PLAYlist 55: My City | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

PLAYlist 55: My City

Sep 29, 2020 By Austin Trunick
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For those readers who aren’t familiar with the term, a “legacy game” is one that changes and evolves every time you play it. It seems to have started with a legacy variant of RISK years ago, and then exploded immediately afterward with the release of the memorable Pandemic Legacy, a runaway hit in 2016. Since then we’ve seen many, many games roll out with legacy elements in them, both good and very, very mediocre.  

Legacy games have found many creative ways to alter their experience from game to game. This can include placing stickers on the board, rulebook, or cards, ripping up or tossing away pieces, or writing on them with pens and markers. Some games even include boxes or envelopes to be opened at specific points in time, usually containing new rules or pieces that turn the way you’ve been playing the game on its head. In the end, you’re left with a heavily-vandalized copy of the game that reflects your unique experience with it. When done well, it’s really cool, and almost feels like an episodic TV show – you’ll be craving each upcoming session, excited to find out how things play out or what comes next.

If there’s one connective thread that seems to be found throughout the “good” legacy games, it’s that they would usually function as solid games even if you removed the novelty of ripping them apart and stickering them up. In My City, the latest from Thames & Kosmos and prolific, legendary designer Reiner Knizia, this is certainly the case—it feels like the game might have been designed to work independently first, and then had the legacy element layered on top of a well-oiled and lovingly-playtested machine.

As you might have guessed, this is a city builder. Each player will start with an identical board depicting open fields, rocks, mountains, a river, and trees. In each round, a card will be flipped over from a shared deck depicting a building of a certain color and Tetris-like shape. Players have their own sets of matching tiles, which represent buildings, and can be placed on your board abiding by an ever-changing set of rules. (At first it’s simple: you want to cover certain parts of your grid but not others; as the game develops, you’ll be trying to build near certain spaces, or have like-colored pieces in close proximity to one another, for example.) At the end of a game—which only takes a breezy twenty to thirty minutes—you’ll score your boards according to criteria which also changes and evolves in each successive game.

At the end of each game, players will usually add something new to their board or collection of pieces—often a sticker, but sometimes new buildings, cards, or other such things. Obviously, we don’t want to spoil too many details as half the fun of a legacy game is discovering its surprises for yourself. (Hence, why the picture of the game to the right is just my two-year-old son playing with our spare set of pieces, and not one of our actual, stickered-up boards.)

One of things we thought was coolest about My City is that it has catch-up mechanisms built in to help balance the competition level over the long haul. A player coming in first will get the most points for the game—at the end of 24 sessions, the highest score overall wins the whole shebang—but also gets the least-enticing addition to their board. In some cases, the winner even gets a negative element added to their board—say, a sticker no one wants—while the loser gets something positive. This makes it harder for the leader in future games, and easier for the stragglers—who eventually catch up, and start getting the negative bonuses themselves. The catch-up function works really well, and we saw a couple swings in the standings through our campaign. (Not to mention, getting something good for laying a goose egg in one round helps take the sting out of losing.)

Rules-wise, My City is pretty simple. You’ll have a concise summary of rules and scoring criteria at the top of each game, and although new things are added regularly, old rules are occasionally removed to keep players from getting too bogged down trying to remember details. This is a family-level game, recommended for ages ten and up, which seemed like a pretty fair range to us.

The entire campaign is broken down into four-game “chapters,” which share a theme and a basic storyline to set it up. Since a game takes less than half an hour and only minutes to score, tear down, and set back up, you can bang out an entire chapter in less time than you might spend on a single, heavier board game. From the way the rules gently build, we’d guess that’s how the designer might have intended it to be played.

If the pandemic has you stuck in the house with a spouse, roommate, partner, or children, this is kind of a perfect way to pass the time for several evenings. Legacy games are meant to bring the same set of players to the table again and again, and My City is successful at doing not only that, but making those subsequent play sessions increasingly desirable. 

My City is simple, quick, and fun, with an evolving campaign that makes it pretty addictive—in one sitting we played it eight times in a row, which is quite a feat considering our attention spans. And, the best part?

Are you ready for it?

Unlike some legacy-style games, My City is still playable after you’ve vandalized your board past the point of recognition. On the flipside of each board is an alternate, non-legacy version of the game, so that you’re not left tossing the whole thing into the rubbish bin once the campaign has run its course. Major props to all involved for that extra consideration to the consumer.

My City comes from Thames & Kosmos with a quite lean MSRP of $34.95.

For this column’s playlist, I took the name of the game – “My City – quite personally, and assembled a group of songs from artists that hailed from the area where I grew up. If I wanted an easier task I could have gone with New York City – where I spent 15 years of my life – but there’s no fun when there’s no challenge. Instead I went with the Youngstown-Warren region of Northeast Ohio, where I lived through my teenage years. (Since Dave Grohl was born in Warren, Ohio, we’re gonna claim him, too. Fight me.)

Who are the best artists to come from YOUR city?

***

Previous PLAYlist columns: Cities: Skylines, 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 StruggleHonshuBärenparkNotre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.

 



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