It’s nice to see new game designs that are inspired by ancient games like checkers. In researching the game of checkers or draughts in England, I found that there were games of similar design found in Ur dating back to 3000 B.C. Gridopolis is heavily inspired by those games and takes it to a new direction, or dimensions I should say, as in 3 dimensions.
Gridopolis is a 3D game and also a system where players can design their own play area known as a ‘grid set.’ The game is designed to be played with 2-4 players, so there is flexibility in the number of people needed to play.
The game itself is comprised of 7 types of parts which will be discussed throughout this overview and review. The playing area is comprised of 3 basic parts: pads, posts, and links which can be constructed in different configurations to create the grid set. The pieces easily interlock with each other and there are illustrations in the rulebook that show how to assemble them.
There are 4 other pieces that make up the components for Gridopolis: markers, kingerizers, teleporters, and blocker-boxes. The markers come in 4 different player colors and are essentially double-sided with one side having the pawn side, the other the king side. The kingerizers are placed in the back row of the player’s home row and represent the target that opponents are trying to reach in order to promote their pawns to kings. Teleporters allow players to move their markers to other available teleporter spaces in the grid set, to strategically reposition their pieces. And blocker-boxes can be deployed by players to render some of the pads unusable for the rest of the game.
The basic premise of game play is very similar to checkers, but there is also a touch of chess here. Players will be moving their markers across the board in 3 dimensions in order to reach opponents’ kingerizers to promote their pawns to kings. As players move about the board, they are allowed to move in either a forward or sideways direction, never backwards towards their home area, until they have king markers.
Once the grid set is in place and each player has their markers in their home areas, each player receives some additional pieces: 2 posts, 2 blocker-boxes, and 3 pads and links. These pieces can be added later in the game to change the grid set for more strategic game play.
On a players turn, players will have 2 options to take. They will either move their markers or build onto the grid set using the pieces they were given at setup. Rules for building are explained in the rulebook. When a player moves, they will move their marker one pad at a time in any direction including diagonally, sideways, and from one level to another. But the can never move backwards. They can jump other pieces, including their own. When an opponent’s marker is jumped, it is removed from play. Jumping can be done in a straight line method and can cross levels as well. There are even kamikaze moves where a player can sacrifice their own marker to eliminate an opponent, by having his marker make a jump and the landing space would not be a pad in the grid set. When building, players can also add pads in different levels or even add levels with posts, to change the grid set and offer new positions for strategic play. Blocker-boxes can be placed to eliminate pads from being used as well.
Once a player’s marker has reached an opponent’s kingerizer space, their marker is turned over to the king side. Just like in checkers, this piece now has advantages. First, it can move in any direction including backwards, and it also can take an optional second move each turn. Landing on a teleporter space, markers must move to any unoccupied teleporter space. If they are all occupied, the marker does not move.
Play will continue in this fashion until the game ends. There are 2 ways to decide how the game will end: either the last player standing or a point system where points are scored after a set number of rounds.
There are some cool concepts in Gridopolis. The idea of taking checkers and turning into a 3D game with some elements that change the game play area is neat. The variety of blueprints this game offers adds to the replayability of the game as well. Using the blocker-boxes as well as build options sort of act as a double-edged sword. Initial building may have been done to give yourself an advantage for a turn, but now your opponents can use the added pads for their own advantages as well. The blocker-boxes can also cause you your own problems because a pad you may have needed to use is now eliminated.
Where this game shines in in the 3D design. This is for sure going to be strong for developing spatial recognition skills, especially across 3 dimensions. I will say for younger players, jumping across levels in a straight line may be challenging at first, due to figuring where a marker needs to land. Although the kamikaze move is pretty cool to be able to eliminate opponents’ markers without needing a pad to land on.
The components of the game are high quality and are made of durable plastic. The pads, links, and posts all assemble rather easily, and I do like the visual appearance of the game area. Reminds me of some old toy construction things like Tinker Toys or K’nex. I have 2 minor complaints though. First, I wish the posts were about an inch and a half longer. Adults with big hands like myself will struggle with reaching in some of the blueprints such as the Matrix to move their markers. Also in a 4 player game, the grid area can be rather congested and it is a little difficult to see things. I think the extra space would open it up visually. the second complaint is that if you don’t use 2 hands when choosing the build option on your turn, it is possible to push the links out from the pads and could upset the rest of the grid set. This is only a minor issue, because if things were very tight, then it would make assembly a bit harder.
In terms of gameplay, even though the game says 2-4 players, I prefer it best with 2. It is easiest at this player count for younger players to manage. 3 players is a solid game as well with the extra element of an additional component. 4 players can be very difficult. I found the basic matrix design to be a bit too cluttered and very difficult to see the play area due to the home areas having a large overhang. The one thing I will say about playing at 4 players is that the action ensues rather quickly as there can be jumps on opponents as soon as a player’s second turn.
Overall, if you like the old games like checkers and chess, Gridopolis would be a good game for you. If you are not into these types of games, then Gridopolis is not for you. If you are looking to help develop spatial skills using a game as a method for development, Gridopolis would be an excellent choice. Being able to visualize moves across 3 dimensions is a key skill that will extend far beyond the game table. The toy aspect of building the grid set is also a good way to introduce some people into playing games, especially those who like Legos and other building toy sets The tactile feel of the pieces, the chunky markers, and the ability to build onto the grid set during game play are all elements that will appeal to those type of people. I feel between the 3D aspect of gameplay as well as the option to create different blueprints, there is value in purchasing this game because it will have the opportunity to see the table quite a bit. If you are interested in Gridopolis, visit their site.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Gridopolis was provided for the purpose of this review