The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

City of the Big Shoulders

During the annual-local-New Years Eve-gaming-bash, I got to try City of the Big Shoulders. I’m assuming most of my readers know/are aware of this, so let me just summarize the rules in a few lines:

  • An 18xx like system (of Stock Rounds and Operating Rounds) but no track, and exactly five turns.
  • In between in SR/OR there is a Worker Placement stage where each player can take 2-5 actions, each one affecting a company they control (with the company often paying money).  These workers (called patrons) can take actions on the board (pay to the bank) or a player-built building (pay the owner). Among those actions is a Power-Grid style labor market, and you’ll need workers (or automation) to get your factories to run. There are also specialized workers (like managers, who provide a bonus to a run factory; or salesmen, who increase the price you deliver goods for).
  • Companies can also acquire Capital assets, but most only have one asset slot (if at all). Assets have an immediate benefit (usually a worker or automation), as well as a once/turn power. A company with no asset slots can still be one for the immediate bonus.
  • The Operating Round has a mini-game where companies buy raw ingredients to turn into finish goods and deliver them to tiles. But companies can also get ingredients/goods during the WP stage.

Scoring is — as in 18xx — total cash plus stock value at the end.

This game is simpler than its rulebook, at least, to anyone with knowledge of 18xx. But the book managed to scatter rules around in odd places so that I wasn’t quite sure until I’d scanned it later. I’m still not sure if we handled the worker market right, because it felt like a glut happened. It may have just been random chance, but I feel like we missed a rule.

The components look nice. It may have been a blinged out Kickstarter copy.

And after the game — I’m not sure. I enjoyed it, but there are some concerns:

  1. The aforementioned issue with workers.
  2. The typical Worker Placement problem of someone getting more workers may be problematic.
  3. The way that goods are bought (bins of $10-$20-$30-$40-Futures where once a bin empties, the remaining bins slide down), coupled with the way companies are ordered is very chaotic.
  4. Companies without the ability to own Capital Assets seem much worse, but that’s just a snap judgement.

Each system works, I’m just not sure they work well together.

I looked at my geekbuddies comments and I like Eric’s comment that the lack of train rusting means that they’ve removed a critical bomb. I think they bomb may still be there (in the nature of the goods market) or in the race to get a 3rd/4th/5th Patron.

And there are some things I do really like:

  • The 20% preferred share that can be owned by anyone but the director of a company. (That would be delicious in an 18xx that encouraged dumping!)
  • The “bonus dividend” action

Rating — Right now suggest until I get a better feel for the game. This would also make a great introduction to people who wanted to try heavier business games.

Written by taogaming

January 1, 2020 at 7:28 pm

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