Copenhagen (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designers: Asger Harding Granerud & Daniel Skjold Pedersen
  • Artist: Markus Erdt 
  • Publisher: Queen Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 20-40 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5

“You know, it’s really kinda weird how they paint and build the buildings in Copenhagen, but it is far more colorful than it is here.”

Polyomino games are a thing, they keep popping up on the radar in different forms, roll and write (Brikks), puzzle (NMBR 9), two-player quilting (Patchwork), the list goes on and on and on. So in order to kind of stand out in what is becoming a very crowded field of games, you have to try something a bit different, a bit brighter, a bit bolder, and that brings us to Copenhagen from Queen Games and designers Daniel Skjold Pedersen and Asger Harding Granerud. 

Copenhagen is a game where you use polyomino blocks to design the colorful facades of your building. There are five differently colored sets of polyomino blocks, and each color will have different shapes that you will use to fill your player board, which represents your building. You’ll gain these polyomino blocks by spending cards that you have drafted. Ultimately, the game is a race to twelve points. When a player hits that, the game ends immediately with that person winning. There is also a card that is shuffled into the bottom of the deck that will dictate the game ending if no player reaches twelve points fast enough. 

At the start of the game, the card offer is set up with a card at each of the seven dock spaces. Each player is dealt a number of cards according to their starting position, with the last player in turn order gaining the most cards. The cards in Copenhagen are one of the five colors, and the cards show the different shapes for the polyominoes of that color. The shapes are on there simply to show you the different shapes available, and dictate nothing else. Each player also gets a starting action tile that allows them to break the rules a bit. These action tiles can be used once and then will need to be refreshed in order to use them again, but I’ll explain more about those action tiles, and how you refresh them, in a bit.

On a player’s turn, they can do one of two things — draw cards or buy tiles. When drawing cards, the player will take two of them, and they have to be adjacent to each other. There is a hand limit of seven cards, but you can discard at your choosing, after drawing, to get down to that number. The card offer is refreshed after taking two cards. When buying polyominos, players discard cards equal to the size and color of the tile they are wanting to place on their building. If the building is adjacent to another tile of the same color, there is a discount of one card. Meaning if you are buying a yellow four square tile to place next to another yellow tile, you would only have to spend three yellow cards to do so. The placement rules are super simple. The first tile placed has to go on the bottom row of your house. After that, as long as the tile you are placing is supported on one square by another tile, it can be built — but it has to be supported. 

On your player board there are shields, four on the board itself where you build and three on the side. When you cover one of these shields, or complete a row with a shield, you gain a bonus action. With this action you may do one of three things. You may refresh your used tiles, you may gain a new bonus tile, or you may gain a single window pane to place immediately on your player board. These bonus actions, as I said earlier, allow you to bend the rules a bit. Your initial bonus tile will allow you to pick any two cards and ignore the adjacency rule. Another tile will allow you to build at a discount, another will allow you to take three cards instead of only two. These bonus actions are invaluable and really open the game up, so knowing when to use, collect, and refresh is extremely important, and you can only do that by finishing a row with a shield or covering a shield on the board. 

Being that the game is a race to twelve points, there has to be scoring, right? Well you score points in Copenhagen when you completely fill rows or columns. A completed row with both bricks and windows on the tiles will score one point, while a completed row with only windows will score two points. Much the same, a completed column with both bricks and windows will score you two points, while a completed column with only windows will score four points. As soon as a player hits twelve points, the game ends and that player is the winner. The other way the game can end is for the end game card to be drawn. In a three- or four-player game, that card is placed among the bottom nine cards after reshuffling the discard pile into the draw deck. In a two-player game that card is shuffled into the bottom nine of the deck immediately, there is no reshuffling of the discarded cards.

Copenhagen feels like a Queen Games title, and I mean that in the good Queen Games way. The production of the retail version that I have is nice, the tiles are thick, the cards are nice weight and durable, but apparently I missed out on a “special” version of Copenhagen, a Deluxe version where the tiles were acrylic and chunky. It doesn’t matter, the game plays exactly the same either way, you just miss out on that wonderful feeling of playing a deluxe version of a game, but I digress. What I meant by a good Queen Games title is that it’s a wonderful family weight experience that doesn’t bog itself down with too many rules. It’s super easy to teach and understand right out of the box. It plays quickly, almost in spite of its setup and appearance. It’s a bit of a bigger looking game, and maybe even a bit of a table hog, but it’s still, at its heart, a family style game. In fact, in some ways it reminds me a bit of Ticket to Ride, especially with its card drawing and spending cards to get tiles. The Deluxe version also adds three different tiles, Mission Tiles which give the players something to shoot for in order to score extra points, two more ability tiles & some “joker tiles”. There is a set of two Queenies also available, The Multicolor Tiles & some new size three and five tiles to add some variation to the game. This is always something that Queen Games does well, and they kind of keep the promo hunters on their toes. 

