Full disclosure: A review copy of Sprawlopolis: Beaches was provided by Button Shy.
You know, this reminds me that eventually I should get to the other expansions, as well. Maybe some day; I’m still like, 30+ games in the review hole, so I’m not exactly what you’d call “hurting for content”, which is … certainly a place to be. But anyways I think this whole month is just a Button Shy Bonanza, so let’s hop right to it. Sprawlopolis is one of my all-time favorite games. Simple to play, hard to put down, but with a solid bit of spatial play that I’m really excited about. Expansions are often dangerous when you’ve released a hit, so let’s see how this shapes up!
In Sprawlopolis: Beaches, you’ve seen beyond the city’s borders. There’s white sand, surf, and a whole lot of cheap real estate that’s just screaming to be clogged up with expensive roads. This is why everyone in town likes you so much, you tell yourself. Either way, the beach offers its own challenges; you’ve heard of people struggling to build narrow beach towns, trying to get beachside parks zoned, and the horrors of what some people call “The Scenic Route”. Thankfully, this isn’t your first city to build, but you’ll be hard-pressed to … coast on your successes. Will you be able to build another fantastic city? Or will you only find yourself all washed up?
Setup is essentially nonexistent. The game is four cards, each with their own additional scoring complication:
They also add coastlines, which makes them pretty distinct:
Shuffle the scoring sides, flip one. Now shuffle the remaining three into your deck, and you’re ready to start! Set up as normal.
Sprawlopolis: Beaches plays exactly like Sprawlopolis, but adds three new cards with coastlines on them. These provide complex boundaries to three edges of your city, similar to how Moats function in Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets. That’s a throwback. When you draw a Beach card, you must immediately place it on your next turn. No other options. Once it’s placed, it creates a border; no card may be in the same row as a horizontal beach, or in the same column as a vertical beach. To make up for it, the scoring condition will often give you extra points, which can be nice.
Beyond that, play Sprawlopolis as normal; once you’ve used all the cards, check your score and see if you won!
Player Count Differences
I’ve mostly been playing it solo; it’s been nice. It’s probably easier to deal with at higher player counts since the player who drew the Beach doesn’t immediately have to slam it down (since it happens on their turn). That said, this is still my go-to solo game and this expansion doesn’t change that.
- Remember that you cannot build past the boundaries. This means you’re pretty effectively hosed if you get too many Beaches in your early game; you’ll have a city that can only expand in one direction, sorry about all your new roads. Thankfully, you’re not required to place them particularly close to each other, so at worst you’ll still have a 4 x X city, where X is your one available dimension to expand in. Try to avoid this, if you can.
- Don’t get distracted by the new flashy scoring conditions. There’s one, Scenic Route, that eliminates your Road Tax if you connect all the Beaches with one road. If you’re trying too hard to do that, though, you neglect your other scoring cards, which will lose you the game. This happened to me at least once, so, free warning for y’all.
- If you get a 5-point bonus for building your largest park next to the beach, do it. Just remember that it depends on what your scoring cards are. I had one that was asking me to build multiple roads between parks, so I didn’t want one gigantic park; I wanted a ton of small parks. This meant that I just needed to build a 3-park spot near a beach to get an even bigger bonus, which was totally worth it. On the other hand, though, if you have a card that gives you a point per park block, there’s no reason not to build a massive park block adjacent to a beach! It’s just more points.
- Same goes for Residential Areas. Don’t forget that you get points for your largest block of each type; if it happens to get you additional bonus points for its proximity to a beach, so be it. They’re just extra special bonus points (and six extra blocks for your city).
- The last card gives you bonus points that you then lose for having too tall of a city. Naturally, you don’t want to take negative points on this; that would just be silly. But you also don’t want to build a weird long city, either, so maybe focus on building a like, five- or six-block-tall city? It’s still some bonus points, even if it’s not a ton of them. Be grateful for the opportunities you do have, as far as scoring is concerned.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- It’s more Sprawlopolis. I love Sprawlopolis.
- I’m generally very pro-beach. It’s also a nice addition on the art side for the game; I love the variations. Then again, I’m the exact kind of person who would buy a like Sprawlopolis: Winter Edition just for the snow variants on the cards. And now, having mentioned that, I kind of want one? It just kinda speaks to how timeless the theme of city-building is, and how you can add in new locales and venues and it totally works. I’m kind of hoping this means we’ll see some other places, like forests or a river running through town or maybe adding some sports stadiums? I love complexity and I don’t know when to stop, so I’m hoping Sprawlopolis will just keep adding more stuff.
- Fits in the base wallet. I should hope so; it’s only four cards. But I do appreciate it, nonetheless.
- Your Sprawlopolis cities will now be slightly larger and more oddly-shaped. Those are both things that I desire for my cities, and now I can have them if I so choose, which I appreciate.
- Thematically, having only four cards actually makes a lot of sense. You can’t add a fifth direction, and you don’t want to lock the city down in all directions. It’s a smart way to add a design constraint.
- I appreciate the constraint complexity. I like that you can’t build past the beach; it forces you to make a lot of tough decisions, which is part of what makes games like these fun for me.
- These can directly conflict with your scoring conditions. Thankfully, it’s only a Meh because they tend to give positive points, so you can just ignore them if you really want to.
- An entire “expansion” being four cards can be mildly underwhelming. I think people tend to expect more from a full expansion, rather than just a promo. To put it in perspective, though, that’s almost a 25% boost to the game’s size. It’s all about relative increases with Button Shy. Really, my only complaint here is that I’d love even more beach cards.
- If you draw all three of them early you’re going to be in a world of hurt. Honestly, it’s a short enough game that you might as well go for it, though. If you do, show me what your city looks like on social media of some kind; I’m definitely interested.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Sprawlopolis: Beaches is a solid expansion! It’s a weird one to score, though, because, like, I like it quite a bit, but I don’t think I’ll always play with it? Sometimes I want to go the simpler route and not have to explain the new rule to someone, or other times I’ll just prefer not having to deal with additional borders. That’s fine, but thankfully, the expansion is light enough and small enough that I can just slide it into my Sprawlopolis wallet anyways, so it’s not really taking up much room as a result of being there. One perk that I like is that new art in Sprawlopolis is always welcome, especially art that breaks up the city and adds some local color. Plus, it adds a new, interesting constraint that feels thematically consistent with the game, which I like a lot, and it makes me want to see what else you could add to Sprawlopolis. Museums? An Alien Invasion? A Volcano? I’m pretty much down for whatever, and I appreciate Sprawlopolis giving me more thematic options. It’s still one of my all-time favorite games, and this is a welcome addition to the Sprawlopolis collection. If you, like me, can’t get enough of the base game, I’d definitely recommend trying it out! It’s a very interesting expansion.