DESIGN TOWN from Pegasus Spiele is a deck-builder for 1-4 players Aged 10+. Games take between 30-60 minutes.
The components are brightly coloured cards, 104 of them, 4 player aid cards and a 4 page Rules leaflet of which only three pages contain the rules; written in a good sized text.
The cards are double-sided (okay I know all cards have two sides) and both sides are major parts of the game and thus you have to be very careful as you add cards to your deck so that the current side is the side that you draw.
This is very important to remember as early as the very beginning of the game because each player has a Start-up deck which comprises of 4 Residential cards and one Apartment card, the latter being the flipped side of a Residential card, plus one of each of the six other card types; these being: Convenience Store/Shopping Mall, Flea Market/Trash Can, Factory/Power Plant, Hospital/Church, Construction Yard/Recycling Centre and Central Park/Train Station.
There are two ways to win at Design Town. One is to have cards which have Victory Points that add up to at least 8 (VPs being shown on cards as Rosettes) and the second way is to have laid out in front of you 18 cards with at least one Convenience Store in the same Turn. Laying out 18 cards in one Turn sounds horrendously difficult but once you have collected enough cards in your deck it is actually often the easiest way to win, mainly because VPs are found on the flip side of the Town cards and it can cost a lot of money to flip cards.
Like most Deck Builders the players shuffle their own Starter Decks and place them as personal Draw Piles with the side to be used facing upwards. In the Rules it suggests keeping the cards in your hand at all times to ensure you don't accidentally flip the cards over but experience has taught us that if you are likely to play a card game often if you hold your cards all the time the sweat from your hands will soak into the cards and eventually ruin them. The game is then played in Turns beginning with the pre-decided Start Player with each player finishing their Turn before the next player starts theirs. A Turn is simple and is played like a game of Greed in as much as you take the top card of your Draw pile and place it in the same orientation in front of you; then any action on the card is taken and resolved. The player can see what the next card will be so can then decide if they wish to Stop or Continue. If they Stop they move onto Phase 2: Building. If they Continue they position the next card from their deck in front of them and resolve its action; they then have the same Stop or Continue decision to make. There is an exception to this decision making though, for if the top card on the deck is seen to be a Residential Area card then it has to be played which can result in Discontent (see below).
Generally the cards you flip over will show an amount of money and it is this that you spend to buy one card only from the six decks of Town cards. It is a good idea to Stop once you have enough cash to purchase a card you want rather than push it to maybe get enough cash for a more expensive card. The reasoning here is that some cards have Red Angry Emojis (showing Discontent amongst your Townsfolk) on them and if the cards you turn over show a total of more than two of these then you do not proceed to the Building Phase, in fact you pick up all the cards you have laid and dump them in your personal Discard stack - this will get reshuffled to form a new Draw pack when required.
When you pay to flip a card over it is called Upgrading and some cards have an immediate effect when upgraded. Upgraded cards also generally have a Downgrading cost that can be paid when the card is in your Discard Pile, immediately using it's effect; Downgraded card effects can be used, the card can then be Upgraded and then Downgraded to use its effect again. This does cost more money than you would normally have at your disposal. During the Develop Phase you can also buy a card from the Central Supply (the six different card decks) and immediately Upgrade it, but that means having the cash available to buy the card in the first place and then immediately pay for it to be Upgraded.
DESIGN TOWN is a very gentle deck building game and is aimed, in my opinion, more at family play than experienced games players. There is a Solo game variant within its structure and indeed the game plays more like each player is playing separately than actually playing against the other players. There are times when a card can be dumped into another player's deck to give them a bit of padding they don't really want or need but this is about the only in-game player interaction, otherwise it is mainly the luck of the way the cards arrive in your hands that determine the winner. Naturally buying well helps, but as the money players have to spend depends on the luck of the cards being drawn each Turn (at the end of each player's Turn the cards in front of them are all discarded) planning ahead is not really a factor in the game play.
This is a nice friendly game to warm up the start of a family games session or for introducing players to the genre of Deck Building card games, but for core gamers it doesn't have enough substance to be regarded as a challenge. There is a nice little niche in the games market for short, around thirty minutes, training games and DESIGN TOWN fits that billing to perfection.