Another review of an Oink Game! This set is from their new line for this year, which I’m pretty stoked about. I tend to just … get everything they make, but that’s largely because they’re one of my favorite publishers? I just like the aesthetic, the packaging, the style, the gameplay (of most of them, at least); the whole thing really appeals to me. So let’s take a look at another title in the Oink Games line, Town 66!
In Town 66, the citizens crave uniqueness, and will essentially block construction if they think that another house will infringe upon what makes their house unique. There’s probably a SF Bay Area housing joke, here, but I’m too tired to figure it out. Players will compete against each other to play houses and mess with other players’ options to try to be the last player to run out of tiles in their hand. Can you plan the perfect town?
Not a ton. Throw the tiles into the bag:
Give each player a tile stand:
And place four tiles into each stand. No player should be able to see anyone else’s tiles. Draw one tile from the bag and place it in the center of the play area to create the top-left corner of a 6×6 grid. You should be ready to start!
Town 66 is all about playing tiles to build the ideal town! Just, like any ideal town, no house can have a house of the same color or shape in its row or column. That might be challenging.
To start your turn, check your hand: if you have three tiles with the same shape or the three tiles of the same color in your hand, you can exchange them by returning them to the bag and drawing three new tiles. If you have four matching tiles, you may choose any three to exchange, and you may repeat this exchange process as many times as you have three matching tiles.
After exchanging or not, you must place a house tile in the town. Place it so that it is orthogonally adjacent to another tile, and so that it is unique in its row and column: no other house in your placed tile’s row or column may be the same color or have the same shape. Note that the first tile defines the top-left corner of the grid, and the grid may only be six tiles wide and six tiles tall, so placing outside of that boundary is also not allowed. Check other players’ placements to make sure they’re valid!
At the end of your turn, draw a new tile from the bag and add it to your tile stand. After doing so, you may choose to discard one tile from your hand. If you do, you do not replace it; your hand size is decreased by one for the rest of the game.
If you cannot place any more tiles, you’re out of the game! Similarly, if you discard your last tile in hand, you are out of the game. Once every player is out, determine the winner as follows:
- The player with the fewest tiles remaining in hand wins!
- If there is a tie between players for the fewest remaining tiles, the player to go out latest wins!
Player Count Differences
Generally speaking, there aren’t many differences in gameplay, but your strategy may change with more or fewer players. With fewer players, you have more direct input on the grid, so you’re playing more tiles over the course of the game (and consequently, may want to discard tiles less frequently). With more players, other players bear the burden of playing more tiles, which means you may actually want to discard tiles earlier (though not go out entirely). I wouldn’t say I have a strong preference; Town 66 plays well at any player count.
The solo game is, in particular, a bit different. Rather than using the bag or the tile stands, you create three shuffled stacks of tiles. You may play from any stack of tiles that you want, and twice per game you may flip a tile over or play a tile face-down, so that it only counts as a tile of its color instead of its shape. Play until you can’t play a tile anymore, and count how many tiles you’ve played! That’s your high score; see if you can beat it next time!
- You may or may not want to exchange! I usually would recommend exchanging some tiles, but if you’ve got places to play them, it might actually be more helpful to not exchange them, since you may have all the tiles of a particular color or shape that remain. Up to you! Just keep in mind that once you’ve discarded enough tiles, you may find it difficult (or impossible) to get three of the same shape or color in your hand again.
- Sometimes the best move is to try and start a new row / new column, but that only works so many times. You can really only branch out, what, eleven times, before you’ve effectively defined the full boundaries of the grid, but having only one pre-existing tile where you want to place another one can usually be pretty helpful, since there are so few restrictions on what you can place.
- Keep an eye out for spots that can only have one tile. You can play a bit defensively, if you’d like. If only one tile can be placed in a specific spot, you might be able to hold on to it for a while, rather than playing it immediately. Just make sure you don’t end up in a situation where an opponent makes that spot unplayable. Usually, you’re covered if it’s the last spot that can be played in that row or column.
- There’s a lot of tension about when to start discarding tiles. I think it depends a bit on player count. I generally don’t recommend discarding on the first turn, but I’m also not in the business of telling you how to live your life, 100% of the time. At two players, I think discarding on the first turn typically just restricts you more than it provides any value. At four, you can discard on the first turn, since there are so many tiles being played constantly.
