Point City [Preview]

Base price: $19 for the KS version.
1 Р4 players.
Play time: 15 – 30 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 2

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Point City was provided by Flatout 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. 

Another crowdfunding week! Like I said, these are going to be pretty frequent for a bit while we approach Juneish, and then I’ll be taking a break until at least after Gen Con from crowdfunding previews. Expect some nice microreviews or something in the interim. It’s good stuff; you’ll love it. Once I find out what games to write up, at least. In the meantime, please enjoy another crowdfunded adventure from our friends at Flatout Games! This time, it’s Point City, the … sequel (?) to Point Salad!

In Point City, players need to gather resources to build the city of their dreams. Naturally, it’s really hard to get your first building or two, but once you get going, your engine will be hard to stop! So stock up and use a little ingenuity as you build something less like an empire and more like a bustling city. Leverage industry, economy, energy, and more to build up your city; you’ll get there. But how will your city turn out?

Contents

Setup

So, first off, you’re going to sort the cards. Sort them by Building Tier (one / two / three). Shuffle each of the decks, and then remove cards from each tier based on your player count.

  • 1 / 2 players: Remove 25 / 26 / 27 cards from Tier 1 / 2 / 3.
  • 3 players: Remove 13 / 14 / 17 cards from Tier 1 / 2 / 3.
  • 4 players: Remove 1 / 2 / 7 cards from Tier 1 / 2 / 3.

Stack the decks so that Tier 3 is on the bottom and Tier 1 is on the top, resource-side up. Make a 4×4 grid of 16 cards, resource-side up. Fill in from the top-left to the bottom-right. Then, shuffle and place 10 / 12 / 14 Civic Tokens face-up for a 2 / 3 / 4 player game:

Shuffle the Ingenuity Starting Cards and give each player one. The one with the first player symbol should indicate who goes first. Set the Market Tokens aside, as well:

You’re good to start!

Gameplay

Point City isn’t too complicated, which I appreciate. Here, you’re building up a city by drafting resources and drafting buildings, using the resources to pay for them. Some buildings give you a permanent resource that you can use for subsequent purchases, and others give you points or point-scoring Civic Tokens. Let’s dig into it!

On your turn, you can draft any two adjacent cards from the grid. If they’re resources, you can just take them and add them to your supply. If they’re buildings, you need to be able to pay for the building when you pick it up, by spending the resources indicated on the card (Ingenuity is a wild resource). You can draft a resource and spend it on the same turn to build a building. Some buildings give you a permanent resource that you can use on subsequent turns in lieu of or in addition to resource cards to buy a building, but you can’t use a building’s permanent resource the same turn you buy it. You can also only use each building’s permanent resource once per turn. This might mean that you can’t afford any buildings currently available and that you don’t want any of the resources. In that case, you can draw the top two cards of the deck.

If there’s an entire row or column that’s all resource cards, you can flip any of those resource cards to their building side prior to drafting. It’s a free action.

Some buildings will give you a Civic Token (see the icon in the top-right corner of the card). When that happens, just pick your favorite from the remaining ones in the supply.

After drafting two cards, replace them from the top of the deck from top-left to bottom-right. The interesting thing here is that you need to replace them with the opposite type of card. Resources get replaced with buildings and vice-versa. There are tokens that you can use to keep track of them (the Market tokens). If you … forget, just flip one of the tokens and use whichever side of the card the token lands on.

Once the Market cannot be replenished (the deck is empty), the game ends! Total scores, and the player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

Point City is pretty variable between player counts. Two things contribute to that. One is the fairly-open market, which means that more players will invariably add chaos to it between turns. I wouldn’t expect certain buildings or resources to stick around for all that long, to be honest, which might be frustrating for players that want to plan ahead and execute on a strategy. While at lower player counts there’s less direct chaos, you’re also removing a lot of cards from the starting deck, so you may experience weird variance in your game, like certain resources being significantly less common. So is it better to lose a resource to your opponent or to never have access to it at all? I’m genuinely unsure. There’s a bit of a potential for kingmaking, as well, which can be a bit frustrating at higher player counts. Everyone can see everyone’s resources and buildings and points, so you can pretty easily determine who’s in the lead. So if you’re nearing the end of the game, it may be necessary to hate-draft a player to prevent them getting a card that will give them the edge. I don’t … like that kind of thing, and it’s a thing that occurs with much more impact at higher player counts. I think there are pros and cons to each player count, but I have a slight preference for two players as a result. This is the kind of game where I prefer less chaos.

