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SUNKEN CITY

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Clementoni/Überplay, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, about 60 minutes; $39.95)

 

Sunken City, the second game from the Wolfgang Kramer/Michael Kiesling design team to grace this issue, allows players to go treasure hunting in an ancient submerged city while trying to avoid the wrath of Neptune.

The large box of Sunken City holds a large game board, 12 plastic buildings (numbered 1 to 10 with 2 replacements), 30 street tiles, 4 sets in 4 differentcolors of adventurer pawns, 11 treasures, movement cards, rules summaries and adventurer boards. Rounding out the components are a Neptune figure, Neptune chips and 3 dice.

The game board is basically a 9×9 grid of squares colored light and dark blue to indicate water. Streets and buildings may appear on the dark blue spaces; only streets may be placed on the light blue spaces. The center space may only contain a building. Each corner shows a player’s home village and the 4×4 grid arising from each village indicates the 16 squares that make up each player’s territory. There is a “grotto” where the buildings are initially placed and six spaces where the street tiles are stacked. Players begin with their own adventure board and place their treasure tiles there on the matching number spaces. Each player also has his own, identical, set of six movement cards. Building 10 is placed on the center board space with Neptune perched on top. Street tiles are placed on street spaces on the board with most of the tiles (from 20 to 26 depending on the number of players) placed face-up on the first street space. One street tile is placed face down on spaces 2 through 5. Space 6 remains open.sunkencover

A player begins his turn by playing one of his movement cards. Each card is divided into three sections but actions may be done in any order.

The upper number on the card indicates how many streets or buildings a player may raise up from the sunken depths (although only ONE building per card is allowed). Streets “rise” by taking the uppermost street tile from the current pile and placing it anywhere on the game board (except it may not cover the center space).

The bottom number indicates how many spaces an adventurer (pawn) may move. Adventurers move on street tiles and ONTO buildings in order to claim the matching numbered treasure counter. Each street or building counts as 1 space and requires 1 movement point. Once claiming a treasure, an adventurer must make it safely back to his village where he can deposit his treasure. Preventing him from doing this is Neptune.

The middle symbol of Neptune (sans number) found on the movement cards indicates that Neptune may move if the player so desires (and provided Neptune is not surrounded by water). If Neptune is located in your quadrant of the game board, you may move him 3 spaces, horizontally or vertically (but not diagonally). If not, you roll a die (which die depends on how many players are in the game and movement range varies. Generally, movement results in 1 to 3 spaces for Neptune.) As Neptune moves, the streets and buildings he crosses SINK! In game terms, such buildings are removed from the board and placed back in the grotto ready to rise again. Street tiles get discarded to the next street space, face down. (Once stack 1 of street tiles has been exhausted, tiles are drawn from stack 2 and so on. ) Should Neptune leave an area where an adventurer is, the adventurer is immediately transported back to his village. Any and all treasure he had in his possession is lost! Those lost treasures are replaced on his adventurer board and must be “found” all over again. But there is some sort of compensation. A player who has been sent back to his village by Neptune receives a Neptune Chip.

Neptune Chips are, in essence, an additional movement point action. One chip may be played on a turn and this allows the player to move his adventurer the number of spaces equal to the number of unclaimed treasures on his card. So, if a player has 6 unclaimed treasures, the play of a Neptune chip allows him another 6 movement points that turn.

If a player is able to claim and successfully return a treasure from the center building, he not only gets that treasure but an additional one – treasure 12 from his card.

Play continues until one of two things happen: a player has collected all of his treasures and returned them safely to his village OR the stack of street tiles on space 5 have been exhausted. At that point, the final round of play is finished (with each player getting the same number of turns). Now, the player with the MOST treasures. If tied, and only then, the number values of the treasures are added and the player with the highest total wins!

To add another level to play, Wolfgang Kramer has published a set of “Advanced Rules” (available at www.uberplay.com) which reduces the luck element and adds another layer of strategy to the game.

Two main differences appear in the Advanced rules: raising and sinking of a city and Neptune’s movement.

In the Advanced game, Neptune does not start on the board. He starts next to building 10 in the grotto. A “Raising Phase” starts the game turn and, during this phase, no buildings or streets. Instead, players continue to raise buildings and street tiles, just like in the standard rules, until all tiles have been used from street space 1. Then, the “Sinking Phase” begins.

Neptune now appears on the building that matches the space on which he is standing in the grotto. (If that building has not risen, he goes to the highest numbered building that has been raised). There is no die nor “quadrants” involved in Neptune’s movement. Instead, Neptune moves the number of spaces EQUAL to the upper number of the played movement card. Neptune moves about the board and, as in the standard game, submerges all buildings and streets he touches and leaves. Once Neptune finds himself isolated on a city with movement no longer possible, he is banished from the board (back to the grotto) and the next raising phase begins.

The quality presentation, including the plastic buildings that give the game its 3-D look, is very appealing. The constantly changing board, as street and buildings rise and fall, gives the game a unique personality. The card management required is significant as you can only re-use your movement cards once they are ALL played. Of course, the use of the die to control Neptune’s movement adds a certain luck element (although the Advanced rules minimize the luck factor as they eliminate the die roll). Speaking of Neptune, those Neptune chips may be too much of an “equalizer”. Being able to move an additional 6 spaces (or more) is too powerful and potentially unbalancing. There is a also a propensity towards “ganging up on the leader” as it is readily apparent which player is in the lead.

Sunken City is a solid, though not spectacular, design clearly targeted at the family market. From designers with such a impressive pedigree, this offering is a bit on the lighter side but even a lesser Kramer & Kiesling game is one worthy of attention. So, if you wish to immerse yourself in a game of underwater treasure hunting, Sunken City will certainly rise to the occasion. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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