James Nathan: Fortune City

記帳城市 (Fortune City)
Designer: 陳智帆 (Chih Fan Chen)
Publisher: Big Fun Games
Players: 2-4
Ages: 12+
Time: 30-45 minutes
Times Played: 2 times with a review copy

Fortune City is a board game based upon Fortune City, an app game -described by its website as “a game that combines accounting with city simulation”. From app store descriptions, Fortune City “gamifies bookkeeping” by recording your expenses, and growing a city based upon what you buy in real life. The board game adaptation hasn’t adopted the same real world expense tracking, but it has kept it in theme.

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In Fortune City, the players are each managing their own city, where they will purchase goods tiles and later flip these tiles over to construct buildings in their city.  Each building will produce a resource -some good and some bad- and a truck will drive around to pick up these tokens. Additionally, you will need citizens to staff each location which will then let you advance on certain tracks. You’ll earn points at the end of the game for each building constructed, diamond collected, and your position on certain tracks, while you will lose points for any garbage remaining in your city that you didn’t pick up.

Let’s dig in and learn a little more.

Each player starts with a truck, some money, and a T-tetromino starting tile. The T has a park where your unemployed citizens congregate, two construction sites, and a city hall where your truck will start its journey.

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The game takes place over a number of rounds and each round will last until all players have passed.  On your turn, you have 4 non-passing options: buy a good (which becomes a possible building to construct in one of your two construction zones); build a building (from a previously purchased good); buy a “VIP” citizen; or build a bank.

The goods that you purchase come from a face up selection.  In the first round, a specific set is available, but in future rounds players+3 tiles will be available.  Each goods purchase also comes with a specific citizen, in colors which correspond to the building types. The setup goods will come with the corresponding type of citizen, but in future rounds, a random civilian is pulled from the bag and placed by each good.  The final round will be the round in which there aren’t sufficient goods tiles to fill the queue.

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Constructing a building involves, in a sense, paying for it twice: once for the good, and once to build it. Each building will be worth a certain amount of points at the end of the game (also equivalent to the payment), and have a good that it produces: coin(s), trash, or diamonds.  In addition to producing for itself, when a building is placed, any adjacent buildings that do not currently have their resource present will produce what they produce again. There are also some building placement rules, as like-colored buildings cannot be placed adjacent, and cannot wrap down next to the park or construction zones.

When you buy a good, pay the cost and place the building in a construction zone (limit 2) and the citizen in the park.  When you construct a building, place the building in your city, and add the good it produces, and any relevant adjacent production.

If you spend your turn buying a VIP citizen, place them in the park.  We’ll come back to these.

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You can also build a bank.  You’re limited to two banks in your city, and they do a couple unique things. For now, there is no “good” to purchase, you simply construct it straight into your city, and it will not need a civilian to activate anything later.  We’ll come back to the credit card feature of the bank.

Once each player has passed, the chart down the left hand side of the central board will walk you through most of the steps between rounds.  First, players place citizens from their parks onto their buildings. Each building needs a matching colored citizen to advance their cube on the corresponding track, and the VIP citizens are “wild”. The red and yellow tracks grant additional income and eventually victory points; green grants victory points only; and blue grants victory points and allows a player’s truck to traverse further.

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After placing citizens and advancing tracks, the players drive their trucks.  There are some rules for the possible paths, but the trucks careen around the cities picking up trash, coins, and diamonds.  Coins go into a player’s coffers; trash is worth negative points if not picked up by the end of the game; and diamonds are positive points if picked up.  Each player has a base movement of 1, but can move additional spaces courtesy of the blue track.

Next each player earns a base income of 4, augmented by any income received from the red and orange tracks.

Then, uh, credit cards. If you have built a bank this turn, add 3 silver and 1 gold coin to your credit card.  You can build at most 2 banks in the game, so you’ll do this step at most twice. The silver coins spend the same as your regular coins.  The gold coin is a one-use as-much-as-you-need-coin. Goods/buildings cost 2-4 coins in the game, and the gold coin can cover you for any of these values (no change).

While we’re on credit cards, here is a credit card application that comes in the game.

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Anyway, after folks are finished opening their credit cards, pass the start player token, refill the goods market, and begin the next round.

