The Forgotten City
- Designer: Anton Liu
- Publisher: TWO PLUS
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 60-75 min
- Times played: 1, with review copy provided by TWO PLUS/TBD
In the Forgotten City, player work to recover lost memories from the past – by building monuments, translating messages or creating miracles. There is a central game board, on which terrain tiles are placed in setup. In a 4p game, player order is randomized and markers placed on the monument track in order. The final 6 spaces are filled with monument tiles. Each player gets their own player board, and their leader meeple is placed on the central space of the main gameboard. Players also start with 2 each of the 4 different resources as well as 6 coins. Miracle tiles and nightmare cards are randomly chosen and placed on the appropriate spots on the board. One nightmare card is revealed to start the game.
I) Meditation Phase – in this phase, players choose monuments from the track. Going in order from LEFT TO RIGHT, each player moves their marker onto a space with a monument – they take the tile on which they land and place it in one of the two monument preparation areas on their personal board. Their marker stays on the space of the tile chosen. All players do this, and then any unclaimed monuments have a coin placed on them.
II) Action Phase – This phase goes RIGHT TO LEFT on the track. In this phase, players place a meeple adjacent to an existing piece and then take one of the four possible actions on that space. If you place a meeple on a space which already has other meeples there (even your own meeples!) – you must pay 1 coin to the supply for each meeple already there. If you are next to a portal, you can pay 2 coins to place your meeple adjacent to any other portal space. The possible actions are:
Build a monument – you can build a monument if the color of the monument matches the color of the space where you placed your meeple. Pay the resource cost shown on the monument and place in on that space. Take a monument marker from the row on your board and score the number of VP shown underneath it; place this marker on the monument to show ownership. You also get the reward for the monument, although this is unclear in the rules.
Excavate – receive a resource which matches the color of the space your meeple was placed in; this generally has to be an empty space (no monuments)
Decode a Monument – pay the costs shown on a placed monument to get the reward shown on that tile. If it is another player’s monument, that other player also scores 1VP
Rest – take 2 coins from the supply and lay the meeple on its side to show that it has rested.
Each player has four helper meeples – so in each round, each player will take four actions each round.
III) Recollection Phase – This also goes RIGHT TO LEFT. Update your inspiration and defensive strength tracks as well as take income in coins for your gold track. Then in player order, each player can spend Inspiration to gain Miracle tiles. You spend the cost as shown on the next available miracle space on your board, and then choose the Miracle tile you want from the main board to put in that space. Score VPs as shown on the space on your player board. You can buy as many Miracles as you can afford. When a player is done with their phase, the white Miracle tiles are replenished; the grey ones are NOT.
IV) Nightmare Phase – This phase goes in RIGHT TO LEFT order as well. Based on turn order, player will check if they have meeples in a space of the same type and color as that shown on a nightmare card. If so, they can fight that card. Players spend defensive strength points to deal damage to the nightmares that they fight. Cover up hit point spaces on the nightmare cards with your defensive cubes and instantly score VPs based on the numbers covered. If you cannot pay defensive points to fight off a Nightmare card, lose 2 VP for each nightmare you cannot fight. If you cannot pay with points, pay in resources, then coins. When the nightmare card runs out of hit points, the player who delivered the final blow gets to keep the card. The player who had the most cubes on the card gets a resource that matches the color of the card.
V) Cleanup Phase – Reveal the next nightmare card. Refill every empty space in the monument track with a new monument. All players in RIGHT TO LEFT order move their leader meeple to the location of any of their current meeples (the leader must move). Once the leader is moved, the regular meeples are removed from the board. Leaders can coexist with other leaders. However, regular meeples can generally not be placed in a space with another player’s leader unless their own leader is also in that space. If this isn’t the end of the 6th round, play goes back to the Meditation phase.
At the end of the game, there is a bit of bonus scoring. Each player scores their grey miracle tiles – the score here is dependent on their white miracle tiles. Every 3 resources left at the end of the game and every 5 coins leftover equal 1VP. The player with the most VPs wins. Ties go to the player with the most monuments built.
My thoughts on the game
Wow. This was a brain burner! (In a good way….) The Forgotten City is a good mix of previously seen mechanisms that gel together well. At its heart, it’s a resource management game. You start with a decent sized bank of resource cubes, but you spend the game collecting these cubes in order to build monument tiles or decode previously played tiles to gain leaves and shields – the two currencies used to score most of your points.
