Have you ever wanted to build your own city? You may say “Sure, but I’m not sure how good I’d be at it!”. Well, that’s just fine, because all you need to bring to the table in Mad City is a desire to build a city. In Mad City by Kane Klenko, you will race to assemble a 3×3 square city plan with the tiles you select at random. the goal of the game is to assemble the most cohesive city by keeping zones (colors) together to score the most points! The use of contractor tokens may help you pull ahead in the construction business, but use them wisely, or they’ll hurt you in the end. If you can gain the favor of the Park Ranger in the midst of your building plans, you may also find yourself sitting pretty. Published in 2014 by Mayfair Games, Mad City is hitting the table and demolishing any ideas you may have about city planning.
Out of the Box
Upon opening the box you will find a hefty assortment of items, as well as plenty of chitboards. Once all of your items are punched out, you will have :
- 6 double sided player boards
- 54 city tiles
- 54 scoring tokens (6 sets, each containing 3 of each color – blue, red, and yellow)
- 6 score cubes
- 1 Park Ranger tree
- 60 second timer
- 24 contractor tokens
- 1 rulebook
- 1 drawstring bag for holding the city tile tokens
The player boards are thick and not warped, and all of the pieces punched out cleanly. The box cover has a squirrel and raccoon appearing to be bickering over a schedule, though the squirrel seems quite pleased. Everything is easy to read and clear on the game boards.
How to Play
When getting ready to play Mad City, a few things need to happen. First of all, place all of the scoring and contractor tokens to the side. Place the timer and park ranger token where all players can see and reach them. Take your player board and flip it to whatever game mode you are going to play.
In every game mode you will encounter a series of rounds. A round is when you and the other players draw 9 tiles from the bag, and place them face down in front of you. The timer is flipped, and each player has 60 seconds to build their city in a 3×3 grid. Once the time runs out, players score points for their city! If a player has not placed all tiles at the end of the minute, turn those tiles over, have the player shuffle the tiles, flip them over, and place them in the city without rotating the tiles.
Each mode utilizes different zones, including :
- Residential – yellow /houses
- Industrial – red / factories
- Urban – blue / skyscrapers
- Lakes – deep blue
- Parks – green
When placing tiles, the aim is to place your tiles so that you have continuous roads or zones according to their color. When scoring comes along you are scored based on the number of building symbols that are in each color zone. If a zone is broken by a road, it is considered to be 2 zones. Your player board has details on how each zone scores, as some are easier to put together than others.
So, how do parks and lakes work? The Park Ranger will look favorably on you if you make room in your city for nature to flourish. If you are able to place tiles in such a way that a park or lake is present and / or connected with 1 or more areas, the Park Ranger token will be your friend. You must be the first player to grab the token before the clock runs out. If you do not have the Park Ranger token, you score nothing for your lakes and parks.
Players can also score points for having the longest continuous road in the game, with the road starting at the edge of your 3×3 board.
In the Base Game, you will follow the scoring on the Base Game side of the player board. This mode does not utilize the contractor tokens or the scoring tokens. Base Game mode ends when a player has reached 150 points at the end of the round. When you do, you’re named Mayor of Mad City! An extra round can be played in case of a tie. If a shorter game is preferred, the max score can be topped out at 100 points.
In Standard Game, those extra tokens come in to play. Each player takes a contractor token of each color, as well as one of each scoring token sets (3 yellow, 3 red, 3 blue). Place the scoring tokens with the text “All __ score ___ points” face down, and the largest number with an arrow is facing you. In this mode you will play to 100+ points.
In this mode, you may grab the Park Ranger token, but only if you haven’t scored 50 points yet. In fact, if you have over 50 points and you grab the Park Ranger token, all of the other players score their lakes and parks regardless of their score. The Longest Road isn’t an automatic reward anymore, as you must palm, or be holding, the Longest Road Contractor token by the time that the timer runs out.
You can gamble that you have the longest road or the biggest zone type by palming a contractor token corresponding to whichever zone you feel you have the upper hand in for the round. You may take all of your tokens into your hand, and you can also bluff by holding nothing in your hand. If you reveal a token and indeed have the largest zone of that type, you gain 3 points. If you are beat by another player, though, you will lose 2 points.
