Quadropolis is the latest game from the Days of Wonder imprint of Asmodee, the same publisher behind the global hit Ticket to Ride as well as Small World and Five Tribes. In Quadropolis, each player is a city manager with his/her own board of city squares to fill with building tiles from the central pool in each of four or five rounds. There are two variations within Quadropolis, the “classic” game and the “expert” game; the classic game boards are 4×4, with four 2×2 “districts,” while the expert boards are 4×5 and add a fifth district in the center, a single column of four squares. The expert game has a fifth round and adds two building types, while also allowing far more flexibility for players to select tiles from the central pool. The classic game itself is quite limiting and I would only recommend it as a teaching tool.
In each round, the central 5×5 grid is filled with tiles for that round chosen in random order from a bag, with each round’s set containing 26 tiles, so there will always be one tile left out of each round. To take a tile from that central grid, players must use an Architect piece with a number from 1 to 5, place that Architect next to a row or column, and then take the tile that corresponding number of spaces in from the edge. The player can then place that tile on his/her board in the District with that number, or in a space with that number, or, in the case of stackable tiles, if that number corresponds to the next highest floor in that building. (If the selection method sounds familiar, it should be; you’ll see it or similar mechanics in Maori, Goa, and other games.) No player may place an Architect in that spot next to the board until the following round. After a player takes a tile from the central grid, the Urbanist token occupies the newly vacated space; the next player may not point an Architect at the Urbanist when choosing a tile. I have no idea what benefit this confers on the game.
There are nine building types in the expert game of Quadropolis, and each scores in its own manner. Buildings must be “activated” to score, requiring one person, one energy unit, or occasionally one of each. Towers score by height, as they can be stacked. Parks score from being next to Towers. Factories score from being next to Harbors, Shops, or Office Towers. Harbors score if you get at least two in a row, up to a maximum of five. Shops score if you have extra people and they can hang out in the shop and look cool. Public Sector buildings score one per district, with more points if you get them in more districts. Office Towers score by height and being adjacent to other office towers. Monuments score based on the tiles in adjacent spaces but can lose points as well as gain. If, at the end of the game, you have people you can’t place in a shop or use to activate buildings, you lose a point per extra person. If you have extra energy units, you can stash one in each park (a sort of pollution remediation), but otherwise lose a point per unit. Some Harbor and Public Sector tiles also carry additional bonuses of 1 to 3 victory points. Got it?
The building types and distributions are fairly steady round to round, so the game is really about deciding what points to chase and ensuring you keep your people and energy supplies in balance. This requires some advance planning, and some attention to what your opponents seem to be trying to do as well, but it’s lighter than 7 Wonders or Agricola, two of the all-time best advance-planning games. Many things you might try to plan for depend on the luck of the draw, however, given the role of the Architects: you have to be able to get the right tile with the right number Architect to place the tile where you might want it. It’s also possible for players who go last or next-to-last in a round to find themselves unable to make a legal move, so there’s some benefit in trying to get the one tile in each round that grants its taker the first move in the next round.
The classic game limits your Architect choices, ditches the Office Towers and Monuments, and shortens the game by a round, along with using a smaller board. None of these is a positive; the game is actually better for the greater complexity of the Expert game because it gives you more options for building and, more importantly, makes the game more fun. The city-building theme is just not that well integrated with the gameplay—SimCity this ain’t—so at least let the players build more stuff. Once you’ve got the rules down in the classic game, skip to the Expert version and don’t look back.
We found games took about an hour for three people and my 10-year-old daughter had no trouble understanding the mechanics of the game, but she found the scoring “a little confusing” and needed some help choosing optimal buildings. It’s a well-balanced game with bright, attractive artwork, and the box is extremely well-designed for easy storage (you even save the cardboard frames from which you’ve punched out the tiles to ensure a snug fit). The game is recommended for ages 8 and up, but I think the scoring would be too much for an average 8-year-old and would only recommend this for kids 10 and older. It’s not quite the next Ticket to Ride or Small World, but it’s a worthy addition to the Days of Wonder line.
Keith Law is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com and an analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. You can read his baseball content at search.espn.go.com/keith-law and his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.