Monday, 14 May 2012

Sunrise City

Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Sunrise City is one of numerous games that Allen has participated in Kickstarting. It is a city-building game where players build a city together and try to score the most points, and there is a touch of Sim City (the computer game) in it. There are only 3 rounds in the game, and in each round, players add new zones (empty plots of land designated for a particular building type), then compete to claim zones, and then finally construct buildings on empty plots or on top of existing buildings.

There are 5 types of zones / buildings (like residential, industrial, commercial) and each is colour coded, with purple being a joker / wild colour (multi-purpose zone / building). Every round each player gets some land tiles and building tiles. All land tiles will be placed during zoning, which is basically expanding the play area. After that players take turns claiming zones using their disks. Disks can be placed on top of other disks, even your own. By placing your disk over that of another player, you are robbing that zone from him, which, of course he can do to you too on his next turn, if he still has any disk left. Placing a disk on your own means you are securing that zone and others may not rob it from you anymore. Then comes building construction. Each building consists of two squares of one or two colours, and it can be built only on empty plots or buildings with corresponding colours (taking into account that purple = joker). When building on an empty plot, you must own at least one of the two zone. If the other zone is owned by another player, he may earn points from your build action.

This is the zoning phase. The game starts with just one tile, the city hall on the left. During zoning, some rivers may be formed. You can't construct buildings across rivers. When placing a new zone tile, you must extend an existing road, but it is not necessary to make sure every road matches another road or every river matches another river. This is not Carcassonne.

This is the zone claiming phase. If you place a disk directly on another one of your own disk, you secure that zone tile for yourself. Yellow and blue each has two secured zone tiles, and green and orange each has one.

Mid way through a game. Buildings can be stacked on top of other buildings. It is even possible to stack one building on top of two other buildings, i.e. using half of each of these two buildings. We don't have such an example in this photo though.

There are a few ways of scoring, and all are quite straight-forward.

  1. When zoning, you earn 1pt per adjacent zone of the same colour as the new zone that you have just placed.
  2. When you build, you score for the building itself.
  3. When you build on an empty plot, zone owners (possibly including another player) score bonus points.
  4. When you build on top of another building, if the new building is the 3rd, 5th, 7th etc level, you score bonus points.
  5. When you build a specific building type next to some special zones, you earn bonus points.

The items that can score big are the building score (#2) and the zone owner bonus (#3). The others usually score 1pt or 2pt. For every 10 points you gain, you earn a star, and stars are what counts at game end. What's interesting about scoring is if reach your next 10 points precisely by landing on the 10 spot, you earn two stars instead of one. So you want to manage and plan your scoring so that you score these bonus stars as often as possible.

There are some role cards, which are drafted at the start of the game. At the start of every round, each player secretly picks one from his hand and all cards are then revealed simultaneously. The numbers on the cards determine the start player, and the special abilities on them are effective for their owners for that round. E.g. a bonus point whenever anyone constructs a Level 1 building, the ability to rob secured zones.

Components are nice. That's a role card at the top. Stars are your final score. The disks are big and beautifully done.

The Play

We did a four player game, and all were new to the game. I found that each round required planning right from the start, because based on the buildings you hold, you need to try to do zoning so that you will be able to construct as many of your buildings as possible. You often need to make use of zones placed by other players. The zone claiming is a competitive part of the game, because to be able to construct a building on empty plots, you need to secure at least one of the two zones where you want to construct the building. Competition can be fierce, if players are desperate for a particular zone and keep placing their disks on top of one anothers' disks. Sometimes you may need to concede some zones in order to not get stuck in too many bidding wars and then get left with too few zones. Sometimes it may be better to go for the less desired zones because you may be able to claim more of them.

Turn order is important in both zone claiming and construction. In zone building it can advantageous to go later, because it means you can usually put your disk on another player's disk if his disk is sitting on a zone you insist on claiming. However, during construction it is usually better to go earlier, because you can build on the best spots earlier, before your disk gets used by other players' build actions. You always try to construct as many buildings as you can, but sometimes when there aren't any possible spots, whether empty plots or on top of other buildings, your buildings will be wasted.

I find that planning for the bonus star (i.e. landing on the 10 spot on the scoring table) is always a high priority, because of how significant the reward is. The scoring methods which give few points can be very useful for this, so they should not be underestimated. When you can hit the 10 spot, scoring two stars, and then on your next turn, score exactly 10 points again to earn another two stars, it is very satisfying.

Unfortunately we only managed to play 2 (of 3) rounds, because one of us had to leave. We fumbled a little in Round 1, but were able to fully understand the game by Round 2.

The Thoughts

The rules of Sunrise City are pretty straight-forward, and I'd say this is a family game that can be played with casual gamers. When we played, we had casual (or possibly non-) players in the mix (we played at OTK). They actually found the rules a little complex at first. I think as a long-time gamer, I take for granted my familiarity with many game mechanisms and forget that to non-gamers, many of these mechanisms are quite alien. I wonder whether in my many past blog posts my assessments of "can be played with non-gamers" or "suitable for families" were overly optimistic. As for Sunrise City, after some thought, I still believe it is suitable for casual gamers, as long as they are interested to play. If a person is resistant, he will struggle even with Carcassonne, even if he is a rocket scientist.

Sunrise City has an interesting mix of viciousness and pleasantness. The pleasantness is in the building aspect of the game, and nastiness is in the zone claiming and also in building over an opponent's disk. I find the scoring mechanism the most interesting, because instead of maximising every move, you are fine-tuning, always trying to hit the 10 spot jackpot. I can imagine in more advanced play, players will be watching out not to directly or indirectly help opponents hit the 10 spot, and even try to intentionally push them over the 10 spot.

I worry a little about the amount of luck in getting valuable buildings. The building values have a rather wide range. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that more valuable buildings are harder to build than less valuable ones, e.g. good ones require specific colours, while cheap ones often have a purple (joker) part. Also higher scoring buildings usually make it harder to fine-tune your scoring to hit the 10 spot frequently. So, my worry may be unfounded. I need more plays.

Overall Sunrise City is a light-to-medium weight game which is Euro-ish but does not feel too familiar. I like that the design feels fresh (or maybe I just haven't played enough games...).

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blownfreaks said...

This is one of the few games that I can comfortably teach after reading the rules... I hope the new player's confusion is not due to my explanations, I know I sucked at teaching games but I dun think I sucked that much...:P

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

The new players seemed to me to be quite new to boardgames, so I imagine to them learning Sunrise City can be a bit like learning four different games at the same time - the zoning, the zone claiming, the building and then also the nifty scoring. Then you throw in the role cards too.

Loonook said...

I've been looking into making my own game via Kickstarter and this was one of the first that I ran across. The real question is... When/where can I get my hands on a copy?



blownfreaks said...

Online you can only find it here ...
You can also find it in the FLGS near you... This game is widely available now