Quadropolis (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: François Gandon
  • Publisher:  Days of Wonder
  • Players:  2 – 4
  • Ages:  8 and Up
  • Time:  30 – 60 Minutes
  • Times Played:  > 5 (With 3-4 Players)

Quadropolis

Days of Wonder has a well-deserved reputation for solid production value and quality gameplay. Their latest release, Quadropolis, has already been released in Europe and is available in North America this week. It has been topping hotness charts around the hobby, and after a few plays, I see why.

Quadropolis is a medium-light tile placement and set collection game with a city building theme. Each player acts as the mayor of a modern city. The game has two modes: “classic” and “expert.” The former is suitable for most of the family, but the expert mode is intended for experienced players. This review will focus on the classic game and then do a short summary of the expert game.

Quadropolis: Tile Drafting and Placement, Plus Set Collection

At the start of the game, a number of tiles are put on the construction site, which is a 5×5 grid. The tiles placed are drawn out of a bag, and only the tiles for the requisite number of players are flipped over. Thus, there are fewer choices in the 2- and 3-player games than in the 4-player game.

Quadropolis is played over four rounds, with each player getting four turns per round. Players place the tiles they acquire on their player mat, which is a 4×4 grid.

PlayerPieces

A turn consists of:

  • Taking a tile from the construction site. Each player has four “architects” numbered from 1-4. You place the architect next to a row or column in the construction site and then take the tile as many spaces away as the architect’s number. So the #1 Architect grabs the tile next to the edge of the board, the #2 Architect grabs the second one from the edge, etc. Players cannot place an architect over any other architect, nor can they point at the urbanist, a pawn that moves around the board.
  • Moving the urbanist. The urbanist replaces the last tile taken, thus limiting the available tiles on the construction site, as players cannot point an architect at an urbanist.
  • Placing the building in your city. You must place the tile on an empty square in either the row or the column with the same number as the number of the architect that you just played. For buildings that can be stacked, you could also place it on the floor number that matches the architect you just played. (Thus, a #2 Architect could build the second floor, for example.)
  • Receive resources from the building. Some tiles have a number of inhabitants (blue meeples) or energy units (red hexagonal cylinders) that you will receive.

 

Tiles

In each round there will be one tile that awards first player in the subsequent round.

The resources are used to activate buildings. These can be reallocated freely at any point in the game.

The game ends after four rounds. Players then earn points based on the following:

  • The victory points printed on tiles, provided those tiles are activated by the required inhabitants or energy units.
  • Tower block tiles. These tiles can be stacked and earn 1, 3, 6, or 10 points for 1, 2, 3, or 4 floors. These require an energy unit to activate a stack.
  • Shop tiles. These tiles earn 1, 2, 4, or 7 points if they have 1, 2, 3, or 4 inhabitants placed on it. These require an energy unit to activate.
  • Public service tiles. Each player’s city is divided into districts, and players earn 2, 5, 9, or 14 points for having 1, 2, 3, or 4 districts with at least one public service tile. These require an inhabitant to be activated.
  • Park tiles. These tiles earn 2, 4, 7, or 11 points for 1, 2, 3, or 4 adjacent tower blocks. These can use an excess energy to avoid negative points, but they don’t need to be activated.
  • Factory tiles. These earn 2 points per adjacent shop and 3 points per adjacent harbor. These require an inhabitant to be activated.
  • Harbors. They earn 0, 3, 7, or 12 points for the number of harbors in the line and column with the most harbors. These require an inhabitant to be activated.
  • Players lose one point for each excess energy or inhabitant.

Expert Mode

The expert side of the playmat has room for 25 tiles and is divided into five districts.

Players play from a common pool of architects, which now includes #5 Architects. There is still one architect of each number for each player, but they do not belong to any player.

When playing an architect, you can either place the tile on an empty square whose number matches the number of the architect you played, or on any empty square in the district whose number matches the number of the architect you played.

There are also new buildings. Office towers score depending on their height and the number adjacent to each other. Monuments score when adjacent to particular buildings (-5 for factories/harbors, 2 points for public service, 3 points for shops, and 5 points for parks). The scoring of the other buildings is also modified slightly to accommodate the additional spaces on the board.

QuadropolisSide

My thoughts on the game…

Days of Wonder continues their streak of excellence. Quadropolis is easy to learn, yet it offers interesting choices, and a good strategy is necessary to win. The innovative mechanics combine with a fun theme to create a high-quality, family-friendly game.

The gameplay is top-notch, and I enjoyed the mechanism for selecting tiles, which I hadn’t seen before. Players need to plan their use of the architects, and they can maneuver the urbanist to block opponents. It is a cool mechanic that is well-executed here. Placing the tiles in the city isn’t novel — we’ve seen this before with games like Between Two Cities — but the use of the architects adds a clever twist.

There are numerous paths to victory, and I’ve seen players do well with a variety of city designs. The building types seem well-balanced, and I’ve seen cities win with everything from an emphasis on public service buildings to an interlacing of parks and tower blocks.

