A majority of the original reviews were submitted by Charles Bahl and Robert Waters...Thanks!!!
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Game: Big City (Rio Grande Games)
Submitted By: Charles Bahl (The Quake Coast Game Club, San Jose, CA)
Big City by Gold Sieber/Rio Grande is a city building game filled with a lot of nice-looking plastic buildings. You've got homes, businesses, banks, post offices, shopping centers, parks, factories, and even churches to play with, in a game that is sure to remind you of SimCity (minus the electrons). Game strategy is fairly light here and luck plays a big role in determining victory, but all in all Big City is a fun and colorful way to spend an hour or so of your time.
The Big City board is a numbered grid and players take turns placing buildings on it to score points. To place a building you must hold the property cards that correspond to the grid location(s) where you intend to play. In addition, some buildings have prerequisites. For example, a bank can only be played adjacent to at least two businesses, and a cinema must be adjacent to at least two residences. When placed on the board, buildings score points based on their type, size, and location. For example, a business that covers two square has a base score of 6 points, plus it earns an additional point if it is adjacent to a park. Most of the strategy of the game revolves around attempting to acquire the property cards that permit you to build on the most valuable locations. The board grid is divided into eight neighborhoods and the property cards are separated into stacks that correspond to the neighborhoods. Thus if it looks like the streetcar line is heading to the Eastside neighborhood, you might consider drawing cards from the Eastside stack. (The streetcar line doubles the value of any building placed adjacent to it.) Advanced planning can help you secure some sizeable scores.
I have only one gripe with Big City. Although the plastic buildings are nicely done and highly detailed, they are rather low profile. At the end of the game, you've got a city that looks more like Stalingrad than Manhattan. So I've invented the following skyscraper rule. (To make this work you've got to own a copy of Mayfair's Manhattan so you can use its skyscraper pieces, which, by the way, are the perfect size.) Skyscrapers must be built in city-center locations only, and must be build adjacent to banks, cinemas, and post offices. The height of the skyscraper depends upon how many of these buildings it is next to--one level per adjacent building. (For the sake of attaining greater height I use three-story skyscraper pieces only and make each three-story piece equivalent to one level.) Score 3 points per level and use the following multipliers only: streetcar: x2; city hall: x2; streetcar + city hall: x3.