My City (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Reiner Knizia
  • Publisher: Kosmos
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Times Played: 28 (Full 24 Game Campaign, 4 “Eternal” Games)

My City is a legacy game designed by Reiner Knizia.  Released this spring, the game is about placing buildings in a city through generations, watching the community grow from its earliest days through industrialization.  The buildings you construct are represented by polyominoes, those tetris-like shapes we’re all familiar with, so the game has a bit of a puzzle feel.  

The campaign is 24 games, split into 8 chapters of 3 games each.  Depending on your in-game decisions, you’ll be adding new features (generally via stickers) to your city that alters the course of future games.  On the reverse of your board is an “eternal” game that can be replayed anytime. 

My City, designed for 2-4 players, has been receiving significant critical praise for the family-friendly and easy-to-learn gameplay.  My family played through the campaign recently, and we fell in love with My City.

The game is currently released in Germany, and an English-language version is expected this summer.  

The Gameplay (Spoiler Free)

Note: This is spoiler free, but I do discuss the first three games, which are part of the initial “Chapter” in the game.  I don’t think this can be considered a spoiler given that this is handed to you right out of the box.  I’m not going to discuss the specifics of later chapters though.  

Each player has a board where they’ll be constructing their city.  As the campaign begins, it has a few different features — empty fields, rocks, trees, etc. — and you have 24 polyominoes of three different colors.

A deck of cards sits between the players, and a card showing one of the polyominoes is flipped.  Players must build that in their city.  The first piece must be placed along the river — and pieces can never cross the river — and future pieces must adjoin previously-built pieces.  Players can refuse to play a piece, but they take a step backwards on the point track (and the game begins with each player having 10 turns).  Players can drop out of the game at any time, and the game ends when all players do so, or when the deck of cards runs out.

Each tree showing is worth one point, each rock is minus a point, and each empty field is minus a point.  Starting in the second game, a new scoring mechanic is introduced: you get a point for each building in your biggest group of each color.  Starting in the third game, you get a new landmark: a fountain that, if completely surrounded, can score you four extra points.  

About the Campaign

There is generally a rule change between games, and the rules are revealed after each “Chapter” (i.e. each third game).

The winner of each game earns progress points for the campaign, and as the campaign progresses, there become a few others ways to earn progress points.  These are documented via filling in little circles at the top of your player board.  

The winner also receives certain stickers (rocks in the early games) that set them back a little, and the losers receive a boost for future games (by receiving trees), so there is a bit of a catch up mechanic.  Our campaign ended with the top three players having very similar scores (although the fourth player was quite a bit behind). 

Advice For Your Campaign

I’d recommend playing with 3-4 players.  Though the game will work with 2-players, it seems to me that the in-game legacy aspects would work better with 3-4, since rewards are often given out on a first, second, and then everybody-else basis, but with two players, it is all-or-nothing.  

If you’re going to play, I’d play a chapter at a time, or maybe two at a time.  There’s nothing wrong with stopping mid-chapter — we did it once — but we found this quite enjoyable in three-game settings.  Though the box says 30 minutes, we were playing this in 15-20 minutes.  

You can have players drop out.  Each game is simple enough that you could substitute players and they wouldn’t be at a big disadvantage.  You could even give them an introductory game via the “Eternal” side of the board.  

My thoughts on the game…

I loved My City, and so did my family.  Reiner Knizia has created something truly special.  I could see this game winning the Spiel des Jahres or Kennerspiel des Jahres.  My City is the right combination of engaging, innovative, and family, so it is a natural contender for gaming’s highest honor.  

We were fascinated from the first game of the campaign.  My family and I love polyominoes games (Cottage Garden, Patchwork, Etc.), so we were always going to like this.  But this actually compared favorably to others in the genre, really going to the core of what makes gameplay fun.  My City is remarkably simple in terms of the rules, but from that simplicity emerges engaging and tense little puzzles.  

The artwork (done by Michael Menzel) is attractive, and the components were well produced.  The rulebook is well written, and the player aids included in each chapter remind you of the steps you need to take at the beginning of each game. 

The first few games are easily grasped, and we were off and playing in a few minutes.   The campaign does become a bit more complicated towards the end, but even then it was still approachable and family-friendly.  It might be too heavy for the Spiel des Jahres by game 15 or so, but the first dozen games are decidedly lightweight, such that anybody could play them.  

The best part of the campaign was that no one game had a burdensome rule teach, but through minor changes, they did each have a distinct flavor.  And there was a story emerging as you watched your city progress from its earliest days through industrialization.  The only drawback of this impermanence is that a couple of the games were very cool, and I do wish I had the chance to go back and replay them, but that would be difficult giving how much the game changes via stickering.  

Not only was the campaign fun, but we’ve played the “Eternal” side of the boards a few times.  These are permanently playable, and they roughly correspond to game 10 of the campaign.  This chapter of the campaign was our favorite, so the designer did a good job of highlighting the best part of the campaign in the permanent part of the product.

Overall, I’m highly impressed.  If you like legacy games or polyominoes puzzles, I think this will be a big hit with your game group.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Chris Wray
  • I like it. Eric M.
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…
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