My Thoughts

Fortune City is a pleasant game. That’s an odd adjective for me to use to describe a game, but there’s something about the muted pastels, the short-ish play time, and the persistent yet gradual city growth.

Yet, that’s not to say the game lacks tension. The tile distribution is not even, and getting the blue and green tiles you desire can be tricky.  The trash-producing buildings are the $2 ones, and the $3 and $4s vary among the other possibilities, but do you go for many $2s, fingers-crossed that your truck will be able to pick up all of the trash, or do you save up for less buildings, but ones that produce money and diamonds?

There’s also an interesting puzzle in how to place the buildings in your city, such that you can trigger them to re-produce their resource multiple times.  The positions that enable the most renewals are also antithetical to truck efficiency.

I do wish something else had been done with the first round – perhaps fold it into setup somehow, and I would have preferred there had been less variance to how fulfilling the last round is – as you may have a single tile left in the last round, but an anytime-you-use-any-of-the-last-7-tiles it will be the last round of the game system would have smoothed this out.

But there’s a certain charm to the game’s good-natured aesthetics and mechanics.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Y: 3 plays with same review copy, though only one with James Nathan…  I want to love this game – It has cute art, interesting game play, and I have always been a big fan of city planning games (esp. Suburbia – you guys should really go check that one one out!).  Anywho – I’ve played it three times now, and while each play has been interesting – it feels a bit formulaic. For me, it all comes down to the banks.

The banks give you a one time infusion of money – well, actually two as you can build two banks – and they also provide you with a coin on the tile when they are built.  So, essentially, there is no downside to building them, and there is no reason that I can see to wait to build one. Really, once you build something next to city hall, it’s time to put down a bank.  Because you’re going to need that money. And, if you don’t build it soon, everyone else will just have more money than you and will be able to buy up the buildings or supercitizens that you can’t.

Now, sure, there is an art to choosing which buildings to buy.  And there might come a point when you’re better off not buying a building rather than take a $2 building with mis-matched meeple that will regenerate more garbage next to it; but, by and large, you’re likely going to want to buy the buildings that you can – because points are points; and buying building tiles is one of the main ways to get points.

The setup also feels unfortunately formulaic.  There are N starting tiles, each with a matching pink or orange meeple.  They are priced low, and they each come with a garbage – but that’s usually not an issue as your truck can pick that up on the first turn anyways, and you’ll get a bump up on one of the two income tracks.  In our one game together, James Nathan tried to zag and not pick up one of the starting tiles (and I was the beneficiary); and I really do feel like my $2/turn income advantage early on was a big part of the reason that his score wasn’t as large as mine.  So… if the game wants you to have that tile/meeple set, why not just include it in setup?

OK, so that was all the ranting.  The puzzle in building your city though overcomes most of those gripes.  The trick here is that each time you build a tile; all the orthogonal tiles also regenerate their bonus/malus if the spot is empty…  There is a bit of an art trying to get the good things to grow back while not allowing the garbage to mount. It might come down to how you drive your truck; or sometimes it’s actually beneficial to drive your truck into a dead end thus suspending its movement for a turn in order to not have to pick something up until the next turn…

There is also a nice challenge in buying buildings that match up with the meeples that you have (or plan to get) as those bonuses are what power your engine.  Beware that you need to play this game under bright lights. I don’t think that I am color blind, but I do have a significant issue telling the pink and the orange apart from each other.

I honestly want the game to last a turn or two more; but there are only so many tiles in the game.  I have even toyed with the idea of a 3 player game using all the tiles, but of course there are probably all sorts of balance issues then with the tileset as it wasn’t designed for such play.  In any event, I want to give it at least one or two more plays to see whether it improves with repetition. That means, at the least, that I like it, because I’m awaiting the time when I either get it back from James Nathan or I go to his place to play it.

Dan Blum (1 play): I enjoyed my play but I suspect that more plays will reveal issues with the design, e.g. the need to build banks early that Dale mentions or imbalances in the tracks. However, for now I’m happy to play again.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it!
I like it. James Nathan, Dale Yu, John P, Dan Blum
Neutral.
Not for me…

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