Strategy

  • It’s not a bad idea to get a bit of every permanent resource, just so you can lower your costs. Early-game, this lets you pull a number of buildings for free; towards the mid-to-late game, it makes it so that you might be able to take a double resource card and a building on the same turn, or score one of the high-value buildings or get a Civic Token. Ideally, you’ll have more than just one of every permanent resource, but that’s a good place to start.
  • Also, it’s best to get some initial resources before the first set of cards ends; things get substantially more expensive after that. You don’t want to just grab points cards during Tier 1; it will make buying buildings later in the game pretty difficult. It’s just an economy thing. Getting cards that make it easier to buy other cards is good, but only getting those cards will ensure that you don’t win. The trick is figuring out when to go for resource-generating cards and when to go for points-scoring cards.
  • Civic Tokens are pretty handy; just make sure you’re actually building your strategy around them. Having a Civic Token that scores 0 is pretty … not great. If that’s your only option, don’t buy it! If you get one in the early game, try to get the cards or other circumstances aligned so that it boosts that Civic Token. I tend to try to avoid the 3 / pair of resources unless both resources are unique; otherwise I’m just fighting with an opponent for them, which doesn’t work out for either of us.
  • Towards the end of the game it’s not the worst thing to just go for points outright. I mean, by Tier 3, you’ve probably got the resources that you’re going to get. Rely on getting some resource cards, generating some permanent resources, and getting buildings to boost your score if you want to win the game.
  • You could, theoretically, try to hate-draft your opponents, but I’d recommend not bothering with that unless you have to decide between two equivalent options. There’s just never usually a point to it unless you’re specifically going to tilt the game in your favor. For one, it irritates other players who usually seek revenge, and it may not necessarily work. Plus, going out of your way to mess with another player just means the player(s) not involved in this get a benefit. Now, if you have two equal-quality options but one hurts another player, you might consider going that way.
  • Going after Ingenuity isn’t a bad idea, but sometimes it’s honestly better to get two of the resource you need. Ingenuity is a nice resource to have since it allows you to be flexible, but if you already know what you want, getting the double resource card for it might be handy. That said, the 2 points per unspent Ingenuity Card Civic Token can make getting Ingenuity pretty good, since then you can just buy buildings or keep the cards for points.
  • Look for adjacent resources and buildings; you might be able to pick up a building and pay for it in the same move. That’s an ideal combo, being able to get a resource and spend it to get a building in the same move. That will happen sometimes, so keep an eye out for what’s around buildings you want. You might be able to make it work! If not, taking a few resources and hoping for a better outcome next turn is never terrible.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Love the color scheme! It really pops on the cards. I particularly like that the elements of the resources required for the card are factored into the design of the building; it makes the buildings feel a bit more unique and look pretty fun. Sometimes they even factor in the resource that they generate, which is extra cool.
  • The engine-building elements of this are relatively simple, which I appreciate. It’s really just “buildings generate a resource that you can spend on subsequent turns”. I like that they can only be used once per turn; it forces you to sometimes make trade-offs, which can make the game a bit more interesting.
  • Each turn plays pretty quickly; it’s a nice spatial drafting game. You just take two cards and move on to the next turn; there’s not a lot of time spent. Towards the end of the game, players might spend a bit longer on their turns, but that’s a natural progression. We had a very quick round in one game where everyone just drew the top two cards of the deck; that happens too.
  • It’s interesting how the game scales up over its run. I like that cards get progressively more expensive and the grid really fills out. What’s particularly interesting is that some cards just … never get picked up, even towards the end of the game, so you might be able to get a lucky flip and get some cards for cheap if you’re lucky! Even if you aren’t, there are pretty valuable cards that show up towards the end of the game, as well.
  • I appreciate that you can pick up a resource card and use it to buy a building on the same turn. It’s a nice and simple progression that makes sense, and the move itself is intuitive. Plus, it helps players who are struggling on the economy side of the game still get something useful every now and then, even if the drafting isn’t going their way.
  • I just more generally like the grid-based drafting; it reminds me a bit of Habitats and is just an interesting way to do card-drafting. I do love Habitats, but I also like that this means that a lot of cards have three or four potential drafting partners when you pick them up. The choice matters a bit, but if you see a card you want, you just need to scan the adjacent cards to see if you can take it. I like the options that this opens up; I think it makes my choices feel a bit more impactful.

