Dale Yu: Review of Electropolis


  • Designers: Chang Yu-Di, Ku Chun-Wei, Wang LIang
  • Publisher: Homosapiens Lab
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: ~1 hour
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Taiwan BoardgameDesign

As described by the publisher – Electropolis is a strategic city-building boardgame. As the mayor of the ever-growing city, you must plan out the best energy solution to meet the skyrocketing demand for electricity. The pros and cons of coal-fired plants, green energy, and nuclear power challenge you with tough decisions throughout the game. The dynamic turn order selection mechanic ignites an intense player interaction in pursuit of construction permits for specific zones and crucial tiles to be claimed. Should you act early to grab the stronger tiles, or wait to be able to construct more buildings and expand your city? Outwit your fellow mayors and build the most magnificent city to win the game!

To start the game, each player is given an empty city board, and one marker in their color is placed in the center space.  This helps remind people of your player color, and it also reminds you not to build a tile in that location! The 144 tiles are shuffled (theoretically in a cloth bag) and a number of tiles (18 in a 4p game) are drawn out and arranged face up in a circle around the Player Order board.  A scoreboard is placed off to the side, as is a board which has a Public Support Track as well as a Pollution track on it (All players start at 0 for Public Support and Pollution). Three of the five Trend cards are drawn at random; these cards will give game end bonuses (or maluses) in the end game.  Finally, the Development deck is set up and four cards are drawn and placed on the table.

The Turn Order board has two tracks – on the top, there is a row of yellow spaces that goes non-intuitively from right to left.  To help keep this straight, there is a “I” icon with an arrow pointing to the left. The player in the first spot picks up his marker and then places it on one of the six choices in the bottom row.  Depending on where you place your marker, you can choose anywhere from 2 to 6 tiles – but the order goes from fewest tiles to most; so you are not only choosing how many tiles you want, but you also choose when you get to take those tiles.

In this new player order, players take tiles from the circle of tiles laid out at the start of the round.  The tiles must all be directly contiguous/adjacent. Once the tiles are taken, the remaining tiles are pushed together to fill in the gap.   When you choose tiles, you also take one of the Development cards which is laid out on the table. The Development card will give you some immediate benefits (possibly victory points or public support points) or an endgame bonus scoring criteria.  The bottom of the Development card also tells you where you are allowed to place the tiles that you drew. 

There are a number of different tiles.  There are power plants in 4 types: Coal, Gas, Nuclear, and Green (3 subtypes of Green).  There are Fuel tiles for Coal, Gas and Uranium. There are also Nuclear Waste Disposal Tiles needed for Uranium tiles.  At the end of the game, you will score points for a Coal and gas plant so long as you have a fuel tile per power plant. Each of these plants that runs at the end of the game will generate pollution as shown coming out of its smokestack. There is a bonus for having three like power plants in contiguous arrangement.   Nuclear Power plants are a little more complicated. Not only do you need a Nuclear fuel tile, you also need a Nuclear Waste Disposal tile per power plant. While you need 3 tiles instead of 2, Nuclear plants make no pollution. There are also a set of purple buildings which generally help earn you Public Support. Finally, there are Air Pollution Scrubber tiles which will reduce the pollution made by adjacent coal and gas plants.  At the end of the game, you will want to have as much Public Opinion as pollution lest you take a VP penalty.

All tiles drawn must be placed if possible.  Note that energy tiles (Uranium, Gas, Coal) are not placed on the board but rather placed next to your board.  If you cannot place a tile – usually due to not having an empty space available in the region specified by your Development card – you discard it and lose one Public Support point per tile discarded.

The next player in turn order now chooses a Development tile and the number of tiles from the circle as designated by the Turn Order board.  This continues until all players have taken their turn. Any tiles left on the table are simply discarded. If this is the end of the 8th round, the game ends.  Otherwise, you set up the game for the next round.  The player markers are moved to the top row, not changing their relative order, to set the turn order for choosing in the next round. A new set of 18 tiles is drawn and placed in a circle, and 4 new Development cards are drawn from the deck.

At the end of the 8th round, the game moves into scoring. There are three main ways to generate points and two ways to lose points.

