Did you know that it one minute, you could build a city complete with residential, industrial, and urban areas, as well as parks and lakes? Designer Kane Klenko gives us an opportunity to do this in his game Mad City.
In Mad City, players compete to score the most points they can by building a city out of 9 city tiles. Each round lasts 1 minute and is played in real-time using a sand timer. The game consists of a series of rounds until someone reaches 150 points.
Mad City accommodates 1-6 players, has both a base game for beginners as well as a standard game for more experienced players. I will discuss the base game for how the game is played and later on talk about the standard game.
SETUP AND GAME PLAY
Each player takes a player board and scoring cube and places them in front of themselves. The scoring cube goes on the 0 space. Place the 54 city tiles in the large bag and shuffle the tiles around. Place the sand timer within view of all players and place the Park Ranger within reach of all players. The city tiles are made up of various colors designating zones, with some tiles having multiple zones on them. There are roads and buildings on many of the tiles that are used for scoring points. Yellow zones are residential areas, blue zones are urban areas, and red zones are industrial areas. Certain tiles also have parks and lakes on them.
Each player will draw 9 tiles from the bag, stack the tiles face down and pass the stack to their left. When each player has received their tiles, one player tells “GO!” and flips the sand timer and the game round begins. Each player has 1 minute to build a city by placing tiles in a 3×3 grid. Each player flips their tiles face up and arranges them trying to match features. Features do not have to match up, but you score more points if they do.
If the timer runs out, shuffle your remaining tiles and place them, without rotating them into any spaces to form a 3×3 grid. During the game, you may grab the Park Ranger token. Once you grab the Park Ranger, you can no longer do any building in your city, so be careful when choosing to grab it. The Park Ranger token allows that player to score points for park zones and lake zones.
At the end of the round when all tiles are placed, move on to scoring. Scoring takes place by counting the number of buildings in each connected zone. In the picture below, there is a large yellow zone with 14 buildings in it, a blue zone with 5 buildings in it, and 1 red zone with 6 buildings in it. There is a scoring chart on the player boards to determine points. This particular city would score 5 points for the yellow zone, 5 points for the blue zone, and 4 points for the red zone, for a total of 14 points. If the player had grabbed the Park Ranger token after arranging like this, he would have scored 1 point for the park zone. Also, look to see who has the longest road in their city, by looking at each tile that has roads that are connected. Whoever has the longest road scores 3 points. At the end of the round place all of the tiles back in the back, shuffle and repeat until there is a winner.
The standard game introduces 2 elements to the game: wagering and delayed scoring. The standard game is played like the base game except now players can use contractor tokens to try to earn bonus points. The Park Ranger token can only be claimed by a player who has less than 50 points and the Longest Road now has to be bet on rather than automatically awarded. So now before the timer runs out each player has to palm the appropriate tokens holding them out in a closed fist before the timer runs out. The Bonus tokens are: Longest Road, Most Houses (yellow), Most Skyscrapers (blue), Most Factories (Red), and Longest Road. Players may palm as many tokens as they wish, or they may choose to bluff and hold out an empty closed fist.
With the bonus tokens, after the round ends, each player totals their results for each building type and road and compare results. Only players holding the appropriate bonus tokens can compete. The player with the majority for each token earns 3 points, and all losing players each lose 2 points. Another element to the standard game is delayed scoring. For each of the building types, a certain number of zone types and sizes must be built before points can be earned.
As different zones are built, the pieces are rotated in the direction of the arrows until they are able to be flipped over. The tiles are read with text facing the player. When the requirements are met, the tile is flipped over and points can be scored for that zone. Play continues just as the base game.
There are variants in the rules that can change up the game play to give the game some variety, including solitaire variants. The game also has 2 promo tiles out there that further spice up the game: The general contractor token and the Capitol tile. These allow for double points to be scored for certain zones or bonuses. They are not required for playing the game, but they are a nice addition if you have them.
Mad City is part of the Fun Fair line of games from Mayfair, being geared more towards families. This one is definitely a family game, especially being able to play 6 players. And since the action is all simultaneous, there is no downtime, keeping the players engaged the whole time.
Components quality is great, with nice sturdy tiles and player boards, and the bag that holds the city tiles is nice-sized and durable. The rulebook is well written with plenty of illustrations.
The simplicity of the game is the beauty of it. 1 minute, build a city, that’s it! Now in that minute, the game offers a chance to shuffle around 9 tiles and build a 3×3 city grid, linking zones together to score points. Now I am talking here about the base game. The base game offers an entry-level choice for people to play hobby-type games. The real-time aspect of the sand timer creates tension for the younger players who may not process information as quickly as an adult may. Putting together a 3×3 grid of city tiles is not a difficult task, and the most complex thing to do is time when to grab the Park Ranger piece to score those zones. With the city tiles, players need to realize that the features do not need to match up, but the more sections that connect, the more points can potentially be scored, especially for the longest road. Playing the base game is good for younger players, but the regular game is where the game really gets good.
Taking the base game and adding the betting/bluffing mechanic of the contractor tokens, elevates the level of complexity of the game, and also adds some tension to the game beyond the sand timer slowly decreasing the time left in the round. Choosing to wager with the contractor tokens can reward you if you win, but also penalize you if you lose, so choose your bets wisely. Or, hold out an empty closed fist to try to bluff your opponents into betting contractor tokens or perhaps not betting that round, keeping them from earning bonus points.
The delayed scoring mechanic, I am so-so about. It is nice idea to have to build certain zone types and sizes first to enable the ability to score points, but it makes the game longer than necessary when playing the game in a family setting. Kids want to score points right away. Using the delayed scoring mechanic however, does give the game some more substance to a more seasoned gamer.
I like the promo tiles that are available as they add some extra options for scoring in the game and I recommend tracking them down to have them.
For me, I like Mad City as a quick family game that can be played in under an hour. With the option to vary the end-game scoring goal is good at making this game fit a variety of situations: from a quick couple of rounds all the way to a marathon of city-building rounds. I strongly recommend moving on from the base game to the regular game as soon as possible to fully enjoy the game. I like using the regular game rules, but omitting the delayed-scoring tiles when playing with the kids, so they can see themselves scoring points right away and still be able to bet with the contractor tokens. From a family perspective, Mad City gives the players 1 minute to take 9 tiles and quickly arrange them into a configuration that will yield maximum points. This speed drill of sorts, trains the mind to quickly analyze data and make quick decisions. Watching the grains of sand move from the top section to the bottom section of the timer can be intimidating to some people, but this game will help to teach someone to be calm under pressure. There is some player interaction, but outside of the betting/ bluffing with the contractor tokens, there is no take-that elements in the game which is good in a family situation. If you are looking for a game that uses a timer as a mechanism and you like city-building, then check out Mad City.