By Raymond "DuMeeple" Dumee on December 11, 2019
In a city where electricity is in extremely, it is up to us mayors to manage our electricity networks and choose which directions we are going. Are we going green or are we going to stay the course and keep polluting. To pollute or not to pollute, that is the question! But just say we choose to go green, can we then still supply for enough energy to meet demands? And what does the public opinion say? I say: "Just NUKE the hell out of it!". With some fine nuclear power plants and proper nuclear waste facilities, of course. What else were you thinking I meant by "nuke it"?
Electropolis is a Tile drafting and -laying city builder in which you have to plan out the best energy solution for your city and you have to do so in eight rounds. The box is not a standard size, but all the components fit in nicely. You will get the manual in both English and Chinese. Along with this, you get three tracking boards; one for Victory points, one for the Public Opinion and one to keep track of your pollution level. To complete the board section of the game, the box also contains a players' turn-order board and four player boards. A set of Trend cards and a set of thirty-two Development cards are also part of the game and a bunch of player tracker tokens in four different colours and a nice bag for your hundred forty-four tiles complete the set.
With the tiles, you will build your Electropolis on your player board. There are building tiles and energy tiles. These building tiles come in three different flavours. Power Plants for producing electricity, Public buildings for creating a better public opinion and Facilities to reduce your air pollution or handle your nuclear waste. During a round, players start by determining how many tiles they want to take which, in turn, will determine the order in which players will get their turn. When you plan to grab a lot of tiles, you will probably be last when it comes to choosing which tiles you want, and vice versa.
The tiles are laid out around the Players turn order board in a circle, after which the choosing can commence. Now, there is a twist to choosing your tiles, because you can only take tiles that are adjacent to each other so which tile you pick first determines which tiles you can choose next. It's something different, something new. just to keep things fun! From experience, I can tell you it can be fun. However, I can also tell you that it is ANYTHING BUT FUN when you are last to choose and everybody already picked all the nice goodie goodies, leaving you with a bunch of less-than-ideal tiles and the obligation to choose a whole bunch of these "worthless" adjacent tiles.
After you get your hands on your tiles, you'll then need to also choose a Development card. This card has an area highlighted on a player board grid, which determines where you are allowed to place your tiles on your player board. This can be pretty tactical when you've set your mind on building something on a specific place. Some of the power plants, you'll want to put adjacent to each other to score more points. Next to the pollution-heavy plants, you'll probably want to put some Air Pollution Prevention Facilities. Public housing is something you'll definitely don't want to build right next to a plant, and so on, and so forth.
The only exception to this rule are the fuel tiles; these go next to the board and in the end, they each will fuel one Power Plant of the same category as the Fuel tile in question. At the end of the eighth round, Victory Points are counted and the player with the most points wins the game. This is also where the Public Opinion track comes into play. Make sure to always keep an eye on this track because, when all pollution is tallied up, your public opinion shouldn't be too much left behind compared to the amount of pollution you've created, or it will reduce your score drastically.
This game has some good things going on and it is very much on topic with the environmental theme, but it's not necessarily a green tree-hugging hippie type game. It will make you think about the ways electricity can be produced and the environmental impact of each of them. Coal and gas plants give you a lot of power, but also creates air pollution. Green energy has no environmental impact, but it produces less energy. And then there is nuclear power, which has no environmental impact at first and provides a lot of energy, but you'll need a Nuclear Waste Disposal facility, and in my opinion it would have been good if the Public Opinion counter would go down when you build such a plant (as there is a lot of resistance against Nuclear Power because of the inherent dangers of such a plant), but that is not in this game.
I love the minimalistic art style of the game, it somehow reminded us ("us" being myself, my DumeeGamer.com colleague Sadhonker and a lot of beers) of the older Seventies Philips branding. The gameplay is fun, quick to play and really good. Player turns can take a bit longer when someone before you take your tiles, but in my opinion there isn't a lot of downtime. The game is perfectly playable with two players and also with four. I personally think it's probably best to play Electropolis with three people.
Scoring during the game itself is kept to a minimum. Only through some Development cards you score additional points. The game turns into a kind of point festival after the last round. I don't mind that too much, because you know you did your best and probably think you did well, but when the final score is added up, the victory points tracker jumps up and down. This is what makes Electropolis, in my opinion at least, a tense and exciting game, all the way to the end.
Homosapiens Lab (Taiwan Boardgame Design)
Year of release: 2019
Designer: Chang Yu-Di, Ku Chun-Wei & Wang Liang
Artist: Freepik & Masha Tace
Players: 2 - 4 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 60 minutes