Dale Yu: First Impressions of Meeple Towers

  •  Designer: Aaron Holland
  • Publisher: Wizkids
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Played on review copy provided by Wizkids

Meeple Towers is “a strategic abstract game in which players take on the role of contractors tasked with building the high-rises of tomorrow for meeples to live”.  I think they really mean “meeples to live in” not just the reason for them to exist at all… But whatever.  In this game, you try to best use your identical set of action cards to be the most successful builder.

To setup the game, you choose two Property Board halves and affix them together with the cardboard clips.  This is the area on which all the players will build their towers.  Each player takes all the pieces in their color (supports, meeples, 7 action cards, reference card).  The other bits (bonus tokens and new building tiles) are arranged near the board.

Players take turns around the board until one of the game end conditions is met.  On a turn, a player either Plays a card or Plans (where he takes all previously played cards back into his hand).  When you play a card from your hand, you must choose one of the two options depicted on that card (there are only 5 different options).

  • Add meeple(s) – The card tells you to add meeple(s) to a specific empty colored space on the board – orange, purple, or blue.
  • Add support(s) – Take a matching number of supports as shown on your card and place them in an empty space on the board or on top of another support – though there is a limit of 2 supports being able to be stacked upon each other. If you play 2 supports, they must go on different spaces on the board.
  • Swap a Support and Meeple – Take a Support/Meeple from your supply and swap it with one of your pieces of the opposite type that is on the board already
  • Move a Support – Choose an exposed support (i.e. one that is not holding up a tile already) and move it to another location
  • Construct a Level Tile – Take a tile which matches the shape seen on the card played and add it to the board so that it is level and matches the grid of spaces on the floors below.  The tile can only be added if there is a Support underneath all the support icons seen on the top of the tile.  Then score the tile – the player scores points equal to the big square on that tile.  Also, ALL players score points in the little tab if they have a meeple which is covered by the added level tile; those meeples are removed and the owners score points.  You also collect a bonus token of the color space on which your meeple was removed from.

After taking one of the two actions on your card (or planning and taking all your played cards back into your hand), play moves to the next player.  The game continues until one of the game end conditions is met – a player has placed all their supports on the board, one family of level tiles is exhausted, or two types of bonus tiles are exhausted.  The game continues until all players have had an equal number of turns, and then there is some final scoring.

Players score points for any meeples left on the board, scoring 1 point for a meeple on the ground level and adding one additional point for each level up that their meeple is found on.  Reveal your bonus tokens and add those points as well.  The highest score wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player with the highest meeple on the tower at the end of the game.

My thoughts on the game

Meeple Towers is an interesting construction game.  It’s definitely fun to watch the structure be built from the ground up as you play the game.   I like the idea that everyone has the same set of action cards, so here it’s a matter of doing the best as you can, finding the best times to play your cards. 

For the most part, the game is tactical – you need to look at the current situation when your turn comes up to figure out what is the best play to be made.  One of the trickiest things for me is figuring out what the best play is with my pillars.  Sure, there are a lot of points to be scored by being the one who gets to place the floor tile – but there can be a nice bonus to be had if you are able to provide enough of the pillars underneath said tile.  As you never have an option of playing a pillar AND placing a tile, you have to choose your opportunities wisely.  There are plenty of times when you can play support pillars to the board and entice the next player to cover them with a level tile.   

Alternatively, if you have been carefully watching when the other players have played their action cards that allow them to build, you might be able to set up a build on one turn and then complete it on the next – if your opponents have already played their building cards, they will have to take an entire turn to get those cards back in their hand, you might be able to sneak in a huge play where you would then score a bunch for both the supports as well as the tiles.   I will even find myself sometimes taking a suboptimal action in order to save a tile building card for one more turn in case the right opportunity presents itself…

Also, if you have a lot of meeples on the board, trying to get them covered is a viable strategy – as the bonus tiles that you draw can be worth from 3-6 points; so it’s not a shabby reward for placing them.  It’s a much better reward generally than the end-game bonus for meeples on the board; though as the game comes to a close, oftentimes placing meeples down for a point grab is your best play at that point.

The rules are fairly straightforward though there are a few loose places – one notable one is the requirement for a “level” building tile.  The rules would have been clearer with an example of whether or not a tile in between pillars makes it uneven with a stack of pillars that has no tile in between them.  After we played, we looked online and the designer seems to indicate that these two stacks would be equal and could be used to build upon – but that would have been nicer to have clarified in the rules themselves.

The game moves along at a good pace; sure you have two choices on each card to consider, and you might have up to 7 cards in our hand to look at – but generally, there are only a couple of options each turn that seem really good, so it doesn’t take too long for each individual turn.  The components are thick and solid, and there isn’t much risk of things toppling over by accident.

Meeple Towers is a 3D construction game which will challenge players to find the best places to place their meeples and pillars.  It’s a good choice for a light gaming session or for family events or casual gamers.  It could fit in for a opener/closer in my game group.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

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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