Game Review by Steve Riola
It’s 2212, Ginko Biloba, the oldest and strongest tree in the world has become the symbol for a new method of building. You’ve always wanted to be an Urban Planner right? No? Well, can you fake it to get past the theme and play a game? Ginkgopolis is the new game from Xavier Georges, one of the designers from Troyes and Tourney and who also gave us Carson City. Essen 2012 brought us his newest creation in the form of a tile laying/building game.
You’re an urban planner, who will build and operate different buildings in the new city of Ginkgopolis in order to gain Success Points. Did we really have to switch from Victory Points to Success Points? Each round, players will simultaneously choose an action by selecting a card from his/her hand. You can play a card by itself or with a tile. Then actions are resolved in turn order, the player with the most success points wins the game.
To set up a game you’ll take a red, blue and yellow set of tiles all numbered 1-3 and shuffle them. You then place them in a 3×3 grid. Now take the Urbanization Tokens and place them around your 3×3 grid, the tokens are labeled A-L, place them in order around the grid starting with the top left corner.
Shuffle the remaining building tiles and play them in face down piles in an accessible area. If playing with only 2 or 3 players, remove 6 random tiles from the game and place them back in the box.
Gather your Success Points (That really drives me insane) and your ‘Construction Spires’ (The gray cylinders), place them near the stacks of building tiles.
You’ll need to set up the starting deck now, you’ll take the urbanization cards (The A-L cards that match the Urbanization Tokens you’ve already placed around the 3×3 grid) and the 9 building cards that correspond to the starting buildings in your grid. You’ll shuffle the 9 building cards, one for each of the 3 buildings in their respective colors and the 12 letter cards together. With less than 4 players you’ll take the top 7 cards and place them in the discard pile to start the game.
Sort the rest of the building cards by color and number. Each pile should have 4-20 in order, for easy access in the upcoming turns.
Each player should take their resources. 16 in a 5 player game, 18 in a 4 player game, 20 in a 3 player game and 25 in a two player game. Return any unused resources back to the box. All players will place their resources in a general supply as you do not start the game with your resources.
Each Player should take the screen matching their color and 3 character cards.
For your first game each player will receive a random set of 3 character cards all identified by the same number. You’ll find these matching numbers in the upper right hand corner of the character cards. As you become comfortable with the mechanics, you will draft the characters that you will start the game with. To draft your cards, each player will start with 4 cards and choose one of them, you’ll then pass the cards to your left and continue this until every player has 3 cards.
Your character cards will also have your starting resources on them and provide you with a bonus for different actions taken. The starting resources will be listed on the top left hand side of the card, while the bonus will be printed on the bottom of the card.
Once you have 3 cards, place your 3 cards in front of you screen. All players will now gather their resources based on the icons on their starting cards. You’ll also receive 2 ‘new hand’ cards that you will be able to utilize throughout the game. All items will be placed behind your screen.
The player who must recently planted a tree receives the first player card. (Or pick however you normally pick, as most of us probably aren’t out planting trees all of the time.)
Deal each player 4 cards from the Deck that you’ve put together consisting of the 9 building tile cards and the urbanization cards.
Game play in Ginkopolis is incredibly simple, yet will provide plenty of interesting and difficult decisions.
There are 3 steps which will happen each round. The first step is ‘Choose a Card’. Everyone will do this simultaneously, you’ll choose one card and place it face-down in front of you. This card can be played by itself, or with a building tile, depending on which action you want to perform on your turn. You’ll then place the 3 unused cards face down in front of your screen. If you’re the first player you’ll place the first player card on top of your three cards.
Step 2 resolve actions.
Starting with the first player, then proceeding clockwise, each player reveals their chosen card and tile if you’ve chosen to include one then resolves the action.
There are only 3 actions which you can take, I’ll spend some time covering each action in a little more detail to try to help you understand how to choose what you want to play.
Your first option is Exploiting: Playing a card by itself. This is when you place a card face down in front of yourself with no tile. There are two ways to use the exploit action. At the beginning of the game you’ll have the 9 building cards and the urbanization cards. If you choose to play only an urbanization card, you’ll take either another resource from the general supply matching your color, or you’ll take a tile from the general supply. On an urbanization card, the bottom left will have icons of both a resource or a tile, it’s how you’ll know what actions you can take when playing one of these cards.
If you choose to play a building card for your exploit action, you’ll ‘operate the city building designated by the card. A blue building card will let you gain a tile from the general supply. A red building card will allow you to take a resource of your color from the general supply and a yellow card will simple allow you to take a success point. As the city is developed and the stacks of tiles grow taller, when you play a building card to exploit it, you’ll take the number of items determined by the height of the designated building. Example, if you take an exploit action on a blue card that is two tiles high, you’ll take 2 tiles from the general supply.
You now need to check your character cards. There’s a possibility that one of your character cards will provide you a bonus for exploiting a card, if so receive the bonus listed on the card.
One you’ve taken your action and exploited a card, place your card into the discard pile.
Your second option is Urbanizing: Playing an Urbanization card with a tile. When you play an urbanization card, one of the cards that are lettered A through L with a tile, you’ll expand the city by adding a new building to the outskirts.
You’ll find the urbanization tile that corresponds to the card that you’ve played and replace it with the tile that you’ve played out in front of you with the card. You will also have to place one of your resources onto the new tile, along with a ‘Construction Site’ pawn to indicate that the corresponding card has not yet been added to the deck. (I’ll explain this more coming up).
