Thursday, 20 November 2008


I have been wanting to try Metropolys for quite some time (probably because of watching Scott Nicholson's video review), and was considering whether to buy without trying. I was deciding between this and Galaxy Trucker, and eventually decided to buy Galaxy Trucker because it is more unusual. Thankfully when I visited Hong Kong I had the chance to try Metropolys at the Jollythinkers boardgame cafe. Ah Chung booked a table, and four of us - Ah Chung, Moh Yen, Ben, and I went there after work, at about 7pm.

The mechanism in Metropolys is very simple. Everyone has 13 buildings. Each round, a player will propose a district to construct one of his buildings. The next player can pass (and retire from the current round), or can propose to build in a neighbouring district by placing his own higher numbered building. This continues until all but one passes, and the last proposed building gets constructed. That's all to it. Now the scoring is a little overwhelming for beginners. Not that it is complex, just that there are many ways to score. There are tokens on the board which earn you 3pt (trendy districts), 1pt (districts with subways) or -1pt (historical districts). If you have the most subway stations, you get a bonus. If you are the most recent person to build in a historical district, you get a penalty. You have secret objectives (I'm referring to the advanced game, we didn't play the family game) - points for building in districts of a certain colour, and points for building in a certain configuration, e.g. 3 buildings in adjacent districts, 3 buildings around a pillar, 2 buildings on both ends of a bridge. At game end, the player(s) with the highest buildings in each region also gets a bonus. That is quite a bit to remember for your first game. Thankfully there is a reference card containing all this information.

The game is driven by the scoring mechanism. You need to evaluate what is valuable to you, and guess what is valuable to your opponents (they will have different secret objectives). There is a strong spatial element to the game. You need to look a few steps ahead from where you place your building proposal, thinking about which direction the bidding will go. There are some small tricks, e.g. winning a bid, and then when you become the next start player, you build your small buildings at dead ends where noone can outbid you because there are no adjacent empty districts. You can build in a desirable district surrounded by undesirable districts, to discourage others from outbidding you.

Moh Yen, Ah Chung & Ben at Jollythinkers boardgame cafe. This is very near the Prince Edward MTR station (in Hong Kong).

A close-up of the gameboard. Many people complain about the board art. It is a little glaring, but I think it's fine. This photo shows the early game, and the first round was in progress. The proposed buildings have the number showing. The blue tokens with an M are the subway stations (1pt). The purple tokens with a lady in a big hat are the trendy tokens (3pt). The pink tokens with a bronze artifact are the historical site tokens (-1pt).

We played the game rather slowly. I think Ah Chung, Moh Yen and Ben were a little overwhelmed by the many scoring mechanisms. They are not regular gamers. We almost played a rule wrong. The building numbers in your hand should be kept secret from other players. They can only see the height of your unbuilt buildings, but not the numbers. A helpful staff pointed this out to us. We played very (maybe overly) carefully, always trying to avoid building on historical sites. That's groupthink at work. The staff said that in his games, no one cares much about historical sites and everyone builds on them, which spreads out the penalty.

Ah Chung won this game, having constructed two sets of buildings that met his secret goal successfully.

I am undecided about the game, and would like to play again. I think our first game went rather long, which dampened my enthusiasm. I think this is a game that can be played quickly. I won't rush out to buy this yet. But I hope to try it again. In fact, compared to Galaxy Trucker, I think I may eventually like Metropolys more. I have a feeling that the novelty factor for Galaxy Trucker may eventually fade. Well, I shall see, after I play more of it.

No comments: