the east. The immigrants, hard-working men and women, are arriving by the thousands to buy buildings, establish businesses and fulfill the American Dream!
In this game, you are one of them. With all your savings in hand, the Big Apple is up for grabs! Will you know how to use your talents and acquire the most extraordinary fortune in America?
The board represents the New York Chinatown of the mid-60's. It is divided into 6 districts containing buildings numbered from 1 to 85. A game is played over 6 rounds. In each round, the players receive income from the businesses they have managed to establish.
To generate the maximum income, shops of the same type need to be built on adjacent buildings. At the beginning of each round, players draw new Building cards and new Shop tiles. They must then use their negotiation skills to acquire adjacent buildings and establish businesses. But it is not always that easy...
In this game where everything can be negotiated, only the hard laws of the market prevail.
One of the truly great benefits of the past 3-5 years' worth of German games is the rising intelligence and quality bar, the ever higher expectancy for great gaming that the consumer has been educated with. We have all (at least, many of us) sat through hours of Monopoly, knowing full well that someone with a complete set was going to skin us alive sooner or later. There was nothing we could do. Or if you had the upper hand, you could have watched TV while the dice kept their interminable rolls, the outcome as certain as death and taxes. And games like Monopoly, etc. did precious little to allow or encourage 'come from behind' strategies, or kingmaker, or develop skills much beyond the ability to score some lucky dice rolls.
Then comes Chinatown, as an obvious antithesis and replacement. It allows and encourages negotiation for properties and content, continues to stress basic math skills, provides (albeit with drab artwork) a board-wide suspense (as opposed to the 15-20 times around the track for your shoe). It is also very cheap, considering the game has now paid for itself many times over the past few decades. It's a really good deal with gamers in mind, first and foremost, and for that I am grateful. My two little kids won't be exposed to Monopoly in my household... they'll go straight through to Chinatown.
Why 5 stars? Because of high replayability, ease of learning, and value. It could have been prettier (it's not Tikal), but I don't know how to suggest that without making all the activity on the gameboard more confusing. After you play this one, you (like me) may one day take a second look at the so called 'classic board games' and scratch your head. I think advertising and distribution are the only reasons Chinatown doesn't sell tons. Its appeal is so wide, it's a shame, really.
As a purely negotiating game, this is not to everyone's taste. After all, you get to play a salesman in this game, promising the world while looking out only for yourself.
The fact that the game is so quick (or should be if you don't have dawdlers) makes it a member of the 5-star club. If the game takes more than 45 minutes, you're missing the spirit and probably not having such a good time. So, sit down, lie, cheat, steal, and do it quickly. That way, your deceit may go undetected and for those not so adept, the misery will be over soon.
The only problem with the play mechanic is that you have to meticulously keep the used cards separate from the leftovers which are to be added back to the deck. One player slipping up on this bit of paperwork can bring the game to a screeching halt.
This is a really intense game. I'd describe it as the non-wargame version of Diplomacy. Players negotiate to get control of connected territory, businesses to put on that territory, and money. Others have given excellent reviews on how the game plays, so I won't duplicate their efforts. I'll just say that anyone who enjoys wheeling & dealing will want a copy of this game.
Normally I would only give this game a four star rating, but it has proved so popular with my friends that I felt compelled to give it a higher score. My best friend is usually an anti-gamer, but even he will sit down for a game of Chinatown.
The mechanics of the game are simplicity itself, but the heart of the game is in the deal-making that takes place each round. My wife and her best friend tend to go for elaborate three-player trades and have even resorted to playing the 'if you love me, you'll make this deal' tactic. A player can become the center of a lot of attention if he/she owns a hotly contested piece of property.
If you like the trade element of games like Settlers of Catan I highly recommend buying this game.
