It’s been more than a month than my last weekly report, but don’t worry, you haven’t missed much. Between getting sick, laying new floors and just general chaos, I haven’t really been playing that many games. But I’m back to regularly scheduled gaming and here’s what I played this week!
Underwater Cities by Vladimir Suchy is a worker placement game with a card action mechanism tied into the core. Along one side of the board are a row of green coloured action spaces. Along the next side is a bunch of red coloured action spaces, and along the final side are yellow coloured action spaces. On your turn you need to choose a board action, then play a card. If you play a card that matches the colour of the board action you took, you get to do both the board action and the card action. If the colours don’t match, you’ll only get the board action.
So what’s the point of these actions? You are competing against the other players to build the most grand underwater metropolis. You’ll construct population centres, tunnels to connect your population centres, and buildings to support life under the ocean. Desalination plants, farms, and laboratories, all of which will produce various resources. The Desalination plants, farms, and laboratories can be upgraded, making them produce more during a production phase, and if two upgraded buildings of the same type are connected to a single population centre, they’ll produce even more!
Resource production only occurs 3 times throughout the game. Once after round 4, again after round 7, and once more at game end. The first age will have you feeling starved, barely able to scratch a living off the rocks. The second age you start to feel some progress, and in the third age you are swimming in resources.
Underwater Cities is an excellent game. The worker placement slash card action mechanism is immensely satisfying. It feels so good to play a card matching the action, allowing you to have a combo action every turn. Because there’s only 3 colours, the odds are there’s something you want to do with the cards that you have. I love the arc of the game, how it feels impossible at the start of the game to do anything, then at the end of the game you’re left trying to figure what you should prioritize. The engine builds slow, but it roars to life by the end.
The interaction you have with the other players comes down to blocking action spaces, which can be pretty crucial. Going last and having the two actions that you desperately wanted taken before you have an opportunity to go hurts. It can be worth spending a whole action just ensuring you get to go first the next time the action spots are cleared. There are also some situations in where you might really, desperately want to take an action, but you don’t have a matching card. It hurts to be “inefficient”, but the core of the game lies in the board actions, the cards are helpful and wonderful, but they aren’t the crux of your strategy.
I hear a lot of comparisons to Terraforming Mars, which I don’t really think is a fair comparison. Both are engine building games utilizing cards to preform many actions, but they’re quite different games. If you’re prejudiced against Terraforming Mars, I would encourage you to give Underwater Cities a try.
Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers
This was a birthday gift from my wife that we’re only just getting to now! She and I are huge fans of the first Burgle Bros and were very excited to get this new game from Tim Fowers to our table.
If you haven’t played Burgle Bros, here’s the lowdown. You and your friends are cooperatively trying to break into a building, crack the safes open, and escape with the loot. The floors are made up of a 4 by 4 grid of face down tiles. On your turn you can either peek (which flips the tile face up), or move (if the tile is face down, you flip it up as you move into it, possibly triggering whatever effect is on the tile). Other actions are available on specific tiles, like adding dice to safes, hacking computers to deactivate alarms, and rolling die that have been cached on the safe. While you’re sneaking around the offices searching for the treasures, guards are patrolling predetermined paths. If you sound an alarm, they beeline to the tile where the alarm was sounded. All players have 3 stealth, one of which they must forfeit if they end up on the same tile as a guard. If you need to forfeit a stealth, but have none to give up, you’re caught. And because there’s no honour amongst thieves, you immediately rat out your comrades, and you all lose.
Burgle Bros 2 reduces the size of the map to just two levels, and there’s only one safe to crack. But now there’s little poker chips littered on the tiles that may affect you when you either move onto the tile or peek at the tile, imbuing a little bit of chaos into the mix. Instead of stealth, players now accrue heat, get 6 heat, and you lose.
We lost real fast in this game. What cinched the game for us was I peeked into the next tile. I was feeling fairly safe as I had two ways to go to avoid the guard on my floor. The tile I peeked at just happened to be the destination for the guard, and I had plans on just moving right through it. The tile had a prima donna chip on it, which immediately pulled me onto the tile. The tile ended up being a lounge tile, which had me draw a random event. The random event swapped the guard and their destination, dropping the guard right on my head and overloading me with heat.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the production a little bit. Burgle Bros 2 comes in a much larger box than the first one, despite there being less floors to contend with. And the reason for that is the game comes with these 4 legs that you can attach to the corners of the box to create a second level. I gotta say, it looks incredible, but functionally, we weren’t fans. We kept having to duck down to see what tiles were on the far side of the lower level, and we ended up just moving the second level aside before the end of the game. It looks great, but I doubt we’ll be playing with this physical feature again.
Now, I’ve only played this once, but Burgle Bros 2 felt a LOT more random than the first one. Maybe it’s my level of familiarity with the original, but I didn’t come away immediately loving this new game. I’m determined to play a few more times and figure out where I went wrong, as I still do love the Burgle Bros games. They look great, and paired with a thematic soundtrack, make for an excellent game night.