Base price: $12.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 15 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter! (Will update link when Kickstarter is live.)
Logged plays: 7
Full disclosure: A preview copy of Naturopolis was provided by Button Shy Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
I had forgotten that this was going to be a pretty intense week for me, review-wise! It’s all crowdfunding, all the time, and some real heavy hitters, to boot! Naturally, I’ve been keeping an eye out for Naturopolis since I first heard about it, and now, here it is! I’m super stoked to try it, especially given how much I enjoy Agropolis and Sprawlopolis. As with any Button Shy game, there are only 18 cards, and yet, still a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it!
In Naturopolis, you’re leaving the city and the farm behind to become one with nature! I don’t camp much, anymore, so y’all are doing that in my stead! Explore meadows and mountains as you create landscapes according to new and dynamic scoring conditions, but be careful! Now, the roads you place are cutting through nature, making them even more costly to use. Rivers and campsites add new challenges and new ways to score, so make sure you’re incorporating them, as well. Will you be able to successfully explore this vast new landscape?
As is traditional with Button Shy games, there’s not a ton of setup, here. Shuffle the 18 cards:
Reveal three of them and flip them over to the Scoring Conditions side:
Deal three cards to the start player (and one additional card to each other player). Flip a card face-up into the center of the play area and you should be good to start!
Naturopolis is a Sprawlopolis game, which means it plays pretty similarly to the original. I’ll talk briefly about what that means and then talk about what’s new.
In Naturopolis, your goal is to create a landscape that scores you enough points to beat your Scoring Cards. That number is the sum of the values on your three Scoring Cards, so, keep an eye out for that. On each turn, you’ll play one card from your hand, following some rules:
- The card must be placed adjacent to or on on top of an existing card. No tucking underneath of cards, but you can cover some or all of a card with another card, as long as you adhere to the grids.
- You cannot connect a river to a road or vice versa. They may cross each other or lay perpendicular to each other, but one end of a river cannot connect to a road. That’s how you get floods.
If you’re playing with more than one player, pass the remaining cards in your hand to them before drawing a new card. You cannot show any cards in your hand, but you may talk about them to plan before playing cards. Naturally, if you’re playing solo, you can talk about whatever you want.
After all cards have been played, the game ends. Tally up your points:
- Every road earns you -2 points. Note that this is a change from Sprawlopolis and Agropolis, but also, a road may be multiple blocks long or a single block.
- Score 1 point for each block in your largest group of connected blocks of each type.
- Score your Scoring Condition cards.
If your total score is higher than the sum of the values on your Scoring Condition Cards, you win!
Player Count Differences
As with Agropolis and Sprawlopolis, there aren’t too many things that change about Naturopolis as you change the number of players, beyond having to pass cards around each turn. There’s likely a bit of coordination that needs to happen, just so that you don’t place a river that makes another player’s road impossible, but you can communicate that after the card is revealed. Not as big of a deal. Otherwise, though, you won’t really see a lot of changes as you increase the player count. The one thing I’d caution is that when playing solo, I tend to play really fast, since the only limiting factor is how quickly I can play cards. When doing that, try to take a bit of a breather each turn; with more players, you can externalize the conversation and the planning, but solo, there’s a real temptation to just burn through as quickly as possible, which can lead to sloppy mistakes. No preference on player count, though; I usually play solo. It’s a great thing to do if you’re just sitting around or you’re eliminated from a game or something.
- Be even more careful with roads than usual! There are a lot of -polis games where I kind of … don’t really pay attention to my roads. I figure I’ll just get to it later and solve it later. It’s a Later Eric problem. Here, it’s a Now Eric problem. Essentially, it’s a double penalty from the other -polis games, with -2 points per road. There are fewer roads on cards (since some of the cards have rivers), granted, but you should make doubly sure to pay attention to how you’re placing them. We’ve been doing pretty well in our games successfully making a couple really large roads, but if you let the roads get away from you, you’re going to be taking a pretty massive penalty.
- Generally, the cards are going to have a road or a river, but not both, so you’ll probably be placing fewer overall roads. That may affect some of your scoring cards. Sometimes, fewer roads can be a bit of a problem for you! Some of the cards give you bonuses for features along a road or river, but with fewer roads, you’ll have to prioritize placing them to maximize your overall score.
- Campsites also often figure into your scoring, so keep an eye on placing those. They’re not always relevant, but odds are you’ll have a Scoring Card that features them pop up sooner or later. They can occasionally be a bit tough to see on the cards, if you’re playing quickly, so try and keep an eye out for them. They’ve got a variety of use cases, from scoring for different adjacent backgrounds to the classic Naturopolis card which gives you points for every Campsite in your longest row and column.
- I try to figure out how many points I can squeeze from a scoring card in an ideal case, and then prioritize them in order of which ones will give me the most points. It’s helpful to get a sense of the range of points available before you put all of your eggs in one basket. The lower-value cards tend to give you fewer points, in return. That all makes sense. It is fun to try and play with 1 / 2 / 3 and 16 / 17 / 18 and see if you can beat both.
