Get knocked down seven times, get up eight – it’s a great motto to live by and one that the real-life city of Warsaw, Poland embodies. After every fire, razing, and world war, it picks itself up from the ashes and rebuilds. That is the basis for Warsaw: City of Ruins by North Star Games.
In this tile-drafting game, players are building Warsaw through six epochs, from its inception to modern times. Each player takes control of one district in the city and molds it into the best version they can make it.
At the beginning of each epoch, players are dealt four tiles. They choose one to play and pass the others around the table (to the left in odd-numbered epochs and to the right in even-numbered epochs). Every card has a play cost so money production is an absolute necessity. You can choose to discard the tile to gain three coins instead of paying its cost.
Your district can only be a 3 by 4 rectangle so tile placement is restricted. If you find a tile you want to play where there is another tile, build over the ruins of your city to gain better tile placement (and get a sweet reduction in the price of the new tile). You can build up to three tiles high, but you gain no points for the covered tiles.
At the end of the construction phase comes the income phase. In each of the first five epochs, there are milestones that players can gain based on if they meet the conditions. Only one player may win a milestone per income phase, so it does pay to watch what the conditions are that epoch. Milestones are free tiles that gain you advantages throughout the game. After epochs three and four, there are World Wars One and Two that happen, causing you to lose one or two tiles. That happens before victory points and coins are given out for that epoch, forcing you to chose carefully which tiles you lose.
There are five colored areas on the tiles: red for residential, yellow for commercial, blue for industrial, purple for cultural, and green for parks. Each of these gains you victory points and/ or coins during the income phase. Public building tiles are actual places in Warsaw that have different effects on your district (if you are a history buff or want to learn more about the city, the rule book does give a small historical blurb about the building). Some tiles will have a transportation icon on them, having two of those not connected nets you victory points as well.
At the end of six epochs, it’s time to add up all your final victory points and crown a winner. One extra bit of scoring happens at the end of the game: turning money into victory points. For every set of five coins they turn in, each player gets a victory point.
One thing I do love about this game is the box. When a game company puts thought into how your tiles are stowed, I can’t help but geek out. Each epoch has its own slot, with starting cards, milestones, and player aids making up the seventh slot in the castle. Mermaid tokens are held in place by a plastic piece that snaps in. Every bit of the tiles and box feels like it had a lot of thought put into it.
I’m not a history buff, but a bunch of my friends are. The first thing I noticed about this game was how quick the mechanics were to pick up. Our first couple of turns went really quick and we were evenly scored at the end of the second epoch. Unfortunately for me, my opponent snagged the Arsenal and lost fewer tiles during the wars. He also drew a lot of public building tiles so his district was less colorful than mine. Because we played a two-player game, we had a fairly good feel early on which way the other one was going with their district and sold off tiles to keep the other from using them (not nearly as easy to do in a three or four player game).
As the prices for the tiles went up each epoch, I resorted to building on top of my previous tiles and trying for an uber huge park to net more residential points with cultural centers aiding to my cause. Greg went for all the public buildings and coin production. Those additional points at the end of the game had me wondering if I was going to stay in the lead or lose because I didn’t have enough coins to earn extra points. In the end, I eeked out a victory, but I smell a rematch in the near future.
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Image credit: Dawn Dalton, North Star Games
Editor’s note: A sample of the game was provided by the publisher.