Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Board Game Review - Infinite City


I think we need a national push toward a little corporate honesty. For starters, I think all MacDonald's commercials should, from this point forward, include only fat people. Wal-Mart ads should quit featuring perky suburban housewives with lovely children, and start showing us mullet-wearing throwbacks in camouflage hot pants. And publishers who use the word 'infinite' in their games titles should be forced to make games that last longer than half an hour.

Sure, Infinite City is a tricky tile-laying game with a massive eff-you factor and a bewildering array of complex decisions cropping up every turn, but it most definitely ends, and so I maintain that the name of the game should be Finite City. In fact, you can finish a three-player game inside 30 minutes, and we finished a five-player game in less than an hour. This is clearly a case where the name of the game is directly at odds with how long it takes to play.

The premise of Infinite City is simple enough. In fact, the rules can be explained in the time it takes you to crack open a beer and find a glass. Every turn, you play a tile from your hand representing one of the architectural edifices of the titular city (if there is a word more fun than titular, I want to know about it). Then you put one of your tokens on it and follow the directions. Scoring is tricky enough that you'll have to explain it twice to anyone who wasn't paying attention the first time, but it's still not hard to grasp. In fact, you'll understand the game so quickly, you'll know for sure that the name of the game didn't come from the rules explanation.

And the game doesn't take long, either. You can usually plan your turn while you wait for it to arrive, so in most cases, the turns go pretty fast. Sometimes you'll set off a combination play that chains together for a couple minutes, but most of the time, you're in and out in 30 seconds or less.

So what, exactly, makes Infinite City so infinite? Well, I've carefully pondered the notes I took while I played (incidentally, if you believe that I take notes while I play games, you're high), and I think I figured it out. Basically, Infinite City provides a nearly infinite number of ways for other players to completely hose you. Every turn is another opportunity to be humiliated, degraded and abused. You can go from the top of the heap to the Fire Down Below in just one play. Hopefully, that play will not be your own, but it certainly could happen.

See, every building in Infinite City does something different. Some of the more innocent buildings, like the housing or the library, let you put together a few moves in a row. Some of the buildings are a little more aggressive, like the transit center or the post office, which rearrange the city and make your opponents plot your untimely demise. And some of the tiles are so rotten, so mean-spirited, and so just plain dirty that you'll be sizing your opponents for pine boxes and shallow graves.

Take, for instance, my son. He is a ridiculously smart kid, and he frequently provides me with opportunities to regret his intelligence. One of the rottenest cards in the game, the shopping center, requires you to swap hands with another player. So if you have four cards, and an opponent has ten, then you smile as you hand the opponent a pile of garbage that he can play instead of the wealth of brilliance he was holding. It's worth noting that when my son played this tile on me, my hand sucked - but it was nowhere near as bad as the hand I got to replace it. I spent the next three turns building crappy decorative water fountains miles away from the rest of the city, while he went on to dominate the world banking markets.

Another time, my son decided that I was doing much too well at the game, and played a stadium right in the middle of my occupied buildings. All of my tokens instantly rushed over to the stadium, leaving my entire scoring block completely empty. My score went from eight to zero in one turn. Meanwhile, his grandmother was buying up land like a turn-of-the-century oil mogul and protecting them with power stations.

I could go on and on... and on... but the point here is that, in only four plays of the game, I have seen an incredible number of ways to use Infinite City to completely ruin another person's chances of scoring anything better than one of those flimsy paper ribbons they give you in grade school because you showed up to the science fair wearing pants. I am quickly coming to believe that Infinite City, while a reasonably short game, may have its name because you just never run out of ways to stab each other in the duodenum.

Here's the problem, though - it's a blast. It's so much fun to try to build a good scoring pattern, maximize your bonus points, and break up your friends' plans, you'll find yourself playing it over and over. The tiles are really nice, and the art is beautiful. The writing tends to be a little tiny, which could bother someone with bad eyes, but after you play it a couple times, you won't even need to read the tiles any more. There are a finite number of building types (yet another failure on the part of the marketing team), and so you're not constantly inundated with new things to remember. By your second run through this smart, fast, brutal game, you'll know how most everything works, and be quite prepared to be completely ruined at the drop of a hat.