For those who love [page scan/se=0027/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Bohnanza, but wish the game allowed for even more swing deals, I present to you Chinanza! Er...I mean Chinatown! This game is quite the trading/negotiating game. Think of it as Bohnanza on steroids. Nearly everything on the board is tradeable: finished businesses, unfinished businesses, property rights, business tiles, and cash. The board itself is quite simple: 6 districs sectioned off into property squares (similar to Big City, though the similarities of those two games end there).
The art is not flashy--in fact it borders on boring. The thing of this game is the players. This game works with people who love to barter and wheedle. If you don't--if you are the kind of person who plays Bohnanza and never really wants to trade, or you always give cards away--then Chinatown may not be your game. But for what it is, it is really well done.
My only real complaint is that the last round (though obviously necessary since every game needs to end!) always produces very little tension. Nobody really wants to trade unless it benefits them, and since calculating profit then is easy, the last round sort of sinks the game and leaves a rather bland aftertaste to the exciting 3 rounds that precede it. (As one of our gamers, Landon, once said in the last round,'I have an announcement to make! Just so you know, I am only going to trade with you if I come out ahead in the deal.' That pretty much sums up the last round of the game. There aren't many surprises.)
This game actually could work for familes as long as the kids are older and nobody is out to scam the others. And this is a great game to introduce non-gamers to if they like bartering. And how do you find that out if they don't play games much? Simple. If you have ever played Monopoly with them before, and they try and sell Park Place to you but ONLY if you'll let them have free rent for 4 turns, give them Indiana, Illinois, and $600 cash, then you have found the PERFECT player for Chinanza...er...Chinatown!
Chinatown is a new, free-wheeling, and sometimes crazy real-estate/business trading for 3 to 5 players. More than any other game I've played recently, Chinatown can be a very lively, fun game or a very tedious one depending almost exclusively upon the kind of people you play it with. If your group is wild and uninhibited, Chinatown becomes a sort of wacko hybrid of Pit, Monopoly, and Diplomacy (if you can imagine those three games welded together!), in which complex trade deals get struck amidst pleading, threatening, and laughter. If your group is more sedate, then Chinatown devolves into a run-of-the-mill tile-laying game that has little going for itself.
In a nutshell, Chinatown has three commodities up for grabs and trade: real estate, businesses, and money. The idea is to earn income by positioning businesses of the same type adjacent to each other on properties that you own. The problem is that you may not own the right businesses or the right properties. The solution is that you can get them from other players by trading them stuff that they want. There are very few restrictions on the kinds of trades that you can concoct. Deals that involve combinations of all three commodities are normal and can get quite complex. And it is not unusual for deals to involve more than two players. It's not always easy to figure out precisely what constitutes a good trade or a bad one (there are just too many variables and random elements involved), so much of the time you are operating on your intuitive business and negotiating skills.
I think it all boils down to the kind of person you are. If you just love the thrill of the trade and honing your people skills, Chinatown will probably become your favorite game. If you prefer sitting over a game board lost in deep thought over move and countermove, Chinatown will leave you cold. Take your pick.
The theme of this game is very similar to another game, Big City, except that this game includes a trading action that allows you to exchange with useless shop and number cards.
The most challenging part in this game is the Chinese characters printed in the shop. As I am one of the gamers in Hong Kong, Chinese is our media, we want to see Chinese from games.
However, not much of the game provided Chinese in the game element (rule book, supplement cards etc.). In Chinatown, Chinese appears on shops, and I and my friends feel friendly when playing this game. But the game can be made more friendly if the currency used in the game changed from US dollar to Chinese dollar or Hong Kong dollar? I think more Chinese and/or Hong Kong people would welcome this game.
We bought Chinatown with a little trepidation, because out of our family of four, only two of us are gamers, me and our oldest, who is eleven. My wife will play on occasion, and that leaves our almost eight-year old, who is bigger on Barbies than on games. Since a game of Chinatown takes 3 players minimum, I was taking a step out on faith that one of our two sometimes gamers would like the game, and that it wouldn't be too much for them.