- As with any of the -opolis games, don’t forget about scoring for largest areas of each type! This is how you often tilt the scales away from the road penalty. I sometimes deprioritize this in favor of big points on Scoring Cards, but it’s pretty game-dependent. In Naturopolis, doing this may cause you to run afoul of the river / road incompatibility, so that may add some extra challenge.
- You don’t really take a penalty from river placement, but be careful, as placing too many rivers might make placing roads impossible. This is one that vexes me in a fun way, but there are going to be times where you might want to place a card a certain way but cannot, since a river cannot connect to a road. This can really mess you up! So make sure you’re not placing a river such that you’re blocking a later road (or vice versa).
- When in doubt, communicate! You should be pretty actively talking to your co-player(s) about what to play, where to play it, and what you’re thinking about in the future! This helps avoid miscommunications around roads, rivers, and campsites (and help you plan for the Scoring Cards). If you find yourself communicating with your co-players in a solo game, that’s more of a you thing than anything I have advice about. Though, as someone who talks to himself while he plays games, it can be helpful to externalize your thought process!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I like what this changes about the -polis games. I think it simplifies a bit of what I saw in Agropolis, which I appreciate. The game just focuses on Campsites and Rivers, rather than the entire farm thing. This gives it a nice step up in complexity from Sprawlopolis, which I appreciate. It’s a nice “in-between” step, I think. I think that the rivers do for me the same thing that Railroad Ink: Deep Blue did, which just adds a whole new network and style. I like it a lot, though I’m never particularly good at river placement in games.
- The color scheme is also very pleasant! It’s nice! I think the pink meadows do a great job making the game pop. It’s fairly soothing, as far as game palettes go.
- The Scoring Card challenges are a nice mix, and still pretty difficult! I think I’m genuinely impressed that they manage to keep creating challenges that feel distinct from the other -polis games but still cohesive across the series. It can still be tough, though, which I appreciate! I haven’t tried every possible combination, granted, but I’m excited to explore the game more.
- I’m very excited to see how this combines with the other -polis games. I’ve been told there are more Combopolis shenanigans to come in the future, and I’m excited to see how I can make some city / farm / nature overlap nightmare thing. I’d love some more Interstate-style expansions that make the game a bit more competitive. But we’ll see what happens!
- It’s a smidge more complex than Sprawlopolis, which I appreciate. I mentioned this earlier, but I like that Sprawlopolis remains on the lower end of the complexity spectrum here, but this isn’t a massive step up in complexity. I taught this one to someone who had never played any of the -polis games (Walletopolis? I need a name for the series.) and it went pretty well.
- As with all Button Shy games, it’s very easy to transport. Mine came in a bag (prototypes!), but the wallet games in general are very, very easy to transport. It’s part of the brand advantage, I suppose, but it’s much appreciated.
- Another good solo title! Button Shy has been crushing it on the solo front, lately, and this continues to not disappoint.
- I’m amused and surprised by how frequently the “rivers and roads can’t connect” rule trips me up. I think it’s partially a consequence of a small wallet game, but it’s pretty funny that this keeps happening. I’m going to make a very vague argument that this isn’t due to my poor planning (though it most certainly is), but I appreciate the challenge that this rule presents.
- For fans of Sprawlopolis and Agropolis, take care to remember that roads are worth -2, rather than -1. This isn’t really anything bad about the game, just something that surprised me when I first started playing. It takes a bit of getting used to, but, helpfully, there aren’t as many roads as the other -polis games, so it … might balance out, to some degree.
- It can occasionally be a bit difficult to make out the campsites. I think they’re just a bit small (essentially, they take up about a quarter of one of the blocks [which are a quarter of the card]), so I can occasionally not notice them if I’m not looking for them. They blend in a bit with other card features, at times, and I’m not always used to looking for them. It’s totally possible that this is just a quirk of the prototype printing, or I just need to pay more attention.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I think Naturopolis is another strong entry in the … Walletopolis series! I’m calling it Walletopolis, and we’ll figure it all out later. But, here, I’m pleased with just having another set of challenges and cards to go through in one of my favorite game series. This time, we’ve also got an extremely pleasant and soothing color palette, which I really like. The game looks good on the table, though I’m now intrigued by what the final wallet color is going to be (I’d love a green or a pink, but it will likely be brown or gray?). This specific iteration of the Walletopolis series does a nice job making an iteration that’s a smidge more complex than your base Sprawlopolis, giving a nice set of difficulty steps across the three games. I appreciate that! Within the game itself, I really like the addition of rivers to the game; having rivers replace some roads is fun and makes the final game look more naturey (as opposed to the industrial city that Sprawlopolis creates). I appreciate that the challenges work to lean into that nature aesthetic, as well! I also like that the campsites are incorporated into the scoring challenges in various ways. It makes me wonder how they’re going to advance the series in the future. Maybe into space? I’d love a space game. Galaxyopolis? I’m rambling. All things considered, I think Naturopolis is another great entry for Button Shy, so if you’re looking for a bit of city-building, you enjoyed Sprawlopolis and Agropolis, or you’d rather just have your outdoors indoors, I’d recommend checking it out!
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