Review: Card City

Trilogies are so common in movies nowadays, but the trend has not reached boardgames too often. Sure you get expansions that kind of work as trilogies, but a true movie trilogy builds from one movie to the next and that is exactly what Alban Viard has been working on releasing for the past 4 or so years and culminates in this year’s release of Small City.

In 2012 Alban Viard released the first two installments in the trilogy with the small card game Card City and the larger and more complex Town Center. Town Center was originally the first installment of the series, but Card City took over that position since it was professionally published. Both Card City and Town Center are multi-player games with solo variants included in the box. This review is not about Town Center though, so let’s dig into the the first installment of the trilogy, Card City.

Card City is a small card game with the goal of building the most efficient city possible. In the multi-player game you start with a draft to pick what cards (locations) you will be building into your city that turn. I haven’t played the multi-player game as of yet so I won’t comment on that, instead I will concentrate on the solo variant.

Each turn of Card City is very simple. You draw three cards from the stack of available locations, pick two and put the 3rd on the bottom of the deck (so you will see it later). Then you place the locations into your city, not exceeding a 5×5 grid. If it is a residential location you can’t place it by another residential card and the same goes for commercial (it can’t be placed by another commercial card).  If you chose a Leisure card you have to pay 5 coins to place it, but there is no restriction. Parking lots can also be placed anywhere, but are free to build. Industrial cards cannot touch a residential location and are needed in order to place more locations (5 cards per industrial card).

After placing your two locations, you then look for expansions in your city. If any of your residential cards have one more leisure card bordering it than residential cards in that district, you get to add a residential card for free. Commercial locations work the same only with residential locations bordering them.

After expanding your city you get to collect money (1 coin by default and then one coin for each single commercial card that has not been expanded). For each multi-card commercial district you get more money than one coin per card. A district of two gets 1 + 2, a three card district gets 1 + 2 + 3 and don’t worry, the rules include a cheat sheet if math is not your friend.

card city commerce
courtesy of BGG

Before the next round begins you can buy an industrial card to immediately place in your city. The cost depends on how many industrial cards you already have in your city.

At game end you calculate your points in a similar manner to commercial districts, only this time for residential districts and then subtract one point for each card missing from your 5×5 grid. Lastly you add a point for every 5 coins that you have a see what kind of city/town/village/megaopolis you have built and then most likely, play again.

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

What’s Good?

  • The price is ridiculously awesome. Alban sells it for 5 Euro plus shipping with the one card expansion on BGG. Even with the shipping it is a great deal.
  • It plays very quick and provides enough of a challenge that you want to immediately play it again to get a better score. One quick play can easily turn into two or three plays.
  • It provides a good challenge to maximize your city by arranging the residential and commercial cards in a way that you can expand each district to the maximum potential.

What’s Not So Good?

  • It took a little while to get the rules down for placement and to remember that you can only have 5 cards per Industrial card in your city. I always seem to forget that rule, but after a while it is pretty easy to remember.
  • There is some luck involved by way of the order in which you draw the cards. It doesn’t bother me though (most times at least) because of the fast time in which it plays.

What’s the Best Part?

  • The general building restrictions give you a foundation for learning Town Center, which I assume, though do not know for sure, will give you the foundation for Small City as well. What I love about that is Card City kind of functions as an introductory tutorial for Town Center and then, if I’m right, Town Center will be an introductory tutorial for Small City. Though each game is great on it’s own too, so if you don’t want anything beyond Card City or Town Center, you certainly do not have to buy more.