Review: Urban Sprawl – cities, towns and metropolis

Urban Sprawl - packaging

You did not like the big city noise, so you moved to the edge of town. But time is working against you. Even in the periphery, there are constantly excavators running, rebuilding, refurbishing, and the city threatens to eat you again and absorb in its chaotic stomach. It lasted only five years until the city has grown further kilometer in diameter. Instead of stress filled with small houses, as it used to, you suddenly have firefighter as your new neighbors.

To some it may matter to someone other not. But one thing is clear – the expansion of civilization is unstoppable. The houses rise one after another and people numbers in the world is increasing at a fast pace. And now you could aid your hand to the development and help with the creation of one such building on a spot, which was recentlya quiet village.

(another term for ubran expansion)is the name of new board game from . It comes from the pen of author of really great game Dominant Species (review available only in Czech), which has captivated us with its sophisticated and yet simple gameplay. The name of this man is , who moved from the historical evolution of millions years old organisms to the present time. However, the evolution still remains present in the theme –you just follow the technology, that makes the city expand (= evolve) in all directions from its original small center.

Urban Sprawl - game is ready

Everybody wants to live in the city, so it constantly needs new homes, whether residential or commercial. And their placement and getting points for the contracts with construction companies is your task – to wade through a path to victory.

Urban Sprawl box will leave you in no doubt at all about the subject game. It has drawn a huge yellow digger on it. The box is as large as that of Dominant Species and is also similar to it, hen it comes to the contens. Even though you will find significantly less wood components inside.

The map is so huge, although it does not seemso big. It’s the surrounding parts, which are designed for cards storage. Like last time you need almost no space on the outsider for game components. Only players will be socking away their accumulated assets.

Urban Sprawl - game is ready

And what is their property made of? In addition to money and players‘ cards, they will also receive wooden cubes of one color. They are usedto claim buildings as the given player. Other gaming components,which will go through players handsa lot, is money. These billsare represented by four values. But again, it is obvils, that GMT could teach other publishers about production value. This is how monopoly money should look like – solid, strong and great to handle.

Many other parts of the game will begin its journey on the board or next to it in stock. Specifically, we are talking about huge piles of cards, which are created from three basic packages – city, town and metropolis. In addition to these cards, which usually represent contracts, you will also find a deck with permits and with events.

And would not that be GMT, we will also find lot of chips in a box – round for the value of prestige (victory points) and money, but also different shapes and colors representing the building. They have four kinds of these tokens – civil, commercial, industrial and residential. Each of the pieces can vary in size from one to four squares (unit of the town board).

Urban Sprawl - game in progress

When we look together at the game board, we will see twenty-five building plots, each of them is divided further into four smaller parcels. Among the construction sites, there is a road leading. And because we are in America, everything is sleekly straight, no bends in the streets.Around the building sites, there are green and blue sites arend – parks and river. They have the bar with thevalues of prestige and money on them. After erecting the building, you get corresponding reward according to its coordinates. It is important to remember, that every building has not only its neighboring segments in its parcel, but also the ones across the street.Always there is one rule – the closest one in that direction is neighbor.

On the left side to the game board, thereare four places for building permits, which have all different raising cost. The oldest is always the cheapest one. And to the right from the board, there are contracts. From there will gradually come into play three packages: cities, towns and eventually metropolis. In addition to these cards, there is a small circle presenting election. You will gradually move your pawn, which shows you available position for city election.

Due to the large number of parts, the preparation of Urban Sprawl is not so simple. Players choose one color of cubes and take them together withplayer boards. They also get some cash for the start, as well as the permit card. Everyone puts his wooden cylinderon prestige counter.Following the instructions, you separate twelve basic houses and put them on the board on marked starting points. Now, each player takes one of them as his property, but they have to pay the price (price + prestige according to coordinates) into the bank.

Urban Sprawl - game in progress

The most complicated part of the game preparation comes from four card decks. It is necessary to sort out a given card and shuffle it into the bottom of the package. This card states end of the given part of game. This action makes sure, that this card will come up later in the game and that all three game parts will take quite equally long. More time you will give to politicians and the pile of ballots. And now we are finally done, because all the other buildings lie in piles on the side next to the board.

In their turn, players spend action points. Each player has available precisely six points, which can be divided among four activities. However, all are related to the use of cards available on the board. You can take some with your action points to you. And using them you can build any of the contracts available in the right part of the board, but you have to pay for them too.

Permit cards are wearing a zone for which they can be used, but they also state its value given in the number of permit pages. At the bottom of the card, you get the finance number. You can sell this card fot given price at the beginning of your turn instead of using it for building. In addition, the bottom may contain another icons, which will we discuss in a moment and trigger election.

Urban Sprawl - cards

Once you have sufficient number of permit cards, you can use them to build a building from the available contract. Again, you must first pay action points according to the position of the card on the board, the lower/older it is, the cheaper it gets. Just as the permit, also the contract card has a zone on it (ie the color of the building). You can use it to build building of that color, but the upper part of card shows, how many permits (pages) it will take. There is a simple rule for that – the larger the building size (one to four squares), the more permits it requires.

At the bottom of the contract cards, there are some special effects again. For raising some of buildings, you get ballots, which can help you in the upcoming election for mayor. Or the building type helps you to occupy one of the important posts in the city hall. In addition, you will get prestige points for completing the contract and you may activate a present event, which applies either only to you or to all the players. It usually contains a payment of rent for the buildings of a particular type. Player puts a cube of his color on top of the raised building to mark it as his property.