1] Power plants.  First, calculate which coal plants can fire; collect VPs and pollution for these.  Next, calculate which gas plants can fire; collect VPs and pollution for these. Third, nuclear power plants which have power and waste disposal generate VPs (and no pollution), and finally, Green energy plants automatically make VPs without pollution.

2] Development cards.  You may have collected Development cards over the course of your 8 turns which have end-game bonus scoring.  For each card, see if you meet the scoring criteria shown on each card and take VPs accordingly

3] Trend cards.  At the start of the game, 3 Trend cards were placed on the table.  Now, evaluate them and score. They might be things such as points for 1st/2nd/3rd/4th in purple buildings or negative points for 1st/2nd/3rd/4th place in pollution.

4] Penalty for empty spaces.  Take a 1VP penalty for each empty space on your board.

5] Penalty for Pollution.  If you pollution score (max 20) is higher than your Public Support score (max 16), you lose VP equal to the square of the difference in the two scores.

The player with the most points wins. If there is a tie, the player who scored the most from Trend cards breaks the tie.

My thoughts on the game

Electropolis is a wonderfully complex game that comes in a delightfully small box.  The game offers a nice multi-layered challenge of trying to place the tiles in the right places on your board.  Not only do you have to draft the right tiles, but you have to choose Development tiles that allow you to play the tiles in the right areas on your board.  But, to further complicate things, the interesting turn order system makes you have to calculate when to try to take your turn to still be able to get the tiles that you want.  Of course, the later you can wait, the more tiles that you’ll be able to draw from the circle (though of course, you may not want to draw that many based on how your board looks OR what tiles are available on the circle).

While you do this, you are also always constantly trying to balance your public support and your expected pollution.  The penalty for having too much pollution can be really damaging once you get into the 9VP range; so you can’t ignore this facet of the game.  In my first game, I was a little surprised by how much competition there was for the action space which granted 3 tiles and a Public support point – but I can now see how valuable this can be. 

As I think of it, this is really the only component issue that I have with the game.  Everything else about the game is great. The tiles are thick and sturdy, the art is pleasing and the iconography is easy to interpret.  I just wish that there had been 8 Public Support tokens to be distributed one each round to the player that chooses the action space that gives 1 Public Support point.  All the other Public Support is trackable; and it would have been really nice to have this way to check the scores on the track. I have added 8 purple gems that I had lying around to use for this purpose.

The drafting circle is a neat system.  The only person who can be sure to get what they want is the player that chooses first.  Of course, they will get the least number of tiles from the circle and they will be last in turn order when choosing actions for the next turn – so it’s not all good.  Heck, sometimes, you want to go later in turn order, hoping that people will take some tiles from the circle and push tiles that you want closer together so that you can draft them all at once on your turn!  There is a lot going on in the decision of when to pick from the circle, and as I said earlier, I can’t overemphasize how nice it is to get a Public Support point in addition.

Placing the tiles is another challenging part of the game.  Your placement area is determined by the Development card that you take, but there are times, usually early on, when you’ll take a card for its other action (usually end game scoring bonus) and then just have to deal with the part of the board you’re allowed to use.  I can say that I learned early in my first game that it’s not great to choose the same area over and over at the start of the game; while it does let you make a lot of useful adjacencies, it can really hose you at the end if you get stuck with cards that don’t let you play many tiles (because all those spots are full)!

Our games thus far have been in the 60-90 minute range; but I’ve always played with at least one newbie in each game, and there is a certain amount of time delay in getting acquainted with the rules as well as the tiles and development tiles.  The rules are well written and we really didn’t have any issues with them or questions arising from them. This year certainly looks to be a great year for deeper strategy games from Taiwan, and I would add this to your list of games to explore if you like heavier games.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan Blum (2 plays): So far I am liking this. I am not sure I will want to play it dozens of times as the limited number of different buildings may start to make the games feel too much the same (there’s only so much interesting variance you can get out of the trend cards), but I’d like to play it more.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y
  • I like it. Dan Blum
  • Neutral. 
  • 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.
This entry was posted in Essen 2019, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.