- You absolutely will want to get rid of tiles that cannot be played, but you don’t necessarily need to ditch them right away. You obviously can’t hold on to them at the end of the game, so getting rid of unplayable tiles is a priority. You certainly don’t want to have a full hand of unplayable tiles. Waiting to ditch unplayable tiles until later in the game can be fun, however, since that makes it more likely that your opponents will end up with your garbage tiles in hand.
- Keep track of what tiles can still be played in certain spots, just to know how valuable your hand is. It’s useful to keep a sense of what’s actually playable in your hand, but also, I tend to play tiles with the least possible spots more quickly, so that they don’t become unusable.
- Going out on tiles isn’t inherently bad, but you’re effectively betting that your opponents won’t be able to play the rest of theirs. If your opponents still have three or four tiles and it’s almost a full grid, then sure, if you go out on tiles, your opponents aren’t going to be able to catch up. But it’s worth noting that if you play out your last tile and discard to 0, you’re asserting that none of your opponents will be able to go out. If any of them do, they win, not you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- This is one of the most impressively-packed Oink Games titles I’ve seen. It manages to hold 36 tiles, four tile stands, and a bag in one box, which I’m consistently impressed by. It’s also not terribly hard to re-pack, which is something that can be a bit annoying with some of the other, more densely-packed Oink Games titles.
- I really like the box color! It’s a very pleasant bright teal. Summery? Hard to say. It’s a nice color, though.
- The tiles have fun colors, as well. It’s a very bright, colorful game, despite having black tiles. Nice amount of contrast.
- I also like the shapes. They’re endearing. I think they’re, frankly, mostly goofy shapes for houses, but they’re at least fun shapes for roofs! I like how distinct and easy to distinguish they are; makes comparing and contrasting easy.
- Delightfully simple game to teach, though the “win” condition can be a bit confusing. I think where players struggle isn’t around playing, but rather around figuring out who wins. Generally, it’s not too hard to figure out that the player who ends the game with the fewest tiles wins, but what’s trickier for players is the (effective) tiebreaker option, where the player who ends the game latest wins. It’s a bit tricky, but players generally get it eventually.
- Between the letter / number combinations, the patterns on the houses, and the styles of the windows, Town 66 has three different ways to distinguish between tiles that isn’t just color, and I appreciate them making sure the game’s accessible. I really appreciate that they put in the work (even on the tile backs). It makes the game easier to distinguish, even for me, and I think it’s just generally a good thing to do.
- I love that the game includes little stands for the tiles! That’s pretty fun, and also, incredibly helpful. I do kind of wish the stands were a bit wider so that they could actually accommodate four tiles, but, counterpoint: whatever.
- I also like that the tiles have their colors on the back, so you can strategize against your opponents, a bit. It’s an interesting strategic choice, and it also plays nicely into the solo mode. It’s a great bit of overloading.
- The solo mode is mostly just “play and beat your high score”, which is fine, but nothing particularly exciting. I always kind of want a bit more challenge or structure than that, when I play. Thankfully, they at least give you strata of scores, so you can get titles and such. I think I’d just like something more concrete than that.
- It feels odd to always start in the top-left corner. There’s nothing bad about it; it just feels odd, from a play perspective.
- This is, oddly for its size, one of the exact kind of spatial-reasoning puzzles that can cause players to tense up and take forever to play. Be careful with that. Some players will slow down and lock up as they play these types of games, which isn’t my favorite. I generally know my groups pretty well, so it’s not a huge problem, but worth mentioning.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Town 66 is another rock-solid Oink title! This one’s definitely going to be for the Sudoku fans and folks looking for a quick and tight little puzzle game. It’s pretty tough, too! Getting knocked out is certainly a bummer, but, it’s a situation that you can try and avoid (or trick your opponents into) over the course of the game, which is quite fun. I appreciate that they also made the game unflappably Oink, with some goofy building shapes and bright colors that make it inviting and visually appealing, and a box organization that is impressive, to say the least. The puzzle aspect of the game may genuinely vex some of your players that are more prone to analysis paralysis, but barring that, it’s a pretty quick game. I’d love to see some more complexity added to the solo game, but, also, I have plenty of solo games for this kind of puzzling, so it’s not a huge deal for me, personally. I particularly appreciate that the game still feels tricky and intense at any player count, and the challenge of making sure you not only plan your placements but also plan how you’re going to wind your hand down to nothing is interesting, to say the least. I’ve quite enjoyed my time playing Town 66, and if you’re looking for a clever spatial puzzle or a quick tile-laying challenge, you’ll probably enjoy it too!
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