June 19, 2011

Review: City Square Off - If You Build It, Fun Will Come


City Square Off is a recent release from Gamewright that was showcased during the New York Toy Fair back in February. Designed by Ted Cheatham, City Square Off is a spacial recognition, tile placement, and puzzle game (ala Tetris) that puts 2 players against each other to plan and build their city in the most efficient manner possible. Each game takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes with very little setup required and is meant for ages 8+, however I think with a little guidance a 6 year old could grasp the concepts. Critical Gamers would like to extend a special thank you to Gamewright for providing the copy we used to review this game.

Game Pieces
The game comes with two 9x9 pegged boards, 42 tiles (21 of each color), 21 cards, 4 starter city tiles, and a two page instruction manual. While not a tremendous amount of pieces, what does come in the box is pretty well made. The peg boards are made of a fairly solid plastic about 1/4 of an inch (~6.35mm for our metric friends) thick with pegs strong enough to withstand a decent amount of pressure. The peg sturdiness is fairly important as the game would be a chore to play with a board full of broken pegs. The tiles come in 21 different shapes (think Blokus) in two colors, one for each player which match the shapes of the 21 cards. Like the boards, the tiles are about 1/4 of an inch thick and sturdy. The 4 starter city tiles are a little bit different as they are replicas of cityscapes from different time periods (Egyptian, Medieval, Modern, and Futuristic) and have a decent amount of detail on them for the size. Besides having different cityscapes, the tiles have different locations for their two starting blocks. Gamewright did an excellent job with making sure the pieces fit snugly into the boards; they have to be almost vertical before the pieces start to fall out. While a strong bump into the board will still likely knock a piece or two out of place, most incidental contact with the board will not ruin the current game. The instruction manual is short, easy to read and is written in English on one side and Spanish on the back.

Game Play
One of the nice things about City Square Off is that there isn't much to learn in order to play the game. Each player takes a board, 21 of the same colored tiles, and one of the starter city tiles. The players take the starter tile and place it in the middle of the board in whichever direction they please and the game is ready to begin. The cards are revealed one at a time and both players find their respective piece that is pictured and places it on their board with one side touching an existing piece or one of the two starting blocks from the starter tile. Play recycles until one player cannot place their piece without going off the board, in which the other player wins if they are able to place their tile. If both players cannot place that tile, then the winner is the player with the longest consecutive block of open spaces on their board. Pretty simple right? Not so much. City Square Off takes a lot more forethought and planning than what appears on the surface due to some of the tiles being three blocks wide and the victory possibly coming down to an open space or two.


There are a couple of variations the players can try and I highly suggest they do so, especially City Sprint variation. In this mode, players race to fill their grid completely without spilling off the edges. No cards are used for this and the players must plan even more so as they have the ability to choose their next pieces. The variations give this title a little more longevity and it isn't difficult to come up with your own. A co-worker and I came up with one in about 2-3 minutes where we show the tile currently being placed and then also show the tile that will come after, similar to the way Tetris does. This allows even more planning than the base game mode.

The one issue with this game (as it is with most simple games) is that it doesn't take long to get your fill of it. With fast games that only take 10 or so minutes, you can get 5-6 plays completed in about an hour so this will not be the game you would want for a full night of gaming.

Final Thoughts
Gamewright has built their business model around quick, easy to learn, family oriented, fun games and City Square Off does not disappoint in these regards. It is a fantastic game for teaching children spacial recognition and move planning and is a lot of fun for adult gamers who enjoy a Tetris style puzzler. In addition, the price point won't break the bank which makes it a great gift. Kudos to Gamewright for producing another great title that achieves exactly what it was set out to do. We give it a 4 out of 5.

At City Square Off

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at June 19, 2011 11:19 PM

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