Dale Yu: First Impression of Tag City

Tag City

  • Designer: Robin David
  • Publisher: RUNES Editions
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by publisher at SPIEL 2018

One of the big themes of SPIEL 2018 was the use of polyominoes in games.  Another was the ascendance (and possible jumping of the shark) of Roll-and-Writes.  Tag City is one of a few games that sits firmly at the intersection of these two Venn diagram circles.

In Tag City, each player gets an identical scoring board at the start of the game.  The goal is to fill in the different areas of the board as quickly as possible. There is also a central HQ board which is double-sided, and it’s recommended that beginners play with the A side, and that is what I will describe here.

The A side has some printed shapes on it, and you find the matching polyominoes and place them on the central board.  Decide on a start player and give that player the start player marker as well as N+1 dice.

At the start of each turn, the dice are rolled, and the roller then places each die onto a space on the board.  The numbers on the board are found between two different regions, and the die can be placed in either of the regions adjacent to their number.  It is possible for an area to have multiple dice in it.

Starting with the player to the left of the die roller, players will choose a die and then take an action: tag the city, use a drone or check social media.

Usually, players will tag the city.  They use the shape associated with the space where they picked up their die and then draw this shape onto their board.  It can be placed freely on their board, though all it must completely fit in the board area. It can be rotated and flipped as needed.  It cannot overlap a previously drawn piece.

If the designated piece doesn’t work (or the player simply doesn’t want to use it), they can use a drone instead.  When they do this, they circle a negative score value on their drone control on their board. They may now use any shape found on the HQ board – even the special little shapes found in the center of the board.  This gives you a lot of flexibility as you can choose anything you want, but you lose some street cred for not being able to stick with the plan.

Finally, you can check social media in order to skip the action entirely.  There are five social media markers on your board. You choose any available network and circle it – this will cause you to lose prestige at the end of the game.  All other players cross off the matching icon on their boards.

When all players have chosen a die for the round (the die roller goes last) – there will be one die left on the board.  All players must simultaneously use this last remaining die – having the same three action options as listed above. If multiple players choose to check social networks, they all use the same icon so that only one is exhausted in this phase.

There are multiple ways to score points in the game – and as soon as a scoring criteria is met, it is announced to the table – as there is a premium given to being the first player to finish any particular criteria.  You can score points for finishing any row or column of the city. You can also score points for filling in every space in any of the five colored neighborhoods in the city. If you are the first person to score for a particular thing, you circle the higher value and all other players cross out that higher number.  All other players to score this in the game will take the lower value.

The game ends when one of three conditions is met: all the high scoring values are taken by the players, when the social network bubbles are all filled in, or when one player has circled all the drone spaces on his board.  The current round is finished, and then scores are tabulated. You score positive points for each neighborhood filled in and each row/column filled in. You score negative points for each social media checked and each drone space circled.  The player with the most points wins.

Courtesy of Steph H – from Twitter: https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1057790239777931269

(Once you have played the game a few times, you can move to side B of the HQ board.  The main difference here is that there are no polyominoes pre-printed on the board, you can choose any six of the fourteen available polyominoes to use in the game…)

My thoughts on the game

Tag City is amongst the lighter/easier polyomino games from this year.  It is also more in line with the usual level of complexity of the roll and write genre.  Though my favorite Roll and Write currently is more complex (Ganz Schoen Clever), I usually prefer the RAW games in this 15-20 minute timeframe.  The rules are dead simple, and you can really explain the game in about 3 minutes.

The A side of the board uses polyominoes that play well together.  I like the way they have provided a setup to learn the game where most of the pieces interact with each other nicely.  However, there is a nice challenge in the B side when you can choose freely from the fourteen different shapes.

The game feels like Noch Mal as you race to fill in the rows and columns, though the selection mechanism is a bit different.   It is also a bit different here as players can draw their shapes anywhere in the city – they do not have to start on the central column.  Thus, this gives players a bit more latitude to try to exploit areas of the city that other players haven’t worked on as much. You can even change strategy mid game as you are not restricted to playing next to previously drawn pieces (as you are in many other RAWs).

Early in the game, I don’t find much need to do anything but tag the city as the freedom in placement pretty much lets you place most blocks somewhere useful.  You can plan ahead and try to leave a space free for one of the pieces available in the game. I try to save my drone usage for the times when I can sneak in a first place score in a row or neighborhood or for the special small pieces found in the center of the board (as these can only be accessed with a drone).

There is some possibility for some analysis delay if the die roller really wants to be deliberate about examining what pieces each opponent really needs – but I have found that most people tend to focus on putting dice in areas which have pieces that they want to use. As the die roller gets last choice AND then must also use the final group die, I’m always more focused on making sure that I don’t get screwed over as opposed to screwing over my opponents.  This has the nice consequence of making the decision making process faster as I tend to really only look at my own situation when choosing.

Tag City is a solid roll and write.  It is quick to teach and quick to play.  It is familiar to other roll and write games, yet offers enough different to not feel like a copycat.  It is a fine addition to my roll and write travel kit, and one I’m happy to play, but there’s also nothing about the game which would cause me to replace any other roll and write in the collection.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (1 play): I gave this game a try based upon Steph’s recommendation, and it was – perfectly acceptable.  Solid, as Dale notes. We played side B, which I think helped the game be most interesting for me, and I had a perfectly pleasant time.  But – I’m not a huge fan of roll-and-write games, and this one didn’t stand out by enough to really make a lasting impression on me.

Dan Blum (1 play): I agree with Dale. It’s fine but doesn’t stand out. I like this kind of game so I’d be happy to play it, but I’m not going to buy a copy or ask to play it.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Steph
  • I like it. Dale Y, Dan Blum
  • Neutral. Joe H.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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