Dale Yu: Review of Rebuilding Seattle

Rebuilding Seattle

  • Designer: Quinn Brander
  • Publisher: Wizkids
  • Players: 1-5
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 60-120 minutes

The great fire of 1889 has burned down most of downtown Seattle, and you are the city planner tasked with rebuilding it. Manage economic resources to improve neighborhoods, erect new buildings and iconic landmarks, and address the needs of an ever-growing population to make Seattle better than ever!  In Rebuilding Seattle, you’re responsible for managing the zoning and expansion of a major neighborhood! Each round your population grows, and you can either build a new building, expand into a new suburb, activate an event, or build a landmark, before earning profit based on your neighborhood’s commerce. You’ll buy building types from a shared market, looking to find shapes that fit your grid and types that fit your strategy. Triggering citywide events can change the tide of the game, offering points, money, and expansions for the players ready for it. You can even enact laws to give yourself the advantage! At the end of the game, whoever’s neighborhood has earned the most points wins.

To set up the game, place the board on the table and place the appropriate Market Extensions (based on player count) underneath.  Fill the available market spaces with building cards from the deck corresponding to the current round.  Place the 6 Event cards next to the board.  Place all the other bits nearby.  

Each player is given a District player mat as well as a starting neighborhood.  Players get all the bits in their color and place a cube at the bottom of each of the 3 Quality tracks on their mat.  The Amenity track is seeded based on the icons found on their starting Neighborhood.  Each player gets $8 plus a bonus based on starting order.  Each player is dealt 3 Landmark cards of which 2 are kept.  Players start with 11 population (recorded by a meeple on the amenity track)

The game is played over three rounds, each with four phases: Increase, Build, Profit, Cleanup

1] Increase – players increase their population based on what the Round track says.

2] Build – players will take a turn to take an action (buy a suburb/building, activate an event, enact a law), then the next player takes a turn.   The options:

  • Buy a suburb tile for $4 and place it orthogonally adjacent to your neighborhood.
  • Buy a building card – pay the cost listed above it, then gain the building tile shown on the top and place it in your neighborhood.  If it has amenity icons on it, move the cubes on your Amenity track.  You also get the upgrade shown on the bottom of the card, this can move you up on a quality track, give you more profit in the next phase or provide an endgame bonus
  • Buy a building pre-printed on the board – if the card on the space has already been bought/built, you can buy the basic building shown on the board.  There is no upgrade associated with this building.
  • Buy a landmark – you can build one of the two landmark cards you chose at the start of the game. Place the landmark tile like any other building into your neighborhood.  Landmarks can have immediate or end game effects.

  • Activate an event – choose one of the event cards which has not yet been resolved this round and do the things as printed on the card.  Some benefits will affect only you, others will affect all players.  Each event card is different.
  • Enact a law – once a round, you can enact one of the laws on your District mat. Place your law disc on the law you are enacting, and then resolve its effects.

3] Profit – each player earns $5 per green symbol they have in their neighborhood plus any other bonuses they have acquired (mostly on upgrades)

4] Cleanup – Clear out the market and deal out cards from the deck corresponding to the next round. Return all event cards, and players who played their law disc remove them from their mats.

Repeat this for three rounds.  At the end of the third round, resolve any end game scoring effects on Upgrades and Landmarks.  Players get 1 VP per $5 remaining.  The player with the most money wins, ties broken in favor of the player with lowest population.

My thoughts on the game

Rebuilding Seattle is an interesting thinky puzzly city-building game where you try to expand your part of the city with the right suburb tiles and then cover those tiles with just the right selection of buildings… Don’t forget to leave enough space for your landmarks though – they are quite large and weirdly shaped, but the VP bonanza from them really shouldn’t be missed.

Setup is a bit involved, so be prepared for a bit of a delay in starting the game – especially if you’ve put the game away “Eric Martin style”.  The rules make it pretty easy though to get things in the right place, so it’s just a matter of finding all the right bits and bobs and putting them in their places.

The decision of which building to buy is more complex than it looks due to the multiple facets of the process.  It might matter which kind of building you’re buying or the shape of the tile that goes with it.  You might prefer the associated action of the building.  When you want both, it’s a simple decision; when that magical combination is not available, then you have some hard decisions to make.  You’ll need to watch what your opponents are trying to do, and maybe you can correctly guess which things they do NOT want, leave that thing behind, and hope that it’s there for you on your next go.

The start of a round can be a fairly drawn out process as there are 40+ buildings available (a slight exaggeration), and they are all available to be bought.  Thus, in order to plan your round appropriately, you really do need to sit and look at all the options to figure out where you want to start and which buildings you want to target with later rounds (assuming that they’re still there for you to buy).

The timing of the event cards is another interesting part of the game.  You might be motivated to trigger an event early when you are the player who would best benefit from it; or maybe trigger an event to limit the benefit that someone else will get…  but using these events as the round timer makes for some dicey times near the end of the round as you are never entirely certain when a round will end – heck, there have been times when i’ve triggered an event that didn’t particularly do anything for myself, if only to end the round and stop my opponents from getting even greater benefits from the continued round.

Themewise, there is a lot of local flavor with names of actual neighborhoods from the Emerald City as well as realistic depictions of some of the more memorable structures found there.  There is a bit of a mental disconnect for me though in the positive reward for driving students away; I mean, you’re supposed to be rebuilding your neighborhood.  Why would you ever score positive points for driving people away?!  

I do wish the cards had some larger icons on them.  Sometimes, the differentiating bit on a card seems microscopic, especially from the other side of the table.  The color of the card helps, but man, in order to be sure, there was a lot of picking up the cards to examine them closely…

The game plays surprisingly quickly despite the complexity and the possible AP slowdown at the start of each round.  Thus far, nearly all of my games have finished in under 90 minutes, and there is a lot of game here for that time frame.  (Though, I should note that setup and rational cleanup does add 20-30 minutes to the time).  Individual turns end up not taking too long, and since players can peruse the building market while other players are going, it is not uncommon for the active player to already have a full plan for their turn by the time their next turn comes up. Sure, an unexpected event or having your first choice building snaked out from underneath you can upset plans – but otherwise, everything you need to determine your plan is face up on the table.

Rebuilding Seattle, though having lots of local theme, still feels a bit dry and mechanical while playing.  Everything works, and there are plenty of things to keep your brain occupied while playing – but there is never really an “Aha!” play that comes up.  Players buy suburbs, fit buildings on to them, trigger events, and the whole game continues to logically march forward in a pleasing serene and non-spectacular fashion.  It would be a good game to introduce players to the economic genre, but as I don’t have an affinity to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest, I’m happy to play this whenever asked, but I don’t think this is one I’d request.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B. (1 play): I thought the game was reasonably interesting with two players. However, I agree with Dale that it does feel rather dry and the theme doesn’t really come through. I also have concerns about the events; in our game the latter half of the second round and the entire third round were all about the event timing – “can I get just one more of this before that event is triggered,” that sort of thing. I thought that worked well enough with two but have grave doubts about how well it scales with more players; if someone is a bit behind in a few areas and goes late in the turn order, if the other players activate all the events for those areas to start the round they will be hopelessly behind.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y, John P, Dan B.
  • 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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2 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Rebuilding Seattle

  1. Greg C. says:

    Interesting theme. But if current events are any guideline, I’d let Seattle slide into the sea.

  2. Tony Sanfilippo says:

    I live around there and agree with Greg C. I’d let Seattle slide into the sea.

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