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Tangram City

Played over six rounds, Uwe Rosenberg's Tangram City is notionally a city-building game where the 1-5 players are laying out on their individual boards green or red tiles made up of various squares and triangles, scoring each round for the largest rectangle these make in combination and for the balance between the number of green and red tiles. The tile shapes you draft from your 23-tile pool are determined by cards: you'll know in advance what shapes are coming up but players each have imperfect information as they mostly don't know other players' cards until these are played.

The tiles are all red (buildings) on one side and green (trees) on the other but several of the shapes are irregular so that a tile that fits in a space on your board on one side won't necessarily fit when flipped to its other colour side: something else to weigh up when planning your upcoming placements.

Other than the final round, which uses three face-up cards, each round uses four cards regardless of the number of players, but for each player count there's a different arrangement of which player gets a card face down (ie: not seen in advance by the other players), whether or not there's a face-up common card and which players share sight of a card. In our plays at Board's Eye View this seemed to be the fiddliest aspect of the rules. Otherwise the only fiddly aspect was in locating the tile depicted on a card: it definitely helps speed up the game if players are able to spread out their 23 tangram tiles rather than have them heaped in piles that have to be rummaged through for every card.

Tho' it's otherwise mechanically very simple, Tangram City is a tantalising puzzler. For most of the game you'll almost always have a good placement open to you but the challenge is to optimise your placement so it's not just good but the best it can be, especially taking account of the shapes you know are about to be made available. And as the game progresses and your board fills, you may well find that your early success in maximising your scoring for creating a large rectangle has left you with gaps into which none of the shapes will fit, hitting you with wasted turns and meaning you won't qualify for the end-game bonus for completely filling your board.

The theme of Tangram City is paper thin, of course: this is most definitely an abstract strategy game - you don't really think of yourself as planning out a city in any meaningful sense. No matter. It's a satisfying abstract game; tho' probably one to avoid if you suffer from red/green colour blindness.

Tangram City is published by Korea Boardgames, with art by Makoto Takami.

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