World's Fussiest Architects - Quadropolis Review

I have a soft spot for city building games - it scratches my itch where I like to see something develop in front of me while I'm playing. In Caverna I get to see my farm and cave expand, in Castles of Mad King Ludwig I watch my castle spread out in odd ways and in Sid Meier's Civilization I watch my city populate and my trade network develop. I'm less impressed with a game that's static all the way through or doesn't give you that feeling of satisfaction of what you did.

The inherent problem of a city building game specifically though is the theme. It's very hard to represent theme in this genre outside of how a building interacts with others. Suburbia is one of my favourites, but you have to admit, with all those dull tiles it's pretty abstracted. And most other games in the genre essentially revolve around placing cards or tiles in a very linear format. Now I don't think I'll ever see a board game representation of Sim City ever, it's just too complicated, but the more theme I can get the better - even if it's just enough for me to poke fun at how my city operates vs other players - regularly I'm seeing smog hazards in Suburbia or kinky dungeons in Mad King Ludwig, it's kind of worrying.

Quadropolis has come out of the blue for me as a light entry level game by Days of Wonder who typically don't release many games during a year. With that name though comes a reputation of quality components, easy to understand rules and lots of hidden depth, so that's already a good start. But if it's light, will it be fun enough to play and how will it stand against what I believe to be the current leader in the lightweight city building category - Dice City?




Designer: Francois Gandon
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Age: 8+
Players: 2-4
Time: 30-60 Minutes
RRP: £34.99


Build A Better District 12


Each player builds their own metropolis but they're competing with one another for the shops, parks, public services and other structures to be placed in them. Each type of building scores differently at the end depending on how you place it so positioning and planning is key.

Quadropolis lasts four rounds, and in each round players first lay out tiles for the appropriate round at random on a 5 x 5 grid. Each player has four architects numbered 1-4 and on a turn, a player places an architect next to a row or column in the grid, claims the tile that's as far in as the number of the architect placed (e.g., the fourth tile in for architect #4) and places that tile in the appropriately numbered row or column on their own board claiming resources such as inhabitants (meeples) or energy.

When a player takes a tile, the Urbanist pawn is placed in this now-empty space and the next player cannot place an architect in the same row or column where this tile was located. You might recognise this concept from a great two player game called Targi where rows and columns were blocked from your opponent depending on where you placed your worker. In addition, you can't place one architect on top of another, so each placement cuts off play options for you and everyone else later in the round. After all players have placed all four architects, the round ends, all remaining tiles are removed, and the tiles for the next round laid out. This repeats for four rounds at which point the game ends and all the points are totalled up revealing the inevitable winner. Buildings will only activate if they can fill the requirements of inhabitants and energy as required and excess resources that aren't used spell negative points for the player.

Two modes of play are available, being Classic and Expert. Expert mode introduces two further buildings with more complex scoring, changes the way architects are played, adds a 5th round and flips your player board to reveal a more intricate layout requiring even more planning skills to use to best effect.


Clear And Shiny Floor Plans



Quadropolis follows the typical Days of Wonder formula when it comes to component quality and gives us some nice chunky, colourful tiles to work with as well as shiny acrylic meeples/energy pieces. On top of that the insert is perfectly designed to hold the tiles and separate the ones you use in each round as well as the classic and expert versions. Although god help us if an expansion comes out as I doubt there will be any lee way to add more stuff in the base box. One word of warning though to those of you who store your games vertically as there's too much space between the tile holders and the box lid so you're going to have problems keeping them organised. This doesn't bother me as I'm one of the only people out there who seem to store their games horizontally - seriously as much as vertical games look cool, I don't want all my game bags/pieces etc crushing each other on one side every time I store it.

The rulebook is also one of the best I've read. Every action and scoring type is laid out clearly with pictorial examples and it made this just so easy to grasp the rules and play. I kid you not, I skimmed the rules for about 5 minutes prior to teaching this and aside from having to double check a few scoring examples, it was no problem to explain the Classic mode to others without stalling. The Expert mode is a little more complex to grasp, but once you've played Classic mode, it comes to you pretty quickly. I've never had a problem understanding the rules to any Days of Wonder game, not even Five Tribes and that trend isn't stopping here. Other publishers take note. As a result if you want a game to play in a family setting or for new gamers, this is worth considering, but by no means should you think it's an easy ride . . .


