The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Urban Sprawl Initial Thoughts

Right now (after one play) I consider Urban Sprawl a poor design.

  1. Fixed Fun … there’s a possibility of a decision or two when it’s not your turn, but usually not.
  2. Long, although probably gets shorter after a game, assuming no AP. (But the game seems to demand some thought).
  3. Lots of chaos.
  4. What appear to be a large number of (usually) false choices.

Look, a long drafting game should involve planning. Developing a city, too.  But I got 20 points when the “Score each Industrial building” showed up. If the “Score each residential building”  had shown up instead, then no 20 points for me. Good strategy I had. The player who came in last said he played poorly, I think he just got shafted. (“Win” the 1st Mayor, then eat 15 points of random bad events and lose a building or two in a game with a winning score of ~130 and an area control mechanic doesn’t seem like the result of a choice).

There are some subtle ways the game screws up, but frankly I don’t care. Big picture, this is aimed at people tolerant of long chaotic games with little ability to plan and 2-3 minutes downtime per turn that isn’t yours. I’m not that guy.

This may be salvageable as a 2-3 player game; but if someone wanted to take it off my hands for cost I’d accept.


Written by taogaming

October 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Posted in Reviews

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7 Responses

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  1. I played a play-test version earlier this year, at the spring GMT Games Day, and I urged them very strongly to bring down the playtime and reduce the complexity, I felt it was way too long, too chaotic, and just too much for what it was. But that’s Chad & Kai’s thing, the mixture of heavy chaos and heavy analysis, and it’s done pretty well for them, so Urban Sprawl looks like it’s basically the same game I played. I had zero desire to play it again, but I’m definitely not in their target market.

    Chris Farrell

    October 29, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    • I don’t feel that the complexity is the issue. At least not rules complexity. Card complexity, perhaps. The sheer number of micropayments drags things out, though.

      I don’t really feel that Chad’s thing was “complexity, chaos and chrome.” I mean, CC isn’t terribly complex (compared to the genre of squad level WWII games) and it is chaotic, but that’s thematic. It has some chrome. Dominant Species (which I only played twice) didn’t strike me as complex, and I’d have killed for some chaos in it. And bare bones dry, almost an abstract (with the Domination cards to add theme).


      October 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

      • After playing Dominant Species, I had no real urge to seek out Urban Sprawl. DomSpec didn’t strike me as a bad game, just not at all for me. I did feel it was chaotic, but player-induced chaos, to the point that you had no idea what the game situation would be when your turn rolled around. And the number of choices were brain-numbing, at least for me. I did feel it was over-designed (the old Kitchen Sink Syndrome) and that a good Euro-centric developer would have chopped away about a third of it. But a long game with lots of planning and lots of chaos is something I’ll avoid every time. I could be talked into trying it again, but with no more than 3 players.

        Your comments on Urban Sprawl sound harsher, but unless one of my buddies really wants to try it out, it was one that I was going to ignore anyway.


        October 30, 2011 at 10:27 am

      • Complexity as in overall game complexity. Isn’t virtually every single card special power in Urban Sprawl unique? It’s a huge number of possible permutations, and since the powers are non-trivial and generally unstructured, the game-state gets very complicated. I also thought Combat Commander was over-chromed and over-complicated, again given what it was – why is there a hex grid in this game, implying a fine-grained level of control and requiring a certain level of micromanagement, when the players just simply don’t have that level of control over the game? The lack of a hex grid was what made Up Front not just great (for its time), but allowed it to work. But, in fairness, while I didn’t personally like Combat Commander, I didn’t have anything like the same strong negative reaction that I had to playing 5-player Urban Sprawl.

        Chris Farrell

        October 30, 2011 at 11:35 am

  2. Ugh. Haven’t gotten my copy yet, but these are not the kinds of comments I was hoping to read. Because I’m also “not that guy”.


    October 29, 2011 at 11:06 pm

  3. RE: Card complexity

    That is complexity (what I call “Organic complexity,” things not in the rules, but in game play) but since each card is only 50/50 to show up, I don’t really think it adds much to the calculation.

    At least Urban Sprawl is now only 4 players. With 5 I imagine it would be even worse. So they did fix one thing.


    October 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm

  4. We played our first game last week and the winner got almost 25% of his points from a single lucky card draw. There are some interesting strategic/tactical decisions to be made but they get drowned out by the noise of “Player 1 gets $1” and “Player 2 gets $12 and 12 points” random events.


    November 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

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