Underwater Cities – Rio Grande Games – Review

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Game Type: Modular Board


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Deliciously complex and meaty and beautiful to behold, Underwater Cities offers an interesting set of choices as you work your way toward building the most successful city underwater.

Drew Vogel

MeepleGamers

10/10

Publisher: Rio Grande Games


Designer: Vladimir Suchy


Artist: Milan Vavron


Game Type: Worker Placement


Game Type: Hand Management


Game Type: Route Building


Initial Year of Release: 2018


Age Range: 12+


Expected Playtime: 80-150 minutes


Number of Players: 1-4

Underwater Cities - Rio Grande Games - Review 1

Theme and What is it?


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9/10
In Underwater Cities, which takes about 30-45 minutes per player, players represent the most powerful brains in the world, brains nominated due to the overpopulation of Earth to establish the best and most livable underwater areas possible.

The main principle of the game is card placement. Three colored cards are placed along the edge of the main board into 3 x 5 slots, which are also colored. Ideally players can place cards into slots of the same color. Then they can take both actions and advantages: the action depicted in the slot on the main board and also the advantage of the card. Actions and advantages can allow players to intake raw materials; to build and upgrade city domes, tunnels and production buildings such as farms, desalination devices and laboratories in their personal underwater area; to move their marker on the initiative track (which is important for player order in the next turn); to activate the player’s “A-cards”; and to collect cards, both special ones and basic ones that allow for better decision possibilities during gameplay.

All of the nearly 220 cards — whether special or basic — are divided into five types according to the way and time of use. Underwater areas are planned to be double-sided, giving players many opportunities to achieve VPs and finally win.

Gameplay Mechanics


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9/10

Underwater Cities has several mechanics that are all straightforward by themselves, but blend into a complex — in a good way — game with many paths to victory. Worker placement, route & city building, tableau building, variable turn order, and end-game bonuses mean that you’re always considering multiple angles as you try to get the most victory points.

It’s a mashup of many mechanics, like so many games these day. Unlike some of those games, Underwater Cities manages to pull it off in an enjoyable fashion.

Underwater Cities - Rio Grande Games - Review 2

Initial Impressions


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8/10

Initially, when opening the box, I was overwhelmed at the amount of …stuff.. inside. Cards, boards, more cards, and tokens (so many tokens)… Honestly, it nearly put me off! It looks confusing, and it would be, but the well-written manual thoroughly explains everything.

Set up and tear down are still considerable, but the rule book makes it manageable.

Once your initial shock of all the stuff wears off, you’ll find a wonderful game full of strategic decisions.

Underwater Cities - Rio Grande Games - Review 3

Game Build Quality


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9/10

The quality of the components is appropriate. The cards are appropriately thick without linen finish and are durable after several plays. There’s not a ton of shuffling in this game (beyond initial setup of the game), so it may not be necessary to sleeve the cards. Little plastic tokens add dimension and color to the board.

There are nice touches throughout — the player info cards and the final scoring cards look impenetrable when you first see them, but once you understand them, they tell you everything you need to know about scoring. 

Additionally, the manual is full of well thought-out examples that illuminate the rules of the game in meaningful ways. As games get more complex, I appreciate appropriate examples more and more.

Really nice touches.

Underwater Cities - Rio Grande Games - Review 4

Artistic Direction


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10/10

The artwork is of a uniformly solid quality. It’s a slightly futuristic yet realistically realized environment. The game looks great on the table. 

Underwater Cities - Rio Grande Games - Review 5

Fun Factor


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9/10

The amount of “stuff” in this game, and the thorough manual (replete with examples) may make it feel a bit overwhelming. But within a couple rounds, you’ll feel comfortable with the methods and mechanics and the game will begin to hum along.

Underwater Cities also features a solo mode, but I haven’t played that yet.

Underwater Cities - Rio Grande Games - Review 6

Age Range & Weight


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The age range is 14+, though BGG lists it as 12+. I think with adult teaching and playing, the game would certainly be playable by 14-year olds.

BGG reports the weight as 3.56/5, and that feels about right for this game.

Underwater Cities - Rio Grande Games - Review 7

Conclusions


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10/10

Deliciously complex and meaty and beautiful to behold, Underwater Cities offers an interesting set of choices as you work your way toward building the most successful city underwater.

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