(Z-Man Games 2012)
The city-building theme has been quite abundant in the tabletop world during the last year alone. Games like Urban Sprawl, Suburbia, Sunrise City, and Urbania have shown that this mechanic is one that is still quite popular and relevant among the community. Xavier Georges is no stranger in designing such games. Carson City and Tournay both provide a unique take on building cities in their prospective time periods. But now Georges has jumped to the year 2212, concentrating on a futuristic city being built in symbiosis with nature. Let’s take a look at what comes in the game.
Before we talk about how the game is played, let’s take a look at the beginning setup. During the game, players will lay tiles out into a central area that make up the city of Ginkgopolis. There are 3 different types of tiles; Office buildings (Blue), Production buildings (Red), and Residential buildings (Yellow). Each can provide players one of the three possible items that can be gained during the game. The easiest way to remember these items are by the icon printed around the number on each tile:
Red (Production Buildings) = Resource icon
Yellow (Residential Buildings) = Victory Point icon
Each type of tile is numbered 1-20. The 1, 2, and 3 tiles of each color will make up the starting City area and are randomly placed in a 3 x 3 grid. The remaining tiles (4-20 of each color) are shuffled and stacked face down into draw piles to be used during the game. The corresponding cards for each of the 4-20 tiles are placed into 3 stacks of each color, face-up in numerical order to be drawn later in the game. Next, the A-L tokens are placed around the outskirts of the city, in alphabetical order. Also. depending on the amount of players a certain number of resources of each player’s color will be placed in a general supply area. The beginning City area and setup should look like this:
Before the game begins, player’s will take turns drafting starting characters into their tableau. These characters provide starting items (Tiles, Resources, and Victory Points) represented in the top left corner of the card and these are the items and amounts of each that players will begin the game with behind their screens. Character cards will also provide a permanent bonus (represented at the bottom of the card) that take effect during the 2nd phase of resolving actions. Each of the characters is color coordinated according to their advantages. Each player is randomly dealt 4 of these characters and can choose 1 of the 4 characters to keep. Each player’s remaining characters are then passed to the left and this continues until all player’s have chosen 3 characters to begin the game. All starting items (Tiles, Resources, and Victory Points) are then gathered according to the character cards and stored behind the player’s screen.
For example, Player A chooses the following 3 Characters above to start. He will then start the game with 4 Resources, 2 Victory Points, and 2 Tiles according to these cards. Also, according to the card’s bonuses, when building on top of another tile, he will gain 1 additional Tile, and 1 additional Victory Point. While the last bonus will give him an additional Resource if he plays a card as Exploiting (more on this in a minute).
A player’s turn is broken up into 3 phases:
1.) Choose a Card
2.) Resolve Actions
3.) End Round Cleanup
Choosing Cards & Resolving Actions
At the beginning of the game, the starting card Draw Pile will be comprised of all cards directly representing the starting tiles in the City (cards A-L and cards 1,2 & 3 of each color). Each player will be dealt 4 cards from this draw pile to start (in a 2-3 player game, the top 7 cards are discarded into a discard pile first, then the 4 cards are drawn for each player). Players will then secretly choose one card and play it face down in front of them. If a tile is going to be played with this card, they will place the corresponding tile face down on top of the card.
(Players also start the game with 2 New Hand tokens. Each of these can be discarded in order to discard the 4 cards in a player’s hand and receive 4 new cards from the Draw Pile. At the end of the game, if player’s still have their tokens, each is worth 2 Victory Points.)
There are two types of cards that can be played from a player’s hand: Building cards, and Urbanization cards. Building cards are represented by a number (1-20) in the top corners of the card, while Urbanization cards are represented by letters (A-L).
Building cards (1-20):
Building cards are mainly used in order to build vertically on top of other existing buildings. When a building card is played, that player can place any tile behind their screen on top of the tile that matches the number on the card. A player must spend an amount of resources behind their screen equal to the level of the building (how many tiles are stacked) and place those resources on top of it, as well as a construction marker.
For example, Player A plays the yellow #3 card with the yellow #9 tile, meaning he will be playing the yellow #9 tile on top of the existing yellow #3 tile. He must then place 2 of his resources on the tile after placing it, since it is now a 2-story building. He then places a construction marker on it as well.
If a tile being built on contains resources, those resources are returned to the previous owner, behind their screen. If that player is an opposing player, that player will receive 1 Victory Point for each returned resource (a player does not receive Victory Points for building additions to their own buildings). There are some scenarios in which a player will have to provide additional costs when placing buildings:
1.) If the number on the tile that you are playing is less that the number that you are playing it on, you must spend the difference in Victory Points to place it. (So if you are placing a Blue #11 onto a Blue #14, it will cost you 3 Victory Points along with the regular amount of Resources to place it).
