Ah, Sprawlopolis. The itsy bitsy, teeny weenie, city building, patchy gamey! Haha Okay so there is no theme tune to go along with Sprawlopolis. But this small wallet sized patching puzzler has brought me more frustrated puzzly lunchtime (anytime!) fun than so many of my other games combined.
Sprawlopolis is a shining gem in the micro sized 18 card game series by Buttonshy. In truth, it started a bit of a personal obsession with their games, and I think I now have 11 and counting! But Sprawlopolis is where it all began. And I find myself going back to it again and again….and again!
Co-op City Building
Primarily a co-operative game for 1-4 players, you are working together to patch build a city that will score as many points as possible. At the beginning of the game, 3 of the 18 cards are randomly flipped to their scoring objective sides. These set the specific goals for the game. As well as that, majority territories in the largest adjacently connected zone types will also score when the city has been constructed.
City cards can be placed fully or partially over, or adjacent to, existing cards. But they must always be horizontal and can never be tucked underneath. Each one also has a road on it, but the city administration hates paying maintenance. So points are deducted for every section of road that ends up connected to another. More Highway to Hell than The Streets Paved with Gold in Sprawlopolis!
And co-operative it might be in terms of the ultimate win/lose condition. But that doesn’t mean it is open house on the card front. Whilst you can plan your city together, you cannot show the other players the cards in your hand.
For me, this game has always and will always pack the biggest punch as a quick-fire solo game. I am a greedy gamer when it comes to these little portable, solo-able games, and I have huge fun puzzling them out. 18 cards, one table (tray/any available surface), and I’m playing. I’m probably playing before my brain has even registered that the game has actually started! Maybe that’s why I do so badly! Haha
The solo winning condition is brilliant because it is always different. The multi-use cards that have the city blocks on one side and scoring objectives on the other also have a third use. In the top corner of each one is a number. When you flip over the three scoring conditions in play for that game, you add up the three visible numbers. And that, my friends, becomes the figure you have to beat via achieving the goals themselves and points for zone majorities. And it is not easy! I have gnashed my teeth, furrowed my brow, and balled my fists more times than I care to admit when I miss the mark. Sometimes it’s by one point, other times a lot more. But every time I play, the frustration is of the fun kind. 10 minutes of rotating, hesitating, and finally committing elevates my lunchbreak to something enjoyable and more than just 15 minutes to inhale a sandwich and hide from my work laptop!
I love Sprawlopolis. The replayability factor is huge. With a random combination of goals each time, and the luck of the draw in play, you can never predict or pre-plan. I hesitate to divulge my strategies because in truth it all depends on what is coming off the deck at the time. Trying to avoid long roads is usually a good thing, but there are cards where bonus points are awarded for road placement, so it becomes a trade-off between gaining point and losing points for the same feature. Contradictions within the scoring objectives can and does happen. But that’s part of the fun – deciding which goal is going to give you the most points by the time the city is built. And with only 15 cards in play, you’d think that once you commit to a course of action, you’d be stuck. But the way the cards are composed can give flexibility to flip reserve your tactics.
The price v enjoyment ratio is also extremely favourable, and its value is therefore sky high for me. I can play Sprawlopolis with others, and so it is often in my pocket when we go out. But I will always prefer to play it by myself. And that’s just because I’m greedy and like the illusion of being in control!
Luckily for me and you, Sprawlopolis hasn’t stopped at 18 cards. The puzzly fun has been expanded with a copy of extra card packs that add in even more features. Your cities and mine can now include Beaches, Construction Zones, Interstate, Points of Interest, and Wrecktar! And with more features comes more placement decisions. And points……but also dilemmas……which gives me wrinkles…….for the BEST reasons!