Agropolis Review

There’s something about the color scheme in Agropolis that looks a bit dour. I understand that the folks at Button Shy probably had some trouble finding unique colors from what they already used in Sprawlopolis, but I’m not sure if the final result is an asset to the game as a separate property. Sprawlopolis tapped into that city-building color palette of vibrant blues and greens that’s somewhere stuck in our collective unconscious as being representative of the genre (from where, I don’t know). Agropolis reminds one of mid-90’s eurogames that were, for some reason, enamored with the color brown.

I’m complaining about the paint job because there’s not much else to criticize. In terms of the raw mechanisms, you’re getting more Sprawlopolis, which is still the best 18 card game I’ve ever played. Agropolis adds a bit more complexity via the animal pens that replace the green spaces from Sprawlopolis. Instead of a homogenous space there are instead pens for one of three different animals–cows, pigs, or chickens. You can tell the first two apart because you can see the animal. You can tell it’s a chicken pen because there are no cows or pigs inside. The chicken figures themselves are so small you might as well be looking at a drip painting.

Furthering the complexity, each animal type has both single and double pens, and over half of the scoring conditions involve these pens. For example, one gives you points for every pig pen next to your largest vineyard group. Another requires chicken pens completely surrounded by a road loop. Overall I’ve found the scoring conditions to be much more difficult here. To wit: I’ve only won one of my handful of games, and I’ve never beaten the more difficult scoring threshold they provide in case you’re a savant. 

Check out, for instance, the “Count Your Chickens” scoring condition, which has you attempting to put chicken pens directly across a straight road from other chicken pens, because, of course, chickens are well known to enjoy roads. I don’t recall even the trickiest of Sprawlopolis’ challenges having that level of specificity.

Speaking of, Button Shy is including a small combo expansion in their Kickstarter campaign that lets you combine the two games into one. Appropriately, it’s called “Combopolis”. When I heard about this I had dreams of creating a mega-city filling up my table, but alas a combo game is only a couple of cards larger than each of the individual games, as you only play half of the available cards. Besides crushing my dreams Combopolis ends up being worse than either game individually as everything feels watered down. The mixed-scoring goals provided in the 6 card expansion are neat, but you otherwise play with one scoring card from each set. The problem arises when those scoring cards reward quantity, as you’re then encouraged to play almost exclusively from one set rather than combining them.

Once I played with a scoring card from Sprawl that wanted me to line up blue and orange squares along roads. Even though each turn I drew a card from both sets, the ease of scoring from that condition meant I almost always chose a Sprawlopolis card. At that point, what’s the point?

Regardless of these small gripes, Agropolis is still just about as much fun as anyone can have with 18 cards. While I suspect I’ll default to its predecessor more often than not, I do appreciate the additional challenge it brings. Aramini, Devine, and Kluka have done something amazing with this series of games, maximizing what can be done with the humble card with an elegance I can only aspire towards. The Kickstarter is only live for a few more days, and they’re offering everything in the “-opolis” set of games for $30. That’s a steal. Get it.

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