With its similar box, font, format, art and aesthetics, you might well think Streets is an expansion or a modern-times reskin of Sinister Fish's earlier Medieval-setting game Villagers. You'd be wrong. Tho' both games are designed and illustrated by Harken Gaarder, and both are 'city builders', they are very different games.
The premise for Streets is something of a cris de coeur prompted by gentrification. Players are placing out tiles representing hip businesses, artistic communes and start-ups in an increasingly burgeoning city. Players have hands of three building tiles and, on your turn, you place a building out so that it forms a street along with the other buildings placed by you and other players. Tiles are laid out adjacent to one another in rows. If you lay a tile the same way up as a tile it is part of the same street but tiles laid out at 90º to its neighbour start off another intersecting street. You can 'close off' a street by placing a tile at the end at 90º, and that causes the closed off street to be scored.
When scored, each building earns income for specific symbols in the street (parents/tourists/hipsters/shoppers). So, for example, the Chillax Spa earns $2 for every tourist icon in the street. Tho' you can't see what specific buildings other players hold in their hands, you can tell from the coloured back of the tiles what type of buildings they are - information that you will want to take account of in deciding what tiles to play, tho' the icons for which a building scores aren't always the same as those on the tile itself.
Whenever you lay out a tile, you populate it with one or more meeples corresponding to the icons on that tile. When a street is closed off, you'll score $1 for each of the meeples on your buildings. However, the fickle meeples then vacate the enclosed buildings: the player who closed off the street places them on an appropriately matching building that's not in the enclosed street.
Streets is a light easy-to-play game for budding developers and entrepreneurs. There are tactics involved in choosing which of your tiles to place out when and where, and in deciding when to close off a street both to trigger scoring and to attract the meeples already gathered in that street. The game takes 1-5 players but, from our Board's Eye View plays, we preferred it with 2 or 3 players because with more the game state often changes too much between your turns, making the game more chaotic and slowing play because it's not so easy to plan your turn while others are taking theirs.
The game ends when all the tiles have been placed out, and the winner is the player who has collected the most money. You can expect most games to run for 30-40 minutes.
Streets benefits from the sky-high production values that we've come to expect from Sinister Fish. This certainly isn't one of those games where you're buying a big box that's mostly filled with cardboard inserts and air: within the compactly packed oblong Streets game box, there are smaller boxes inside for the wooden meeples and building ownership markers, and there's even a hessian money bag to store the money tokens used in the game. The deluxe edition shown here on Board's Eye View has screen-printed meeples and wooden money.
Both the deluxe and standard editions also incorporate two mini expansions that add on optional rules. If you play with the Business Expansion then, whenever a street is closed off, players choose one of their buildings and they collect a token corresponding to that building's business icon. The tokens score end-game set collection bonuses. With the Consultants Expansion, players each have a card that gives them an asymmetric ability. These make the game a little more complicated because they mean that players aren't all playing to the same rules. You need to be careful too to ensure that you exclude particular Consultant cards with certain player counts... We've incorporated the Business Expansion in most of our plays but the Consultant Expansion hasn't proved as popular, not least because it gave rise to much debate over whether or not some of the cards were overpowered. Maybe too, keeping it simple is part of the charm of Streets.