Cardboard Children: Quadropolis
Quadropolis from Days of Wonder is a board game about building a city. Well, it's not really. It doesn't really feel like building a city at all. It feels like you're laying out buildings, yes, but you're really just meeting conditions, netting points. But that's okay. I'm going to tell you why that's okay.
Days of Wonder is a publisher that makes beautiful games. Colosseum? One of the most beautiful board games of all time. Cleopatra and the Society of Architects? Gorgeous. Five Tribes? Lovely. And so it is that even with a setting that doesn't really suggest beauty (city planning, architects flinging up buildings), Quadropolis is still a lovely game to look at. Colourful, cartoonish, and what few components there are in the game are produced to a premium level.
So we knew that would be the case. It looks good. Next!
How does the game actually work? Well, here's the thing. It's not a natural thing at all. You're not building a city by spending money or taking actions or anything like that. You have a player board in front of you with a grid printed on it. There are columns and rows. In the middle of the table there's a central board that holds all the available buildings, randomly laid in columns and rows. You have architects, numbered 1-4. In a turn, you take one of those architects and place it at a row or column of that central grid. Then you count IN the number assigned to that architect.
You get it? Place Architect 3 at a row, count three into that row and take that building. You then place a pawn in that empty space you've created, and that pawn is called the Urbanist, and you can't place an architect at a row or column that leads to him.
Architects can't be placed on top of other architects either, so as the round continues, your options of what buildings to take start to shrink. You need to prioritise what you want, try to grab them, and keep an eye on what others are building, ideally blocking their choices too. So at its heart, Quadropolis is really quite abstract and puzzly. It's a game of choice, positioning and blocking. True competitive puzzle stuff.
When you take a building, it has to be built in a row or column that corresponds to the architect who built it. So, again, you use architect 3 and you have to build your building in column or row 3 of your own board. There's one exception here – apartment blocks can be built up on top of each other (in fact, that's what you want to do to be able to score them well) and you can build a floor that matches the architect number too.
Final game scoring is dependent on where you place your buildings on your own grid. Apartment buildings generate little people, cute little blue plastic people. Power stations generate energy, in lovely red plastic blocks. Now, here's another element to the planning aspect of this game. For many buildings to score, they need to be activated. Shops need energy to operate. Harbours need workers. Civil Buildings need to be staffed. So as you generate power and people, you can assign these across your city. You can place power on your shop to open it, and you can move four people inside that shop. At the end of the game, you lose points for any people or energy that you don't use. I mean, that's homelessness and waste, right? So you need to make sure you're not overpopulating or underpopulating, or pumping out too little or too much energy. You need to be efficient.
The final scoring asks you to chase a few different things down during the course of the game. Ideally you want to build a tall apartment block. That'll net you good points. You want to have parks near where people live – that will give you bonuses. You want to place a civil building in each quadrant of your city for maximum points on that front. Harbours should be chained together to score big.
It might seem like a lot to keep track of, but it's really not. This game is light, much lighter than a city-building setting would suggest. That's not to say there isn't some depth. You really need to plot and plan ahead to get a healthy score. Sure, you're going to have to switch it up on the fly quite a lot as you get blocked and narrowed by the other players, but you can even prepare for some of that stuff by covering yourself with plans B and C.
I've played this game with adults and kids, and it goes over quite well. My 9 year old came in second place up against three adults, so it's also light enough for there to be challenge right across the age range. It's not an exciting game, though. That's the only real problem. It's lovely, and quite clever, but it doesn't really get the heart pumping. It looks like the game should be more involved – the production makes you expect too much maybe – but it's actually just a cute little 45 minute time-pleaser.
I like Quadropolis, and it'll be staying in my collection for a little bit longer. There's an “expert” version of the game that I want to play around with, and I'm keen to see if the game has legs. But if you fancy an accessible game that's kinda sorta about building a city, and you want to play with your granny and your kids, then this might be a nice thing to have on the shelf.
Oh, before I go, my videogame show is on iPlayer and at 18:12 you can see a feature on the board game Star Wars: Rebellion.
See you soon!