Game Buzz: Pencil Park

I’m closing out my little miniseries of free print-and-play games today. After covering Dark Force Incursion, Super Skill Pinball 4-Cade, and Rolling Realms, today we’ll talk about

image by BGG user gobi

Pencil Park is actually a game that has been around since 2017. However, the contract designer Daniel Solis had with the publisher who had signed it lapsed at the end of 2019, so Daniel Solis decided to release a 2020 edition of the game for free, a little revamped and with two new maps – Pipsburg and Inkstanbul, both of which can be found over at BGG. The game is a city-building roll-and-write where you place shapes out on the map to build up your little town.

image by BGG user mrmatthew

For the game, you just need a map, three d6, and something to write with. Each turn, you’ll roll the three dice and choose one to be the shape you want to draw. A 1 is a single square, a 2 is two squares in a diagonal, 3 is three squares in a diagonal, 4 is four squares in a square shape, 5 is five squares in a cross, and 6 is six squares in a rectangle. The sum of the other two dice determines what type of zone gets placed:

  • 2-3: Park. At the end of the game, you get one point for each park space that is next to either a blank space or one of the printed blue reserve spots. If the park space is next to both a blank space AND a blue reserve, it gets you three points.
  • 4-5: Monument. Each individual group of monuments scores two points, no matter the size of the group. To be a separate group, a monument must not be orthogonally adjacent to another monument.
  • 6: Business. Each group of businesses that are a unique quantity scores 3 points. So if you have a business group of size one, another that is size two, and two more that are size three, you score 6 points since only two business groups are of a unique size.
  • 7: Residential. There are three types of residents to draw – circle, square, and triangle. At the end of the game, you’ll score four points for each type of resident you have the fewest of. So if you have one circle, three triangles, and fifteen squares, you score four points for the circle. If you had no circles, you’d score zero.
  • 8: Civic. Each civic zone you have at the end of the game adds one smiley face to one resident. Each smiley face scores three points.
  • 9-10: Industry. You score one point per industry zone in the largest group of industry zones you have. Each industry zone outside that group loses a point for pollution.
  • 11-12: School. Two contiguous school zones are a Primary School that scores nothing. 3-6 contiguous school zones are a High School that scores one point as long as you also have a Primary School. 7+ contiguous school zones are a University that scores three points as long as you have a High School. A single Primary School can support any number of High Schools, and a single High School can support any number of Universities.

When you place your shape, it must go in empty spaces. There are a few special spots on the boards – non-residential districts (with the red border) can’t have 6-7-8 in them; speciality districts (black border with an = between them) must have the same zone in them; arts districts (gray borders with an ≠ between them) must have different zones in them; mandatory districts (with a number in the corner) must be filled or you lose points; and energy districts (with a lightning bolt in the corner) give you a zone of your choice anywhere in the city as long as you fill it with an X.

An X can be drawn in any spot of your city when you can’t, or don’t want to, place a shape. If you get three Xs, your game is over and you score. Score each district separately, plus bonus points for completely surrounding the blue reserve spaces. There’s a scoring pyramid for each level with a single target score being the ultimate victory. Score over or under that target and your victory is a little less.

(the scoring chart for this has since been updated with the discrepancy fixed)

Pencil Park is a fun game. There are very interesting scoring options throughout. I’ve gotten to play Pipsburg a couple of times, but haven’t tried Inkstanbul (which looks more involved).  I’ve probably played some things incorrectly – I know I caught a LOT of mistakes after the first game – but I am enjoying the maps. Solis is thinking about releasing more each year, which I think would be really cool.

OK, I think I’m done talking about these free PNPs for now. Back to more of your usual programming next week. Thanks for reading!


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