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Paris: La Cité de la Lumiere

In Paris: La Cité de la Lumiere (City of Lights), players are notionally building France's capital city during the time of the 1889 Exposition Universelle (world's fair). New-fangled electric lighting is all the rage and (clue's there in the title) you'll want to ensure that the buildings you place are illuminated by electric street lights because that's the main way in which you'll score end-game points.

Designer José Antonio Abascal has devised here a two-player game that's divided into two distinct halves. There's strategy and an element of push-you-luck demanded in each part. In the first phase, players will be taking turns to draw and place out each of their eight tiles that will together create Paris' cobbled streets. The tiles are each divided into four squares: these will variously be combinations of orange and blue (the colours of the two players), purple (the colour on which both players can build) and, on some tiles, street lamps. As an alternative to placing a tile, a player can on their turn instead take one of the building shapes that they will use in the second half of the game.

In the second half, the tiles from the first half will represent the playing surface. Now players take turns to place out the building shapes they collected in the earlier phase. They can only place building tiles over squares that match their colour or the 'shared' colour purple; they cannot place a building over their opponent's colour or over a street lamp. It can be tough enough finding places on the board to place your buildings but you have the additional consideration that buildings only score if they are orthogonally adjacent to one or more street lamps. There are bonuses too for buildings that are adjacent to others from the same player. The additional factor in this second part are the postcards that surround the playing area. There will be eight of these in play (from the 12 supplied). Each has a special effect or action and each player can claim up to four of the postcards.

Tho' players will be conscious of the Parisian theme, brought to life through the art of Oriol Hernandez, Paris: La Cité de la Lumiere is essentially an abstract puzzle game. To score well, you'll need to think strategically in the first phase about how best to place your cobbled street tiles, including where best to have the street lamps, and which building shapes to take. In the second phase, you'll find that both players are competing for spaces because both will be dependent on the open purple squares in order to find space for their buildings. The postcards offer the prospect of some tasty bonuses but you risk losing access to a space where you were hoping to build when you use a turn to claim a postcard rather than placing a building. There's a mitigating postcard, but usually there's a penalty for ending the game with any buildings which you've been unable to place.

Devir have done a good job in publishing this game. It's an attractive package that presents a challenging two-player puzzle game that takes no more than 30 minutes in total and so never outstays its welcome. Our one gripe is the choice of purple as the shared colour for the cobbled streets. When viewing what becomes the playing board for the second phase, we found it much easier for the blue player to 'see' the blue and purple squares as a continuity of available space than for the orange player to take in the availability to them of the purple squares. But then you can't please everyone, c'est la vie.

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