Full disclosure: A review copy of My City was provided by KOSMOS.
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I’ve been trying to play My City since the pandemic started. I had an entire legacy group, we played the Pandemic Legacy games, and I was raring to go with My City. And then it, obviously, didn’t work out. One of them moved to Seattle, and then I’m thinking about moving, and another one moved to Michigan, and it was a Whole Thing. Thankfully, Board Game Arena bailed me out with a perfectly reasonable implementation of My City, and the rest has been history. I’m about halfway through my second campaign, now, and it’s been really nice to be able to play a legacy game without having to be as bad at stickers as I usually am. So let’s see how My City plays!
In My City, players are founding a new city This means you’ll need to build it up over a few years as different forces and discoveries change the way you operate and build within. From the ever-present influence of the church to the gold rush to even industrialization, these new factors will force you to strategize and optimize if you want your city to be the beacon of progress that you always believed in. Just be careful! Premature optimization may lead you astray if you plan wrong, and you need to make sure you’re always open to the next opportunity. Will you be able to lead your city into a bold new age?
The setup depends a lot on various games, but the core of it works the same way every time. Start by giving every player a board; it’ll be theirs for the next 24 games or so.
Every player gets a set of pieces with the same animal color on the back side:
Give each player a scoring token and have them place it on the 10, to start. Shuffle the Construction Cards:
And keep the envelopes nearby! They’ll come in handy later.
You should be ready to start! You can open the first envelope, if you’re ready to start the campaign. There are also rules for an Eternal Mode that isn’t legacy, if you’re into that.
I’m going to talk a bit about how My City plays, but I’ll ignore the legacy elements so that those can be mostly a surprise for y’all. Over 24 sessions, you’ll be building a city up from nothing into a bold, industrialized, and happening place to be.
Generally, you’ll be building your city by placing tiles depicted on the Construction Cards. When one is revealed, take the corresponding tile and place it such that it’s covering green spaces. You cannot build on the Mountain spaces on the left or the Forest spaces on the right. You can build on rocks and trees, though you may want to avoid trees, since they’re generally worth points at the end of the game. While your first tile must be touching the river, you cannot place tiles such that the tile is on both sides of the river at once. There are other caveats, like having to place a building adjacent to a building you’ve previously placed, but standard tile-placement game rules apply after that (you can’t build on top of other buildings, and you can’t move buildings once you’ve placed them). If you don’t want to place the building, you can pass. It’ll cost you a point, though (unless you choose to end the episode for yourself). If you end the episode for yourself, you’re done placing buildings!
A game ends when every player decides to end the episode for themselves (or the deck is depleted). Once that happens, everyone scores their city! You’ll get bonus points (or penalties):
- Each tree: +1 point
- Each rock: -1 point
- Each uncovered light green space: -1 point
The player with the most points wins the episode! The winner fills in two Progress Symbols, the player with the fewest points fills in zero progress symbols. At three or four players, the player with the second-most points colors in one progress symbol. Afterwards, there may be stickers that get applied to player boards or tiles or various other things to advance the plot. Continue until you’ve finished the 24th episode, and the player with the most Progress Symbols filled in wins the campaign!
Player Count Differences
I’ve done an entire three-person campaign and a two-person campaign, and I wouldn’t say I have strong recommendations either way. At the core of My City, you really are just interacting with your own board, so having more folks in play doesn’t necessarily help you one way or the other. The key difference is that with more players, you have an opportunity to get a Progress Symbol every game if you have the second-most points, which I suppose counts for something. Without getting too deep into spoilers, some mild racing elements do emerge later in the game, so having an extra player means you have an extra competitor in that space, but even then, it’s hard to say that that really detracts from the experience overall. The one major advantage that the two-player mode has going for it is that once you finish the campaign, there are still two perfectly clean boards in the box and you can spin up another two-player campaign as a rematch. That leads me to slightly recommend My City with two, but honestly, I think it’s perfectly fun at any player count.
- Try to figure out what you should be prioritizing! Each Episode gives you a pretty solid hint as to what’s “important”, whether it be a new feature or a new scoring condition or a new restriction. Keep those in mind and let them guide how you play! If your play area is restricted, it might be worth passing on big pieces so that you can play more small pieces for the relevant bonuses, for instance. If you want to surround or cover something, you might want to do that first so that you’re not restricted later in the game. Things like that. You’re relying on random draws of pieces, so you’ll need luck on your side regardless.
