Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Electropolis

Game: Electropolis

Publisher: Homosapiens Lab

Designer: Chang Yu Di, Ku Chun Wei, Wang Liang

Year: 2019



In 2019 we visited Essen for the first time. One of the great things about Essen is that it's so international and attracts publishers whose games you might not otherwise have access to. One of the stands we found most overwhelming was Taiwan Boardgame Design. They bring over games from many publishers in Taiwan and there's really no way to know which are going to be the gems. We brought home four and Electropolis is the first real gem, with one left to try.



Quite fittingly, Electropolis reminded us most of Quadropolis, except that instead of building all aspects of a city, all that you are focusing on is building an electricity network, hence the very fitting name. Quadropolis has a place on our shelf, so Electropolis really needed to stand out, and fortunately it did!

Gameplay

Electropolis starts each player with a 5x5 grid of city devoid of all buildings bar the one central town hall in your player colour. It's your job to expand this city and make it a functioning power generating utopia, though probably a nightmare to actually live in. At the start of each round a number of tiles will be placed in a circular arrangement around the player order board. Each player will then decide how many tiles that they want to take this turn. The more tiles you choose to take the later you will go in turn order. In addition, 4 cards will be dealt out each round, giving you instructions on where you can place tiles earned this turn, along with other bonuses.


When it is your turn to take tiles you must take the number of tiles you chose in one continuous group around the circle, no skipping tiles along the way. You also take one of the 4 cards from the selection. You must then add the tiles taken to the designated area within your city, adjacent to previously placed tiles. Most tiles are various buildings which must be given a space on your 5x5 grid. There are also there types of fuel tile, which aren't built on your city, but you will need them to score points from your plants at the end of the game.

The objective of the game is to generate power, so your main buildings will be power plants. Both coal and gas plants work essentially the same, giving move points when built in a group and also generating pollution. They both need their relevant fuel to run, though gas is rarer, but less polluting, than coal. Nuclear plants generate a lot of energy, but you must have a plant, fuel, and a waste plant built on one of the 4 corners of your city before you can score them. Green power plants produce a little amount of energy with no downside. Finally the purple civil buildings increase your popularity, which is important when people start spotting the smog.

The game ends after eight rounds, at which point players will earn points, and generate pollution, for every powered plant they have built. Bonus points are then awarded for collective end game objective cards which are dealt out at the start of the game, or taken as personal objective cards during a round. You'll lose some points for empty spaces in your city, and finally each player will compare their popularity with their pollution, if the popularity is higher then no problem, but if pollution is higher you lose the square of the difference in points!


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Electropolis presents a fantastic little city builder in a fascinating way. The bids for player order can make a huge difference as you decide not only what you want, but how much risk you are willing to take to get it. everything you get you must build, so those pollutin' coal plants often act as the poison in an otherwise perfect run of buildings. Taking less means you can avoid the buildings you don't want, but you run the risk of being left behind, running short of fuel or simply having empty spaces at the end of the game. An empty space isn't just the minus one victory point it seems, but also the absence of a building generating you points. The flexible player order works well and didn't simply result in an alternating player order in a two player game which is a common pitfall in this kind of system.

The constant battle between pollution and popularity is not just a great game mechanic, but also a despair-inducing reflection of real life politics. You can get away with supporting coal to make cheap energy, despite it giving us all lung disease, if only the people like you enough. I mean sure you're a danger to your constituents, but you seem real down to earth. As a game mechanic it helps drive your need to take less efficient tiles, taking green energy plants means you don't need to worry as much about the few polluting plants you do take, but then again those green plants don't make much juice! Instead you can plan to use the pollution reduction sites to sap away the pollution from your plants, but those need to be laid out in a pattern that actively stops you from bunching together your points for maximum points. Perhaps you say damn it all and pollute all that you can for cheap points, but also build some nice public buildings to placate the rubes.


Not only do you have to have a grand strategy in mind, but also a flexible one, as each turn the cards may limit where you can build. Even when the cards do give you your ideal build spot, you may find another card that is far more lucrative in the points department. Indeed some of these cards can offer as many points as a fully functioning nuclear power plant, perhaps it's worth building in a less optimal spot for that. That's the wonder in Electropolis, you are constantly making value decisions about every play, and yet the mechanics are simple enough that you don't feel burnt out after a game. It's a pleasant amount of brain burn.

However as much as these value decisions are fun to make sometimes you can't help but get screwed by the luck of the draw, or other player's actions. You might be desperate to get a building in a certain place and never have that building appear with the right card to place it there. As the game progresses the cards tend to give more leniency in where you can build, but this doesn't fully prevent the problem. You'll notice that I haven't mentioned the art yet either. This game has... functional design. It's not supremely ugly, but hardly a game that manages to stand out visually. To its credit the simple design makes for an easily understood game, but I would have liked to end the game with a city that looked good. Ultimately Electropolis is a fantastic game and certainly one to look at if it missed your radar last year. The gameplay is incredibly solid, which more than makes up for the lack of visual punch.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Electropolis is a really elegant, eight round game. It plays quickly, but has a few really strong elements that keep you thinking all the way through and keep player interaction high. Each player is building their own city, but with two drafting aspects, as well as competition for first, second and third place on your end game scoring objectives, you can't forget about the other people around the table. At two players, I wasn't actively trying to block Amy, or even being mindful of what she wanted, but I was planning whether I wanted first pick based on a number of factors, including the layout of the tiles in the drafting rind and the available round-by-round scoring objectives. Deciding whether to go first or second, as well as deciding just how many tiles you want is pretty tough at two players - with more players it must get even harder, although you might lose some control.

Electropolis looks simple. I think the stark art style certainly contributes to this. Everything is on a white background, but I find the artwork on the tiles really charming and the game comes together with a really sleek modern look. Even mechanically its a very simple game. But, at the same time it feels like there are so many options available and you need to manage a lot of aspects on your board, there's quite a lot of depth to every decision in this puzzle. I love that you really have to go big with your strategy, hoping for the right tiles in the draft to really make the most of the early decisions you made. You're forced into this situation somewhat by the early cards you draft - only the 'A' cards, out of A, B and C contain end game scoring opportunities, so you're placing your bets for strategy quite early.

I've loved every game of Electropolis, even those where I've lost by going way too heavy on pollution, and forgetting all about happiness! Every game is a learning experience and you can only blame yourself when things go wrong. There's a little bit of luck involved, but at two players I've always felt very in control of my fate and able to make tactical decisions at the right moment, taking a small number of tiles I really needs vs. taking 6 tiles and seeing how that moulds my strategy. Putting together your town feels really satisfying and making it balance is a really rewarding tight rope walk. Electropolis is a little bit harder to find, but I would recommend seeking it out!


You Might Like...
  • The turn order mechanism is hugely important for both drafting aspects in every round.
  • There are a few different ways you can plan your player board to score points.
  • Great choices for spatial puzzle fans.
You Might Not Like...
  • You can get lucky or unlucky in the draft. The bag of tiles is large an what you want may never get drawn.
  • The simplistic art style will not be to everyone's taste. We found it stylish but others might find it bland.

The Verdict
8/10 Electropolis is an excellent game which really came out of nowhere for us. Every game we find ourselves implementing new strategies based on end game objectives or lessons learned from previous games and it's always exciting to find out your score at the end of each game. The drafting ring, restrictions on where you can place tiles and mixture of round-by-round and end game scoring objectives come together into an impressive, medium weight tile-laying and city building game that's very deserving of a place on our shelves.


Electropolis was a review copy kindly provided to us by Taiwan Boardgame Design.

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