PLAYlist 54: Cities Skylines | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, January 16th, 2021  

PLAYlist 54: Cities Skylines

Jun 12, 2020 By Brad Walton Bookmark and Share

Let’s cut to the chase: you need a new quarantine board game. It’s been a month (or more) for some of us stuck at home and everyone is getting antsy. We want to build, to experience the thrill of infrastructure, and most of all we want to work together on something. This is a good time to pick up Cities: Skylines, the board game.

Designed by Rustan Håkansson and produced by Kosmos, Cities: Skylines is a 1-4 player cooperative city building game based off the popular computer game/app of the same name. While not as pretty as the digital version (in fact, the board game has pretty amateur artistry for an established property), the game offers a lot in replay value. There are six game boards that can be used in any combination together, 85 individual building/zone pieces in odd Tetris-y shapes to place on the boards, ten unique roles players can take in the city that give you bonuses, and eight different city metrics that you are trying to keep balanced in order to score the most points. Despite having so many moving pieces, the gameplay is very intuitive and takes about ten minutes to explain to new players. Cities also has simpler scenarios in its rulebook for those who want to learn certain aspects of the game at a slower pace.

A game starts by placing all your tokens on the zero value for each city metric (power, water, garbage, happiness, employment, pollution, traffic, and crime) and 12 dollars in your treasury. Then, choose which game boards you will use and place them face down with edges touching. Place the construction cards in their 3 tier stacks and deal four tier 1 cards to each player. Turn all hand cards face up so they are visible to everyone. The youngest player begins.

The whole game revolves around resource management. You have to spend money to open land to develop. The cards in your hand are the buildings/zones available for you to build, and each give you benefits and have costs. A water tower, for instance, will cost you $3 and give you three water resources. A residential zone might increase employment and give you money if it is next to a park, but will also increase crime and traffic. A turn consists of either playing one of your cards, discarding a card at a cost of $2, or ending a milestone (I’ll explain this more later). After playing a card, find that type of piece and choose the shape you want to fit onto the board. After you play or discard, draw back up to 4 cards from any of the three tiers, and play passes to the next person. The higher the tier of construction card, the higher the costs and benefits.

Cooperation between players is key to successful city building. Often the cards in your hand will benefit from cards that someone else has to play first, but that will require a third person cutting down on pollution first. There are upper and lower limits to each of the city metrics that cannot be passed, and there are several things that can end the game in a loss. If the population gets too unhappy, you lose. If you ever have $0, you lose. If you are unable to play on your turn, you lose. If you lose, then everyone loses together.

So how do you win? By making your city inhabitants happy! The Administration Board has a happiness track, and there is also a skyscraper with numbered notches on it. The first is to track your city’s happiness as it goes up and down while you play. The second is to record the total happiness after you hit milestones. All milestones except the last one have the same conditions. You have to have at least one building or zone in each city district- which are the areas separated by roads on the game boards- and the money to flip over another game board. Total up all the happiness from your administration board, plus happiness for all the utilities above zero and minus happiness for any negatives. Add this number on the skyscraper happiness tracker. The last milestone happens after you have all the board games purchased, and requires you to have at least two buildings in each district. At this point the game ends and you’ve won! The total happiness on your skyscraper tracker determines how successful your city is, though. So, you can win but still end up with a Dying City if you have negative total happiness, or a Heavenly City if you’ve just absolutely nailed it.

Overall, Cities: Skylines is an easy game to play while challenging to make a very desirable city. It is a great experience for kids to learn cooperative skills and resource management. The odd shaped zones really add to the fun as you try to pick the best piece to fit in each district. If you’re looking for something to keep the family working together and occupied for a while while stuck at home, this is a good game to pick up.

Here’s a playlist of city songs to get you in the building mood. You'll feel like a hot child in the summer in the city you built on rock and roll as you jam out.


Previous PLAYlist columns: Family Game Roundup for Gamers in QuarantineDisney VillainousCrown of EmaraMini RailsTribes: Dawn of HumanityGates of DeliriumTerror BelowThe Estates, NobjectsMemoir '44 & New Flight Plan, Bubble TeaUndoGizmosImhotep, Hex Roller, The Table is Lava, Happy Salmon, The Quacks of QuedlinburgThe ClimbersNEOMCrusaders: Thy Will Be DoneReykholtPandemicEverdellKingdomino, CitrusHistory of the World, Altiplano, Pioneer Days, Crystal Clans, Jurassic Park: Danger!, PhotosynthesisIce CoolFood Truck ChampionArs Alchimia & LemuriaA Game of Thrones CatanTroyesTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionFlip ShipsNMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenpark, Notre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.


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