Boardgaming in 2019!


The expansions and the 5-5-2 (or 5-5-3) rule do go a long way to go fixing it .

@newbrof What kind of ‘thing’ are you looking for from a boardgaming city builder? E.g. is Between Two Cities a city builder?


a city builder needs a population of some kind, growth and different types of quarters like industry, residential etc … I think Suburbia was pretty close, but it had a lot of houskeeping every round, no?


Someone’s thought of this question before:

I haven’t played most of these, so I can’t speak to the list’s accuracy. It includes Citadels, which I wouldn’t consider a city builder in the sense you’re talking about.

You might also look at Agricola and Caverna, which are “homestead builders” that include the gameplay elements that you mentioned: resources, a population/family that works and needs to be provided for, buildings with specialized functions.


Hmmm, I haven’t really played a city building game that doesn’t feel like a solitaire puzzle. To be honest, though, I think the best thing about computer city-builders is managing transportation, which would be hard to do with a board game. That is, unless you want to wander into train game territory (which I highly recommend you do!).

I recently got to play Captains of the Gulf – basically Deadliest Catch: The Euro Game. Though I’ve been drifting away from euro games the last couple years, I had fun with it. The fish spawning system is very dynamic and can allow for some indirect player screwage. Unfortunately, speaking of screwing over players, I felt that luck of the draw of the cards made it hard for long term planning. Also, the game was a tad bit too long for being a medium weight euro. The replayability also seems quite low, since you can experience pretty much everyone the game has to offer in 1-2 plays. While I enjoyed our play with it, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up.


I didn’t find Suburbia to have too much housekeeping. You have a track with your current reputation and income on it. Every time you place a city tile (which is every turn) you have to calculate the effects it has on your city based on the tile itself and the tiles surrounding it. There are also some global effects that can benefit (or hinder) your own and other cities. Population is victory points; as it goes up you periodically lose income and reputation. That all sounds pretty complicated but it’s usually not at all, at least until the late game.

The most complicated part is setting up your city so that future tiles you hope to get have a good spot to go.


I picked up Spirit Island. I’ve always been intrigued by this game and it seems to have some staying power. I set up a 2-handed solo game last night and wow, this is a great puzzle. Just a really solid solo game, and I can see how it would make a good co-op too. And there’s about 90 tons of replayability in the box: 8 different spirits with radically different powers, different blight cards, scenarios, adversaries, etc. I’m looking forward to playing this for quite some time.


I was interested in Captains of the Gulf, but the price and some complaints about the game put it on my wait and see list. Thanks for posting this.


I agree with @rho21 I don’t think Suburbia has much housekeeping at all. You gain X dollars and X population every turn based on two stats, that’s about all the housekeeping in the game. I think it’s a really elegant, quick-feeling design. If you’re reading the rules it can sound overwhelming. I think the player aid makes it seem much more complicated than it is. Every turn you just place a tile and collect some stuff. It’s the kind of game I often pull out with family or people who only play light games.

I don’t think any of the games in the IGN list have all of the parts of a city builder you’re looking for other than Suburbia. Alhambra and Quadropolis do have distinct districts that play out in a sort of set-collection manner. All of them have a city building theme though. Might also be worth looking at New York 1901 if you’re just looking for city building themed games. It’s a very simple and accessible game where players are competing to build New York Skyscrapers. It feels more city-building to me than those other games, though it doesn’t have population tracking or anything.


There’s a really spiffy looking deluxe edition of Suburbia on Kickstarter right now. I’m not sure I’d like the game or I’d be in on it.


I don’t think Suburbia has too much house keeping, although “too much” is presumably subjective. That said, we messed up last time I played. This game really nails the feel of building a city for me.

And I prefer the design of the base version to this “deluxe” edition.

I know some people like the Days of Wonder game Quadropolis, but I’ve not played it.


What is your favorite dungeon crawl (doesn’t have to be fantasy themed) and what mechanics or elements make it stand out above the rest?
Separate question, though related, what game has the best AI Overlord or equivalent?


Gloomhaven. And the fantastically deep, rich tactical battles, enormously distinct and compelling class design, constant stream of meaningful decisions at both a micro and macro level, and of course the sheer ridiculous amount of content in one merely $140 MSRP box are what make it stand out.

It’d probably also be my answer for AI design because of the personality the action cards for each monster type give and the robust handling thereof, but something app based like Descent/Imperial Assault/Mansions of Madness 2E would be next up.

MoM also stands out as a pretty solid horror-themed “dungeon crawl” of sorts, and past that I’d probably plump for Eldritch Horror, Arkham Horror (both card and board game), and the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game or better yet Apocrypha, none of which are strictly speaking classic dungeon crawls, but they capture the adventuring feel that I’m looking for, fighting monsters, having story encounters, advancing characters and getting all sorts of fabulous loot and other upgrades. (Well, the story is more frame than individual encounter in the latter two and vice versa for the Horrors.)

I’m guessing things like Imperial Assault, maybe Descent 2E (both with apps), Hexplore It, and Sword & Sorcery would be on my list if I’d played them yet. (I mean, I’ve played the first two as a one vs. many affair but I do not recommend that.)


Okay, I meant to get into this a bit in that other thread where Tom reviewed the WH40k thing a few weeks ago, but I got sidetracked.

As @malkav11 pointed out, Gloomhaven really is aces, if you want interesting decisions and a long campaign. So I’ll just leave that.

