Buzzworthiness: Agropolis

Thanks to Button Shy Games for providing a pre-production review copy of this game.

Back in 2018, Button Shy Games brought us Sprawlopolis, an 18-card city building game. It’s probably fair to say that this has been one of Button Shy’s biggest hits. Now, it’s back in the form of

image by BGG user jtagmire

Agropolis is the latest game in the Sprawlopolis family from designers Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka (the team also behind Button Shy’s Circle the Wagons). It’s a 1-4 player game where you’re developing the countryside outside of Sprawlopolis proper. Agropolis is a standalone title, but the Kickstarter campaign (which starts on September 29) will include a combo pack that allows you to combine the two.

As with most of Button Shy’s games, Agropolis has 18 cards. And, like Sprawlopolis, they are double sided – one side has the blocks needed to build the countryside, and the other has a scoring condition. At the start of the game, you’ll draw three of the cards and flip them to their scoring condition side. These cards have numbers in the top left corner that, when added together, give you your target score. In addition, some of the cards also have feed values in the upper left corner, which add points to the target score based on the presence of the shown animal on the bottom of the scoring cards. This is totally optional, which is good for those of us who are terrible at this game.

examples of scoring cards

One card is placed in the middle of the table to start your countryside. The start player draws the top three cards of the deck, and everyone else gets one. In solo play, you just get three cards.

On your turn, you’ll take one of your cards and play it. At least one of the four blocks in the area must line up with one of the blocks on a card already in the play area. You can overlap, but you can’t tuck cards. Once this is done, you pass your remaining two cards to the next player so they have three options, and draw a new one for yourself. In solo play, you just draw a new card. If there aren’t cards to draw, just continue playing until all cards are out.

The final scoring consists of counting your largest block of each terrain type – in this game, it’s cornfields, vineyards, orchards, and livestock pens – and scoring one point for each square there. You also count the number of individual roads you have and subtract one point for each of those. Then you check your scorecards and tally up how well you did with those. In the example below, I got 10 points from my blocks, -9 for my roads,

25 points FTW!

The combo pack allows you to combine the two games by giving you goals that can be used with both. The back side also shows a combination of terrains from the two. The way this works is you draw a goal from the combo pack, as well as one from Sprawlopolis and one from Agropolis. You draw one more card from the combo pack as your starting card, then set the rest aside (there are only six cards total). Your hand each round will consist of one card from Sprawlopolis and one card from Agropolis. You’ll play one and discard the other, then draw two more. Once all cards have been played (or discarded), you score.

Mega scoring card and blocks

One of the most noticeable differences between Sprawlopolis and Agropolis is the colors. Instead of blue, gray, orange, and green, you get red, yellow, purple, and brown. The brown livestock pens, which sort of play the same role as the green parks from Sprawlopolis in that no roads ever pass through them, also carry different kinds of animals – chickens, cows, and pigs. This adds a little more of a cohesive theme to Agropolis that Sprawlopolis lacked. I find it easier to think about livestock pens and corn fields than I did to think about parks and residential areas. Also, it helps that there’s the occasional crop circle or corn maze in the corn fields.

Feed Fees are something introduced in this game as a way to amp up the difficulty by increasing your target score. Only seven of the 18 cards have Feed Fees, so it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get one. And I like the way they vary how much they add from game to game based on animals you find on other cards. My big problem with the system is that it doesn’t make gameplay more difficult, only increases how much you need to score. For someone like me who is terrible at Sprawlopolis, I don’t need to make the scores harder to achieve. It’s easier to play the game, see if you won regular, and if so, whether you would have won with Feed Fees. Sort of an expert win or an extra achievement rather than adding to the difficulties.

The idea of having different scoring conditions on the backs of cards, some of which are randomly revealed, was something the design team played around with originally with Circle the Wagons. It continues to be a great idea, and it’s nice that all the scoring conditions in this game are fairly different than in the original. Agropolis isn’t just a straight reskin – it has its own ideas, like creating polyominoes out of your orchards, or doing different things with different types of livestock.

It’s also nice to be able to combine Agro and Sprawl into one mega game – Megagropolis? Megawlopolis? I don’t know. When I first heard about this, my initial thought was that you were going to have a giant sprawling 30 card city with six objectives to fulfill. Instead, with the combo pack, it’s going to be an 18 card city, which is still a little bigger than the 15 in either base game. And it’s interesting now having three different goals – one for Sprawl, one for Agro, and one for both. I like it.

Most of my plays of Agropolis were solo, though I did get in one two-player game. That adds a new dynamic to the game because someone else is able to see things that you may have missed, which is quite likely in my case – I’m pretty terrible at the system. Roads are my nemesis, they kill my score just about every time.

That said, I have never won Sprawlopolis, but I did win my first game of Agropolis. I don’t know that this speaks to anything negative about Agro, I think it more speaks to me starting to hone my focus more with my play style. Or that I just got a good combination. I did score 25 on a 21 point goal (which was 25 with the Feed Fees), so I felt good about that. The next game I played, I only got 18 out of 38 (no Feed Fees), so I felt less good about that. I should also note that my first Mega game, I lost with 37 out of 40, and my first two-player game finished with us getting 28 out of 26. Take all that as you will.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Very much so. Agropolis is a fine sequel to Sprawlopolis, giving a different experience in the exact same framework. Fans of the original will love it, and people who haven’t tried the original will be able to explore the same basic concepts here without too much complexity added. I definitely recommend you check it out – the Kickstarter campaign starts on September 29 (I’ll try to remember to update this with a link when it goes live [here you go!]), and you can get this game for $10, with the combo pack included.

Thanks again to Button Shy for providing a review copy of this game, and thanks to you for reading!

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