Dale Yu: Review of Neoville


  • Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
  • Publisher: Blue Orange
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 10+
  • Time 45 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Blue Orange USA


In this game, players are visionary architects, each trying to make the best nature-based city plan that they can.  Each player will design their very square city on the table in front of them, eventually making a 4 x 4 grid of square tiles in their city design.  Each of the tiles is further subdivided in a 2 x 2 grid with 4 different types of terrain possible, brown soil, green grass, gray rocks, and blue water.

To start the game a supply of skyscrapers is set up on the table, the distribution dependent on player count.  Additionally, players should randomly choose or agree on 2 of the 3 types of utilities in the game.  Once the 2 types are chosen, randomly draw a number of them from the supply based on player count.  All of these utilities are also made available on the table.

The 4 starting land tiles are separated from the rest, and the start player takes the #1 tile, the next player the #2 tile, and so on.  Any unused number tiles are discarded.  The rest of the land tiles are shuffled, placed in a draw pile, and the top four tiles are turned over to form a display in the center of the table.  Finally, each player is dealt two tiles from the draw pile to give them each a starting hand of 3 tiles.

neoville in play

The game is played in 16 rounds.  In each round, you will add a tile to your city, and at the end of the game, you will have a complete 4 x 4 grid of tiles.  When it is your turn, the first thing you do is to add a tile to your city.  You choose one of the 3 tiles from your hand and play it face up on the table.  It must be directly adjacent to a previously placed tile, except obviously the first tile as there are no tiles on the table yet.  They must be fully adjacent on a side, they may not be offset from the other tiles.  It is important to note that you do not need to match any terrain at all on the tiles, they simply need to be adjacent to each other.  The tile can be placed on the table and any orientation you like, but once it is placed, it is fixed in position for the rest of the game.  When placing tiles, make sure that you do not exceed a 4 x 4 grid.

After placing the tile, you then have the option to place an available skyscraper or utility token onto the tile you just played.  If you choose a skyscraper, it must be played on a terrain square which matches the type of the skyscraper.  Note that you cannot play skyscrapers on terrain squares which are marked with a park symbol or a sports facility symbol.  Additionally, you cannot place a skyscraper in a terrain group which already has a skyscraper.  If you choose a utility, you can place it anywhere on your played tile, and there is no restriction about previously placed Skyscrapers or utilities.  However, you still cannot place utilities on terrain squares with Parks or sports facilities on them.  It is important to remember that you do not need to choose a skyscraper or utility.  The reason for this will be made clear when we discuss scoring a little bit.


To end your turn, draw a new tile to bring her hand back up to 3.  You may draw one of the 4 faceup tiles on the table, or you can take a face down tile from the draw tile.  The next player in clockwise order then takes their turn.  This process continues until all players have had 16 turns, and each player has a 4 x 4 grid on the table in front of them.

Once the game is over, players then score their city.  You will look at your skyscrapers, utilities, as well as comparing the number of parks and sport facilities in your city.

To score skyscrapers, you look at each one in turn, and calculate the size of the district it is in.  The size of the district is simply the number of orthogonally adjacent squares of the same terrain.  If the size of the district in squares is equal to or greater than the number on the skyscraper (ranges from 4 to 12), then you score positive points equal to the number on the skyscraper.  However if the district is smaller than the number in the skyscraper, you score negative points for that skyscraper.

Next you scored the 2 utilities that are in the game.  Again remember, that 2 of the 3 possibilities were chosen at the start of the game.


Ecomobiles are scored based on the row and column in which they are found.  The features that are checked are shown on the token, and they may include sports, Parks, skyscrapers or utilities.  If the number of desired features is equal or greater to the number on the ecomobile, then score positive points (5 or 8).  If the number of features is last, you score negative points.

Windmills are scored based on their location in your city.  The top of the windmill token tells you the number of points that can be scored (4, 5 or 6), and the location in your city where the windmill must be found.  If the location is correct, score positive points.  If the location is incorrect, score negative points.

Biodomes.  Biodomes have a specific district shape as well as a point value on them (5, 6 or 8).  You score positive points if the biodome is found in a district which exactly matches that shown on its token.  If it is not in a matching district, you score negative points.

Finally, you score both Parks and sports facilities.  First look at the Parks, and each player counts the total number in their city.  The player or players with the most parks will get 5 points.  Likewise the player or players with the most sport facilities in their city will score 5 points.

The player with the most points winds the game.  Tie breaker is in favor of the player with the most combined skyscrapers and utilities.


My thoughts on the game

PWH is one of my favorite recent designers – he packs a lot of action into games with short durations.  Last year, he had a city building game of sorts with Cloud City.  There, you were connecting skyscrapes of different heights with bridges of different lengths.  In Neoville, the city (at first) is more 2D, but as you place the buildings onto the map, this also takes on a nice 3D appearance.

This game is all about taking risks or at least calculating the risks.  You know that you get 16 tile plays in the game, and so you can already get a feel for your max area sizes early on in the game – additionally, you know that you can have at most 2 squares of a type on a single tile.  In our games so far, it turns out that most people choose a big building (10 or 12) early on and then work towards that goal.  Of course, you always have to make a risk assessment, because the penalty of negative points is severe – especially for the largest buildings.  I would probably make sure that I chose a big building of a different type than the player directly before me in turn order so that the previous player doesn’t always scarf up the tile that I want.

Though the risk with the largest towers is high, if you don’t take them early on, you might not get a chance to choose them if you don’t start early.  Later in the game, as you are setting the boundaries of your 4×4 grid, you can sometimes take utilities that essentially automatically score.   Well, at least, that’s the strategy that I usually take… and I definitely have not won all the games that I’ve played, so take that with whatever grain of salt that you like.


You also should try to pace yourself with the buildings – you can only take one building per turn, so there is a little race aspect to make sure that you get the ones you want.  While it would be ideal to have an already finished area prior to taking the matching building; this doesn’t happen too often – so you’ll have to anticipate your future plays and take the buildings you think you can score.

For the most part, the landscape types will drive most of your tile choice decisions, but the parks and athletic icons can give you a nice bonus at the end of the game.  Also, it is easy to forget that you can’t place a building on those special icons, so be sure to always check that anytime you’re placing a building down on the grid.

Each games uses two out of the three utilities, and theoretically each combination should feel a little different, but after my first few games, I’ll say that the utiities don’t really change the arc of the game much – in the end, I still just look at the pattern seen on the available utilities and see if they work in my current city buildling plan.  And, that’s not a bad thing; the game works well, and it’s not the sort of game that requires the setup to be different to succeed.  Like most tile games, it’s all about drawing or finding the right tile at the right time.

This is the second year in a row that Phil Walker-Harding has given us a city building game of a sort, and this one is a nice tile-laying puzzle. You can take big risks with the highest valued buildings, but be sure you succeed or else you likely won’t overcome the negative penalty of those risks.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • 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.
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