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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Cloud City

 Game: Cloud City

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Year: 2020

 
 
Phil-Walker Harding is well known for family weight games, like Sushi Go and Barenpark. Cloud City is another puzzly tile that immediately reminded us on the monorails in the Bad News Bears expansion for Barenpark. Mechanically there's nothing in common, but visually the two have a similarity that makes both very eye-catching on the table.
 
Cloud City manages to look like something I'm desperate to play - it's super tactile and you can pretty much look at the photo of a finished game and figure out how to play!

Gameplay

Each player will start with one tile with two buildings on it. Each player will then be given a hand of three tiles and a market of three tiles will be laid out to select from. Every tile features a two by two grid on which two spaces will have a coloured square indicating the type of building to place on it. The buildings come in three sizes, small blue, medium green and large tan. On their turn a player will place one of the tiles from their hand adjacent to one of the tiles they have already played on their personal map. They then will collect thee two indicated buildings from the supply and add them to the board. If there is a now a straight path between two buildings of the same height then they can place a walkway between them. This is the main way to get points in the game, with longer walkways being worth more points. Naturally, due to their height, tan buildings block the pathways of the smaller building types, and conversely can be built so that their pathways soar above other buildigns and pathways in play.
 
 
After placing a tile the player will choose a new tile from the market and then the next player's turn begins. The game will end once each player has made a 3x3 grid of tiles (4x3 in a two player game). Players will then gather every walkway they constructed and sum up the points. If you are playing the advanced mode then there are additional reward/penalty tiles drawn at the start of the game which are assessed now too.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
 
Cloud City is an incredibly tactile game with great table presence. The use of plastic skyscrapers and cardboard bridges make it incredibly intuitive to play as the physicality of the components mean that you physically must follow the rules. The rules themselves are incredibly simple, presenting a puzzle with decent depth as you attempt to maximise your points by criss crossing pathways at different heights. Longer pathways are worth more points, but are also limited in number so if you don't get them early you might never get them! This can lead to you being desperate for the market to present a specific option, which does bring a fair amount of luck into the later stages of the game, but skill will definately help you utilise the options you have to their fullest.

This leads onto the game's main drawback, which is downtime. As a turn based game you need to wait for the previous player to play a tile, collect the right buildings, place them, add walkways and then draw a tile. None of this takes too long, but over the course of a game there can be a surprisingly large amount of waiting. An efficient group might train everyone to place their tile, then select their market tile, then build the buildings and walkways to help alleviate this problem, letting the next player place and take while they do the physical construction. This all boils down to the game being a more or less solitary experience, so having to wait for other players feels wrong.


The other drawback is Cloud City's simplicity. Even with the advanced tiles giving you new ways to score/lose points the game doesn't change that dramatically from play to play. Being a light, fast game to learn and play, Cloud City certainly has a place for an entry level game or a quick filler, but for me doesn't have the legs that other tile laying games have. It's still great fun to play and you'll likely want to play several rounds at a time.

  
Fi’s Final Thoughts
 
Cloud City looks deceptively simple when you start to play, but you soon find out that it's a puzzly of (literally) many layers. You might start the game trying to plan out a few length 8 bridges, only to realise that your network or brown towers block you green towers and you'll need to play sub-optimally for the next three turns. You need towers far apart, that don't interrupt the flow of others in order to create the ultimate futuristic city that looks like a lot of fun to explore.

Cloud City is incredibly approachable, and if you set this game up on the table I'm sure people will approach. It looks as good as any high quality dexterity game and is perfect to entice new players into a game. The rules will take you about 30 seconds to teach and you can even play the basic game for beginners.


The biggest drawback with Cloud City is its solitaire nature. There's almost no reason to wait for othr player to play, expect they might take a piece I want from the central market. I am very impatient and just want to get on with playing, and that's only with two players, I can't imagine waiting in a game with more players. It remind me a lot of NMBR9, except that you don't have quite the same input as other players and you can't play simultaneously. Both of these are slight drawbacks for me, but they don't spoil the game, it's still incredibly fun to see how well you can play each game, and with the addition of the 'advanced' objectives there are lots of different goals to aim for. I don't think I'll ever play without the objectives.
 
Otherwise, Cloud City is a lightning fast puzzly game that I always want to play multiple times in a single sitting. It's addictive, but playing multiple games also justifies all the time you spent sorting the bridges into piles by number and type - we really need a better way to sort the bridges to ease set-up - it does take too long for a quick game.


You Might Like...
  • There is a lot more to the puzzle than initially meets the eye!
  • As a very quick game, it definitely has that 'one more time' urge to play again and again.
  • The game is attractive and simple, making it a great candidate to introduce to someone curious about modern board games.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game is such a solitaire puzzle, that you have to force yourselves to slow down and take turns.
  • Setup can take as long as the game itself. A clever insert would've been a big boost for this game.

The Verdict
6.5/10 Cloud City takes an incredibly simple concept and turns it into a beautiful game with its production alone. It might be a little too simplistic for a gamer audience, but for us, it has a place as a game with super quick playtime at two players, making it one of those games that there's always time and desire to play. We're always eager to improve our scores and try out new objectives. We'd highly reccommend Cloud City for families and fans on NMBR9.


Cloud City was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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