Mehs

  • The Cities you build aren’t super thematically cohesive; they kind of end up being a random jumble of buildings. I don’t even remember what all the buildings I got for my city were called or what they did; I just ended up getting what I needed based on what’s available. On one hand, that’s just kind of how these games go; on the other, I kind of wish I had more of a narrative for my city. Why do I want these buildings? What does that let my city do? What are we prioritizing? That might be asking for a lot, though.
  • I appreciate that they added rules in the game for handling restocking the supply; I honestly have forgotten a handful of times which card goes where. The Meh is mostly me forgetting how the supply is restocked; it’s definitely a pro that they include tokens. Now if I could only remember to actually use the tokens when I’m refilling.

Cons

  • There’s not really any explanation for the Civic Tokens in the rulebook, currently; most of them are intuitive, but there were a few we still had questions about. I think there’s probably enough examples for you to intuit it, but we were a bit stumped in our first play. I think it was extra odd because the KS promo tiles do come with an explanation, so that sort of highlighted the gap?
  • There’s a bit of potential for kingmaking, which is more a result of how this game works than anything else. You can find yourself at a point in the game where you obviously cannot win, but you can either hate draft a card that your opponent needs (letting a different opponent win, in all likelihood) or not do that (letting that first opponent win). This really only happens with more than two players, but it can be a bit odd / frustrating to recognize. I think that’s just a consequence of an open draft, but it also is a consequence of replacing building cards with resource cards and vice-versa. Normally, you might hate draft and your opponent might get lucky; here, since a building is replaced with a resource, you might block them from being able to do anything useful on their last turn, which can be annoying.

Overall: 7.75 / 10

Overall, I think Point City is another solid entry for Flatout Games! The natural question that comes up is “how does it compare to Point Salad?”, being a direct sequel and all that. To save you some searching, I slightly prefer Point Salad, but that makes sense. I think Point City is a nice step up in complexity from Point Salad, and I tend to prefer games on the lower end of the complexity spectrum by default. That said, I wouldn’t say that Point City is complex; just that it’s more complex than Point Salad. This is a great way to introduce some mild engine-building elements to your game group if they haven’t tried that mechanic without overwhelming them, and compared to the more classic engine-building games like Splendor, I find this theme a lot more engaging (and the art style really pops!). I do wish that there were more of a like cohesive oeuvre to my city at the end of the game, though; as it stands, my city ends up being a collection of random buildings rather than something that I feel like has its own theme. That’s a lot to ask from a card game, though, so I’m not too bothered about it. There’s a lot of smart design here, but that’s no surprise from the Flatout folks; Point City also increases in strategic depth and challenge over the course of the game itself, as the cards get more expensive (and consequently more valuable). It presents an interesting challenge of whether you want to work on your engine while it’s easy to build up or you want to buy valuable buildings while they’re fairly low-cost. I do like Point City, though, and I’m excited to see what y’all think of it. If you’re looking for an introductory engine building game, you love city-building, or you just want to see what the minds at Flatout are getting up to now, I’d recommend Point City! I’ve certainly enjoyed my plays.


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