Full disclosure: A review copy of Sprawlopolis: Interstate was provided by Button Shy.
Every time Button Shy has something for me, I’m stoked. This time, it was Agropolis and Sprawlopolis: Interstate, both of which I was very excited for. Agropolis, as you know, I loved, and Sprawlopolis is probably my all-time favorite wallet game (and one of my all-time favorite games, period), so there’s a lot going on, there. Either way, this is a lot to say about four cards, so rather than belabor this point further, let’s dive right in and see what Interstate has to offer!
In Sprawlopolis: Interstate, you’ve always wondered why things that are one thing can’t just be two things, instead. This is what happens when you get your advanced degrees from the King Solomon School of Urban Planning, which is a great joke, thank you for noticing. Nonetheless, anything that can be created must be divided, and so you turn your eye towards cities that are just … too large. You decide that the only way to fix this is to task two developers with building the city up on both sides of a massive highway. The half of the city that is better shall “win” this contest. Cooperation is a great way to get a city built, but this is a tale of two cities; which one will win?
Depends a bit on your playstyle. Either way, you’re going to need the Interstate Cards:
Shuffle those up. If you’re playing competitively, reveal one of the scoring sides:
Then reveal two scoring cards from Base Sprawlopolis. Each player takes turns adding one of the remaining Interstate Cards to the center so that they form a line dividing each player’s half of the play area. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start! Deal each player 3 cards.
If you’re playing cooperatively or solo, use 3 Sprawlopolis Scoring Cards and just randomly place the Interstate cards in a four-card line.
Interestingly, the gameplay doesn’t change too much in the cooperative or competitive mode. You still have to follow all the rules of base Sprawlopolis, with a few caveats:
- You cannot cover any of the Interstate spaces.
- You cannot build adjacent to the road edges of the Interstate spaces. Imagine they just extend indefinitely forever, similar to Sprawlopolis: Beaches.
- If your score card says you may play on either side, you may do so until the deck runs out. After that, you must only play on your side. This prevents the game from getting too aggro. If you’re playing cooperatively, you can only play on your side. Solo, you alternate sides.
Your cities will be smaller! Play until you run out of cards, and then score! Keep in mind that you may be scoring via the Standard rules, or via two new rules (Choice or Majority). They change how you get points (especially Majority), so keep an eye out for those!
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
There aren’t really “player count differences” for this game, since you’re always playing with effectively two players (even in the solo mode, you’re just playing on two different sides of the highway). To that end, I’ll talk about the difference between the cooperative and competitive modes. I like both, because I love Sprawlopolis, but I really like how the new scoring mechanics that come up in the competitive mode change up the game. In Majority, for instance, you don’t gain points in the traditional sense. You score each group of blocks and each card individually, and the player who has the most gains 1 point; the other player gains 0. In a tie, nobody gets anything. And then the player with the most roads loses 2 points, which can be a huge swing. I think that’s very cool! The cooperative variant just adds in an interesting twist, since your city is now split but you still have to deal with all the scoring cards, which can be a lot. It’s harder, for sure! That said, additional difficulty is always welcome. I’d say I enjoy both quite a bit, but if you’re looking to make a great cooperative game competitive, the competitive variant is no slouch. I really think it’s neat.
- If you can play on your opponent’s side, you can always wait until the last possible second to really mess them up. This is needlessly cruel, but you specifically sought out a competitive version of a cooperative game that was somewhat based on an existing competitive title. You knew what you were getting into. But, yes, you can drop a card right into the middle of your opponent’s play area to break up some hard-earned point structures. There are two reasons to consider not doing this. One is that once you commit to a scorched-earth game, you’re going to get a scorched-earth game. Who knows how that will end. The other is that playing cards on your opponent’s side means that those cards aren’t ending up on your side.
- If you’re playing Majority Scoring, you need to make sure that you’re keeping track of how your opponent’s doing in the various scoring areas. This one is pretty critical; there are only 6 points to go around, and you need as many of them as possible. Even a 4 – 2 score can be brought down if you have the most roads, so make sure that you’re aware of what your opponent is doing. You don’t have to beat them by much; you just need to beat them by a point in each category. If you can’t beat them, consider at least tying; then they don’t get the point, either.
- Remember, if you’ve played regular Sprawlopolis, your city will be much smaller. This means that you have potential for fewer roads, yes, but it’s also harder to clean up your mistakes before the game is over. You should plan accordingly with the understanding that you’ll have half as many cards. Also remember that there’s a big road going through the center of the play area, and it might have an exit into your city which counts as a road for points purposes.
- Beyond that, as always, keep an eye on the scoring cards. There’s at least one Interstate Card that only scores one of the Sprawlopolis scoring cards, so you should go all-in on one or the other, rather than wasting your time splitting between both. That may even help you, depending on which cards you have available.
- Remember that if a scoring card is giving you a lot of trouble, it’s probably giving your opponent a lot of trouble, as well. You both don’t get many cards to work with, so you need to plan accordingly. Certain cards will almost certainly be worth almost exclusively negative points for both of you. That’s rough, but as long as it hurts you slightly less, you should be able to overcome it.
