In My City, you lay polyominal building tiles onto your grid, fitting them together tetris-style, trying to complete as much of the town as possible. As the game progresses, you open envelopes to reveal additional playing pieces, stickers and rules which will build on gameplay.
My City was the runner up for the 2020 Spiel de Jahres, where (in my mind unfairly) it lost out to Pictures. The designer of My City, Reiner Knizia, is one of the hobby’s most prolific board game designers. He has designed over 700 games since 1985, and the vast majority of those are better than just “good”. My collection has a few Knizia games in it, but My City is by far and away my favourite.
I have just had to cancel my meagre “covid-secure” 30th birthday plans as we went back into lockdown in my area. So I needed a bit of retail therapy to cheer myself up. Browsing Zatu, I decided I wanted our first legacy game. I had my heart set on it, and now just needed to find the “perfect” one.
Getting the Right Legacy Game
A legacy game is generally a game where the pieces, board or rules are altered permanently as you play through the rounds. It appealed to me as something that my partner and I could play together. which would give us each an individual experience of changing the game board as we played. But the majority of legacy games that I saw were quite “heavy”. Anyone who has followed my board game journey series will know that I love a pretty game that plays in no more than 90 mins, and looks and feels top notch on the table.
I’m not here for the Euro epic games. That is what has always kind of put me off legacy games really; the theme and length of time you need to devote to playing it. I can’t play Pandemic whilst I live through it in the real world. Many say that the Pandemic series of legacy games are the “essential” ones. Zombicide was also recommended, but zombies are not really my bag. And in all cases it feels like the game is hard, and you need to be fully committed. If I am honest, it’s just a step beyond where I’m at right now.
Looking through a few top 10 videos and articles and the top rated games, and award nominees though, I found My City. The box doesn’t scream at you, it's a few buildings flying through the sky above a city. But for a legacy game at under 30 quid, I thought it might be worth a punt.
Gameplay (without spoilers)
It arrived on one of the rainiest days, and I was excited to open it. Since we couldn’t do much else, I didn’t even put the box on the shelf. Shrink off and pieces punched less than an hour after delivery! The pieces feel nice, but the look is a bit drab. In fact the whole game doesn’t have that usual pow factor I usually go for. But looks aren’t everything.
Each player gets their own player board to lay their tiles on. Initially, all the boards are identical apart from which animal icon they have on them; stag, bear, eagle or wolf. As you play through the 24 episodes of My City, stickers will be added to the board, so that you all end up with unique player boards.
The first task was naming your city, and writing this on your board (which felt naughty, and sent that legacy game excitement through me). Each player gets to choose an animal logo to play as. The options are a gold eagle, silver wolf, bronze stag and a red (copper perhaps) bear. These are all exactly the same, but as you will edit your board and pieces you need to make sure you have "yours".
The object of the game is to fill your city with building tiles without leaving any gaps. Spoiler: this will not be possible, you just need to do as well as possible. Down the centre of your board will be a river. Your first piece must border the river, but you cannot place any piece across the river. The pieces can only be on one side of the river. Your pieces must all be placed orthogonally adjacent to a piece already on the board. I have fallen foul of these two quite simple rules. When you get a lovely “U” piece that would fit just perfectly in that gap, if it weren’t for that pesky river running through the middle.
Play order of the pieces is driven by turning over a deck of cards. This adds a bit of luck, but it will be the same for all players that round, so it feels more exciting than annoying. Everyone places their pieces at the same time, so there is almost no down time. You are focused on your own board so there is no real “take that” in the game either. This makes My City especially good for families and couples who don’t like conflict. If you can’t or don’t want to place a piece, you can take -1 victory point and skip it. Losing one victory point does not seem big, but as I found out it really does make a big difference.
On your board there are some trees which you want to avoid covering with tiles to gain points at the end. Rocks that are left uncovered will lose you points.. There are also forest and mountain spaces which you are unable to place tiles on. The building pieces come in three colours; blue, red and yellow. Initially, the pieces you each have will be identical, but this will also change as play progresses.
The game is split into 8 chapters each containing 3 episodes. At the beginning of each 90 minute chapter, you will open an envelope which contains more rules and explains how the three episodes will play. There will also be some stickers, perhaps some extra pieces as well. These will be used to build your unique boards and polyominal tiles. In the interest of not spoiling this for anyone, I am deliberately being super vague here.
The scoring opportunities will change as the game progresses. Unused field spaces will lose you 1 point each; visible trees will gain you one point. Rocks that you have left uncovered will lose you points too. You get points for “families” of buildings all the same colour that are touching, a la Isle of Cats. You might get points for surrounding a feature on the map with buildings. Or for having buildings of different colours touching a feature. Again, the vagueness is to prevent spoiling the surprises for you.
At the end of each episode you will tot up your scores and there will be a prize for the winner of that round. The envelope will have instructions on what each player wins according to their rank. The winner gets to fill in some of the progress circles (with a pen). The overall winner at the end of the 24 episodes will be the person with the most progress circles filled in.
When it's All Over, it’s Not All Over...Yay!
Once you get to the end of the legacy game, My City has included rules for an “Eternal Game”. Unlike many legacy games where, once the last episode is played, the game is finished, there is a specific rule set designed to be played again and again. You all use the Eternal side of the boards which, unlike the legacy game are identical. Although the Eternal Game is not a patch on the legacy game itself, it is still really good fun and plays in around 30 mins.
My City: Final Words of Wisdom
If you have not already got this game, you need to buy it. If you have already played it, you'll know I'm right when I say that you just want to play one more episode. 24 episodes means 12 h of gaming. I had to force myself to put the game away after playing 6 episodes without a break. You'll be engrossed in the game, and may forget like me to eat dinner. Consider that fair warning.