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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • A balancing act of many different mechanics
  • Very little downtime between turns
  • The table presence of the game

Might Not Like

  • Not an easy game to learn
  • The iconography isn’t always clear
  • Building on top of someone else’s district can feel mean
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Ginkgopolis Review

Ginkgopolis

The year is 2212. Humans have been a bit rubbish at looking after the planet, so turn to the ginkgo biloba tree for inspiration. In Ginkgopolis, each player is an urban planner, trying to build a city that delicately balances the exploitation and production of resources. The planner who manages to do this the best is the winner.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t a theme that particularly grabbed my attention, and for that reason it’s a game that has flown beneath my radar for some time. It’s only when I watched a playthrough of the game where I saw all the area control, tile placement and resource management goodness on offer.

We Built This City...

Each player starts with a team of experts, each allowing you to start the game with a number of points, resources and building tiles. These experts also give you bonuses when you carry out the game’s three main actions. Each player also has a hand of four cards. On your turn, you can choose to do one of three actions:

  • Exploiting
  • Urbanising
  • Constructing a floor

Players pick their actions simultaneously, and then reveal them in turn order. If you choose to exploit, you’re playing a card to gather either tiles, points or resources. This is a good way of making sure you don’t run out of any resources or tiles. This card then gets added to the discard pile.

If you choose to urbanise, you’re choosing to build the city outwards. From your hand you play a lettered card and place a building tile next to that space. You also gain any bonuses from the tiles you have built next to (red tiles give resources, blue give building tiles and yellow give success points).

Constructing a floor means you’ve chosen to build upwards. You play a card for the tile you’re building on, and the tile you’re placing over it. If you’re building over someone else’s tower, you give them their resources back, as well as one success point for each as compensation. You then add your own resources, equal to the number of floors on the building. The card you’ve played then gets added to your “engine,” either giving you ongoing or end of game bonuses.

Once everyone has taken their turn, you pass your cards clockwise to the neighbouring player, replenish your hand, and prepare to take your next turn. If the deck is exhausted, then the cards of the tiles added to the city in that round are added to the discard pile and shuffled in, forming a new deck.

Being The Best Urban Player

The game ends when either one person has used all their resources, or the supply of building tiles runs out for a second time. Once either of these happen, you count the success points in your hand and any end game bonuses of the cards in your engine. The last way you earn points is from the city itself, and any districts that you may be present in.

A district is an area of the city where two or more buildings of the same colour are adjacent to each other. Having control of those districts can be lucrative, especially if you’re the only player in those districts. Controlling the districts can be how the game is won and lost.

As you can see, there are a lot of mechanics at play here. Ginkgopolis is part area control, part resource management, part tile placement, part engine building. Because there are so many mechanics at play, it can be a bit of a hard teach.

How Low Can You Gink-Go

When I taught my partner a few weeks ago, I picked up a card that, if it ended up in his hand, I knew he would play. The problem is that playing the card would do little for me, other than to spite him. It was going to cost me resources, points, and tiles, and for what? Just to make sure the card doesn’t end up in his possession. Is taking a turn like that worth it? (It turns out yes because I ended up winning the game).

About halfway through the game, he commented that he found the game quite repetitive. I was quite surprised because, compared to the other games we’ve got in our collection, “repetitive” is not a word I would have used. I then explained about the turn I’d taken where I played a card just to prevent him from gaining it. He admitted that it wasn’t a facet of the game he’d considered, and then started giving his turns more thought. I dread playing him again because I think that win may be my last.

Ginkgopolis is certainly a hard game to learn (not helped by the awful diagrams inside the player screens which are no help whatsoever!) but sticking with it reaps rewards. The game is adjusted depending on the player count to keep it moving along at a good pace, and there’s very little downtime between turns. The risk of having so many mechanics at one time is that a game can end up missing the mark on all fronts, but Ginkgopolis balances them well. The table presence of the game is pleasing too, as the city starts to expand upwards and outwards.

The Sum Of Its Parts

I guess it’s just the theme I still find a little problematic. On first reading, Ginkgopolis sounds like a cautionary tale. Earth has been ravaged of its resources, so we look to a tree a symbol of strength. So as the game progresses, we are placing one of our 25 wooden resources on top of one of 60 cardboard building tiles and playing one of the 99 playing cards and… I think you know where I’m going with this. I hope Pearl Games can confirm that no ginkgoes were harmed in the making of this game!

Final Thoughts

Ginkgopolis is a great game for all player counts. For people wanting to take a step up into mid-weight games, it might take a couple of plays to really start to understand the range of options you have available. Exploiting may feel like a “wasted” turn on face value, but if you’ve built up a strong enough engine to add value to exploiting, it can be worthwhile. For more established gamers, this is a great puzzle of trying to maximise each turn, or at the very least stopping your opponents from maximising theirs.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • A balancing act of many different mechanics
  • Very little downtime between turns
  • The table presence of the game

Might not like

  • Not an easy game to learn
  • The iconography isnt always clear
  • Building on top of someone elses district can feel mean

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