Have you ever dreamed about being a builder, wishing you could build the tallest towers in the world that everyone will stare at with wonder? The Shard, the Empire State Building, the Burj Khalifa? GoTown, the simple yet unique and visually abstract card game by Helvetiq, gives you the power to do so, on a smaller scale to fit on your tabletop!
How Does It Work
The aim of the game is to build a skyscraper, creating floors by placing two floor cards with numbers that add up to nine and repeating this until you have created five floors. Floors can even be created using a wild card with a question mark (aka Joker card) alongside a card with any number.
Players start with five cards and are allowed to hold up to eight cards in their hand. After starting a turn by taking a card from the draw pile, players can use as many cards as they want to perform different actions on their turn.
Players can build a floor by playing one floor card from their hand and stealing a card from an unprotected top floor. These two cards together must add up to nine. Joker cards can’t be used for stealing cards, but they can be stolen using number cards (but they keep the original value). For example, when paired with a “1” card, the Joker card represents “8”, so it can be stolen with a “1” card.
Special cards can be used to change up the gameplay and provide benefits for the player in different ways. Dogs protect cards from being stolen, but they can be lured away using a “bone card”. Jackhammers and wrecking balls can destroy floors, with the wrecking ball doing so even with a dog guarding one (poor Fido!). Cards in a player’s hand can be stolen using a “Thief” card, and using a “Super-Thief” card allows a player to steal one card from every player’s hand. Sweet Treats cause players to miss their turn: milkshakes apply to one player of choice and donut food trucks apply to all players except the one who played it.
If a player is the first to complete their 5-storey skyscraper, they are declared the winner of the game. There is also a shorter mode that requires four floors to be built instead of five.
Is It Any Good?
Part of GoTown’s appeal is that it is straightforward and easy to pick up. There aren’t lots of rules to remember, but there is still strategy involved. It’s easy to build floors when you have collected a few floor cards, but they can also get stolen easily when another player has the required cards.
It can be extremely satisfying to steal a card from another player, which destroys their top floor and allows you to build your floor in one move. It can be even more pleasing to be the player stealing back that card on the very next turn and using it to build one floor higher than your neighbour as revenge. Now that’s literal one-upmanship! These little “take that” moments can make you laugh out loud or groan in frustration. Sometimes, it can be surprising when the game seems to go on for a long time with everyone stealing and stealing back cards, only for one player to miraculously have the chance to make four floors in one turn!
Deciding on tactics can be tricky. Should you start building floors and risk others stealing the cards you play? When should you use thief or treat cards? Should you wait until a player has made a fourth floor to use your wrecking ball? Should you protect your low-level floor with a dog or has someone got a bone ready to lure it away? These are what you should keep in mind if you want to demolish someone’s building (and their hopes of winning), give everyone a break by giving them sweet treats, and eventually finish your 5-storey tower before your competitors. I think it might have been even better if there was a counter card to special cards such as the wrecking ball or thief cards, which would add more strategy to the game.
The game is relatively short, each one lasting about 20 minutes according to the instructions, so it is useful as a filler game or a warm-up on family game nights, or you can enjoy several rounds of GoTown, giving the losers a chance to claim victory for themselves. The shorter mode requires four floors instead of five, which doesn’t add much to the gameplay as it is pretty much the same, only shorter. The game is different enough each time to engage you, and it’s one you’ll want to keep going back to.
The game can be played with two to four players. With two players, games seem faster paced and can be a bit more tense because you’re the only target your opponent is going for. This makes placing cards to make floors difficult as they have an even higher chance of being stolen or destroyed by your opponent. With three or four players, however, there’s more potential for strategy – do we all gang up on one player who’s built more floors or keep everyone at ground level by targeting all other players? I enjoyed it with more players, but it still works well with two.
The game comes in a small, portable box and consists of 54 cards. These cards include 32 floor cards numbered from 1 to 8 (4 cards of each number), 4 joker cards, and 18 special cards (dog, jackhammer, etc.). Given that the box is conveniently sized, it can easily fit into your bag if you want to play the game at a friend’s house or take it away with you on holiday.
The cards have a distinctive art style of geometrical shapes and stylised colours in a 1920s–30s Deco style that perfectly fits with the theme of cities and buildings. Also, the idea of having cards that are the same colour but with different numbers that add up to nine, is clever and creative, giving four different options for floor building. I like the fact that you can easily tell from the back of the cards which way up they should be, as they have GoTown written all over the back.
The instruction manual is easy to read and teaches players everything they need to know using hints, tips, and visual aids, with images and text that are small enough to fit on one page. The simple, night-time city colour scheme is consistent with the box art and gives the information on the sheet enough clarity. I also like how the numberings are placed inside clouds because these buildings are so high, you’re up amongst them! The box also suggests watching a video version of the rules on the Helvetiq website.
Who's It For
People who are interested in card games with simple art styles will get a kick out of this one. The combination of luck and strategy, along with a fun element of “take that” will make this game appeal to most people aged from 6-99; this game is ideal for families with young children, but kids and adults of any age will find it fun and enjoyable. The game is straightforward enough for anyone new to card games to pick up easily.
GoTown and its inspired art style, straightforward gameplay and fun “take that” moments make it a lively and enjoyable addition to game nights. If you’re interested in buildings and creative art styles, or just getting into card games and want something good to start with, GoTown is the game to go to.