While it all plays simply and smoothly, those extra bonus tiles require careful planning to make the most of them. Building straight to cover the shields can be really helpful early on, but it becomes more difficult as the game progresses to completely fill rows and columns because of the depleting tiles. You see, each color has four different sized tiles. Each color has one tile that has five squares, and those will go fast, especially in a four player game. They have two that have four squares, and so on. So while covering those shields is important, you have to weigh your choices of what and where to build — it’s not completely cut and dry. Those single pane window tiles also come into play quite often. Theycan be a huge benefit, even allowing multiple extra actions in the same turn, if you plan it well enough. 

I love that Copenhagen didn’t go the typical Tetris rules route, where you have tiles “falling” down the player board and can only get to certain spots if there is enough space. Not only would that kind of be impossible to pull off in the way the game is now, but I just don’t think that it would be that fun. Brikks suffered because of that, for me. The freedom of tile placement here works wonderfully in this setting, and can create some really fun buildings.   

Only a couple things really have bothered me about my plays of Copenhagen. One being that there is little to no interaction outside of the occasional drafting of a card or polyomino that someone else wants, and two, that aforementioned size of the game box. This is really a twenty to forty minute filler in a full, Ticket to Ride sized box. But that is offset by the fact that all the components are pretty well necessary outside of that harbor board for the cards, but even that is a nice thematic and aesthetic touch. 

It’s kind of rare now that I pick up these big box gateway games. I’ve kind of had my fill of them and I know what I like, and I know what my family prefers, but I’m glad I took the chance with Copenhagen. It manages to blend a relaxing, family game, with some fun, somewhat tense decisions that anyone can handle and not feel overburdened by. Daniel and Asger are really finding their groove in game design. Flamme Rouge was one of my favorites from a couple years back, and I hate that my game group didn’t feel the same about it. Frogriders was also surprisingly fun, if a bit light hearted. But after playing Copenhagen, I think I am ready for just about anything they throw at me. Luckily they have two big Essen designs on the horizon, Deep Blue and Bloom Town, both of which I will get as soon as they are available. But until then, I’ll keep enjoying my time designing the wonderfully colorful houses that make up the colorful section of Copenhagen called Nyhavn. 

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers

Dale Yu: 3 games, with the deluxe version – So, I did not miss out on the Deluxe edition, and I must say that it is beautiful!  The acrylic pieces are great to look at and they have a nice weight in your hand. As Brandon has stated above, this is an excellent family weight game.  The easy teaching and learning here makes it a great gateway game, and frankly, the deluxe edition has that “wow” factor that might help catch the eye of someone who isn’t sure about a physical tabletop game.

The puzzle here in filling up the board can be simple when you’re just concentrating on filling everything in, but it can become more challenging when you add in the goals of covering up specific shields and filling in the rows. A few in my game group have commented that there is a slight thematic disconnect because the polyominos here do not line up in neat rows like the buildings in real life – but that doesn’t bother me.  I still think the thing looks quite nice, and the color pallette is pleasing.

These are the sorts of games that I expect from Queen, and one of the reasons why I always look forward to their big box releases.  Sure, not every game from them is a hit with me or my group, but by and large, this is the sort of result it feels like they want to produce regularly.  I find the puzzle in the game interesting, but the game never stays past its welcome. I think the longest game I’ve ever played of it was 35 minutes. I’ve enjoyed my first few plays of this, and I think that this one will remain in the game collection as a possible gateway game / family game. 

And since we’re sharing pictures of Nyhavn, here I am in 2016.

Luke Hedgren:  Unplayed, but obligatory Nyhavn pic. 

Simon Neale: At its heart Copenhagen is a race game, where you are racing to get the cards to pick the tiles that you want before your opponents, all the while racing to get the winning victory points. This is one of those games that appears light and fluffy but has sufficient strategic and tactical options to keep a hardened gamer happy for the little time it takes to play. With colour dependent shaped tiles and those “essential” bonus cards providing the option of a powerful combo, Copenhagen is getting a fair bit of table time in my gaming group.

Lorna: I’ll keep my comment short since I don’t have a picture, I love polyomino games and this one ticks all the boxes 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it. 

I like it. Brandon Kempf, Dale Y, Simon Neale, Lorna

Neutral. 

Not for me…

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1 Response to Copenhagen (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  1. Pingback: Copenhagen (Game Review by Brandon Kempf) – Herman Watts

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