But fair warning, because AEG didn't provide it - this game is not Infinite. It most definitely ends, usually before you can figure out why you can't find your pants, or why your butt hurts so bad.

Summary

Pros:
Requires a great combination of planning and flexibility
Really easy to learn - the rules are on the tiles
Great art and high-quality pieces
Fast enough that it should be called something like 'Quick City' or 'Zippy City', if those names didn't sound like a small-town gas station

Cons:
One of the most back-stabbity games I've played in a long time (that could be a pro, depending on who you are)

If you want a quick, easy-to-learn game that provides a whole hell of a lot of good strategic game play, you should definitely check out Infinite City. And you should definitely get it from Dogstar Games, because without them, you wouldn't have been able to read about it here.
http://dogstargames.com/product/AEG5011

21 comments:

Wind Lane said...

It's not a regular word, it's a proper name, but a good contender to titular would be Lake Titicaca.

ninthdoc said...

This is my favorite game from BGGCon last year. :)

Jim said...

Infinite City? That's the biggest case of false advertising since The Neverending Story!

I love this game. We had a blast playing it the day I got it a few weeks ago. Now if only there were a way to acquire the Essen promo tiles...

LilNewbie said...

This is a great game! Simple to learn, quick to play and a lot of fun! Had a blast playing this with Ninthdoc, Aldin and Bixby at BGGCon 2009.

Drake stated: " titular city (if there is a word more fun than titular, I want to know about it)."

I like to throw the word "Asymptotic" around once in a while...

Anonymous said...

Brown Boobies are one of my favorite birds, right up there with The Blue Footed boobie.

So you take notes when you play games, that is so cool!

>Hendal

Brian Gomez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ninthdoc said...

Brian, I was all prepared to give you and experienced answer, but if using "assraping" in reference to your kids is the best that you can do, then you're on your own.

Brian Gomez said...

If a reader can't figure out that I was being figurative and not literal, that's their problem. Don't let that stop you from passing judgement though. If Matt finds it inappropriate and wants it removed, I'll do so in a heartbeat.

Matt Drake said...

Brian, I like all those games you mentioned, and this game is similar in piss-off-your-friends factor. It's really fun, but it's not for the faint of heart. If you play it nice, you'll take a hell of a beating.

ninthdoc said...

Regardless of what Matt thinks, if you don't find the slightest discussion of that disgusting, then you have no soul. I'm all for a discussion containing adult themes, but I'm drawing a line at that. Maybe if you'd seen first hand the damage done from that sort of behavior, you'd have a lick of common sense. Since you don't I can see discussing anything with you is useless. I'd be better off having an intelligent conversation with a cockroach.

Brian Gomez said...

I'm not quite sure why you're still discussing the matter. You're obviously offended and upset. I shouldn't expect rational behavior from someone in your shoes. You obviously have less of a tolerance level for such speech.

It's bad enough that almost half the comments on this review are about my comment. Out of respect for Matt's review so that maybe folks can focus on his review and not my vocabulary, I'm censoring my own commentary and making it a bit more PG rated. If you wish to discuss the matter further, my email should be in my blogger profile. Even if it's just to insult me and call me names, perhaps it'll be cathartic and healing.

Brian Gomez said...

NEW AND IMPROVED!!!
So if I like backstabby games like Hex Hex, Munchkin or Cutthroat Caverns, I'll like this? I think my kids are a bit too young to easily recover from the repeated "backstabs" they would suffer should they play against adults. Sounds like a great game for most adults and children old enough to deal with things like subterfuge and betrayal in a game.

Kurt said...

Another sale for our LGS because of one of your reviews. This looks to be a winner with our group. A couple of games and it seems to be accepted.

christgod said...

Fun game, just played it in Essen and bought it right away. The backstabbing is not so bad since you almost always get a chance for revenge.

Sharon said...

I'd put this on my wish list just based on the recommondation here. It was purchased for me for Christmas. We just played it for the first time last Friday (01/14/11) with a full 6 players and it was such a hit it's been requested again for this Friday's game night. The two players that came in just after we started and had to sit out still had fun watching us backstab each other from here to kingdom come.

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