I have a huge fondness for city building games. I had it since playing good old Simcity on my ancient 486 in the 90s. The ability to create a huge self sustainable organism has always filled me with excitement.On the board game front we’ve had some of these too: Suburbia, Quadropolis, Between Two Cities to name a few. This week, yet another is about to join them. Solar City, made by Games Factory, takes a different, more theme heavy approach to the genre. How does that work? Let’s dive in and find out.
Meet the Architects
Solar City was created by Games Factory – a Polish company, that designs and publishes tabletop games on the local (and recently international) market. Two main authors – Marcin Ropka and Viola Kijowska, are responsible for popular Alien Artifacts 4X card game. Solar City’s graphic designer Mariusz Gandzel is also worth mentioning, as has a history of working on Lord of the Rings CCG for Fantasy Flight Games (and it shows!).
Rebuilding the World with Sun Rays
I’ve mentioned that the game was theme heavy, so how does the story go?
It all began in the second and third decades of our century. Huge corporations destroyed natural environment, leading to depletion of resources and millions of hungry people. Starvation led to anger, anger to riots, riots to wars. Destruction overtook the Earth but a spark of hope suddenly appeared.
“The Solar Revolution” is led by the people with the help of guilty corporations trying to redeem themselves. The idea is to turn cities into liveable places overflowing with lush greenery and powered by the energy of the sun. Time to repopulate and redesign the deteriorate skyscrapers.
And this is where you come in.
The solarpunk theme is pretty underused in fiction nowadays so it feels really fresh here. Creators admit, that the game went through few theme changes. They ended up picking this one, and it was honestly a brilliant idea. Especially considering how it plays into the game mechanics.
Ingredients for Your Future Metropolis
Solar City consists of a set of boards (one for each player) and well over 100 building and facility tiles. These are especially interesting as they come two-sided, with both faces vital to the gameplay. One shows a regular skyscraper, while the second has the improved, ecological version of it called “Sky Garden”.
There are also 18 tiles dedicated to special public buildings like the Agriculture University. These are vital to winning, as their powers are easily the most unique and can lead to powerful combinations. Public buildings may for example double the effects of their neighbouring structures.
Solar City can be played with up to 4 players. Everyone gets one city board and a set of markers. You begin by dealing some building cards and placing their corresponding tiles in the game area. These cards are used to form building stacks and make each game different and unpredictable.
Next, you take 3 public building tiles and place them heads up on the table along with credits used to denote current discounts on these. Other markers are used to show the round number and skyscraper costs.
When the actual game begins, each player will be able to buy old skyscrapers, build public buildings and activate sky gardens. Players also activate rows or columns on their board which makes all buildings in one line score and grant points and resources.
Each row and column has a tiny slot for a marker and can be activated only once per turn. This mechanic feels like one of the best ideas in Solar City and can lead to unique combos which often turn the tides of the game.
The game ends when the round counter reaches end. Maximum number of rounds depends on the number of players. Winner is declared by counting collected solar points and adding some more for remaining money and sky gardens created.
The campaign has just started and is running on two different platforms: Kickstarter and Polish zagramw.to – a website used to crowdfund local board game projects. Stretch goals are achieved with the total amount of money collected on both platforms together.
Every single pledge results in creators planting a tree to make our planet greener and produce some delicious oxygen. The idea also plays well with the ecological themes of the game and makes me believe, that Solar City was made also as an educational product of sorts. I’ll take that since the game doesn’t feel preachy at all and is simply fun.
The game feels promising and various mechanics like row activation and loan system make it stand out in the genre. If you’re curious about Solar City check it out in the link below.