Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Board Game Review: Blue Moon City

Periodically I’ll be participating in the game night blog carnival, which gives me a chance to review some board games that might be a good break from your typical RPG session nights. Be sure to check out the other participants and their blogs.

Blue Moon City is a release from Fantasy Flight Games which is still available from retailers despite being out of print. This is a fantasy game where players represent different factions attempting to rebuild the famed city of Blue Moon after a civil war. Players race from building to building, attempting to contribute the most repairs in order to gain resources that are offered to a central obelisk. Offer the most to the obelisk and your faction will gain the most favor from the city dragons, ensuring your prominence once the city is completely rebuilt.

Play revolves around a player moving from building to building. There they can attempt to make repairs, using sets of specific cards in their hands. Most buildings will take several turns to repair, and each player has a chance to contribute. Everyone that contributed to repairing a building gets a reward, but the player that contributed the most will gain the greatest share. Rewards are offered as crystals or dragon scales.

While players primarily are rebuilding the city to gain crystals, it is all in order to offer the most resources to the city’s central obelisk. A player must return to the central city and offer up a number of crystals. Successfully doing so means they get to add one of their markers to the obelisk. Like restoring the buildings, the earlier spaces require less resources and ramp up in costs as the obelisk slowly fills.

On the board are also several dragons. When a player makes a contribution to repairing a building in the presence of a dragon they gain a scale. There are a limited number of scales available. When the last scale is obtained, the player that has the most scales gains additional crystals. Players that tie get less, but an equal share. And the poor player that has only 1-2 scales gets nothing. The scales are set aside and the process is repeated until the city is completely rebuilt. Players will find that being able to complete buildings gets increasingly difficult. So shrewdly planning on making select repairs in the presence of dragons to gain the most scales, and in turn, be able to gain the most crystals for offerings, becomes a solid strategy.

When repairing buildings, players typically need a specific value of cards of a particular color. The cards have different suits of colors and values. Each color suit also has varying abilities. Some allow the movement of dragons, while others allow cards to change color or act as wildcards (being any possible color). This is a fun part of the game, where players try to figure out possible combinations of cards in their hand to maximize the amount of contributions they can make to repair buildings.

Players also have some interaction, as they can try to capitalize on others repairing different buildings, or by manipulating where dragons fly, not to mention picking up the last few scales to ensure they get the lion’s share of crystals. All the while though, players cannot forget that the object of the game is to make the most contributions to the obelisk. While they gain crystals needed for offerings by reconstructing buildings, they also have to balance taking time to visit the obelisk. If they delay doing this, they may find it increasingly difficult to offer crystals as other players have taken up easier slots on the obelisk.

The Good: The tiles around the periphery of the city layout are randomly placed, giving the game a bit of a random setup from game to game. The artwork is thematic and well done, with nice components. The game moves rather well and most games will take an hour at most.

The Bad: Interaction is primarily based on denial of access. It may not be everyone’s taste if they are looking for more direct interaction like the trading of cards. The theme is somewhat enigmatic, as it is based on the fantasy mythos of the two player game, Blue Moon.

The Verdict: Blue Moon City is a great game. There are enough choices requiring some strategy in planning your moves, and working out the varying card sets in your hand to obtain the right amount of resources is fun. Manipulating the dragons and being able to make the proper contribution at the right time and place is enjoyable. There is just enough interaction where players can try to capitalize on efforts made by other players, or try to limit their opponent’s options by acting first. It’s a great buy with enough strategy to be engaging and still act as a ‘light’ board game. It has mechanics and a theme that is just different enough from the other games out there to make it stand out.