In Standard Game the scoring for your zones is delayed a bit with the use of scoring tokens. This means that players must build a certain number of zones before you may score.. This happens by rotating the scoring tokens. For example, if in the first round, you have 2 zones with 3-6 residential buildings, you will rotate the scoring token from 5 to 3 (following the arrows on the token). Once you rotate the tile to the 1 position, the tile is flipped and you will score 1 point for zones of that type.
Other variants of the game include the use of a divider to make sure that other players can’t see your city to increase the risk of using contractor tokens. Also, drawing 10 tiles instead of 9, but only placing 9. Or, having each player draw 9, and place one in the center. Each player may, at any time during the round, discard a tile to the center to take the 1 tile in the center.
Want to play by yourself? You’ve got options! In Puzzle Solitaire, draw 8 face down tiles and place them to form a 4×4 grid – 4 down the side and 4 across the top, these are called the Guide Tiles, and remain face down. Then, draw one tile at a time and place it anywhere in the board to make a 4×4 grid. Once a new tile is drawn, you cannot move the previously placed tile. At the end of the game you will score according to the chart in the rulebook. Play 3 rounds, trying to beat your score each round, and your final score is the sum of your 3 rounds.
Advanced Puzzle Solitaire brings in the chance to flip those Guide Tiles and place them in their corresponding row or column face up on top of another tile. You start at one end and work your way around, then score as normal.
Lastly is Speed Solitaire. In this version, deal yourself 16 tiles and start the timer to build a 4×4 city in one minute. Play 3 rounds and score the same as Puzzle Solitaire.
What Do You Mean I Can’t Put A Road There??
Ah, Mad City. After taking the time to punch out all of the pieces, I found it to be enjoyable and fun. Its a puzzle race, not only against the other people you’re playing with, but against yourself! Doing quick math in your head while assembling your city to try to get the most points for. I think this game would also be great for teaching kids to think ahead when assembling their cities, as the game can be played as young as 8!
The rules were a bit unclear at times, and I wish it had been a bit more straight-forward. I found myself re-reading the rulebook over and over for minor details of the game. Do I put all of the city tiles back into the tile bag after each round and shake them up, or do I put them off to the side and empty the bag before placing the used tiles back? There’s no direct rule stating that the Guide Tiles in the solo modes need to face-down, and I only deduced this after reading the instructions for Advanced Puzzle Solitaire. So, the lack of clarity in the rulebook would be a complaint of mine.
As far as the game itself, I didn’t find anything about it that I didn’t like. I actually found the scoring token mechanic to be fun, as it requires some strategy to ensure that you’ll start scoring as soon as possible. Making the choices of what zone type to advance, and being flexible enough to work with what you’re dealt. It goes quickly, as we had a game last only 20 minutes, but I’d say the advertised 30-45 is pretty accurate for most games, especially the Standard Game play.
Wanting to make sure that no one was being cheated of time, I tested our 60 second timer. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was only 47 seconds! That may not seem like a bad thing, but that extra 13 seconds could make a big difference in this game! I did some digging, and found a thread on BGG where the issue has been addressed by Kane Klenko. In the thread, he suggests using a phone timer, as the game is meant to be played in 60 second increments, and the issue is being looked into by the publishers. Does this mean they’ll replace incorrect timers? I’m not sure, but there is contact information for Mayfair Games in the rulebook in case you need a replacement.
Once all players have a feel for the game, I feel that Mad City is a good game for families wanting a light competitive game, and for any player that likes luck-of-the-draw puzzle games. Mad City retails for $35.00, and is waiting to enter your game collection!
Thanks to Mayfair Games for providing a copy of Mad City for review!
- Fast paced and fairly easy to score
- Kids will pick this up quickly
- Set up is fast, easy to start and break down
- Solitaire games are fun for those that want a puzzle game for solo play
- Has some luck involved, some gamers aren’t fans of this
- You may have to use your own timer rather than the one it comes with
- Can be repetitive
- Rulebook is somewhat jumpy and sometimes unclear