2.) If the tile you are placing is on top of another tile of a different color, you must discard 1 resource from behind your screen back into the general supply.
After paying the resources to construct the addition to the building, this particular card is then placed into the player’s tableau (with the other character cards), and the bonus printed at the bottom of the card is now available to the player going forward.
Player A now adds the yellow #3 card to his tableau along with his starting characters. For the rest of the game, Player A will now gain another additional Victory Point for each time he builds on top of another building (2 additional total because one of his character cards has the same bonus).
Advantage:When a player plays a building card to build vertically, they receive that card into their tableau for future use of the card’s bonus ability throughout the rest of the game. Increasing the amount of bonuses in your tableau is important to keep in mind during the course of the game.
Players also have the option of playing a building card by itself (this is called Exploiting) rather than playing it to build on top of other tiles. In this case, the building card’s color represents what the player will receive for that turn (remember, Blue = Tiles, Red = Resources, and Yellow = Victory Points). The amount that is received is based on the level of the building that is represented by the particular card. If a building card is played for Exploiting, it is not added to a player’s tableau and is instead discarded to be shuffled later.
For example, Player B plays the Blue #9 building card as itself (exploiting) instead of building with it. In this case he will gain 2 tiles from the tile draw pile. Tiles because it is blue and an amount of 2 because the Blue #9 tile currently represents a 2-story building. If the Blue #9 had been a 3-story building, 3 tiles would have been drawn.
Urbanization cards (A-L)
While Building cards are mainly used for building vertically, Urbanization cards are used for expanding the city horizontally. When an urbanization card is played, instead of placing a tile on top of an existing building, the player will set a tile in place of the corresponding token on the outskirts of the city that matches the letter (A-L) on the card. Once a resource and construction marker are placed on the tile, the player will receive bonuses according to all directly adjacent buildings, and the level of those buildings. The urbanization card is then placed in the discard pile to be reshuffled later.
For example, Player C plays the Urbanization card with the letter D. He then places a #12 yellow tile into the spot of the D token (the D token is then placed adjacent to the placed tile). Because he placed this tile adjacent to a 2-story yellow building, Player D receives 2 Victory Points.
Advantage: By choosing to expand horizontally, players will not receive more cards into their tableau (acquiring extra bonuses), but it is a great way to acquire large amounts of Tiles, Resources, and Victory Points if placed adjacently to higher level buildings. It is also a good way to expand a particular district (which I’ll go over in a bit).
Players also have the option of playing an Urbanization card by itself. In this case, the letter on the Urbanization card is of no importance. Any player using an Urbanization card for Exploiting can receive either 1 resource or 1 tile (indicated in the bottom right corner of the urbanization card).
Tiles, Resources, and Victory Points can be earned throughout the game by using the Exploiting Action or Urbanization bonuses, but can also be obtained by card bonuses collected in a player’s tableau. It’s important to note that the higher the number on the card, the better bonus it tends to give players. As such., because of the placement rules and additional costs, it becomes harder throughout the game to build on top of the higher numbered buildings to obtain these bonuses. Though there are many types of bonuses, they can mainly be broken up into two different types. Permanent bonuses that are used throughout the game and endgame bonuses that are used during final scoring.
Permanent bonuses coincide with the 3 different ways a card can be played and the 3 different types of obtainable items.
– Play a card by itself (exploiting) to receive 1 Tile, 1 Resource, or 1 Victory Point.
– Building on top of another tile to receive 1 Tile, 1 Resource, or 1 Victory Point.
– Building horizontally (Urbanizing) to receive 1 Tile, 1 Resource, or 1 Victory Point
Endgame bonuses are easily recognizable by an “=“ sign. These can provide additional endgame Victory Points for anything from 2 additional Victory Points per Red card in your tableau, to 1 additional Victory Point for every resource you have on a Yellow Tile.
After players have played their cards and resolved their actions in order (including placing resources and construction markers on tiles they‘ve built that turn), they will pass their remaining 3 unused cards to the player to the left, while receiving the same from the player to their right. Players will then draw 1 card each to make up their 4-card hand to choose from the following round. In this way, you will always know 3 of the 4 possible actions the player to your left can take (as the player to your right, knows yours). The first player card is also passed from the player that had it previously, so that each turn will start with a different player. Many times during the game (especially early on), the card Draw Pile will run out and when this happens the game will automatically pause so that more new building cards can be added to the draw deck.
