- Designer: Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, Paul Kluka
- Publisher: Button Shy Games
- Artist: Danny Devine
- Rules Editing: Travis D. Hill
- Players: 1 – 4
- Ages: 8 and Up
- Time: 15 Minutes
- Times Played: > 5
Sprawlopolis is a cooperative “wallet” game where players attempt to build a city to the specifications of picky urban planners. The game consists of just 18 cards, a small rule book, and a wallet-like package.
When a friend taught me the game a few weeks ago, I was initially skeptical: I’m leery of microgames, since I have not enjoyed most of them I’ve tried. But I was immediately taken with Sprawlopolis, which is a devilishly fun and highly replayable puzzle that fits nicely in a 15 minute timeframe. I ordered a copy of this and Circle the Wagons (a competitive game with similar mechanics) from the publisher and have enjoyed both ever since.
As alluded to above, Sprawlopolis consists of just 18 cards and is a cooperative game. Each card has two sides: one with scoring conditions, and the other with a city grid.
Three of the cards are flipped up to show the scoring conditions: these show (a) how to score points in the game, and (b) the “target score” of how many points the players need to win, which is determined by summing the values on the top left of the three cards.
For instance, the following cards might be in the game:
- Looping Lanes, 14 points. Score 1 point per road section in a completed loop, and there may be multiple loops in the city.
- Go Green, 3 Points. Score one point per park (green) block, but minus three points for each industrial (grey) block.
- Sprawlopolis, 18 points. Score the sum of blocks in your longest row and blocks in your longest column.
If those were the three cards, the team would need 35 points (14 + 3 + 18) to win the game. They’d get points for the scoring conditions above, but also points for their largest group of blocks of each zone type. So if they had 5 park blocks, and that was their largest accumulation of parks, they’d get five points. The same goes for their largest industrial, residential, and commercial zones. Then the team loses one point for each road in the city (but connected road spaces only count as one road).
One a player’s turn, they’ll have 3 cards in their hand. They place one of these in the city. They can rotate it however they’d like, and they can even place it over other cards, but one edge must adjoin at least one other edge in the city. The only other restrictions are that (a) players can’t turn the cards sideways, and (b) they can’t tuck them under other cards.
When a player’s done, he hands the two remaining cards to the next player, then draws a card off the deck for himself.
The game ends when all 15 cards have been played.
My Thoughts on the Game
As I alluded to in the introduction, I’m skeptical of microgames. Most of them suffer from low replayability and/or leave me with a feeling of wanting more. But Sprawlopolis is different: this feels like a bigger game than it is, and I always want to play again immediately afterward.
The key here is that you have different scoring conditions each game, and they create interesting little puzzles. And the game is actually quite difficult: we’ve only managed to win once! Those two aspects of Sprawlopolis combine to create a game that is highly replayable.
We like to internalize the scoring conditions first, then think through what an optimal park would look like. While it is easy to aim just for the three special conditions on the table, we’ve found it helps to build large areas of each zone type, and minimize roads.
Sprawlopolis is easy to learn — I can teach it in under two minutes — and the rulebook was well written. The game also plays quickly: our plays have all come in at about 15 minutes. Though turns can slow down to find optimal moves, everybody is engaged on other players’ turns, since discussion is allowed and encouraged.
The artwork is attractive, and I like seeing the finished city on the table. I’m new to the idea of “wallet” games — this really does come in a small wallet-sized holder — but I suppose that adds to the portability that publisher Button Shy is aiming for. And the price is right: I bought this from the publisher with an expansion for $16, and shipping was free. (I also bought a their game Circle the Wagons, which has competitive gameplay, and also recommend it.)
Overall, I’m impressed by Sprawlopolis. I believe this is the first microgamed I’ve loved, and that’s because this city-building game feels like something bigger.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray
- I like it.
- Not for me…