Complexcity made me think of Carcassonne, which is not a bad thing.
Games and game design are fascinating enterprises to me because of how linked and connected everything is, like a big family tree made out of cardboard. I’ve played enough games where I can start to track the branches and root connections between concepts and ideas and see how designers are attempting to iterate and address perceived issues with different types of games. Complexcity is very much within the tradition of tile-laying games, and attempts to soften some of the punitive player conflict that is present within many of these games, while also feeling like a complex puzzle unto itself.
Aliens, aliens, everywhere
In Complexcity, you are trying to build Territory 1357, an area in which a combination of aliens in different colors live. An already abstract theme became more abstracted as I played, so the aliens (which are called Terramorphs, Neridians, Phylons, and Replicons) can be described as red, yellow, green, and blue.
Like Carcassonne, you’re going to have a stack of tiles that you draw from (one at a time). Unlike Carcassonne, you draw your tile, and can either toss it out and take some bonus actions, or place it and build or expand your personal little complex grid of tiles. The game has a bit of Isle of Skye going on, but it makes itself far more of a personal puzzle and less of an interpersonal conflict than that game or Carcassonne, as you’re always building your own section, and not interfering with or trying to grab good tiles from somebody else.
You can only place tiles orthogonally in your city. All roads (called transport tracks) must connect. Tiles with 3 housing symbols (called habitats) can be placed adjacent to one another. When you enclose an area with transport tracks, you get to place one of the four differently colored habitat miniatures. It gives a similar thrill to successfully completing a big city in Carcassonne, or getting together a bunch of good dominos in Kingdomino.
Here is where the complex in Complexcity comes in.
When you enclose an area, you count up all the habitats within it; for every 4 habitats in the enclosed area, you receive a habitat mini from the supply. So if there are 8 habitats in the enclosed area, you get to place two minis in that area. Additionally, habitat minis you receive and place have to match the color of at least one of the habitats in the enclosed area. So if I had 4 blue and 4 yellow, I could place two minis, either 2 blue, 2 yellow, or 1 yellow and 1 blue.
Each of these minis will give you a smattering of tokens matching their color, which will let you do various bits of modification of your game state, which I won’t go into here. You do get flexibility to modify (for instance, one of the tokens lets you swap city miniatures), which provides for some interesting decisions. The most important tokens are the yellow ones, which are victory points at the end of the game and are also available to modify the scoring conditions at the end of each of the three rounds.
Yes, there is end-of-round scoring! There are 5 “Ambassador” cards, and they reward different city configurations. Each time you get yellow bonus tokens, you can place them on an Ambassador card, and at the end of each of the game’s 3 rounds, the player with the most yellow tokens on each Ambassador goal card receives bonus points.
Complexcity captures the thing that makes tile-laying an exciting enterprise for many – the gentle thrill of receiving rewards for laying tiles within a pleasing framework. But it takes out my favorite part of these types of games–the player conflict. It opts for gentler competition – Euro-style jockeying for influence. While I wasn’t bowled over by the game mechanics, they mesh together well, and I enjoyed the theme, even if it was a bit obtuse to get my head around.
If you are a fan of tile-laying where nobody can mess with your best-laid plans, and the idea of building a small city a la Isle of Skye appeals to you, give Complexcity a look. The Kickstarter is currently running, and though I only had the opportunity to play with it a short while, it’s worth a look.