Updated: Nov 23, 2022
Published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), Shake That City is a tile placement city builder game designed by Mads Fløe and Kare Torndahl Kjaer; both of whom can be seen among the Covid masked men in our Board's Eye View 360 taken at this year's Spiel (Essen). Art is by Olga Kim. The 2-4 players are placing tiles out on their individual player boards to achieve end-game scoring based on each tile's orthogonal adjacency to others. That means there are obvious similarities with other town and city building games; for example, Tiny Towns, which is also published by AEG. The USP here is the cube shaker device which, once assembled, is designed to randomly position nine cubes in a 3 x 3 grid.
The colours of the cubes that are deposited by the shaker each corresponds to a tile type: red cubes are homes, green are parks, blue are shops, black are factories and grey are roads. The game is played over 15 brisk rounds. For each of the first 12 rounds, players take turns as the active player - gently agitating the shaker on the table (lift it or shake it too violently and you risk sending cubes flying out the top) and pushing and releasing the slider so that nine cubes are deposited in a 3 x 3 grid. The active player then chooses one of the colours with which to build and picks up the corresponding number of tiles of that colour. They then place them on their individual board but they must be in exactly the same pattern as they appeared in the grid... The other players simultaneously choose any of the other colours in the grid and take and position the corresponding tiles. The other players can all choose the same colour if they want, they just can't choose the colour picked by the active player. The only difference in the final three rounds is that all players have a free choice from the colours in the grid (ie: there's no active player pre-emptive picks).
Tho' the cubes and tiles represent just five building types, Shake That City is an individual puzzler that gives players plenty to think about. Roads only score if they are connected to the 'concrete' edge of the board (made more difficult if you are all playing with the individual boards on their 'beachfront' side). Factories score for adjacency with roads and with other factories. Shops score more if they are in a central location but if they are not at the edge of a board they have to be connected to the edge by road. Homes score unless they are in a block that's adjacent to a factory but you're incentivised to reduce housing density: you score for each group of homes, so an orthogonally connected row or block of homes scores no more than an individual home tile. Finally, Parks score for adjacency with a factory or home. In addition to this tho' you can score bonus points for meeting the requirements of the bonus tiles which players position along the edge of their boards. These tiles also help ensure that players' individual boards are all in the same cardinal direction on the board (important for ensuring that the positions players place their tiles properly corresponds to the position of the cubes in the grid).
The Board's Eye View team has had a lot of fun playing Shake That City. Like other city building games, the dynamics and players' priorities for picking tiles switch during the course of the game as individual boards fill. We found that, early on, players tended to go for selections that maximised the number of tiles they could place but as their individual board filled, they'd increasingly choose a colour that gave them fewer but better-fitting tiles. Towards the end of the game, players can find they have to make an unfavourable selection (for example, placing factories next to homes) simply because the pattern of the cubes on the grid gives them no other legal choice.
We've appreciated the variants included in the package: not just the alternative 'beachfront' individual player boards but also the additional optimisation puzzler thrown up by the 'Construction Variant' which blocks spaces on your board until you are able to remove them. The rules also offer the option of a greatly simplified family game variant where players ignore all the adjacency rules and score only for the bonus tiles on the edge of their boards. Played this way, Shake That City becomes a super-fast easy-to-play pattern matching game that even quite young children can enjoy. Finally there are a couple of solo variants, adding still more to the versatility of this appealing game.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a prototype of Shake That City ahead of the game's launch on Kickstarter on 29 November, so it's possible that components may differ in the finished version of the game. We'll add a link to the campaign when it goes live.