Sunday, April 07, 2024

Blue Moon City (Board Game Review)

Yesterday, Julie and I played the board game, "Blue Moon City" for the first time in over two years. We enjoyed the game and had two plays of it. Julie won both of them. Blue Moon City is both engaging and fun. It's a shame that we haven't played it more often, but that's something that I hope to rectify.

In Blue Moon City, players are overseeing the reconstruction efforts by various factions, as they labor to restore the city's many buildings following generations of neglect and decay. Buildings in the city are represented by square tiles. One side of a tile shows the building in its neglected state, and the other side shows a completed building after it's been repaired.

One exception is the obelisk that sits at the very center of town. Like the other building spaces, the obelisk is represented by a square tile. Unlike the other building spaces, the obelisk tile doesn't flip over, instead the obelisk has a separate progress board. This is because completing the obelisk is Blue Moon City's most involved and important project, and contributing the most to its reconstruction is how you win the game.

Building tiles are arranged on the table to create the city. The obelisk tile is placed at the center and then it is surrounded on all sides by eight other building tiles to form a square 9 tile block. Additional tiles are added in groups of three above, below and on each side of this block. If you have ever played the cooperative board game, Forbidden Island then you know exactly what this looks like. Imagine a 5x5 grid of 25 tiles and then remove the corners, so that only 21 tiles remain. That's the composition of the game board here.

The factions in the city are represented by cards. Players begin with a hand of 8 cards, and there is no limit to how many cards you can have in hand at one time. Each faction specializes in the buildings originally constructed by others from their culture. So, those are the buildings that they will work on. Each building tile is associated with a single faction and has from 1 to 4 boxes at the bottom that represents work that needs to be done. Boxes have numbers inside of them, from 2-5. Players must discard cards of a value equal to or greater than the number of a box, and the card must be of the appropriate faction (think card suit.)

Completing a box allows a player to put their cube on that box. When all boxes on a building have cubes, the construction is finished, and the tile is flipped to its completed side. Completing a construction gives rewards to all the players that have contributed, but the player that contributed the most earns a bonus. Rewards mainly come in the form of crystals. Crystals are needed to contribute to the obelisk. Other rewards may include drawing additional cards into your hand or gaining dragon scales. Oh, yeah. Blue Moon City has Dragons.

Before I talk about the dragons, I need to talk a bit about the faction cards you hold in your hand. There are 8 factions (suits) with numbers from 1 to 3. The lowered numbered cards (1 & 2) each also grant a special ability. Each faction has a unique special ability, with the 1 card having a strong version of the ability, and the 2 card being a weaker version of the same ability. You can play a card to contribute to the construction of a building or you can discard a card to use its special ability instead. There are three dragons, red, blue, and green. There are three factions that have a special ability allowing them to move one of these dragon types. It is a point of contention that the faction colors and the dragon colors don't match. The black faction moves the red dragon. The red faction moves the green dragon, and the blue faction moves the blue dragon. (Oh, well. At least they got one right.)

On your turn, if you have the right card, you can discard it to move a dragon. (You can move more than one dragon, if you have the cards.) Your goal is to move dragons to your location before you make a contribution towards a reconstruction. Any dragon that is present at your location when you make a contribution will reward you with a dragon scale. There are a finite number of dragon scales. (9 in a 2 player game.) When these are all gone they trigger a sort of interim scoring. The player with the most scales cashes them in for 6 crystals (a substantial amount.) Other players will also gain crystals in a smaller amount if they have at least 3 dragon scales. Once these are cashed in, all dragon scales are returned to the supply, and the race to collect them begins all over again.

Game play is simple. [1] Move your pawn up to two spaces (unless you discard a special card that lets you move further.) Optionally play a card to move a dragon. [2] Make a contribution if you can. [3] Draw cards into your hand to end your turn. (Card games should always end with a card draw. This way you can consider your options during your opponent's turn and not slow down the game.) Completing (and contributing to) buildings earns you crystals and other rewards. Crystals are used to contribute to the obelisk. The first player to make six contributions to the obelisk wins the game. 

Blue Moon City is an engaging efficiency puzzle. Players need to decide where to make contributions and how much. You have a limited number of contribution cubes that you can place out on the board, and if you run out, you're stuck. (This happened to me.) You will have to wait for the other player to complete a building that contains some of your cubes. So, that you can get them back. Another piece of this puzzle is that finished buildings contribute to the rewards granted by the other buildings, as they are completed adjacent to them. Rebuilding the city in the right order can produce much greater benefits, and this changes every game because buildings are placed out randomly. 

In the end, this game is fun, interesting, and challenging. It's the "easy to play, difficult to master" that every board game aspires to. Blue Moon City has this.

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