I recently played Mad City, a new release by Mayfair Games in their Fun Fair line. This game also happens to be designed by a local designer. Kane Klenko is the designer and you can read his Designer Diary on BGG.
Today I’ll review the game. I have played it three times.
Mad City lasts a variable number of rounds. In each round players have 9 tiles and they will have one minute to build their city by arranging the tiles in a 3×3 grid. All tile placements are allowable. After the minute is concluded players may bid if they believe they have the largest group in one of four categories: Residential, Industrial, Urban, and longest Road.
If players bid and have the largest, they will earn 3 bonus points. If they bid and do not have the largest, they will lose 2 points.
There is also a park ranger tree which can be taken by any player (unless that player already has 50 points or more). Once you take the tree you cannot rearrange your city any longer. However, if you have parks or ponds in your city you will earn more bonus points by taking the tree.
After the bidding portion is completed then players can score their city. There are 9 scoring categories, three for each of Residential, Industrial, and Urban. Depending on how many of each type of building you have grouped together in your city you will either be rotating, flipping, or scoring. Here’s a look at the tiles:
For example, if you built a section of the city with 4 residences (yellow) in it you would rotate the yellow pentagon (which is for 3-6 residence sized groups) clockwise, which would result in the “4” being at the bottom. The number by the arrows represents how many of those size groups you need to build before the scoring tile flips over. Once the scoring tile is flipped over it will then allow you to score points for those size groups.
It is beneficial to try and get your scoring tiles flipped over early on so that you can score faster than the other players. The round during which someone scores 100 points is the final round. The player with the most points wins the game.
Here’s What I Like:
Fast Play: This is a game that doesn’t take any longer with more players or shorter with fewer. It is basically a race against the other players and each round takes only a few minutes. You can play with up to 6 players and there is minimal downtime. This isn’t a turn based game. You are racing. A minute is the perfect amount of time to try and build your city to score loads of points.
Scoring Mechanic: I think the scoring mechanic of having to build smaller groups to get your scoring tiles flipped over rather than just building the largest groups possible adds a great layer of strategy to the game. I especially like how it creates a natural acceleration in the game. The first few rounds you can feel like you are making little to no progress. But all of a sudden your scoring tiles will be flipped and you’ll be able to rake in the points. It is a very clever mechanic and it works really well!
Here’s What I Dislike:
Sand Timer: It has been reported that several people have received sand timers in their copy of the game that are either short or long. One such account reported their timer only ran 25 seconds. This is a quality control issue from the sand timer manufacturer. If you have had problems or noticed your timer isn’t very close to one minute, I imagine Mayfair Games can help you out. (Mayfair Contact Page) Sand timers aside, I recommend using a timer on someone’s phone so that no one has to watch the timer. Plus, phones make a noise that all players can hear so everyone knows when the minute is up!
Designer Perspective: What Would I Change?
I struggled trying to think of something I would change with this design. It is a really elegant and simple design that is accessible, family friendly, and fun. Perhaps what I would change are the scoring tiles. After a half of a game they’ll make sense, but up front they can feel a little daunting. One option would be to have tracks on your player score mat. Then every time you complete a section of buildings you slide the marker cube over for the section of that size. When it is all the way to the right then you can start scoring that category. This, however, would likely cause the cost of the game to rise since cubes are more expensive than chits. But that’s what I would change to make the game slightly simpler to learn.
Kane is a local guy and I get the feeling that Mad City is perhaps named after Madison, Wisconsin’s nickname of “Mad City.” With that in mind I feel the best pairing would be a local beer by the name of Mad Town Nut Brown by local brewery Ale Asylum.
This is a brown ale brewed in town by rapidly growing Ale Asylum. It is a nice accessible beer that beer drinkers will enjoy. It weighs in at 5.5% abv and has a “creamy finish that you’ll dig.”
I really enjoy this game. It is fun, fast, and engaging. Players I’ve played with have really enjoyed it as well. It possesses the elegant scoring mechanic that accelerates the game. It has the park ranger tree which gives you a reason to build quickly. And it has a good level of strategy with how to best build your city. I’m looking forward to playing again soon. I’ll rate Mad City an 8 out of 10 on the BGG scale: