23rd May 2021
It's a Sunday and I'm logged into Skype and Board Game Arena, ready for an evening of gaming.
The first game of the night was Happy City, a cheerful looking, light engine-building card game about building up a city, a happy city no less.
Caveat: We've only played this game digitally on Board Game Arena.
What's in a game?
Symbols are clear and easy to read.
How's it play?
At it's core, Happy City is a tableau-building game, adding cards increases income or score.
In Happy City, the starting player's first turn is slightly different to subsequent turns, as explained below.
Happy City has 2 levels of play; family & expert. This blog describes the family version.
The expert game differs in 2 ways.
All the happy market cards are flipped to their differently coloured sides and laid out, then the players draft one to become the starting card in their tableau and giving them some choice in how they start the game.
Special buildings also differ; the family Special cards give players a boost to their income, happiness or population. The expert special cards however, are different, they confer different benefits, sometimes variable and situational.
The game continues until a player has 10 cards in their tableau, upon which the current round continues until all players have had an equal number of turns.
Each player's score is calculated by multiplying the total value of happiness symbols in their tableau by all the population symbols.
Highest score wins.
Gameplay in Happy City gives players the choice between increasing income or accumulating happiness/population. Income will give the player more buying power but happiness/population contributes towards the end score.
Having 3 decks of building cards at different cost ranges is an interesting mechanic when it comes to drawing cards. The player will always have the option to draw 1 or 2 cards, higher level cards will be better, but may prove more risky to draw. E.g., If a player has 4 coins, drawing a level 1 card will be safe as level 1 cards only cost 1-3 coins each, level 2 cards cost 4-5 coins, so there's a risk that a level 2 card will be unaffordable and will have been drawn pointlessly. It can give players a quandary when drawing building cards.
The game's scoring mechanic also adds an extra layer to decisions, failing to pay attention to how the points are spread between happiness/population can lead to lost scoring opportunities.
While Happy City is simple to learn, enjoyable and fast to play, making it a good filler game, it's perhaps also a little too basic for dedicated gamers. After a few games it was fairly easy to spot an optimal strategy to pursue and it became a race to develop that strategy. So I feel that the game doesn't offer a lot of longevity.
Ultimately, because it's such a light game, it's probably a good game for families or more casual players which is probably who the game is aimed at.
We also played the expert level a few times but felt like it added little to the game.
The varied happy markets are nice and offered a little extra strategy but the expert level special cards weren't so good. The problem was that they seemed harder to acquire than the family special cards, which meant they were acquired later in the game and therefore their benefits were limited, we found it wasn't worth specifically trying to get one, getting one by happenstance was fine, but then that sort of makes having a choice of starting happy market card pointless.
We enjoyed the family version more.
The family version is a game I'd play, but not too often.
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