That Building And That One, Can We Swap Them Round?


At first while you play Quadropolis, you wonder where the depth lies? Pick some buildings, place them down, easy peesy lemon squeezy. . . right until you get to the next round and start wondering if you started on the right foot or not. And then heading into the 3rd and 4th rounds you quickly realise that your choices on positioning are quickly constrained based on your previous actions and therein lies the unique selling point for this game.

The rules for placing buildings down on your board quickly become frustrating in a good way later when you start running out of places to go based on your architects left. You can go grab that nice shiny park you wanted . . . except you can't put it in the space you want because your architect doesn't match the numbered space. Planning and positioning is so key in this game, but you can't always rely on getting exactly what you need and have to adapt based on the construction site that's offered to you. You've got two main issues to deal with: does your architect allow you to grab that specific tile and even then can you place it where you want? You have to micro-manage your architects and use them in the best order to benefit you and if that means abandoning your desired tile so that later on you don't end up with nothing, then so be it. And I like that you're penalised for having un-used resources, it fits the theme and stops players from simply stockpiling as much as they can for use later. We're not talking Five Tribes level of depth here, but certainly more than appears at face value, I'd say definitely more depth here than Splendor which fits this weight level.

The Urbanist can throw a spanner in the works too blocking you from placing an architect on two rows entirely and sometimes you may want to take a less useful tile if it means blocking the next player from grabbing what they need. It's a neat little mechanic and reminds me of the worker placement restrictions from Targi, a cool little two player game that's a nightmare to get hold of these days. Now this is about as interactive as the game gets, blocking other players, which is a shame as I would have liked to have seen some buildings affect other players as well in the Expert mode like in Suburbia.


Classic vs Expert

You've got two modes to work with depending on your experience. Classic mode is a piece of cake to pick up yet provides a good amount of variety in terms of scoring buildings. But it won't last forever and so you'll want to introduce the Expert mode buildings in pretty shortly afterwards to get the most variety and paths to victory. Of course I wouldn't recommend teaching that mode straight away unless to experienced gamers as it can be a lot to take in having six different ways to score points to consider on top of the positioning depth mentioned above.

There is also a mini-expansion in the box that replaces some of the parks with playgrounds. It's fine, but it makes such a minor difference that you can either ignore it entirely or simply use it every game. There's like one new rule to mention and it's not even that complex. I just simply include it in the game and don't even bother mentioning it's a mini expansion.

BGG says 30-60 minutes and that's actually pretty accurate. Once you've got a game under your belt, it's not difficult to wrap the Classic mode up in 30-45 minutes. Even then at most you're spending an hour here so it's a good way to kick-start a game night before the main course. Expert mode takes a bit longer though. Adding a whole extra round and introducing more complex positioning and scoring means you'll easily be taking an hour or more to finish with a full player count, but even then you're doing something wrong if you go anywhere near 90 minutes and that's pretty good for a 4 player game with this much depth.



Verdict


Quadropolis may not be the most thematic or interactive city builder of all time, but it's a solidly designed game that keeps to the characteristics employed by Days of Wonder - good components, easy rules and hidden depth to test your brain cells. Getting stuck into this game is a piece of cake with a well laid out box insert and a crystal clear rulebook.

But don't be fooled in thinking it's a piece of cake to play well. There are strategic and tactical parts to consider with balanced paths to victory coupled with a clever worker placement mechanic borrowed from the classic two player game Targi. It plays at a quick pace and manages to dodge the issue of Analysis Paralysis for the most part. The two modes of play both work well, although Classic should really only be used with younger or new players because you want the added variety and depth that comes with Expert mode if you want further replayability.

A little more direct interaction or theme would have been nice, but as a family weight game, it does the job nicely. I still prefer Dice City as a game, but Quadropolis is definitely more friendly for new gamers to sink their teeth into and I recommend it as a good starting point.



If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You're looking for the lighter end of city building games, but with enough depth to keep it interesting.


You need a game for the family - once younger players understand the scoring, the rest is fairly easy.


You want a game with adjustable time length and complexity depending on the situation.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You're looking for a city building game with heavy theme - but not many of those exist anyway.


You play too often on Classic mode - it's fine, but you want the full menu that's on offer.


You want something that's heavy weight - if so you might prefer Suburbia or Small City.




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