This game is easy to learn, with a rules explanation taking less than five minutes. The expert version isn’t much more difficult than the basic version. I’ve played with gamers and non-gamers alike, and everybody seems to pick up Quadropolis with ease. The scoring of the different buildings is difficult to remember, but the well-designed player aids solve this problem.  

As is to be expected from a Days of Wonder title, the production value is excellent. The tiles are on a thick, chunky cardboard; the pawns and meeples are well-produced; and the addition of player aids makes learning the game remarkably easy. As always, Cyrille Daujean’s artwork is beautiful.

The rulebook is exceptional. It is logically organized, and it conveys the flow of the game. There are several excellent scoring examples, yet the rulebook is a lean 8 pages, two of which are dedicated to the expert game. Dear publishers: Days of Wonder knows how to teach a game. Follow their lead!

Quadropolis is a solid game, and I’ve enjoyed my plays. That said, I don’t know how long it will remain in my collection. This doesn’t feel like the type of game I’ll want to play a dozen times. More importantly, the “city building” genre is a crowded field, and I don’t know that Quadropolis is better executed than Suburbia or Subdivision, and it certainly doesn’t feel as strategic as those titles. The most apt comparison is probably to Between Two Cities, only without the partnership aspect and a bit more dressed up.

Nonetheless, I expect Quadropolis to be one of the more popular games of the year. I border between being in the “I like it.” and “I love it!” camps, but I expect more than a few gamers will love it.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:

Melissa Rogerson (2 plays, basic game): Ultimately, Quadropolis left me underwhelmed – although admittedly, I’ve not tried the Expert game. The scoring reminded me of Between Two Cities, which I enjoy very much, but I wasn’t excited by this. I think it’s a great game for casual gamers, though, and plan to pick up at least one copy for the PAX Australia game library.

Alan How (2 plays, one of the each game): it’s a puzzle with interaction but not much (any) focus on the other players. So much so that I won both games and thought that I was last. I had no idea of my relative score and no medium or long term plan. Each round was ok and once you chose to follow a path to gain points you’d better follow it through. The Expert game is better than the Classic game, but it didn’t trouble many more brains cells. It’s well designed clever and the presentation is excellent even down to the way the insert holds the tiles ready for your next game, but I need a bit more depth of thinking to really appreciate a game, so for me it is just ok. For the desired market I think it is very good. It’s a puzzle type game so not my favourite type of game. The level of deliberate player interaction is unclear to me – your move affects others of course, but I rarely looked at anyone else’s city board. I had no idea how I was doing relative to others and though I won both games, I suspected I was last. It’s a clever game, beautifully designed and implemented even down to the way the tiles are stored for easy access for the next game – just not for me. I suspect its marketplace is for families and easy access gamers and so it fits this genre very well. The Expert game is hardly more difficult and presents small differences in the puzzle, but I felt the same in both games. It’s pleasant, I’d play again but not seek to do do.

Erik Arneson (1 play, basic game): This is another solid Days of Wonder game, well designed (in every sense of the word) and well developed. I enjoyed it and look forward to trying the expert game. In our play, there was definitely some focus on what other players were doing. Particularly with your final architect or two, it is sometimes (perhaps often; I don’t have enough experience to say) possible to place an architect in a way that both gets you something you need and denies a key piece to an opponent. The first time this happened, it was accidental, but then we started looking for such opportunities. I want to focus on that element more in future plays.

Greg Schloesser (1 play, basic game). Just played this at The Gathering of Friends and actually enjoyed it more than I thought. Many folks were saying that it was mediocre, so I did not enter the game with high expectations. However, I found the choices to be interesting, and the mechanism of choosing and placing items based on the four number tiles clever. It is possible to be painted into a corner and not have a viable tile to choose, but I think good tactics can overcome this. My complaint so far is that unless you are willing to survey every opponent’s board and do some mighty mathematical calculations, it is nigh impossible to know who is winning during the course of the game. Still, I look forward to playing it more to see if my opinion improves or diminished.

Dale Yu: (8 plays) When I first played the game, I was admittedly “meh” on it, That was in part due to the fact that we started with the classic game – which is a fine version to play but lacks the player choice and subtlety that you find in the expert game. It was probably worthwhile to play in order to learn the mechanics of the game and the scoring conditions, but now that I’ve played the expert game, I don’t think that I’d ever go back to the classic game, Also, now that I’ve seen how the game works, I’m pretty sure that most veteran gamers could go straight to the expert game on their first play without any difficulty.

The issue, for me, with the basic game is that you are limited to your own color architects – one of each number from 1-4. This actually ends up limiting your play a fair amount because you do not have free choice of numbers when choosing tiles from the grid. In the expert game, while you can still be blocked from certain numbers by the end of the round, you generally at least still get to have some choice to your play as you can take any unchosen architect from the entire pool.

The expert game also includes the second form of towers which has some convoluted scoring, but again, I do not think that veteran gamers will have an issue with that. The expert game does take a bit longer, but I think this is solely due to the extra round of play added to the game, not from any of the rules changes.

For me, the game is a nice balance of solitaire play on my personal board with enough interaction on the central board to keep it lively. I like the fact that once something is on my own board, no one can do anything to mess with it. However, there are plenty of indirect interactions – whether that be direct competition for tiles or perhaps blocking me with the black pawn on the board – to prevent it from being strictly simultaneous solitaire.

