The Capitals (A Board Game Review)

Time for another board game review, Action Force.

Today’s game is The Capitals from Mercury Games (http://www.mercurygames.com/index.php/games/product/14-the-capitals).  Mercury Games is a company I don’t know much about, but they produced the very cool Infamy, a board game about becoming the criminal overlord of a space colony.  That’s fun too, and I’ll get around to reviewing it too but The Capitals is the one I’ve played most recently and freshest in my mind.

The Capitals is a city building and management game.  Gameplay revolves around drafting various building tiles, placing them in your city, and managing several different tracks measuring the various statuses of your town.

Okay, so it doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise, but stick with me here.

At its most basic level, The Capitals is a game about management and planning.  Every building you incorporate into your city will have some effect, often including buildings around it.  Place a doctor’s office near a housing building for maximum effect.  Build a business consulting complex in your business district.  Put down the museum of industry in your industrial-themed city.  And so on and so on.

As you build up your town, you’re also managing several tracks.  There are benefits to having the highest culture level (and penalties for having the lowest).  You can’t have more employment on the employment track than you have population, but if your population is higher than your employment, you end up losing prestige points (the object of the game).  You can’t neglect your city’s budget.  Or its growing power needs.  Or its need for solid public works.  And in the end, the player who manages to build the most prestigious city wins the game.

If it sounds like a lot to keep track of, it certainly can be.  However, The Capitals overcomes this by being very user friendly.  A key part of this is due to the consistent iconography.  Within a turn or two, a glance is often all that’s required to know what every building does, and the status tracks allow players to know how well they’re doing in comparison to other players without resorting to guesswork or complex calculations.

Turns are quick, and the game has a suggested playing time of 90 minutes.  It’ll probably take longer than that for your first game or two, and I expect a full game of five player would probably take longer.  But for a complex game, The Capitals succeeds in being rewarding without bogging itself down.

About the only complaint some players might have with the game is that there isn’t a lot of direct competition between players.  There will be times when you lose a building because another player gets to grab it first, and the culture track ensures that players will be fighting for valuable tourists.  But cities don’t affect each other directly, and for more competitive players, this might be a negative.  Personally, I’ve never had a problem with games like this, but I’m not a dominator-type player who only really feels as if he’s winning if he’s overpowering the player across the table.

Also, there are a few typos and timing issues in the player’s aid.  Not a deal breaker, but a bit annoying.

I don’t own a lot of these types of games because they tend to be too dry for my liking, but The Capitals is a solid game that has appeal to players who aren’t looking to blast aliens or conquer nations.  If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that almost any theme can make a good game.  Seriously, I own a game based on trying to be the most popular kid in high school and another game about selling real estate (and they’re both good).

So The Capitals gets a Thumbs Up from me.

Lee

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