Dale Yu: Review of Point City

Point City

  • Designers: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich
  • Publisher: AEG
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by AEG at GenCon 2023

Point City  is a card-drafting, engine-building game with more than 150 unique building cards, giving you the opportunity to create a completely different city each time you play!

The rules are simple: Take two adjacent cards from the dynamic city grid and add them to your expanding city. Use your resource cards and bonuses to construct building cards that require specific combinations. Build special civic structures to multiply your city’s points and be the top urban planner!  Point City takes the same simple concept of drafting cards and building the best combinations, then adds new layers of resource management and engine building to the mix — making the game easy to learn, but challenging for everyone!

description from publisher

The game is based around a deck of 160 double sided cards, one side with a resource on it while the other side has a building on it.  They are separated into their three tiers and each stack is shuffled with the resource side face up.  Some cards are removed from each tier based on player count and then they are stacked together with the Tier 1 deck on top to form the big draw pile for the game.

A 4×4 grid is made, using cards from the top of the deck, going from left to right and then top to bottom.  A selection of civic tokens is placed on the table, and then each player is dealt an ingenuity card – one of which designates the start player.  Ingenuity cards are spent as wild resources in play.

On a player’s turn, a player will gain two cards – either taking the top two resources from the deck (meaning they will know what the first card is, but the second will be a surprise) OR they will take any two orthogonally adjacent cards from the grid on the table.  If the table cards are both resources, no conditions.  If any of the table cards are buildings, the player must be able to pay the resource cost of those buildings at the time of collection so that the building card can be taken and immediately placed in the player area.  If you are not able to take (and pay for) both cards that you choose, you may not make that choice.

There is one special optional rule – if you find a row that has all resources face up, you can flip one of the resource cards over to the building side before you draft cards.  This is supposed to allow you more options on your turn.  Of course, you don’t know what the building will be until you flip it over – so you have to be a bit lucky…

When you pay for a building, you can either use previously collected resource cards OR if you have already built some buildings that have permanent resources on them, you can use those resources once a turn to help pay for a building.  To help remember, I recommend slightly tilting the building card that you have used.

Building cards are the components of your “engine”.  Many of them will provide resources which you can then use to build more buildings in the future.  Others provide victory points at the end of the game (a few of these also may produce a resource).  A third type will award a civic token; remember that you set up a supply of these at the beginning – each one has a different condition which will award points at the end of the game.  (I hope that you can parse these tokens by yourself because interestingly, there isn’t a guide to them in the rules anywhere).

After your turn, if you took cards from the table, you will replace them with cards from the deck, making sure to put them on the opposite side – so that if you drew a resource, you will place a building card in that spot and vice versa.  There are two tokens which can help remind you what needs to be placed where.

The deck is set up so that each player gets 17 turns; essentially when the draw deck is empty, the last player in turn order will take their turn and then the game ends.  Now you tabulate your score by adding up the points on your buildings and adding them to the points scored from civic tokens. The player with the most points wins; ties going to the player with the most unspent resource cards.

My thoughts on the game

Flatout Games have consistently been making games that I’ve wanted to play and have really enjoyed.  This game was high on my list to check out because Point Salad, the spiritual predecessor to this, is one of my favorite AEG/Flatout games, and one that still gets played now.  The games feel familiar in the sense that you are drafting resources and contracts from a common market to score points.  

Here, the 4×4 array looks to give you some interesting options. You must always take an adjacent pair, so you’ll have to keep your eye out on your ever-changing options. At the start, every card is a resource, and in our games, players generally start by drafting the face up resources because this way they will know both of the cards that they are getting as opposed to one known and one unknown from the top of the deck. This quickly makes the table be filled with building cards.

While there are plenty of options of things to build, our games have shuddered to a crawl at the start because of the fact that rarely does anyone have enough resources to build two buildings; and remember, you must be able to use/build both cards you take from the table. Once the table gets a few purchases, there is a nice ebb and flow of resources and buildings. Oftentimes, a player will choose a pair so that he immediately spends the resource collected in order to buy the building which is the other half of the pair.

Early on, many of the buildings provide resources, and it is quite advisable to try to build up your production engine.  Like Splendor (a game that this feels very similar to), you need to be able to have a bunch of permanent resources or else your game will sputter and die in the endgame.  That being said, there are a number of inexpensive civic token buildings in the early phases, and you will have to weigh the risks/benefits of building these; they will not help you build more buildings later, but they are a very cheap way to get a civic token, and you get the best choices.

Here is a bad end-game engine (mine, FWIW)

My experience has taught me not to overvalue these civic tokens, though. Even though it is nice to have three cheap tokens that might score 7 or 9 points each, it will be quite painful in the endgame when you watch your opponents build two buildings on their turn using only resources from their previously built buildings, and each of these are worth 5 to 7 points. That’s math that will beat you every time. I’d end up spending at least one turn trying to draw resources, often from the table because I would need specific combinations of resources, so I had to take the ones I could see. But of course, each time I did this, I just went ahead and provided two more buildings to possibly be bought up by the people with better engines.

Here is a good end-game engine (the winner, by a runaway)

I would have liked there to be the converse rule which would allow you to flip over a building in a row/column with all buildings; also to give a bit more flexibility.  Maybe that would make the game go too fast, though…  But since the game is limited to 17 turns no matter what happens, I’d think that it would only be positive to give players more opportunities to do fun things instead of drawing two cards off the deck for their entire turn.  

I cannot help but compare this to Point Salad, and while I like the ideas here in Point City, it doesn’t feel as elegant nor streamlined as Point Salad.  The market is a bit of work to upkeep, and trust me, you’ll need those tokens to remind you what side of the card to place in the market.  There is a stuttering tempo as well – at least in our games so far.  I’m happy to play this when suggested, and I think it fits nicely into a class of games that I like to show to friends who are not gamers. It’s pretty to look at, it’s easy to teach, fairly easy to grok, and I think it shows off a lot of good things about the hobby.  Given the added component of engine building, it will be at the upper end of complexity for that bucket of games, and may keep it from being truly accessible to all. It’s a little on the simple side for my regular gaming group though. I don’t think it will replace Point Salad in my go bag, but I will remain happy to play it when anyone suggests..

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B. (1 play): In contrast to Dale, I like this game a bit better than Point Salad, but I have only played Point Salad at or near the top of the player count range, which is probably not how it shines. Point City is less chaotic, which I prefer, but I agree with Dale that it’s not as elegant as it could be and also that the tempo can be a bit odd. That all being said, I’m willing to play it more given the short length.

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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