Open Seat Gaming: Double Play Review: Warsaw: City of Ruins
Disclaimer: This review is from a reviewer’s copy of the game that was provided by North Star Games to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Game: Warsaw: City of Ruins (formerly known as Capital).
Publishers: North Star Games (Granna overseas)
Designer: Filip Miłuński
Artists: Tytus Brzozowski, Grzegorz Molas
Main Game Mechanisms: Tile Placement, Drafting, Simultaneous Action Selection
Number of Players: 2-4
Game Time: 30 – 60 minutes
Description: The city of Warsaw has gone through more than its share of tough times over its history. It is up to the players to construct the best district of the city of Warsaw within either a 3 x 4 or 4 x 3 grid. But unlike other tile placement games, you may overbuild or place a tile on top of another.
Players do this over a period of six epochs - the first epoch starts in the late 1500s and the sixth epoch is present day. Everyone starts with a starting tile and six coins. Before each epoch starts, each player is dealt four tiles. Next, players decide whether to build the tile they select or discard it for money. After this decision is made they pass their tiles either to their left (odd numbered rounds) or right (even numbered rounds). This continues until the round is over and everyone has gone through their four tiles.
Before heading to the next round, there is an income phase where each type of building area is scored. Red is residential, green is parks, yellow is commercial, purple is cultural, blue is industrial - those, plus the public buildings, milestones, and transport areas all score at the end of each round. Players earn milestone buildings based on different conditions before income is distributed for the round. Then, you score and get income accordingly and you start the next round by dealing out a new set of four tiles to each person.
Each round continues in this way, except for the end of the third and fourth epochs. At the end of the third epoch, every player destroys one tile, representing the damage of World War I. After the end of the fourth epoch, each player destroys two tiles to show the destruction of World War II. Then after you finish the sixth epoch, you go to end of game scoring and the player with the most points wins.
Marti: Where to start? If you've been around Open Seat for any amount of time, you likely know that I have a mild obsession with games that involve building things (my favorite game is Carcassonne), so it's probably not super surprising that I really enjoyed everything that Warsaw had to offer. We had heard about the game prior to Origins, and I knew I just had to get my hands on it.
One of my favorite things about the game is the spatial element. The fact is, you need to be able to sort out how best to put together your city in order to maximize the number of points that you get. And we learned quickly that there are definitely multiple paths to victory based on which tiles come out, how they come out, and how you decide to put everything together.
This game took everything that I enjoy about tile-laying games and mixes it together with a light civilization builder like 7 Wonders. You're constantly looking at your city and the cities of your opponents, trying to figure out which options are optimal for you. You have to be able to change your direction on a dime and it's great to see how smoothly that it plays.
As time has gone on, I've realized one of my favorite features in any game is when scores ramp up quickly as the game goes on, and Warsaw definitely has that trait as well. Sure, you may start the game only getting 5 or 6 points per round, but by round 6, you have the possibility of getting 15 or 20 points at a time if you organize your city well and build up your combos in an efficient manner.
My only complaint, and it's really not a big one, is that the text on the buildings is a little small for me, but they have a guide in the book that tells you what each building does - in detail- so it's an easy problem to deal with. The rulebook is delightfully simple and well organized, and if you're not a big rulebook person, North Star Games' Bruce Voge did a great video with Game Trade Media which shows you how to play quickly. We've really only used the rulebook to double check how certain buildings work.
Sarah: Warsaw: City of Ruins is a wonderful, easy to learn game with lots of depth and more decision making than you might expect at first glance. There are many paths to victory, which always helps with replayability. One of the differentiating aspects of this game is the public buildings and their unique powers that help you throughout the game. Two of my favorite examples are:
- The Arsenal, which lets you lose one less tile during both World Wars
- The Central Department store, which lets you pay $3 less when building a tile into an empty space.
While it may seem that the theme for this game could have been anything, what they did with creating this game about Warsaw was show tons of respect and appreciation for the city and its history. This is evident via the mechanisms of overbuilding, splitting the rounds into historical epochs, having the details of the tiles progress with time, the public buildings, and especially how the destruction of World War I and World War II are enacted by having players destroy tiles in their districts. Even the insert is designed in such a way to represent the Palace of Culture and Science, which is a building in Warsaw that is very well known. The insert is also extremely functional and makes Warsaw: City of Ruins easy to play right out of the box.
It is evident that great care was taken in all aspects of this game. From all the history, to how each area is designed from epoch I to epoch VI to highlight the passage of time, to how the area designs are distinct from one to another to help with identification for colorblind players. The only, rather minor, quibble I have with this game is that it goes to four players and there are only three player aids included in the box; but that is easily fixable enough by sharing between players. Overall, Warsaw: City of Ruins, is a remarkable game that highlights its city, different game mechanisms, and judicious decision making.
Try, Buy, Deny: Warsaw: City of Ruins is a unique take on a modern tile laying game, and it is an engaging, fun title that is well worth a buy for anyone that 1) likes tile laying/city building games; 2) likes light strategy games; 3) played the original game; Capital; or 4) is enjoying what North Star is bringing to the world of strategy gaming. The game's full retail release is in August, and you can preorder at North Star Games' website, purchase at Gen Con, or order from your online game store or friendly local game store.
Marti and Sarah