Sprawlopolis review – a tiny brain burner

Sprawlopolis was a chance find back when Button Shy Games ran their Kickstarter last year. I was on a Kickstarter boardgames spree, and it was affordable and looked interesting, so I took the chance and backed it. In this Sprawlopolis review, we’ll go through the basic mechanics of the game, components, and each of our POVs on how it plays.

In this brain-burning solitaire/cooperative game, 1-4 players are the city planners and builders intent on making the city of Sprawlopolis the best city possible. But each city is unique in its requirements, thanks to variable objectives that change each game.

Sprawlopolis play through summary

Before the start of the game, players choose three cards from the deck of 18 cards, and flip it over to reveal variable objectives, which have numerical values attached to them. The score the group needs to reach at the end of the game is the sum of the revealed objectives’ value.

A card is also chosen as the first “tile” in the game.

After that, each player is given a hand of three cards. The first player chooses a card from their hand and connects it to the city laid out in front of the group, in the same orientation as the starting tile.

Each city card has four blocks. When connecting a card to the city, one may place the card wholly adjacent to the card, half adjacent, or cover one or two blocks from the card (never underneath a card already placed, and never fully covering an existing card).

Base score: zero (sadly)

After choosing a card and playing it, players pass the remaining hand of two cards to the next player. They then draw a card to top up their hand to three, and choose a card to play from his hand.

Play continues until no cards are left, and scoring begins:

  • -1 point for each road (so connecting roads are best)
  • + number of blocks in the largest block of one type (so having blocks of the same type of building connected to each other is best)
  • + variable objectives’ score

If you meet or exceed the total of the variable objectives, you win the game!

Sprawlopolis components

Sprawlopolis comes with 18 linen-finish cards, and a nice plastic “wallet” to store all the cards in (and the in-game expansions cards too). The cards feel durable, which is good since the wallet won’t fit sleeved cards (I tried with premiums). Included is a tiny rules leaflet which fits inside the wallet as well.

The cards have clear art and design, with the blocks on one side and variable objectives on the other, for a total of 18 variable objectives for the entire game in varying combinations. It definitely helps maintain the game’s small footprint! I’ve brought this game along in my purse many times and it takes up so little space, it’s fantastic.

Her POV

This is a surprising brain burner! I’ve played this with casuals and hardcore gamers and the hardcore gamers themselves have commented on how challenging the game can be. We’ve had lucky games where the combination of the objectives synced well and we were able to meet or slightly exceed the target score, but get a challenging set and…well, we’ve had a few games where our final score was negative!

Initially I was thinking that this would be a good gateway game, especially since it’s so small and easy to whip out at a moment’s notice. But over time, I’ve realized it’s not as “gateway” as I assumed it was, due to the variable player objectives. Possibly doing fewer objectives, or hand-selecting the easier ones, would be key to making it easier to grasp for new players.

Lastly, this Sprawlopolis review isn’t complete without mentioning the fact that there are several built-in expansions that came with the game. The replayability of the base game is great as is, but if you want to spice things up, try playing with Wrecktar rampaging in the city, or starting with Points of Interest, or fix your city’s Construction Zones as they come up.

His POV

Who knew that a game that can basically fit in your wallet can have so much value? At first glance, one would expect that the game is designed for new or casual players, but don’t be fooled, dear reader. This game has given me and my friends many instances of “analysis paralysis” in trying to figure out the best possible placement of the cards to score the most points. Additionally, due to its relatively short play time, we would keep on playing again to beat our earlier scores (especially if it was negative).

Being a fan of city building games in its many forms, such as Sim City, Cities: Skylines, Prison Architect, Quadropolis, Suburbia, etc., it was easy for me to like this tiny but meaty game. Especially with its many optional scenarios, this game definitely gives the most bang for your buck.

Sprawlopolis verdict

Small footprint, super mobile, great replayability, and tons of fun–what’s not to like? It’s a fantastic wallet game and definitely one of the must-try games from Button Shy Games’ wallet games line.

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