Suburbia Review


Designer: Ted Alspach

Publisher: Bézier Games
Number of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 60-90 minutes
Price (approx.):  50 Euro
A small town located in the shadows of a major city, just some houses and a park. A factory is built, money is made and new people arrive from the countryside, attracted by the growing wealth. Quickly this borough is bursting at the seams. All these new hands must be put to work and their kids must be educated. New houses and schools are built. New jobs are created. People demand shops and recreation. Happiness and economic progress go hand in hand. For now..
Overview:
What you get for your money:
A lot of tiles. You’ll get 124 building tiles, 20 goal tiles and a “one more round” tile. A lot of boards. You’ll get one Population board, one Supply board, one Building Stacks board, one Real Estate Market board, four Borough boards and four Player Aid boards. Some cubes, squares and cylinders in four colours. Three investment markers for each colours. A starting player marker (a blue block). The rules. A tile overview. And a lot of coins, 126 to be precise. 
How do you play the game:
The basic idea of the game is that you pick a building tile, pay its cost and place it in your own borough. This building will, in some way or another, ensure that you make more or less money or even lose money. And it will make sure that your reputation grows or reduces. When you have a positive reputation, you attract more people and your population grows. When your reputation is negative, your population decreases. 
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There are three building stacks, A, B and C. You’ll work your way through them and when the “one more round” tile, located somewhere on the bottom of the C-stack, is turned over, the game ends (after one more round). The player with the highest population wins.
OK, let’s go a little deeper into the game. The most important items in the game are the buildings. They have a name, a cost, an effect and a colour (blue:Commercial, green:Residential, grey:Civic, yellow:Industrial).
Suburbia’s gameplay revolves around two locations; the Real Estate Market and the Boroughs. 
In the Real Estate Market you can see the three basic locations, the goals, the 7 locations from the different stacks and their additional cost (printed on the bottom of the board). 
You’ll start the game with 15 coins, an income of 0, a reputation of 1, three investment markers, a secret goal and a basic borough; suburbs, a community park and a heavy factory.
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In your turn, you can do a couple of things. You can build a basic location and pay the printed cost. You can build a special location and pay the cost printed on the tile plus additional cost. On the back side of every special location, a lake is printed. If you want, you can build a lake and only pay the additional cost. Lastly, you can place an investment marker on one of your buildings and double the effect of that tile.
You place the tile in your own borough, adjust the reputation, income and population track if needed, claim your income and finally, adjust the population track according to your reputation.
The different tracks are adjusted in several ways. Every tile has an effect, immediate or conditional. The Freeway, for instance, it has an conditional effect that says: -1 reputation for each adjacent green tile and +1 income for each adjacent blue tile. The Convenient Store gives +1 income, no matter where it’s placed. The Municipal Airport gives you +1 income for every airport, in your borough or in other ones, but it also gives you -1 reputation when placed adjacent to a green tile. The Mobile Home Community doesn’t give you income or reputation, but it immediately increases your population with 6. 
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After the building phase, each remaining tile in the market is moved to the right (lowering the additional cost) and a new tile is added to the Real Estate Market.
There are many different tiles and their cost will vary according to their place in the Real Estate Market and their own value.  
The Population track has multiple population checks, represented by red lines. Every time you pass a red line, you’ll have to adjust your income and reputation track by -1. The more people that live in your town, the more difficult it will be to keep them happy. You cannot guarantee that past results are an indication of future gain. Keep on improving!
After the last round, you will check if people achieved their secret and/ or the public goals. If so, they will get additional population. An example of a goal and the corresponding reward is: when you’ve built the fewest Industrial buildings, you’ll get a +15 population bonus. 
As already said, the player with the highest population wins Suburbia.
Review:
Theme
I thinks this is a very thematic city building game. The building type and their effects go very well together. The interaction between the different buildings all make sense. The game is all about money and when you have money, your reputation will grow and your population will grow automatically with it (if you play the game properly, off course). But do not rest on your laurels, the people want more and better facilities.
Suburbia is city building in a box. Put your helmet on and proceed.
Gameplay
Let me say this first, the rules are, despite my messy, incomplete description above, pretty easy and the player aids make it even easier. If you follow every step that is described on them, you can’t go wrong. 
I don’t say this is a game for everyone, I think it is just above medium weight.
  