Well, I needn't have worried, it appears. I and the other gamer in the family got Chinatown out just days after its arrival, and decided, since the non-gamers were otherwise occupied, to puzzle out the rules in the hopes of snaring a third later on. As we did so, our youngest wandered by and was intrigued by the quaint little store tiles and the funky, urban look of the game board, and asked if she could play. Yes!
The rules, once we did figure them out, turned out to be pretty straightforward and easy to remember. We had a few moments of confusion when the more dyslexic among us transposed business addresses in laying tiles, but we struggled through and had a great time.
Chinatown is, above all else, a trading game; you simply cannot accumulate the necessary adjacent properties to maximize your businesses otherwise. The kids proved to be quite astute dealmakers, unlike me, for at one point I paid much more than I could retrieve in income for a needed building in order to complete a business to the mild astonishment of my oldest. Oh-oh, Dad is losing it!
The only downside in the game is engaging in hand to hand combat with a truly awful English rules translation, much below the par of say, Elfenland or Durch die Wuste, which stand alone, requiring no reference to the German language rules, unlike the English rules translation in Chinatown. However, I'm sure that most gamers could puzzle their way through this annoyance, and it is a one-time problem.
I would recommend Chinatown to gamers who like trading and negotiation-oriented games, and people who enjoy or have enjoyed property games like Monopoly. It is very well designed, and the components are solid, graphically ingenious and beautifully made. It really is a joy to play.
This game design was greeted with apprehension and anticipation. Would our group enjoy a game about Chinatown, New York City, in the 1930s? First, it took almost one hour to flush out the rules concerns. Some of the problems stemmed from loose German translation that labeled cards sometimes business tiles and sometimes business chits.
The sequence of play seemed clear enough after all that rule flushing. You first receive seven cards in the first turn and four after that. You also receive $5,000 at the start. The cards describe plots of New York City where you can place businesses, such as sewing, fireworks, antiques, detective agencies, laundries, and radios. Next, you discard two of your original cards and decide one, two, or none of the types of businesses you want to build. At this point you place your circular colored designation for your proposed properties. You then draw randomly mixed business tiles (seven in the first turn and four thereafter in a three-player game) to see what combinations you can obtain. Once we drew the business tiles from the random pile, we were prepared to trade.
Trading became a lively activity where you tried to corner certain businesses and build two or three adjacent ones on the board. You could also exchange property cards to achieve certain board numbers, such as 52-53-54 in a row. That rarely happened in our game, but the trading of business tiles worked well. You could also offer cash in addition to the basic trade. Business tiles seemed to be the preferred exchange. Also, the rule you could replace one of your opponent's business tiles with one of your circular designations proved lucrative trading.
The fourth phase involved the actual laying of the business tiles. Luck and some decent trading preceded my laying of two sewing businesses in a row. Also, a laundry was laid. That gave me $2,000 for the adjacent businesses and $1,000 for the single, unfinished business. I tried to discard my cards for areas where others were building. I had enough trouble keeping the antique and sewing businesses going.
In the fifth phrase, you draw one of six cards (three of the nine discarded) to find if all businesses, for example, with a '3' marked on them receive extra income. We drew at least two cards that didn't allow any bonuses. I liked the quality of the business tiles and the balance of the game.
As the game moved into the middle and final laps, certain business tiles became prominent. Players jealously held certain tiles for the most to be offered in the trading phase. With determination, I managed to acquire five antiques and five sewing in adjacent rows at the end of the game.
Would we play the game again? Absolutely. Our final dollar totals were: $65,000, $60,000, and $58,000. You can see it was a real horse race for the final totals. It is important to remember the money of each player is hidden during the game. All of us agreed we need to be stronger in our trading phases. We were amazed at how fast the game played, once the rules were mastered and discussed. When six bonus cards were drawn, the game ended.
