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MAD CITY
Created by Kane Klenko, published by FUN FAIR (Mayfair Games) 1-6 players aged 8+   30-45 minutes/game

The front of the box shows two animals, a squirrel and a raccoon, showing excitement over a table on which sits
a 3D replica of the MAD CITY game. This, along with the bright green colouring, makes the product immediately
eye-catching to the game store or internet browser. It is also rather misleading. When I first saw it my thought was
that Mad City was a fun (the animals) city building game (name and buildings) with wooden (or other) pieces for
the structures.

The Player Boards for each player are double-sided with BASE game on one side and STANDARD game on the
other. There is an 8 page rules booklet which covers the rules and variations for the Base game and 4 for the Standard
game, but you need to read it through as the definition and explanations of the components, variants, pieces and scoring
along with illustrations are not repeated.

              

MAD CITY is a truly abstract game that doesn't really live up to its name. It isn't really that crazy, though it could be
argued that the basic mechanic - each player having to create their own 3 x 3 grid from the 9 random tiles handed to
them - in the quickest time possible, as only the fastest can gain VPs from any park tiles on their plan. To slow play a
little the designer has added another bonus of VPs for the player with the longest contiguous road, which has the effect
of making players think a little more when creating their grid.

The random tiles: Each player draws 9  tiles from the bag and then on the word passes these on to the next player thus
allowing no  time for pre-planning. This is a neat idea that works nicely towards balancing play.
Then there are the Scoring tiles:- Oval, Triangle, Square and Polygon shapes.

               

The Scoring tiles are not used in the Base game. There is not a lot to playing the Base game except for getting used
to  the  flexibility of the tiles (or building up a speed) so I suggest, at  least if you are experienced board game players,
that you read Base game, maybe play through a few rounds, and then go on to the Standard Game where all of the
components are brought into play.

Apart from the random building tiles, players each have a set of scoring tiles in a variety of shapes. These have a
tailed-arrow on them that shows how they should be positioned at the start of the game. As play progresses these
tiles are rotated until they reach the edge that causes them to be flipped over to their scoring side, though certain
of these tiles have the same text (score) on both sides so they needn't be flipped.

    

The 60 second egg timer is used for timing the grid building for if the sands run out you have to stop designing the
grid and simply put any remaining tiles face down into the gaps and then flip them straight over with no chance at
aligning them suitably, though unless you are first to finish and thus have grabbed the Tree (the Park ranger) it is
unlikely that you will be watching the timer when you are concentrating on building your grid.

Victory Points in both games are scored by the clever placing of your tiles. The rules allow for any variant of colour
against colour as long as the tiles are placed in three columns and three rows with no offset tiles. Each of the tiles has
one of more of the colours on it, Red, Blue or Yellow (and the occasional Green - Park or Mottled - Lake) and also a
dark line that represents  a road. The colours may take up one, two, three or all quarters of the tile and may also be plain
or have symbols in them. When  placed, the roads do not have to butt up to other roads but of course they do not form a
continuous road if there are breaks in them.

The player who holds the Tree for the round scores for lakes and parks, they are the only one to do so - thus if when you
get your tiles you notice you have a few lakes/tiles it is probably best to position your tiles with these in mind, rather than
trying to build areas of colours (and counting the symbols) and grab the Park Ranger tree.

The scoring is quite complex and is totally alien to the speed in which the game is played. Lakes and Parks score 1, 3, 5 or
8 points for 1, 2, 3 or 4 areas whereas symbols in areas score similarly, but different as they are according to colour of the
area and how many symbols there are in it. It is trying to build a city around these symbols that takes thought and care, neither
of which are in abundance with the pressure of the falling sand. Therefore in my opinion the building structures (Residential,
Urban, Industrial) part of the game is secondary to the parks and lakes as far as scoring is concerned.

Most of the fun, excitement and entertainment for the players is obtained by the adrenaline rush of building their grids under
the pressure of the timer. Of course if you can quickly build a viable grid and grab the tree you also get the illicit pleasure of
watching your fellow players while eagerly willing the sand through the timer. This is by no means a great game, but neither is
it a bad game, I just think that the cover of the box seems to offer more fun than the game provides and that is a disappointment.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015