You may now move the urbanization token to an empty space adjacent to the new tile. Basically, you’ll pick the new side of the recently placed tile to place the urbanization token. Any buildings adjacent (only orthogonally, NOT diagonally) you’ll utilize. If you place next to a blue tile, you’ll take a blue tile from the general supply, red you’ll take a resource, etc.
You now need to check your character cards. There’s a possibility that one of your character cards will provide you a bonus for urbanizing the city, if so receive the bonus listed on the card.
The third option is Constructing a floor: Playing a building card with a tile. When you play a building card with a til, you’ll add a floor by placing the new tile on the building in the city indicated by the card that you’ve played. If there are any resources on the tile already, return them to their owner with a number of success points for each resource returned. You do not receive points for building over your own buildings.
You’ll place the tile you’ve chosen on top of the building designated by the card. You may always build up on the same color and only have to place a number of resources equal to the height of the building. If you are placing a tile that does not match colors, you will have to play an additional resource. Typically you will always play higher buildings on lower buildings, if you choose to build a lower building than the one you’re covering, you’ll have to pay a penalty in success points. (Example: You want to build the Red #7 building on a Red #9 building, not only will you play the appropriate resources to match the height of the stack, but you’ll have to pay 2 additional success points). Again, you place a Construction Site pawn on it, which indicated that the corresponding card has not yet been added to the deck.
When you construct a floor, you will then place the card that you played with the tile in front of you with your character cards, as they’ll provide you a bonus for the rest of the game.
You now need to check your character cards. There’s a possibility that one of your character cards will provide you a bonus for Constructing a floor.
Step 3 is to prepare for the next round.
After resolving all players’ actions, each player will take their unused cards and pass them left. Yes, you just read that correctly, the 3 cards that you didn’t play are now in your opponents hands! Then starting with the first player and continuing in player order, each player draws one card from the deck to replenish their hand back up to 4 cards.
If at any time the deck is exhausted, the first player must immediately rebuild the deck by doing the following:
For each color, you’ll announce the numbers of those tiles with Construction Site pawns on them. Have another player pull these from the decks that are numbered 4-20 and add each one of these cards to the discard pile.
You’ll then shuffle the discard pile to make a new deck including all of the new cards. If you’re playing with less than 4 players, again take discard the top 7 cards. Remove the Construction Site pawns and add them back to the general supply.
Then restart the 3 steps.
That’s essentially it. There are a few more things that you need to know as it pertains to final scoring. As you build the city out, you can, if you choose to, build districts. A district is built by adjacent tiles of matching colors (orthogonally). A district must have at least 2 tiles in it but has no limit to the number of tiles that are in it. When the tiles run out for the first time in the game, all players can add as many tiles as they want pack into the game. Players will simultaneously prepare a group of tiles behind their screen and reveal together. Each player will receive 1 success point per tile revealed in this manner. All of the tiles are mixed together to form a new general supply.
End Game Conditions:
The game ends when the general supply of tiles runs out for the second time or when a player has placed all of their resources. As soon as one of these two conditions are met, finish the current round and the game ends. The winner is the play with the most success points. You’ll add these up by those that have been earned by:
Any success points that have been earned throughout the game.
Those from cards with an end game bonus. (These cards have the x = x action on them)
2 success points for each unused hand tokens.
The success points according to the players presence in the districts of the city. To determine this, in each district, the players compare the number of resources in their respective colors. The player with the highest amount of resources gains as many success points as the number of total resources in the district. Second place gain as many points as the number of resources of their color in the district. (Example: There is a 3 tile district. The pink player has 8 resources, the black player has 6 resources. The pink player will earn 14 success points, while the black player will earn 6 success points.)
I’m a big fan of Xavier George games and Ginkgopolis is no exception. It definitely feels like a city building game, with plenty of strategic decisions scattered throughout. The card passing mechanic is something that will take a bit to get used to, especially when you have an option to make a huge play if you take a particular card, or you choose a card specifically to ensure that another player doesn’t get it. You have a lot to pay attention to, which actions do your characters provide bonuses for, which buildings that you’ve already constructed floor on provide bonuses. Are you maximizing your building potential? Are you passing a card to the next player which will allow him to utilize his bonuses? While there aren’t many options when it comes to actions, there’s a lot of strategic thinking that should go into those actions. Make sure that you’re paying attention to districts, especially because they have huge end game scoring potential. Don’t forget that you can always change colors of buildings by paying an additional resource, and that that by doing so you may break their district. This was another game that I was looking forward to from Essen ’12 and it hasn’t disappointed. I’ve played this as a 2, 3 and 4 player and it’s worked well with all player counts. I’ve yet to get a 5 player game in. It was a hit with my game group, my wife and a few players at my FLGS. While people are initially confused when I explain the rules, around the 3rd round it seems to absolutely click for everyone. Everyone I’ve played with has enjoyed it and has asked to play it again. If you’re looking for a new tile game, Ginkgopolis should be your go to game. It adds enough to the genre to make it interesting, easy to play and should have a good amount of replay value.
The art is great, if you really pay attention to detail, you’ll notice that every single tile has a subtle art change on it, as the city gets higher the tiles change appropriately. The differences aren’t apparent at first, but take a minute just to really check out the art. It’s impressive. The wooden bits are well constructed and the card stock is good. The screens are nice but difficult to read. The characters are well done, but don’t necessarily relate to building a city.
*One of the only rules we got wrong in our first, play but has since been addressed in the building a lower number building on a higher number building. Remember that you’re paying the difference in success points and not resources (which we attempted to do in our first game)