- Planning out what pieces you want to play helps, but keep in mind that you can’t necessarily guarantee the pieces will come out in the order you want. You can have a perfect plan to fill the board but, since you’re required to play adjacent to another piece, you might get completely screwed if the pieces don’t get revealed in the precise order that you want. You may have to improvise or rotate. Either way, don’t get too attached to a particular ordering of pieces; chances are, they won’t show up that way.
- Passing on a piece isn’t always the worst thing. It’s only -1 point. Granted, there will come a time where passing may be a bit more difficult, but generally speaking, you might want to keep passing available as an option. Sometimes a piece just isn’t going to fit into your overall plan and you need to pass so that you can place the pieces you want. This especially applies to the larger pieces; any of them showing up at the wrong time can absolutely junk up your arrangement.
- Don’t ignore new elements that are added each Chapter. Each Chapter (and sometimes each Episode) adds new elements that you need to make sure you incorporate into your strategy. I made the critical error of mostly ignoring a major component of the game in the middle to focus on other things, and not only did I start losing game after game but I also got to a point in the campaign where I really couldn’t catch up, which was a bit frustrating.
- Avoid trees; cover rocks. Trees are worth positive points and rocks are worth negative points at the end of the game. You can cover trees if you have to, but try to avoid it. I’d only recommend covering them if you’re really trying to set up a high-scoring combo. Also note that some trees are single trees and some are doubles; the double trees and the double rocks are worth +2 and -2, respectively, so more priority to keeping them clear or covering them up.
- I find that initial placement during a game tends to count for a lot; make sure you’re setting yourself up for success, especially if you need to branch in a few different directions. You don’t traditionally want to place your first tile at the bottom of the board, for instance; having the ability to spread out where you place your tiles will help you, long-term. You especially want to try and keep spots open for some of your later placements, depending on how you’re planning for
- Not every game is worth winning. Sometimes, frankly, it’s better to lose the game and get the benefits for losing than it is to win. Naturally, lose too many, and you aren’t goin to win the campaign. If you lose a couple key games, however, you might end up with a bonus that can really help you as the game progresses. Just keep an eye on that.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- This one’s got some real twists and turns to it! I was impressed. There’s a real progression over the course of the game! A lot happens, a lot changes, and there are some really nice changes to the gameplay as the game goes on. I think The Rise of Queensdale probably did more, technically, but also that was a much larger game, so I’m not necessarily saying that that was a good thing. For My City, I appreciate how the changes to gameplay add new challenges and context without increasing the game’s complexity too much.
- I really like how every chapter gives you something to try and optimize around while still usually preserving some features of the previous chapters. My City fundamentally builds upon itself, helping you lay foundations to change the way that you play and ultimately allowing players to arrive at a pretty solid finale. I enjoyed pretty much every chapter (with one or two exceptions), and liked the campaign enough to play it again.
- I do appreciate that you can play two two-player campaigns with just one box. One of the benefits of largely playing two-player games, I suppose. If you’re a couple or you’ve got one friend who really wants to try My City twice, there’s no real limiting factor beyond you already knowing how the campaign will go (and even then, I’ve found that the per-Episode nuances are somewhat lost on me, now).
- The learning curve of the game is impressively gradual, as well! They throw a lot at you from start to finish, but My City tries to only introduce one or two new concepts each episode, progressively building on them over 24 games. The curve is traditionally not too steep, which I appreciate. Honestly, I think folks could learn a good amount from seeing how My City introduces gradually more challenging concepts over the course of many games. It means that the rulebook starts intuitive and the game stays intuitive for the duration of the campaign
- Your boards will differentiate pretty quickly just based on how stickers are placed, so players will start moving in different ways pretty quickly. You don’t always have to worry about players going for the exact same thing you’re going for, even when there are a few racing components. As you place stickers and change up your map, things are going to generally start differentiating between various player boards, so you’ll all end up with fairly different starting plans and goals, which is nice.
- I do like a lot of the elements of the later game. My City really gets industrialized towards the end of the game! There’s a lot to do, there, which is pretty fun. I appreciate that these new elements don’t end up adding a ton of additional complexity, which is nice.