My favorite more-traditional style game is Mutant Chronicles: Siege at the Citadel, which was a contemporary of the original Hero Quest, (c. 1990 or so), but much, much better. A kickstarter was run a while back for a new version, Siege of the Citadel that seems to be finally shipping soon. I didn’t buy in since I did a crazy total conversion update of the original (I’ve mentioned it around here before) a while back, so I’m not entirely sure what the changes are. From what I understand, it’s mostly the same, a few balance tweaks, a few new things.

Reasons why I like it:

  • The game is a competitive co-op, 1 vs many. And they mean it. You are trying to complete the mission with the other players, but you want to do better than them.

  • The game plays fast- no real bookkeeping or tokens or whatnot. Heroes roll to hit, if they do enough damage, the enemy is destroyed. If not, no change, etc. Nothing to track, just keep it moving.

  • Similarly, missions have a designated goal and time limit (6-10 turns?) so they are done in an hour or so.

  • The game is built for a campaign, but one player doesn’t get stuck playing the bad guy- that roll rotates among players, and they get xp points for their regular heroes for playing well in the evil role! This incentivizes them to play hard.

  • Starting a couple missions into the campaign, each player gets a Secret Mission, which will give them bonus XP for completing it… but might not help move toward the overall goal. You also have a couple special cards that can be used to help your squad, or alternately slow down your ‘friends’- nothing major, just a little poke.

Things folks might not like:

  • remember how I said you want to do better than the other players? That’s because of the loot system. There isn’t one- you find no loot during the game. Instead you requisition equipment before each mission. Higher levels and more money mean better equipment, but you return it after each mission, so just because you get it once, you might not get it next time.

  • Each player controls a squad of two, and they’re pretty generic- one melee-focused, one ranged, no other special powers or skills (though each player has a ‘Corp’ that has an intrinsic bonus, different from all the others). Your special stuff comes from your equipment each game.

  • Theme is a pretty blatant WH40k rip-off. Techno-magic Space Marines with Big Shoulder Pads and bigger guns. You can see why I felt the need to change the setting up a bit.


Regarding AI, I thought the Gears of War boardgame had a neat AI system. Enemies all felt distinct, etc.


Kingdom Death: Monster. There’s nothing even close. The card-based AI is simply incredible; feels very much like a Dark Souls boss fight. The world-building is very serious, idiosyncratic, extremely atmospheric, and second-to-none. The loot system, encampment building, and character progression are deep and profound, with tons of difficult, interesting, and surprising choices. The only downside to KD:M for me is the miniature building, but to some people that’s a plus.

I also enjoyed Mice & Mystics with my kids. The narrative there is pretty cliche, but is nonetheless rich, the characterizations are strong, mechanics solid, and AI simple but effective. There’s about 25 hours of content in the base box, with a couple of expansions that add another 40 or so hours.

EDIT: I’ll also add a vote for MoM 2e. I really like that it has a few scenarios that require no combat, and it takes 5 minutes to set up. I dislike the FFG feature creep and endless useless expansions.


There is only Magic Realm.

I’ll go stand over here in the corner now.


Thanks for bringing up KDM. I dont really think of it as a dungeon crawl as much as a survival game with elements of exploration. That said, im intrigued by the AI system. How does the game keep from feeling samey?


A-men. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t played Kingdom: Deathmonster. It doesn’t have any dungeon crawling per se – instead of laying down tiles and walking along them, you play a hunt sequence on the way to the main combat – but it’s the gold standard in terms of making tabletop battles feel dynamic, distinct, unpredictable, dangerous, and smartly tactical.

The dynamic combat with the different enemies. I was pretty dismayed when I bought the base set to discover it only has, like, six monsters. But each of those monsters is easily worth a dozen of the usual skeletons, orcs, and spiders.

Really, there’s only so much you can do with the usual “line up the little dudes on dungeon tiles and punch away their hitpoints”. Gloomhaven is pretty good in pushing this mostly uninteresting model into places with some personality, although you have to get up into the higher difficulty levels before it starts to come into its own. There’s a lot of godawful killing-rats-in-the-basement grinding before Gloomhaven flexes what it can do.

The games that appeal to me are the ones that try something different. A sadly overlooked example is Too Many Bones, which will be discussed at length on the next boardgaming podcast. The guys at Chip Theory decided to chuck the usual model of little minis walking around on tiles in favor of their own more abstract battle system. Because they built their combat system from the ground up and without the usual assumptions, they’re able to express a ton of personality and distinct behaviors among the monsters, not to mention the different characters and character builds.

1979 called and it wants its rose-colored glasses back. :) Magic Realm does do some cool stuff with monster personality, though.



Kingdom Death: Monster has the absolute worst name I have ever seen, though.


I don’t consider KDM a dungeon crawler, so that’s why I didn’t bring it up. I has, though, the absolute best AI in the “dudes hitting monsters” space. Most games have brain dead, repetitive AI. Gloom haven is interesting in that enemy groups have their own decks, but the AI is still random (although varied and with somewhat of a personality) and not reactive. KDM feels reactive. Feels like the enemy is reading your plays and fighting against you. It’s pretty amazing in that regard.

To get a better tactical, reactive AI you have to move to the hex and counter war game space, where the state of the art in board game, player level AI lies. But that’s a very distinct genre that plays very different and doesn’t feel at all like more mainstream games.