- For the cooperative and solo games, try to remember that splitting your focus can prevent you from scoring big on certain things, but it can also allow you to score mutually exclusive goals on opposite sides of the freeway. There are certain cards that just don’t … pair well together. Ones that reward you for having Residential areas away from Industrial Areas and ones that want Industrial Areas at corners to each other, for instance. You can now build one on one side of the highway and the other on the other! That should keep them from meeting up and messing up your score, which is great.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I actually thought I was going to dislike the smaller cities, but it’s interesting! Just a different way to play. It forces you to focus a bit more on certain things. Thankfully, in the competitive mode you’re not getting absolutely clowned by the scoring card limits, so your opponent is just feeling roughly the same level of tension that you’re feeling. In the cooperative mode, this shakes up your strategies because now you have to split your focus. Does that help? Should you abandon one side of the highway for a little while? It depends on your strategy, I suppose, but hopefully it pays off.
- I appreciate that four cards can change a game so drastically. I felt the same way about Beaches, to be fair, and I like that the designers so intuitively get their design such that they can make these like, surgical expansions that really open up the game in new ways without requiring a ton of additional components. I’m consistently impressed by Button Shy, in this regard.
- I also like that they introduce placement, scoring, and tiebreaker variants to switch up the game even more. Even the cards by themselves are fun ways to shake up the game, but having variations to where you can place cards and how you score makes the game even more interesting! I also like the printed tiebreaker changes since these scoring choices do impact gameplay. Letting players prioritize the tiebreaker visually is a nice touch.
- I appreciate that they include cooperative and solo modes. It’s definitely tempting to just make this all-competitive, but keeping true to Sprawlopolis’s core means that players like me will still get to enjoy this expansion without having to play a competitive game if we don’t want to. That said, I still haven’t really played any in-person board games with other people in a long while, so, who knows when I’ll play anything beyond the solo or my standard Eric vs. Eric head-to-head showdown. It’s a staple of the review process, but, it would be nice to have actual opponents.
- It fits easily into the Sprawlopolis wallet, even with all the other expansions. That’s just a useful feature! I only have to carry one wallet for like, five different versions of Sprawlopolis. I haven’t yet tried Super Sprawl (or whatever the use-every-card version is, if it exists), but that may be where I’m headed next. I wonder if I can combine all of these with Agropolis.
- Given the limited artistic real estate, I think they did quite well with the design and style for this one. The interstate itself is very visually striking, and it divides the game in a way that gives it a good amount of presence while still being very colorful and inviting. I think it turned out really well and I like the final result, which is impressive for four cards.
- Some scoring conditions become pretty challenging to meet with smaller cities. Block Party, for instance, you’re almost always going to take a hit on in the competitive game. Good news, your opponent is also almost certainly going to take that hit. In the cooperative and solo games, you may need to prioritize certain objectives on one side of the highway or the other. This does help a bit on those pesky Mutually Exclusive ones!
- It’s surprisingly hard to remember at times that you can’t cover those spots or cross around the interstate. I just keep messing that up. Like most Mehs, I assume this is purely a “me” problem, but … you know, gotta have something to write here. I think the fact that there’s no end to the interstate and roads can be as bananas as you want makes me think, “ah, this giant road can also be bananas”, when that’s not the case. It cannot be bananas.
- I’m much more often looking for cooperative variants of competitive games than the other way around. That’s not the biggest problem here, really; it just means that I’ll likely be playing this more as a cooperative variant with some new challenges than playing it competitively all that much. That said, this is a great way to make Sprawlopolis appetizing for the folks who are aggressively anti-cooperative games. It’s a nontrivial number of folks! I just tend to be more pro-cooperation when it comes to gaming, so this doesn’t immediately improve the game with its main feature. That said, it’s smart design for them to back it up with cooperative and solo variants, as I mentioned earlier.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Sprawlopolis: Interstate is another worthy entry in the Sprawlopolis line! I like that it’s very different. Beaches offers some constraints, yes, but this adds in a hard dividing line and makes for two smaller cities. That’s cool! Constraints inspire creativity, yes, but I think in this case constraint inspires quite the challenge. I will certainly say that I wasn’t the most on board with this when I first heard about it, just because of my known preference for cooperative games, but I think this is a very nice variant for players that are into more competitive games! It makes for a quick city-builder. I particularly like the modes where you can’t affect each other, but there’s gotta be a few really mean modes. Either way, the Powers That Be saw fit to placate me with cooperative and solo modes for this one, so it instead adds a more challenging version of the base game for players that are looking to switch things up. And I’m impressed that four cards can add such a challenge! I thought it was interesting that it worked so well for Beaches, as well, but it consistently does! This does make me wonder if a Mega Sprawlopolis game is possible (especially since it can be combined with Agropolis), but the thought of that adds stress to my life. I do love Sprawlopolis in all of its forms, though, so it’s hard for me not to recommend this one as well! If you’re looking for a bit more competition in your life or you just want a fresh new challenge, I think Sprawlopolis: Interstate is quite fun!