City building tabletop games have increased in popularity over the last twenty years. We can probably thank the Simcity franchise for this.
Most city-building games use tiles that the players arrange to their benefit, are zero-sum games, and use points accumulated throughout the game to determine the winner. The players must balance their available resources carefully as they endeavor to build the best city and earn the most points.
This list will examine the best city building tabletop games available.
This is a unique tabletop game that features concepts and game-mechanics that set it apart from the other games in this list. Many of the cards have stickers that are removed and placed on the game board. This means that the first game played will influence how subsequent games will be played. Don’t worry though; there are “recharge packs” that resupply players with those parts that are not repositionable – like the stickers.
The game involves twelve campaigns that each represent one match. As players build their village they earn points, and there is a counter that runs along the board’s perimeter for keeping track of the players' points.
This city building game gives each player their own city to grow as they wish. The game, like most of the games in this list, is played using tiles. The difference in Quadropolis is that each player has their own board onto which they place their city tiles. There is also a common construction board which has the available city tiles. Players place their architects around this board to claim certain structures which are then placed on their personal city board.
The game is played out through four turns, and each turn is subdivided into four parts. There are two modes in which this game can be played; classic and expert.
8 Sunrise City
Sunrise City is another tile-based city construction game. The tiles are color-coded, and each color represents a zone-type such as residential, industrial, or parks. The tiles must be placed so that the sidewalks line up. They also have waterways that serve to prevent construction across them.
The players use chips to bid on vacant tiles onto which they will construct their buildings. The large building cards are then played on top of the matching colored city squares. Points are earned by constructing buildings in strategic locations. After nine points a player is awarded a star token, and the player with the most tokens at the end wins.
Keyflower does what a lot of the games in this list do, but it definitely has features that set it apart as well.
In this game each player is trying to construct a village. Workers are needed not only to build new structures but are used to purchase available structures too. Acquiring new structures is accomplished by winning them at auction against the other players.
Structures are only made available during certain seasons of the year. Players then use workers to make their city tiles productive. Skill tiles can also be gained by players, and are used to upgrade their city tiles. Keyflower uses a point system for determining the winner.
6 City Tycoon
In City Tycoon the players take on the role of business planners trying to improve the city and the happiness of its residents. The city is made up of square tiles, with each city tile providing a resource. Some examples of resources the city tiles can provide are; energy, water, and happiness.
Players keep track of their resources with small wooden cubes. The position a player places a city tile can have a significant impact. If an area is placed too far away from a power plant, that player may be forced to buy power from an opponent.
The game is played out in 4 rounds; with every round subdivided into 5 phases.
5 Lords of Vegas
In Lords of Vegas, the players compete to build the biggest casinos on Las Vegas Blvd. The game features color-coded cards that are turned over every turn, and it’s up to the players to guess which color will be drawn on a turn. The drawn card also indicates which of the players will earn money on that turn. At the end of the turn, points are allocated – again, based on the drawn card.
There is a counter that runs along the perimeter of the board that makes keeping track of the players’ points easy. This counter also has “breaks” that force players to accumulate a certain number of points before they can move their piece forward.
4 Big City
When first opening the box, Big City can seem like it will be an extremely complex game, but it's not that difficult to lean. There are a ton of small plastic buildings, as well as cards and city tiles. The players compete by trying to out-build their opponents.
The buildings are modest structures at first, but as the game progresses the buildings get larger and larger. The cards act as deeds, and the goal is to accumulate as many adjacent city tiles as possible as this allows for the building of larger structures. Certain structures also require a specific shape/property arrangement.
There is a large scoring board that is used to keep track of each player’s points.
A game of Citadels can get pretty brutal but it is always fun. The game consists of numbered, and color-coded, building and character cards; as well as gold tokens for the in-game currency.
The goal is to have a city with 7 districts, identified by the color; when a player has all seven districts the game is over and each player calculates their point total. The characters in Citadels are archetypes; like the king, the thief, and the assassin. These characters allow the player to make better use of their buildings, or, like the assassin, perform a deed.
2 Isle of Skye: From Chieftain To King
This is a fun tile-based empire building game for 2 – 5 players. Isle of Skye uses an interesting auction mechanic to determine which player will get a certain tile. The tiles themselves have three terrain types; mountains, plains, and water. The terrain types must be aligned for a tile to be played legally.
The player earns game money by having tiles that provide a commodity. Players draw three land tiles, then using a screen they use coin tokens to secretly set the price for the land – or a discard token if the land is not for sale. Points are tabulated after every turn, which are broken up into numerous phases.
Suburbia is a very fun and well-balanced tabletop game. Each player is in charge of a city borough with the goal of having a higher population than their opponents. The game is played using city-tile cards to grow their borough, or investing in an already existing tile – which doubles its effectiveness.
The game balances growth fairly well by imposing financial penalties on players that expand too fast. This gives players a chance for come-from-behind victories. The strategy is also deep in Suburbia, tiles can affect adjacent tiles; so it’s up to the player to build in as efficient manner as possible.