Game Buzz: Underwater Cities

Today, I want to take a look at the game (other than Teotihuacan) that I think I heard most about in the lead up to Spiel:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Underwater Cities is a 1-4 player game from designer Vladimír Suchý, a Czech designer previously known for a lot of well-respected games from Czech Games Edition including Last Will, Shipyard, and Pulsar 2849.  This is the first game from Delicious Games, his new company.  Rio Grande will be publishing the English version.  The basic idea of the game is that overpopulation is a huge problem for planet Earth, and the best minds in the world are working together to build some underwater habitats.

The game comes with a double-sided main board, 4 player info cards, 4 double-sided player boards, 4 final scoring cards, 4 Personal Assistant cards, 3 action tiles, 180 era cards (Eras I-II-III), 10 3-credit special cards, 15 1- and 2-credit special cards, 8 government contract cards, 16 Metropolis tiles, credit tokens, biomatter tokens, kelp tokens, steelplast tokens, science tokens, 47 double-sided tunnel tiles, 1 action-cloning tile, 4 multiplier tiles, 17 white domes (nonsymbiotic cities), 13 purple domes (symbiotic cities), 12 player markers, 1 era marker, 37 farm tokens, 37 desalination plant tokens, and 37 laboratory tokens.

You’ll start the game with just the Era I deck, shuffled and placed in its spot on the game board.  The special cards are separated into two decks, one 1-2 credit deck, and one 3 credit deck.  The top 1-2 credit card is revealed, as are 6 3-credit cards.  The remaining 3-credit cards are not used in the game.  Each player starts at zero points, and also gets a randomly chosen board, 3 action tiles, a Personal Assistant, 1 kelp, 1 steelplast, 1 science, and 2 credits.  Each player will begin the game by drawing six cards from the Era I deck, discarding three and keeping the rest as their initial hand.

image by BGG user sverbeure

Underwater Cities is played over a number of rounds, with each round consisting of three turns per player.  A turn consists of playing a card from your hand and choosing one of the available action spots on the board.  That spot will get marked with one of your action tiles so everyone else knows it can’t be used again this round.  You’ll get to do the action shown on the board, and if the color on your card matches, you’ll also get to do the action on the card.  Cards have a number of different effects – instant effects that happen immediately; permanent effects that last the whole game; action cards which give you a special action you can do; production cards which give resources; and end-scoring cards.  All of the cards except for the instant cards must be claimed to be used.  In order to claim a card, you just have to match the color.  Instant effect cards are discarded after use, as are unclaimed cards with other effects.

Here are some possible actions you’ll encounter:

  • Resources: You could gain steelplast, kelp, science, biomatter, credits, cards, or points.
  • Cities: You could spend resources to build a nonsymbiotic city (white dome) or a symbiotic city (purple dome).  The city you build must be adjacent to an existing city on your board.  The big difference between symbiotic and non is that symbiotic cities give points.
  • Buildings: You could build a farm, desalination plant, or laboratory.  These produce different resources throughout the game, and will produce more if upgraded.
  • Tunnels: These connect your cities into a network.  Cities that are not connected produce nothing.
  • Upgrading: Pay resources to upgrade a tunnel, farm, desalination plant, or laboratory.
  • The Federation Track: Improves your reputation.
  • Draw Special Cards.
  • Use Action Cards.  Some cards in play will have an A symbol on them.  You can use them if you take an action that allows you to.
  • The Always Available Slot.  This is always available, even if someone else has claimed it.  It allows you to gain 2 cards and 2 credits.  It has no color, so you’ll never be able to also activate a card.
  • Action Cloning: After paying a credit, you can take an action already taken by another player.

Draw a card at the end of your turn.  You always start a turn with three cards, so if you have more than three, you’ll have to discard down at the start of your next turn.

A round is over once all players have taken three turns.  At this point, everyone gets their action tiles back, figures out the new turn order based on the Federation track, and advance the era marker.  When the era marker hits a production space (after round 4 for Era I, round 7 for Era II, round 10 for Era III), it is time for a production phase.  All cities, tunnels, and buildings connected to your network produce.  Production cards and Metropolises you have connected to also produce.  You also will rotate action cards so they’re available to be used again, feed your cities, remove the old era deck and start with the new one.

After the third era, there’s a final scoring – score connected metropolises, end-scoring cards, your network, and leftover resources.  The most points wins.

image by BGG user maeddes

Vladimír Suchý always packs a lot of stuff into his games, and this one seems to be no different.  There are a lot of choices to be made, and a lot of ways to build your network.  The action selection method seems pretty novel, with players able to get extra actions by matching colors.  The game looks very pretty, and I think it sounds great.  Vladimír Suchý is very much an underrated designer, and I am kind of glad that he’s making a move away from CGE.  As much as I love CGE, it is very much the house that Vlaada Chvátil build, and I think starting Delicious Games is one of the best ways for Suchý to get some more recognition.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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