Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-4
Amount of time to play: 180 minutes
Age requirements: 12+
Set-up time: 10-15 minutes
Urban Sprawl is an area control game about city planning. You must construct buildings to gain prestige. Once the city is large enough to host the Olympic Games the game is over. If you have the most prestige you win.
The board is a grid and different blocks are more valuable than others. The more valuable a block the more expensive it is to build there. Buildings you own will pay out more wealth and prestige the more valuable they are.
You start the game using the Town deck to determine the buildings you can construct. Once the Airport card is drawn you use the City deck and after the Sports Team card is drawn you draw from the Metropolis deck. Each deck contains 4 types of buildings: industrial, commercial, civic and residential.
To construct a building you must have enough permits and money to place it. You are also limited by action points. Different cards you claim will cost a different amount of action points based on their board position. You must try to make the best use of action points and get cards that match your strategy and goals.
Some permits will trigger an election when revealed. Most elections are won by having the most valuable building of one of the four building types. Holding an office will give you an advantage over your opponents and get you bonus points at the end of the game.
When you construct a building you may also gain a vocation. Vocations grant you prestige or wealth anytime another building with that vocation is built. The player with the most vocations also becomes the mayor.
The player in last place becomes the contractor once the Metropolis Deck is used. When constructing buildings the contractor can destroy other players’ buildings. Urban Renewal cards also allow you to destroy buildings in order to construct your own.
At the end of each round you will refill the building cards and permits. The newly placed cards might give you a payout of prestige or wealth if you have the most buildings in a row of the grid. As mentioned before they might trigger elections too. There are also events in these decks that will affect and change the game.
Once the Olympic Games card is revealed from the Metropolis deck, the game is over. You score all rows one last time, earn points based on your wealth, and then add the bonuses for any offices you hold. The player with the most prestige wins.
Urban Sprawl is a medium-weight area control game that can be a bit chaotic. There are a few long term strategies that can help you secure a win, but with an ever-changing board short-term tactics tend to win the day. You will need to be agile and adjust to the options you have on your turn.
The components for this game are great. The rulebook is fairly well laid out, but you will find yourself referencing it a bit during the first few plays. While pretty simple once you get the hang of it, Urban Sprawl has a decent amount of small details that are easy to forget.
Urban Sprawl is a long game and there is a variant to shorten the play time if that is an issue.
Given the need to assess the best option on your turn there can be a lot of downtime. Planning ahead may only make sense as the person before you takes their actions. The board just changes too much between turns.
You will find yourself having to gang up on the leader a bit or they could win in a landslide. The contractor card helps but taking political offices from them does too.
Urban Sprawl has engaging gameplay and a few different avenues to win. The vocations and political offices add some cool mechanics and strategies. You will find yourself fighting for money or power throughout the game.
If you don’t mind the chaos of random payouts and a changing board, Urban Sprawl is a fun area control game.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 4 out of 6
Player Interaction 5 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 5 out of 6
Fun 4 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6