So the sequence of actions should be clear, but actions themselves can be considered fiddly. They slow down the game, at least for some people. 
When you place a tile. You first have to adjust the different tracks according to the immediate effect, then the conditional effect, then you have to check if adjacent tiles have effects that are triggered by this tile, maybe that is also the case with non-adjacent tiles or maybe you will also benefit from tiles in another player’s borough or they might benefit from your tile. It’s a lot of bookkeeping.
Well, you’ll probably remember the buildings that are in your borough, but the composition of other boroughs isn’t always as clear. So you’ll will have to check and double check, every time someone places a tile. 
If this slows down the game depends on the type of players you play with. When you play with people who are constantly involved in the game, looking at everyone’s moves, you won’t have a problem. The game plays very smoothly. It slows the game down a bit, but it isn’t annoying. 
The game slows down a lot when a player, after his own turn, pays only attention to his own borough and strategy and every time something is built: “Oh, what is happening here, what have you built, what do I get?”. 
I like it when everybody is responsible for his own borough. If you miss something, too bad. It keeps everyone focused. 
Suburbia is structured in such way that you’ll have to focus on income first and then slowly switch to a reputation/ population focus.  The different stacks are just designed that way. The A stack is very income focused and gradually more buildings, from the B and C stack, that favour reputation will be flipped over.
So basically, your grand strategy is predetermined. The public goals and your secret goal can serve as a guide and the in-game decisions depend on the available buildings and their cost (fixed and variable added together).
You are building your own little borough, but you really have to take into account what other players are building. There are many tiles that interact with tiles in other boroughs. This createsan interesting dynamicat the table.
Yes, there is a luck involved with the drawing of the tiles (some tiles are left in the box), but it’s limited by the large building offer in the market. The drawing of the goal tiles has a greater luck element in it. You can be very (un)lucky with your secret goals. 
The tile interactions are very well designed. They make sense and give you a lot to think about. You can plan ahead, but not that far, because the market is variable and other players could grab that building right in front of you.
I did notice, though, that after I’ve played the game a couple of times, the composition of my borough, after stack A was finished,  looked quite similar every time. Especially in a two-player game. I think this is partly due to the lack of competition in a two-player game, but I do wonder now if the game has a low replay value or not. I’m not sure about that. For now, I give it the benefit of the doubt. 
I’ve played the game with four, two and even solo. The first two are equally interesting. With four players there’s a lot of competition and the game is probably at its best (three players might be the same). With two, it’s reasonably quick and interesting. The goals don’t add anything to the game, in a two-player game, because there is less competition and then luck will be an (too) important factor.
I would not recommend a solo game. Too tedious.
Looks
Suburbia looks clean, tight and abstract. In this game, I like that. It looks like the model a city planner would use to convince investors and real estate agents to buy into their project.  It fits the theme, and it makes sure that the gameplay will remain orderly and neat.
Quality of the game parts
High quality game parts. Thick cardboard boards and tiles. Very nice. The income cylinders and reputation cubes could have been a bit bigger. They are quickly knocked over. Lastly, the supply board (money) is redundant.
These are some minor issues, but all in all, Suburbia is a very nice production.
Fun
I’ve played SimCity. Well, ‘played’. I’ve cheated. I’ve cheated, because I wanted to build a beautiful city with everything in it. I did not care about the happiness or the health of my people. People suck. Brick and mortar, rule. Yeah!
I’ve played the Sims. Well, I’ve cheated my way through it. Again. Rosebud. Money, money, money and then build the awesomemest house ever. Wallpaper, roof, everything. Spare no expense. I did not care about the people. Let them burn! 
Suburbia is just like that, the building without the people. Ok, there are people in Suburbia, but they don’t talk. No pesky thought bubbles (“I need food! Why is this room doorless?” Who cares!), no annoying pop-ups (“These houses have no water supply” Then buy bottles, @*&!). I’m just building my town here, making some money. Those people will arrive by themselves, eventually. (And make me, hopefully, win the game.)
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I find this game a blast to play. The interaction between the buildings, the whole money and reputation management, all very interesting and fun. 
I like that your borough is also interacting with other towns. It’s not multiplayer solitaire. You are all helping with the construction of this metropolis. 
Live in the town of tomorrow…
TODAY!
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One thought on “Suburbia Review”

  1. played it twice, it looks awesome and amazing. But there is too little interaction, and it takes up too much time for 1 playthrough. There is downtime when it’s not your turn, you can think ahead but when it’s your turn the possibilities are vast anyway. It feels the game should have been made tighter in terms of interaction.
    So in the end it means $45 of cardboard collecting dust most of the time.

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