The Underwater Cities: New Discoveries expansion offers up a smorgasbord of extras. The original is a thinker’s game. Players have to weigh up how each action contributes to their overall strategy. This expansion adds even more complexity (optional!), as well as new features and better components.
What’s in the Box?
Well, let’s start with the player boards. Compared to the originals, which were a bit flimsy and didn’t keep your structures in place, these are positively luxurious. They are triple-layered cardboard with grooves for your cities and structures, so everything is snugly held. You have the original four double-sided boards, plus four new double-sided boards. These allow you to play two of the new variants – Metropolis Choice and the Museum. More on these and the other variants later.
Also included with Underwater Cities: New Discoveries are 18, 15, and 11 new cards for Eras 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Furthermore, you’ll find three more one - and five three-credit Special Cards. There is also ten extra of each building.
There are ten new Green Metropolises, for use with the Metropolis Choice and Metropolis Race variants. Moreover, there is a double-sided Museum board. Underwater Cities: New Discoveries also introduces the Museum, with its own separate board.
There are eight new Personal Assistant cards, which are waaayyy better than the originals. And there are the Quick Start cards. These give you resources and buildings from the off, with the result that the game starts on round 2. It’s a nice touch. And if you’re playing the full shebang with all the expansion parts, there are so many factors involved that it requires strategic thinking before the game even begins.
Let’s Go Underwater!
The first thing to do is shuffle the new cards into the existing decks. And to be honest, just playing with these new cards and the new high-quality boards will make you pleased you bought the expansion. I get quite excited every time I feel the ruggedness of the construction.
I also particularly like the new three-credit special cards. The originals were either trading resources for points, or scoring points based on a number of structures. The new ones in Underwater Cities: New Discoveries introduce competition, such as for the most laboratories. Or my favourite, a point for each permanent effect, production, and end game card you have claimed.
The next thing you may wish to try is using Quick Start. There are six Quick Start cards in total, but you’ll use the number of players plus one. So, for a three-player game, you would deal four at random. Then each player chooses, in reverse player order. Because of this, there are no extra federation points on the first turn. They all give you structures and resources to start with.
In conjunction with the Quick Start cards, you can use the new Personal Assistants. These are exponentially better than the originals. You are dealt two of these, and you keep one. These, like the original Personal Assistants, function as an Action card, with a choice of two actions to play. However, each card has a unique set of actions. And it comes with an instant, permanent or production effect to boot. The Manager, for example, allows you to gain two steelplast or two credits as an action, as well as permanently letting you build on expansion slots.
The good thing is you can look at the Personal Assistants, the Quick Start cards, your six starting cards and Metropolises, and all the communal elements concurrently, to help you make an informed choice.
But while it looks like your strategy is decided from the outset, the beauty of Underwater Cities: New Discoveries is that you can pivot easily. There are so many ways to score points, and the cards you draw may alter your direction.
Underwater Cities: New Discoveries introduces two Metropolis variants.
The first is Metropolis Race. This can be played on any of boards 1-12. Deal and place the brown metropolises as normal. Then take blue metropolises equal to the number of players plus one. Do the same with the green. Then you place them face up for all to see. The premise is simple. Once you connect your tunnels to your first empty metropolis space, choose an available blue one. For your second, choose green.
As the effects on the metropolises can tie in with strategies, it’s often worth getting these before someone else does. Or some are just all-around good. The last time we played, my girlfriend nabbed a blue metropolis in Era 1 that produced two points, thus guaranteeing her six victory points.
Metropolis Choice is played with boards 13-16. The board dictates the number and colour of metropolises you are dealt. Then you choose from those to fit your board. This allows for different strategies, as you might not even have a brown metropolis.
The last expansion element of Underwater Cities: New Discoveries is the Museum. This adds extra rewards that can be instant, always available, production, or end game. The rewards are activated once you place structures in the designated areas of your player board. The conundrum of this is that placing said structures may divert you away from a metropolis. So if you feel the benefits are worth it, you may have to sacrifice some of your other strategies. Some Museum benefits are really good – like a free three-credit Special card or double brown metropolis points.
A slight missed trick is to have grooves for the museum pieces on the player boards the way there are for the tunnels and buildings. But not a major deal.
Shuffle the extra cards in and leave them there. You’ll probably never play without the new personal assistants. Same with the Quick Start cards. The Metropolis variants and the Museum add variety when you need it.
But to be honest, it’s worth buying this for the beautiful triple layer cardboard player boards. Oooh, they’re good! I couldn’t imagine going back to the flimsy ones that come with the standard game.
The Underwater Cities: New Discoveries expansion is a must-buy for fans of the original. Heartily recommended.