This is where the construction markers come into play. When the draw deck has run out, it needs to be reshuffled, but now the new buildings that were constructed during the previous turns need to be added to the Draw Pile so that those buildings can be built on top of going forward. At the same time, this is why Building cards that are played during a turn to build tiles on top of are kept in a player’s tableau. They serve a two-fold purpose of adding bonuses to a player’s tableau, but also are kept out of the Draw Pile since those particular tiles can no longer be built on top of.
When the Draw Pile runs out, each tile with a construction marker on it is now a completed building. All current construction markers are removed and the corresponding card of that number and color is taken out of the 4-20 pile on the side and now placed with the rest of the cards to be reshuffled. After this, players continue with play.
For example, when the card Draw Pile runs out, the construction markers above will be removed from the board, thus the cards for Red #6, Red #10, Yellow #11, Yellow #20, Blue #14, and Blue #15 will all be imported into the game and shuffled amongst the new Draw Pile.
The game continues until either one of two things occur. Either one player plays all of their resources into the city of Ginkopolis (in which the game automatically ends), or there are no remaining Tiles in the Draw Pile. The first time that Tiles run out, players can optionally, simultaneously discard Tiles back into the Draw Pile and score 1 Victory Point for each discarded. But the 2nd time this pile runs out, the game is over.
Victory Points are the ultimate goal in Ginkopolis and while they can be scored here and there during the game, a majority of them are scored at the end in the form of controlling Districts. A District can be defined as any area that makes up at least two adjacent tiles of the same color. Majority control is defined by the player that has the most resources in a particular District. If there is a tie, the tiebreaker goes to the player that has resources on the highest numbered tile (not the highest level).
– Total Victory Points scored during the game
– 2 Victory Points per New Hand Token still behind a player’s screen
– Victory Points earned by endgame bonuses on cards in a player’s tableau
– Victory Points earned by majority control of Districts (Player with majority scores Victory Points for every resource in that district, including all other player’s resources. 2nd place player score Victory Points for only their own resources in that District. 3rd, 4th, and 5th place player’s score 0 points in that particular district).
Ginkgopolis is a fast-paced, streamlined, city-builder that mixes resource management, timing, and cutthroat area control. Although a 2-player game is a bit more cutthroat than a 3-5, both bring about different strategies in their own way. District majority control will be a major factor in a 2-player game with each player trying to gain majority control of as many Districts as possible, while a more controlled chaos and being equally spread out versus focusing on one District is a better strategy found in a 3-5 player setup.
The game plays fairly quickly, with each player choosing cards simultaneously, along with the minimal size of the Draw Pile and resources needed to build lower level buildings early in the game. Analysis paralysis is kept to a minimum since there are only 4 cards to play from every turn, so there are only so many options to choose from. As much time will be spent on deciding what cards not to give the next player, as will be spent on deciding on what card to play, and adds an interesting elements to plan around.
On the component end, the tiles are surprisingly thick (hard to tell through the pictures here). My guess is this was an aesthetic decision based on the fact that tiles are placed on top of each other to represent stories of a building. Thinner tiles would not have provided the same city-building effect. Along with the evolving buildings throughout the tiles, it makes for a pretty neat look at the end of the game.
While some may be initially turned off by the eco-friendly theme found here, there are subtle design elements that help separate Ginkopolis from other city-building titles in a refreshing way. From the art that evolves from a #1 building tile to the 20th, the somewhat humorous characterizations on the starting cards, to the lily-pad type Victory Point counters, it seems that the game strives to set itself apart from the generic. While there aren’t groundbreaking mechanics, some of the more popular ones that can be found in the industry today are streamlined and tweaked here. A deck building mechanic is used to add new buildings to the draw pile as they are put into play. A drafting mechanic is used throughout, to play cards while deciding what actions the next player will have. Accumulation of bonuses will provide the items you need to gain more bonuses, Victory Points, Tiles, and Resources. All of these are tied together in a way that makes sense and provide a wide range of strategies.
There’s a lot of planning that needs to go into setting yourself up for success during turns, deciding what tiles to play and keep for later rounds, how many bonuses to collect versus gathering resources, additional tiles and victory points, and how best to build in a district that will maximize points for you in the end. Ginkgopolis does not hand hold and player’s may find a large gap in the final score between players in the first few games. But as strategies are developed and the correct reactions to actions are learned, it becomes a tight, intriguing city-builder that stands out quite nicely.