Reviewed by Ted Cheatham

(Clever Mojo Games , 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes, $49.99)


It all started in a one room town hall. How could the city founders foster and grow a thriving metropolis and what would they call it? As the coldness of night approached the warmth of morning and the sun rose in the east, the city name was born. Sunrise City!

Let me share with you my thoughts on a new game by Isaias Vallejo that I really enjoy….then I will talk about Sunrise City….just kidding. I think it is best to explain the game as I teach it.

The game is played over three decades or basically three turns and each turn has three phases. Sort of sounds like the holy hand grenade from Month Python. With the lowly town hall in the center of the table, we start the game. Each player receives four zoning tiles and four building tiles. They are pretty good size tiles and, just so it is clearer to you if you have not seen the game, the building tiles are twice the size of the zoning tiles as each building tile spans two zoning tiles when the building is constructed.sunrisecity1

The Zoning Phase

Here is where we lay out the pattern mosaic of the city. There are five different colors of squares for the different zoning areas such as residential, commercial, parks, etc. You really have two goals in this phase. First, you can score a few points by creating or expanding the same color zone. When you place a tile adjacent to tile of the same color, you will score a point. This makes big red areas, and green areas, etc. The second objective is to make specific zoning patterns to be able to construct your buildings.

Building tiles typically, but not always, come in two colors. So, you may have a building tile with a blue building on the left and a red building on the right. To build this building it must fit over the matching zoning spots on the table. Thus during the zoning phase, you may want to place a red zone next to a blue zone so that you can get this building played later in the construction phase.
Tile placement is fairly straight forward during zoning, the only real rule is that one side walk on the tile your placing must abut a side walk on a previously placed tile. This makes placement fairly easy even though many tiles have water on some sides. Water is a hindrance as you cannot build across water in the construction phase. There are also some civic tiles which add bonuses during construction.

The Bidding Phase

Each player has six bidding chips and will now jockey for permission to build on a zoning tile. To build the first level buildings you must have at least one of your bidding chips on a zoning tile you are about to build on. There are two ways to do this in the rules and I much prefer the rule to place two chips at a time and have played that way every time except my first play. You may place your chips on two different zones or place the both together on one zone to lock it in. Unless there are two bidding chips of the same color on top of each other, anyone can place a bidding chip on top of the stack. Once two chips of the same color are together on a zoning tile, no one can play on top. When all of the bidding chips are placed, only the top chip on each zoning tile remains, the rest are removed from the board.

The Construction Phase

This is the main phase for scoring points and there are really two ways to build.sunrisecity3

First Level. To build the first level of buildings directly on the board, you must have one of your bidding chips on one of the zoning tiles you are going to cover up and remember you cannot build across water. Each tile has three numbers. Two of these numbers only apply to building the first level. On the tile above, whoever builds the building scores the number in the middle of the tile. Whoever owns the bidding chip under each side of the building scores the points on that side of the building tile. If the yellow player had a bidding chip under the red side of this building tile, they would score one point. Remember, to build on the first level, one of your own bidding chips must be on one of the matching zoning tiles.

Higher Levels. To build on top of existing buildings, the building colors must match and the player building the tile will score the points in the center of the tile. The points on the side of the buildings do not matter on higher levels.

The Other Stuff

The core of the game has been explained to you and is fairly straight forward. You do this three times and most points wins. I should mention when constructing, purple is wild. This is a big help to keep the game moving. There are some bonuses for building on even numbered floors and a whole cast of characters to add spice to your strategy; 16 of them to be exact.

At the start of the game each player will get four random characters and then in drafting fashion you will keep three for the game. One will be played each decade. The lowest numbered character will be the start player for the round and each character gives you a rather unique advantage and a way to increase your points over the course of the turn. Some examples: build across water, score all points when building the first level, score a bonus point if you build a first level, score a point if someone else scores a zoning point, etc.
Building for Inefficiency

Every time you score points you advance your token on the score track. When your pawn crosses the 10 point/star space, you get a star. The person with the most stars at the end of the game is the winner.

But, there is always a but, if you can manage to land exactly on the star space on the scoring track, you get two stars! You are building to hit the star most of the time instead of just building the most points you can.

The Verdict

I am a fan of this game and will happily play it any time. It plays fairly quickly, simple rules, a bit of thinking and puzzling and falls squarely in the family mid to light weight game category. I have heard some rumblings of discontent on two issues. Many people do not like the randomness of the characters. I am not one of those people. I do think the characters are unbalanced. Many are much more powerful than others. But, remember it adds some variety and focus to your turns and they are drafted so one would hope they get some decent distribution. And, if you really don’t like the cards, don’t use them and go to a straight building game. I think it would work just fine.

The second comment is that people do not like the idea of having to try to hit the star on the score track. They just want to score points. I adamantly disagree with this comment. To me, this is the heart of the game and sets it apart from other games. Turn order, bidding, and tile placement all factor into how to get just the right amount of points at the right time to hit that star. This puzzling aspect of the game does not always work out for you but, the fun is in the effort.

Sunrise City rose to a very nice game in my collection. – – Ted Cheatham


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