As I was reading the rules, the changing turn order seemed to be confusing – but like Power Grid, once you get into the flow, it is actually quite easy. Only the very first phase (tile choosing) goes left to right, all others go right to left. And, let me tell you, the choice of tile can be quite important as it determines your turn order for the rest of the round. It is often helpful to go first in the action phase as you get the jump on everyone else and have the least chance to having to pay for movement. You also get the first chance to buy miracle tiles – so you are always sure that you know what is available when it is your turn to buy AND you have the first crack at the dark grey miracle tiles that never replenish. But… you also go first when fighting the Nightmare cards, and if there is a new card, this generally means that your markers go into the spaces which do not reward you with VPs. As the other spaces give you an average of 1.5pts, it’s something worth fighting for… In the end, there are times you’ll likely want to be at the top of the order and other times you’ll want to be near the end – and this is one of the many things that you’ll have to try to work out with your very first decision in each of the rounds.
There are plenty of points that come from building monuments – especially if you build one every turn as the rewards grow ever higher. However, I think it’s important to see that you do not necessarily have to build your tiles to do well. I think it is possible to concentrate on decoding monuments and reaping selected rewards and still do fine; especially if you get the miracle tile which allows you to sell an unbuilt monument tile for 3VP. One of the unseen consequences (at least for our first game) was that as we continued to build monuments each turn, the number of empty spaces which could be excavated for more cubes grew smaller and smaller. There were times when an entire turn was required to move around to board, oftentimes using the expensive portals, to collect enough cubes to build a monument.
As I mentioned earlier, the Miracle tiles can be quite powerful. Many of the light ones augment your excavation activities, and now that I’ve seen how the game goes, I would definitely consider those earlier in the game. You can really never have too many cubes as you can always find ways to spend them… Having enough leaves to buy miracle tiles is a constant battle – the price rises continually, so you’ll want to get Miracle tiles that help your strategy as best as possible. If you are able to get to the fifth or sixth one, you’ll also be rewarded with huge amounts of VPs.
After the game, I wondered if I would consider this a point salad game, and I think it could easily fit into that categories. There are a number of ways to score points, and you’ll never have enough resources or turns to do everything you want in each of those things: building monuments, decoding monuments, gaining miracle tiles, fighting off nightmares. So, you have to pick and choose which ones you will excel in to gain the high rewards for reaching the end that particular track, and which ones you’ll just do enough to get by in. My first play of the game was quite challenging in that regard, and I did well by concentrating on the miracles (gaining two of the dark grey ones which ended up scoring me 20VP total) and just lost to a strategy that scored so many points from the nightmare cards.
The artwork is beautiful, and I especially liked a lot of the Nightmare card art. The novel meeple shapes are also fun. We were calling them baboons, but I’m sure there are plenty of creative names for them that you can come up with.
I would say that I am not a fan of the wooden cylinders used for player markers. They roll all over the place, and if you happen to drop one of your baboon meeples accidentally over your player mat – yikes – they go everywhere! They are also unfortunately easy to knock over when my fat fingers are trying to stack them close together on the nightmare cards. Also, the size of the meeples and cylinders makes it quite hard to see the information on the tiles when everything is crammed together on the board. We found that we often had to carefully pick up the wooden pieces on a tile to see what the cost or rewards were for a monument.
My first play of the game was enjoyable. I think that the game length will definitely come down with experience. We also all now understand how scarce resource cubes can become and this will change how we go about collecting them early on as well as how strongly we fight for the miracle tiles which allow you to excavate on monument spaces. I look forward to my next chance to explore the Forgotten City after SPIEL.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dan Blum (1 play): It works but I don’t see that it has anything to recommend it over the hordes of similar games out there; it has a few twists but nothing dramatic enough to make it stand out. It also has quite a few problems. Some are with the gameplay – the turn order for fighting nightmares is much too important once several players are producing at least six defense a turn – and others are with the production. In addition to the cylinders that Dale notes, the iconography is terrible – the exact same symbol is sometimes used for “excavate” and “monument” and multiple symbols are used for “excavate” – and the rules are bad in ways that have nothing to do with translation issues. E.g., do you get the reward when you build a monument? The example in the rules says you do, so that’s how we played, but I notice now that the actual rule doesn’t mention it, so maybe you don’t? I posted a bunch of questions before playing (which were answered promptly) but during play we found a lot more, so I certainly wouldn’t play again without getting those answered.
Joe Huber (1 play): I played in the same game as Dan. I wasn’t nearly as fond of the game as he was.