The theme for Quinn Brander's Rebuilding Seattle (WizKids) is the reconstruction of the city after the Great Fire of 1889. The 2-5 players (plus there's a solo mode for solitaire play) each represent city planners responsible for their own individual districts. Over three rounds, you'll be developing your district, adding buildings and amenities, and boosting your income and your score.
With its huge number of cards and polyomino tiles of various colours, Rebuilding Seattle looks as heavyweight as the box feels. Don't worry. Tho' there are a lot of components and there's quite a lot going on in the game's interesting melding of several different board game mechanisms, Rebuilding Seattle isn't as complicated as it looks on first sight. Tho' Rebuilding Seattle combines polyominoes with city building in an engine building economic game, on your turn you are only choosing between three possible actions: you can buy a polyomino building and/or 'suburb' to add to your district; you can take and activate an Event card; or you can pass one of the three 'laws' on your individual district board.
Adding suburb tiles to your district gives you more space to add further polyomino buildings. Your starting district and the suburbs you add to it will have some symbols on them. Unlike most other games, you'll mostly want where possible to avoid covering those symbols up because they can give you points or extra income at the end of each round. Leisure, retail and restaurant buildings move you along an amenity track, and when you buy a card that gives you a polyomino tile it is likely additionally to raise your marker along one of the individual tracks for leisure, retail or restaurants, which you can expect to increase your end-of-round score or income. Players also have two 'landmark' buildings they can construct during the game. These are expensive to build but can generate potentially game-winning end-game bonuses; for example, adding points for adjacency of building types. In our plays at Board's Eye View, we always took account of this scoring potential in deciding where to place each polyomino even tho' we rarely actually built the landmark until the third round; not least because cash is especially tight in round 1.
Event cards give an immediate benefit to the player who chooses the card as their action but they also give a benefit to every player (including the player who activates the card). The Event cards also function as a game timer because a round only ends when the last Event card is taken. The key decision for players is when to take and activate an Event card: you want to time your choice so it benefits you markedly more than it benefits the other players.
Finally, each player's district has its own unique three 'law' options. Just once per round, you can opt as your action to activate one of your three laws for the single benefit that gives you. In subsequent rounds you can choose to activate the same or one of the other two laws.
So despite the daunting array of cards and polyomino tiles, Rebuilding Seattle isn't hard to play. It may not feel much like you are reconstructing the city - Rebuilding Seattle doesn't have as strong a historic and thematic anchor as Vital Lacerda's Lisboa (Eagle-Gryphon) - but there's a distinct game arc. That's because, as we've observed, money is tight at the start of the game but becomes more readily available in rounds 2 and 3 when you've built your engine for generating income.
Tho' the choices are straightforward, this is a game where there are a lot of options on offer (ie: a huge number of building cards; with another extra array of cards set up for three, four and five players). Moreover, almost every option is attractive and desirable, so Rebuilding Seattle is a game where some players may be at risk of succumbing to Analysis Paralysis (AP). For that reason, and to up the pace of play, we've tended to prefer Rebuilding Seattle as a two-player game. That said, with the right group of AP-free players, it can be a memorable gaming experience at higher player counts.
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