We have a lot of competitive games in our collection and a lot of cooperative games, but we don’t have many games that have those two modes in one game. City Builder can be played competitive and cooperative which immediately drew our attention. This game is all about building the best city and scoring points. We have played games from Inside Up games before and were curious to see what this new game would bring to the table.
How to play.
To get to know the game, we recommend to start with the competitive variant of the game to learn how to play. For the setup of the competitive variant, give each player the starting tiles in their color, a town square and place unused starter tiles back in the box. Shuffle and place city tiles in a stack according to the player count. Take 15 tiles per player, for two players this would be 30 tiles for example. You can also use the removable tile tray included in the insert of the game. Place one settler track between every two players so they share a settler track. Place a big noble house on every ‘7’ spot in the middle of the track and two small commoners houses on each ‘4’ spot. Fill all the remaining spaces with random houses. Make sure the noble houses are only placed in the middle. Place all competitive monuments in the draw bag and reveal three monuments face up in the middle of the table. You are now ready to begin building your city.
On your turn, place one of the three tiles from your hand in your city. You can rotate the tile in any way you wish, but it has to be place in a way that at least one side touches another tile already placed in your city. If you end your turn, you may no longer move the tile you have placed this round. Each tile has streets printed on them. You can use those streets to connect other tiles together. If an area is surrounded by streets on the outside, it becomes a complete district. The rulebook also has great examples to show what this may look like. A district can be as big as one tile only, or even much more like five or six tiles combined together for example. Complete districts are ready to contain settlers or even monuments.
If you look closely, you will find landmarks and statues on your tiles. Landmarks can fulfill monuments and settler requirements, but cannot house settlers. Statues can be any color landmark you want. You can also find houses with white roofs printed on the tiles. Every house with a white roof, can contain one settler. Each settler has requirements you need to fulfill before they will move from the settler track, to your city. Commoners (the small houses) need a landmark in their color and another landmark in a different color. If you see a blue commoner house on the settler track for example, you will need a blue landmark and a landmark in any other color. This all has to be placed in a closed district together with one house with a white roof to house the settler. In order to house nobles, you need two landmarks in the same color and one landmark of another color. Purple settlers are the most difficult to house. The commoner needs three different colored landmark while the purple noble needs all four colored landmarks in the same closed district. You cannot just take any settler from the track that you like. Since you share each track with another player, you can only take the colors on your side, while your opponent will have to take settlers from his side of the track. If the requirements are met for a settler on your side of the track, you can take it’s house and place it on an empty house with a white roof in the close district. A district cannot contain more then one settler of each color. If there is only one settler left in a column, commoner or noble, it cannot be taken to count the score at the end of the game. Again the rulebook shows great examples of what settlers are available and how they can be placed.
Lastly you can build a monument. Monuments can give you end game scoring bonuses or a one time benefit. Like taking more houses of the settler track in order to increase your score at the end of the game for example. Monuments can only be build in closed districts that have the same exact size of the monument tile. Monuments also have landmark requirements that need to be in that district. The requirement can be found on each monument tile. Remember that statues can act like any colored landmark. Once a monument is build, draw a new monument out of the bag to replace the empty spot.
Placing a tile is always mandatory. Gaining a settler or building a monument is always optional.
When you have finished what you wanted to do, go to the upkeep phase. You may discard one or both of your remaining tiles to the bottom of the city tile stack so other players can use them to. Then draw new tiles from the top of the stack until you have three tiles again. The game ends when all the tiles, including the ones from your hand, are played. Score the victory points of each column of the settler track on your side and score the bonuses of each monument. The player with the most points is the winner.
The cooperative variant of City Builder is played different then the competitive variant of this game. For the setup, check the setup of the rulebook well since a couple of things are different. Like using cooperative monument tiles instead of competitive and using the other side of the settler track for example.
For this game, start with the immigration phase on your turn. Draw a commoner from the bag and add it to one of the two settler tracks. The settler track will begin empty, but will become overpopulated once there is no more space for settlers. If you place the same color next to each other, return both commoner houses and place one noble house of that color in the right column. If at any time a line would become to long, all players lose the game. Next is the expansion phase. Place a tile from your hand according to the same rules of the competitive gameplay. You can again gain a settler from the track or build a monument. Lastly is the upkeep phase where you draw one tile from the supply, replace it with the top tile of the stack and then you end your turn. You will win the game once a certain number of monuments are build, or when the emperor’s edict is fulfilled. The emperor’s edict is chosen during setup.
Playthrough of the game.
After reading the rules, we started to play. We quickly realized laying out the tiles in the most ideal way, was not as easy as initially thought. The bigger your city gets, the harder it also becomes to keep track of everything. I decided to focus on monuments and small houses as easy and quick scores, while Tomasz decided to go for the big noble houses and big districts. We both had no easy task and we had no idea who was taking the lead. At the end of the game, I won with two points difference because of the monuments that gave me endgame points.
What we loved about the cooperative version was that it really feels like a completely different game. We were both trying to race against the city becoming overpopulated. Since there are less colored housed to choose from, this was not easy as well. We lost the first few games, but managed to win later on when we started to also make space for monuments.
We think that City Builder is the best game we have played from Inside Up Games so far. Both versions are a lot of fun with two players already, but what we like the most is that they have two games in one box. They both work well and just feel like two completely different games. The art of the game is also nice. Once you start placing houses and gain monuments, the whole look comes together. The best element in the game is that you share each tile since you don’t discard tiles you dispose off, but place them back in the stack. This makes you think twice what you get rid off. The biggest improvement we can see compared to the other games from Inside Up Games, is the rulebook. The rulebook was constructed a lot better and much more clear for this game which made the learning process easy and quick.
City Builder: Ancient Worlds is a tile placing board game that you can play cooperative and competitive. Both variants are completely different and are fun to play, even with two players. It’s awesome to see your city evolve from one tile into many districts with monuments, noble and civilian houses, statues and all the other things. It can be quite a puzzle to not only place a tile in the right district to close it off, but also to be able to take the right colored house off the settler track. But at the end of each game, you will be able to look down on a small city that you have created yourself, that alone makes it a lot of fun for us.