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URBAN SPRAWL, designed by Chad Jensen, is a deviation from his usual involvement with GMT Games and showed the genius he had in compelling game design, as Chad was better known as creator of the Combat Commander and Dominant Species series for them.  This is more like his Dominant Species game which has recently gone into reprint, showing just how well other-than-war board-games can be accepted by the loyal fans of GMT.

Urban Sprawl could be called the ultimate building game as it takes into mind more factors than any other building game I have played, in fact it probably takes into account virtually all of the factors from every other building game I have played.

The game is played using ID coloured wooden blocks, a lot of cards, and many interesting and thoughtful decisions.

The game can last over 3 hours with a full compliment of 4 players and will generally last at least an our and a half with 2 players. For time we have found that three players is the optimum, otherwise a game takes between 45-60 minutes per player.

Using an Action Point game mechanic the players (2-4) set out to build a Metropolis, a thriving, living, breathing City of Dreams. Naturally they don’t just lay a few blocks and the Metropolis rises from the dust of the building area. The game takes it slowly building a small Town to begin with and then growing (sprawling) and expanding it into a large City and from there to the required Metropolis.

Like all building, corporate and political games there is a fair amount of organised chaos, maybe even more than a fair amount (like an unfair amount perhaps?). The player’s decisions are all important and should be carefully considered, not made without spending time weighing up the options and the possibilities your actions will open up for the other players.

At the start of a player’s turn he may discard one or more Building Permit cards from hand as "Investments," gaining Wealth in doing so. Next that player gets 6 "Action Points" (APs) with which to spend on any of the the following activities:

 • Acquiring new Building Permit cards from those available to choose;
• Constructing new buildings from those currently available;

• Acquiring a "Favor" -- a Building Contract that only that player can build.

Each activity carries with it a variable cost in APs, depending on where the chosen card lies on the board.

There is an element of the rich getting richer and the game leader staying in the lead. This can only be countered by players not letting it happen. I know how that sounds but  if the players don’t look carefully for the potholes they will fall in to them.

Definitely best with 3 players maximum.

Chad Jensen succumbed to cancer in 2019 after fighting heroically against it for so long. He will be remembered forever through the large volume of excellent games he designed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021