I have heard others complain that there is too much to track, but I don’t find that to be an issue. From my own plays, I have pretty much just concentrated on my own plan and let others do what they would do. I personally don’t need to know what my relative score is during the midst of the game – I just put faith in my gameplan and see how it works out in the end. Anyways, as there’s not really a lot that you can do to affect someone else’s board, just spend your energy focusing on what you can do to maximize your own score.

The one thing that I do try to track is the direct competition for tile types. For example, if I’m going for the tan tower tiles, it’s good to know that there are only 3 or so in each round. If more than one person is going for these, I’ll need to make sure that I get them early in each round to maximize my take, or perhaps I need to modify my strategy to better use them. For instance, if you can make a blob of 4 or 5 towers, you can score well for each of them… However, if you’re not going to get that many, you might be better off trying to intercalate them with red factory tiles where they will score +4VP for each factory they are adjacent to. Also, if I see someone else trying to use a particular tile type as the basis for his strategy, I might try to take that tile if I’m left with equal options – but again, I think it’s better to just be focused on how to improve your own score

Expert 4p games have taken us just around an hour, which is a good length for the complexity of the game – though we have had one game finish in as little as 40 minutes (when all 4p already were familiar with the game).. The game likes to put itself away as you go, and I must make mention that the insert in Quadropolis is about as good as you can get – the vac tray is custom molded to the pieces and everything fits perfectly.

One other thing to mention is that I did get a chance to play a prototype of an upcoming expansion to the game – this one focuses on Civic tiles. A new lot of Civic tiles are used – and they are shuffled separately – I think there were 2 copies of 8 or 10 different tiles. The game is set up as usual, and at the start of each round, any Civic tiles on the building board are replaced with new ones from the expansion stack. The base scoring for these tiles remains the same, but each of the new expansion tiles also comes with its own scoring rules, generally based on other things in your city. For example, one variety gave you VPs for each yellow tower in the row or column of that civic tile. Another scored extra VPs for each Harbor tile in your city. Admittedly, there wasn’t a huge difference in play, but having some extra bonus scoring on each Civic tile made them a bit more interesting as well as giving you possibly an alternative focus for tile choice and placement.

Quadropolis was one of my favorite games from the Gathering 2016, and right now, it’s at the top of my list for 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres. I have played it 8 times thus far, and I’m not tired of it – I’m still looking forward to exploring it further.

Joe Huber (1 play, expert game): For me, Quadropolis is a pleasant game – but a very abstract one. Which, for me, makes it a game I’m willing to play when others ask – but not one I’ll be suggesting. As others have mentioned, though, the other aspects (production, rules, etc.) are all nicely done; I suspect that the game (or at least the expert game) will do better with others than with me.

Craig Vollmar (1 play, expert game): Other than the market/central drafting mechanism, Quadropolis plays, scores, and feels like most other drafting and tile laying puzzle games. I enjoyed playing it and realize that there are various strategies based on the tile availability and scoring possibilities, but didn’t really discover anything truly groundbreaking or compelling enough to capture my interest. The production quality is good and the artwork is okay. I would definitely play the game again, but drafting games are not really a favorite genre for me.

Karen Miller (1 play, expert mode) As usual, Days of Wonder hits it out of the ballpark in terms of production. They also are in the running for best insert of the year… Chris mentions Suburbia and Subdivision as better city builders, which may be true, but Quadropolis is a fine entry in this category for new gamers. It is easy to teach and offers plenty of interesting decisions. I like that there are multiple paths for scoring points, so even if you can’t get THE tile you wanted, you can pretty much always get something meaningful. Like Dale, I appreciate that my city can’t be messed with by other players.

Dan Blum (5? Plays, all expert): I like this quite a bit despite issues noted above such as abstractness and lack of interaction, which are legitimate issues that just don’t bother me much in this particular game.

I want to try the classic game to see what it’s like but I suspect I will share Dale’s opinion on it, especially since I heard from others that there was more screwage involved (with everyone having to use their own architects there is probably more scope for blocking people from taking certain tiles). Of course that might be a plus for people who want more interaction. This does make me wonder if DoW really should have made it the “beginner” mode, since I could see some casual players getting frustrated.

The one thing that keeps me from rating this “I love it” is that there is a tendency for scores to be fairly similar if people are good at maximizing their strategies, since they seem to be well-balanced. This was also a problem with Between Two Cities, but I like this a lot more than that because I enjoy planning how to take tiles from the display much more than getting handed random collections of tiles to draft from.

As for comparisons to other recent city-building games mentioned above, this doesn’t feel at all like the much more involved Suburbia to me, and while it’s a bit more similar to Subdivision, they still don’t feel that much alike in play. Subdivision focuses on getting your tiles activated at the right times whereas Quadropolis is more about creating patterns for synergistic scoring. I like both.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y
  • I like it. Chris Wray, Eric Martin, Erik Arneson, Greg Schloesser, Karen Miller, Dan Blum
  • Neutral. Melissa Rogerson, Alan How, Joe H, Craig V
  • Not for me… 

 

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