You get rent payment in cash and prestige for all your building of the evaluated type. Their value is determined by its coordinates – the sum of all four sides with which the building is connected to perpendicularly. You get the sum paid from the bank or you move your piece on the prestige counter.

Urban Sprawl - game in progress

But construction of the building is not so simple and has its limitations. If the building has neighbours, at least one of the adjoining buildings must be of the same type. Buildings can be demolished by their owner, but also by other players, but only if they succeed to replace it with new one – it is called renovation.

At the end of each round, you move cards according to the given formula down one step. This pattern is interesting especially on the right side, where are the three packages. As you progress through the game, you make new packages available, but the offer also remain in the upper represented by one building from each deck.

From time to time, the election time comes. Ballots you acquired will help you only with the mayor title. Other positions in town are filled according to the player, who owns the most buildings of the given type. Each character has a special advantage, which you can use.

Urban Sprawl - cards

Players gradually builds newer and newer buildings, until there comes event card Olympic Games in the Metropolis deck. At that moment the game ends and one final payment occurs. Players gain points for their hoarded cash, or for the abilities of their politicians. Whoever has the most points at that point becomes the winner of the game.

Urban Sprawl is again one of those games, that seem really complex at first glance. Perhaps you may be daunted by the number of components, the length of the rules or long preparation. But when you really spend your game time with it for the first few games, you get it all.

As in Dominant Species, also here all actions compose a logical whole, and together create a sense of building a real city. The atmosphere is definitely there. You can rest assured, that you get to create a city, in which you would even like to live youself.

Urban Sprawl - game in progress

The game contains interesting resolving of player interactions – not only by the players triggering payments for each other, but also with demolishing of buildings using the Urban Renewal cards. But demolition has its tightly defined rules, which must be met. Using it, you can really upset an opponent by destroying his building in an attractive location.

In addition, players themselves are using tokens of prestige and money to change the value of each column or row. It has a really big impact on the entire course of the game and on the next payouts. It is clear, that game leader often changes and the game is nicely balanced.

An important part is played also by politicians. And their requirements are well spread, so that there is no opportunity, that all can be held only by one player. They are usually fairly divided between the opponents and big battles will commence for the office of mayor. Each character has its advantages, so it is good, to try to have most of those buildings, that are best suited to your strategy.

Urban Sprawl - money

But because the game is absolutely governed by cards offer, affecting all the action on the table, there is a really great impact of chance on the gameplay. But it’s not such an influence, that could result in one player running away. Everyone has equal chances for winning most of the time and its determined only by their decisions and ability to adapt to the situation. Of course, sometimes may come building payout, which fits either side, but it does not ruin your experience. Yet someone can hate this unpredictability of card offer and dislike the game for it.

No matter what we have said in the last article, Urban Sprawl is an advanced strategy game and also the length of the game corresponds to it. With this game, you will definitely jump over an hour (which seems to be limit for some folks) and reach about 120 minutes. If more than two players are in the game, the cards start to disappear quicker, but players think only when their turn is up. These turns will definitely prolong the whole game, which seems to be a problem especially when playing with four players.

Processing of the game is really well done. Game board is solid and everything on it is clear. There are large gaps between the locations for the cards, which contributes to the fact, that navigating and orientation comes at first sight. Cardboard pieces of buildings are clearly marked with color and there are wooden tokens.

Urban Sprawl - cards

Whether we watch the Urban Sprawl from that angle or the other, the game is really nice. Although it is not such puch in the gamers chest like Dominant Species, Chad Jensen certainly did not disappoint, as many players claim on the Internet. Urban Sprawl is just different. Contains much more chance, but still depends on the player decision and especially their ability to adapt to changes. The valuable site may lose value really in a few moments. But if you know reality market, that is reality! Everything is supported by the political background and the possibility of demolition of opponents buildings. Urban Sprawl will definitely please all those, who like challenging and interesting games.

DesignerChad Jensen
ArtistChad Jensen, Rodger B. MacGowan, Chechu Nieto, Eric Williams (I)
PublisherGMT Games
Year Published
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3 players
(94 voters)
Playing Time180
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
User Suggested Ages12 and up
(18 voters)
Language DependenceExtensive use of text - massive conversion needed to be playable
(21 voters)
CategoryCity Building, Economic
MechanicAction Points, Area Majority / Influence, Open Drafting, Square Grid, Tile Placement
Primary NameUrban Sprawl

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Urban Sprawl – cities, towns and metropolis
Final word
Urban Sprawl is a game about town evolution. From the tiny village somewhere on the meadow behind the wood, it will thriwe into a giant and prospering metropolis. You will have to fulfill contracts, get permits for it and build commercial, residential and even production buildings. And you will gain control over them, which could make you into a respected citizen. Strategy has its firm place in this game, but it is still highly influenced by cards, which make offer really at random fasion. And even the events, which will influence your payments. Yet gamers has constant control over its flow and everyone has the same chances on winning. Urban Sprawl is an excellent game for advanced players, especially if you like building style of games like SimCity..
Reader Rating0 Votes
sophisticated simulation of metropolis growth
possibility to acquire job in town hall
wide strategic options
players must specialize on building type
players must adapt on random card offer
great bills
huge board and lots of stuff
perfect rules
too much chance for some players
players think only when it's their turn
the game is getting longer
with four players, you should expect really long gameplay
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