Lost in the shuffle at Essen, next to it’s much more heralded brother Castles of Mad King Ludwig was an also sold out game by new designer Lucas Hedgren. It was my surprise hit of Essen and one I was and am happy to teach to others. That game is Subdivision and it’s a good one.
I had the opportunity to demo for Bezier at Essen so I heard many of the comments people had made even before trying the game. “Is this like Suburbia, Jr.?” “Wow, that looks just like Surburbia.” “Is this an expansions to Surburbia?” You can imagine other Suburbia related questions that were uttered and overheard, but I am here to let you know the answers to these questions. No, no and no. Subdivision is it’s own game and a quite good one at that. Sure it looks similar, due to the art on the cover being from the same artists, the hex tiles and a few other similarities, but if you had one of those questions yourselves, please join me and look into Subdivision a little deeper.
Subdivision is a game for 1-4 people and takes between 35-45 min to finish a game. Each player gets a board and can choose one of the sides of the two-sided board, in which to build their subdivision. 20 zone tiles per person are shuffled together and each player starts with two dollars. After that the game is ready to go. Each player gets dealt 5 tiles from which to draft. One player rolls the die to see what color is free to place a tile onto. The players select a tile and either place it on a space on the board that corresponds to the shape/color rolled. If the player pays $1 they can place the tile anywhere on the board. The round continues on in a similar fashion, except when the players place a tile adjacent to an already placed zone tile then they activate the previously placed tiles and may take advantage of whatever that tile allows them to do. At the end of each round their is a known bonus that will provide each player who achieved that goal a specific advantage whether it be money or a free activation of a zone tile. The game continues on for four rounds and at the end of the four rounds you see how many points each player has.
That is a very, very basic explanation of the game, but that is essentially how it is played. What I didn’t spend time talking about where the different zone tiles and what they provide for your subdivision. The industrial zone tiles give you roads, the civic zone tiles give you parks, the luxury zone tiles give you lakes, the commercial zone tiles give you sidewalks and the residential zone tiles give you schools. Each of the improvement tiles give you different things as well. The roads allow you to keep your zone tiles connected to the highway (which is where a majority of your points will come from), the parks give you 1 point for every non-park that surrounds it, the lakes give you $1 for every non-lake surrounding it, the sidewalks connect unique zone tiles and unique improvement tiles (also, a good chunk of points) and the schools give you victory points if you get 3 stacked one on top of the other. Extra money at the end gives you points, as well as covering spaces on the board itself. Each space that a tile can be placed on has negative points (between -1 and -3) making you want to cover as many spaces as possible, while still keeping your zone tiles connected to the highway.
- The decision points on placing each tile in the place the die tells you or paying to move it is at the right level of difficult. It’s not too hard, but it’s also not completely guided by the game either.
- The solo option is a good highest score style variant. It would be nice to have an AI, but I still enjoy the game as is.
- It plays quickly and for the weight of the game, it is a fitting amount of time. It’s not too short that the set-up (which isn’t long) wouldn’t seem justified or too long that it would get a bit samey. Just like in Goldilocks, it’s just right.
- The bonus tiles that give you a building goal for each round add just a little bit extra, but also provides something for newbies to aim for while they are learning the game.
- Because of the two different sides of the player board, the advanced players can be playing a “more difficult” map while the newbies play the “easier” map. This scaling helps ease the players into the game while not making it boring for the veterans.
What’s not so good?
- The size of the tiles are just a little bigger than the space allotted for them on the board itself.
- I want more maps. Hopefully an expansion provides those for me.
- The box is a little big for the time in which it plays. With all of the components it makes sense, but it would be nicer if the box was smaller so it was more portable.
What’s the best thing?
- The game comes with 7 different scenarios that provide the next step for the game. Once you have played the game for a while then you might want something new to spice the game up. In the solo game you try to beat a set score which adds a little more flavor for the solo game players. These scenarios add tremendously to the replayability of the game making it much more valuable to add to any collection.
Like I said earlier, I like this game. Not everything is perfect, but the positives outweigh the negatives and if any of this peaks your interest than I suggest you check this game out. Give it a shot. It’s not Suburbia, it’s not Mad King Ludwig, but it’s a solid game and stands well on it’s own merits.