- Each of the games plays surprisingly quickly, as well. They’re mostly 30 minutes per game, tops. You can probably get somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes per game, especially if you mess up and lock yourself out of the episode because you didn’t do a great job. The nice thing about My City compared to a few other legacy games is that you truly can power through a couple episodes in one go.
- It really does feel like a city slowly moving toward prosperity. Big fan. Onwards and upwards! I like the progression of it all. Each Chapter, in particular, really escalates to some degree, which is fun.
- I also just generally like tile-laying games, so it all works out well. The game cycles through a few different types of tile-laying mechanics as they add new things, which is fun, but tile-laying remains one of my favorite general mechanic types. If you’re into tile-laying, you’re going to be doing a lot of that in this one.
- Of the Legacy games I’ve played, this feels the most approachable? I’m impressed, especially for a competitive game. I think it helps that each episode gradually adds new things without overwhelming players with a ton of new things to do and try and score. Generally, I find cooperative games to be a bit easier to learn since players can work together to understand the rules (and there’s no explicit advantage if any one player does not understand the rules), but even then, this has largely been one of the most approachable legacy games I’ve tried. It’s definitely helpful that My City starts at a pretty low-complexity level, which is nice.
- It’s not really repeatable, though you can play Eternal Mode instead with just the core game. This is just a general issue with legacy games, though I appreciate that they added Eternal Mode to make sure that folks can still play the game after they finish the campaign. That said, I would have liked some level of carry-over. I spent all that time investing in my map, only for me to just play on a generic map when I switch to Eternal Mode? Oh well.
- There are a couple times where you can’t pass on certain pieces (or at all) and that’s a bit irritating. This is a mild spoiler for some episodes, but there are going to be times where you can’t pass on certain things without ending the episode for you, which is frustrating. I love a restriction or two, but this essentially can lead to players just straight losing the episode because they didn’t plan for an unexpected piece.
- Just given how Progress Symbols are doled out, it can be pretty tough to catch up to another player at the campaign level if you get too far behind. That’s just the campaign, at some level, I suppose, but it can feel … not great to know that you’ve lost the campaign but you have to at least go through the motions for another eight or ten games to get to the end of it. The benefits to losing are supposed to help balance things out, a bit, but we didn’t find that it was enough to bridge the gap.
- “Manifest Your Destiny” kind of sucks as a tagline? Manifest Destiny has a whole host of issues, just generally, and given that the game doesn’t meaningfully engage with that to any degree (you just find an empty plot of land next to a river and do everything yourself, which is … well, it exists somewhere on the plausibility scale), they could have literally just gone with any tagline. You’re taking a city through different ages, why not focus on that? Manifest Destiny was also … a bit more expansionalist as an idea, so the fact that you continually stay in the same spot and never expand outside of it doesn’t really jive, either. It just doesn’t seem like it was chosen in the interest of cohesion; it just seems like a thing that someone said and then that got printed on the box.
Overall: 9.25 / 10
Overall, I think My City is a pretty fantastic game! For me, I’ve really been a fan of how this game incorporates legacy elements without as much of the dread or tension that I’ve seen in other legacy titles. What you end up with is a nice and approachable legacy title that gradually introduces new elements without overwhelming players. Granted, twenty-four games in a legacy game is a lot, but we’ve gotten pretty close to that in some bad Pandemic Legacy campaigns. For a competitive game, players don’t technically interact with each other that much (since all gameplay takes place on separate player boards), and honestly, that kind of thing is pretty consistently my speed. I’m not one for other players messing with stuff that I’ve built, so having my own space for my own city prevents me getting annoyed by other players messing with my stuff. Art-wise, it’s not necessarily the most engaging, but it does what it needs to do. I think the major draw for me is the approachability. My City is not a particularly challenging game to pick up and learn, and I think that’s great. The games are short, there’s something new every time, and there’s a very good sense of progression that never strays too far away from the core concept of “reveal a shape and then place a shape”. That may be a bit below the complexity threshold for some of y’all if you’re into a bit more of an intense gaming space, but I think I could teach My City to a wide variety of different folks, even friends who are new to board gaming, and that’s fantastic. Approachability, especially in the legacy space, is a significantly underrated feature. I’m already looking forward to my next campaign. If you’re interested in trying a legacy game for the first time, you enjoy tile-laying, or you just want a game that’s a great fit for a wide variety of folks, I’d highly recommend trying out My City! One of my favorite things I’ve played this year.
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