Urbion Review

Designer: Shadi Torbey

Publisher: Z-Man Games
Number of Players: 1-2
Playtime: 15 minutes
Price (approx.):  10 Euro
Good and bad dreams live in harmony in the city of Equilibrion. You must keep it that way, but beware, chaos is lurking around the corner. 
Overview:
What you get for your money:
The rules and 106 cards.
How do you play the game:
There are basically three types of cards in the base game: City, Dream and Chaos cards. On the 12 city cards are two element symbols, namely earth, fire, water or air and on the dream cards one of those, plus a positive or negative number (good or bad dream). Your task is to balance the cities.
In your turn you put a card from your hand with a the negative or a positive number next to a city with the same symbol. There are four cities on the table. You take a new dream card and do it again or you can discard a card and swap two card on the same side from one city to the other. If one or more cities are balanced (-2,-2,+4), you can discard a dream card and claim those cities. If you have claimed all 12 cities before the dream card stack is empty, you win the game.
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Simple? Think again. There are 8 eight Chaos cards shuffled into the dream deck and when you draw a chaos card, you have a choice. You put that card down on the stronger side of one city or you discard this Chaos card and in addition either discard four dream cards or discard all cards of a balanced city.
Two expansions are included with this game. The first expansion is The Books of Powers. Before you start the game you may decide to include a book of power that gives you a special action when you discard a card. But for every book you decide to use, you must discard 2 dream cards first.
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The second: Arch-Squares & Metas. This expansion adds city cards with all elements on it and dream cards with a positive and a negative value.  When you add this expansion,  you need to balance more cities to claim victory than in the base game.
Review:
Theme
The illustrations give you a very dreamy feel, but the game does not pull you into the city of Equilibrion.  I do really feel like I’m battling Chaos when I play this game. The city is peaceful and I’m putting my plusses here and my minuses there and think: “Ok, all is good now, I’m going to claim four city cards next turn”. And then, BAM!, Chaos card. How am I going to fix this?? Still, the game feels very abstract.
Gameplay
On the one hand, this game has a lot of math. You know exactly which symbols and numbers there are in the game. But on the other hand, you don’t know when these cards come up and in addition to this you have these Chaos cards that will mess up a your plans. So, this game also has a significant press you luck element in it. 
The gameplay is very clean and easy to understand. It is very tight tough. I’ve never won easily, it always comes down to the last couple of cards.
The base game already has a lot in it and the two expansions add even more. And they are very well balanced. At first you’ll think that the expansions will make the game easier. But that is not the case. They give you more options, yes that’s true, but at a certain cost (more cities to claim or less dream cards to work with).
The expansions and especially the Books of Powers add a lot to the replay-value.
The box says you can play this with two players, but I think that Urbion is a solo game only. The two player version feels a bit wonky. One player can only play bad dreams and the other good dreams, it’s all a bit silly. There are much better cooperative games out there.
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Looks
The art is very dreamy, very psychedelic. Not everyone will like it, but I find it very beautiful.
Quality of the components
Nice cards with a linen finish.
Fun
I have to be honest, at first I didn’t like this game at all. I bought it because I wanted a nice, quick and portable solo game. I played it a few of times and was defeated every time. A victory wasn’t close, not even on the same continent, maybe not even on the same planet. And I thought: “This isn’t fun. If I want to get beaten up, I’m going to dry hump a leg of a rugby player..” I put it back in the closet and did not touch it for a while. One day, I thought: “This can’t be right? I game can be hard, but this will surely not be the intention of the designer.”  So, I read the rules again and it turned out that I got a couple of critical rules wrong. Silly me. Played it again, defeated again, but now I at least got the feeling I had a fighting chance.
Brought it with me on a plane, played it a couple of times. “Well, this is a very nice game!” I got home and played it some more. Added the expansions and the game got even better. Every time I want to do better than the last time. It’s quick, so you are able to cram a couple of games in half an hour (if you a fast thinker). It took a while, but now I’m quite fond of this little game.
You must be able to handle setbacks, you have to be persistent. You have to like the math, but luck is also a major factor. Urbion is a quick, very nice, solo game. It’s in a small box, so you can take it with you everywhere. Play on a plane, on a bus. Buy it, it’s cheap. Try it. Don’t like it? Give it away.

 

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