Let's Make a Deal! Chinatown superbly captures the spirit of the old Monty Hall game show. Eighty-five lots in the city are represented by numbered cards dealt and used to open various businesses requiring from three to six adjacent spaces. Yes, even uncompleted shops earn income, but finished stores reap the largest rewards at the end of rounds. Don't complain that you can't draw the right numbers: A shrewd negotiator can change his luck. Everything here is a medium of exchange--plots, business tokens, partial or completed businesses and cash. Offer complex combinations of them to anyone. Are you the next Donald Trump who will win by accumulating the most cash? This is a deal-maker's delight.
One of the multitude of releases from Germany this year, Chinatown was in the group of games from which much was expected. It is the second release of the new Alea label from Ravensburger and the hope was that the new range would deliver on the pre-match publicity.
The packaging looks interesting -- somewhat reminiscent of the FX Schmid range (now also part of the Ravensburger empire) that included Trade in the 1970's. Polished and professionally produced.
The game itself takes place on a board that opens up to reveal 6 city blocks of New York in a 3 by 2 arrangement. Each block has between 15 and 18 smaller squares in it. These are numbered from 1 to 79 and represent building lots where players may place their shops. All players receive numbered cards which correspond to specific building plots and which when played allow the property tiles to be placed. Income is earned from these tiles with the winner being the person with the most money. All players receive some starting cash to assist trading early on in the game.
The game is played over 6 rounds. Each player receives a quantity of numbered building lot cards and may play all but two face down. These cards are then revealed and marked on the board with a marker in the player's colour to signify the current owner of the block. Now players decide what properties to place on the blocks they have acquired. The property tiles are mixed face down and players draw a number (determined by the number of players and the round number, like the building lot cards). There are 11 different types of property and each property tile has a number on it representing the number of tiles that must be linked orthogonally in order for the property to be complete. For example, the fireworks factory requires 5 linked tiles. This number also serves as a reminder as to the total number of each property in the tile mix -- three more than the number on the property.
This would all be very straightforward except that you have no idea what building lot cards will be played and the range of properties drawn means that you are unlikely to have more than two of one type. Thus begins the most important session of each round -- the trading. I felt that my games would be a bit like trading in Pit, except there is no time pressure and you have to wait to deal with other players. Certainly the noise generation was present, but with a little more persuasion thrown in. Very often there are times when you listen to the range of deals being offered and can come in as a middle man.
Deals can be constructed in virtually any way you like, so you might offer the fireworks factory from your hand for a Chinese laundry providing that another person gives you building lot number 38. The lots with the constructed properties themselves can change hands in later rounds, which can be advantageous. You also have to be careful because you might think that all sequential building lot cards are adjacent. They're not because of the road system and the way the pattern of numbers is set on the board. Cash can also be exchanged to balance off deals. This deal round can last up to 10 minutes, but by then everybody has had a chance to deal and the maximum amount of possible trading has taken place.
Tiles are then placed on the board and money is received for incomplete and completed properties. Naturally the complete ones offer a premium, but you will have considered this when you traded (won't you?). The game only lasts 6 rounds, and there is a degree of acceleration towards the end as building lots and property tiles limit the options. The frustration that one person may feel as they await the availability of a particular tile (which would complete a 6 tile set -- the largest) can and is often heard. If you are one of those people who hold back tiles to frustrate an opponent, then this could be the game for you. But beware! The clever system of replenishing up to a fixed number of building lot cards means holding back cards is likely to limit your own options. In my first half dozen games of this I have learnt that it is better to trade than be an isolationist or construct trade barriers. (No banana wars here, sir!) The game provides cards with the scoring charts, which are pretty simple and enable you to better barter a deal with cash compensation.
So did the game deliver on the pre-match hype? I would say yes and that it gives the tile layers another game on which to ponder, a game where much of the success depends on your trading ability rather than on the luck of the draw. If you are one of those quiet retiring types, get a game of Pit under your belt first and then you will be warmed up for Chinatown!