Quick Review: Suburbia (the board game)

I study suburbs so it was appropriate that I received the board game Suburbia for Christmas. Here is my review of the game after three playings:

1. The game is built around constructing five different kinds of land: residential zones, commercial zones, industrial zones, civic zones, and lakes. You purchase hex pieces and your suburb grows as each zone gives you different abilities such as a growing income, a growing reputation (which increases your population), and more money. Because it is hex based, it is kind of like a cross between Catan and Carcassone where the hexes allow you do things but you have choices of what you build.

2. Like in real suburbs, zoning definitely matters. You have to keep certain properties away from each other. For example, industrial zones usually decrease the reputation of adjacent residential or civic zones. One residential zone, housing projects, have to be the most removed as they decrease your reputation if placed near residential, commercial, or civic zones. Because of these different zoning rules, you tend to have clusters of different properties. The one thing that can help break up the clusters? Lakes.

3. It is interesting that you have to reduce your income and reputation each time you cross a certain population size. As the game goes along, you have to find ways to keep your income and reputation up because as you grow, these go down. As the game suggests, quality of life is hard to maintain as your suburb grows larger. Thus, having a growing population is a kind of penalty even though you need the biggest population to win.

4. Getting a Casino and a PR Firm can really help you win – if you can afford them. They don’t come along until later in the game but they stop you from losing reputation/population (Casino) and income (PR Firm) when you cross each population threshold. These would be harder to obtain in a four player game but in a two player game where one player had both, they made for an easy win.

5. One nice twist of the game is that the players look at four common goals and then each player has an individual goal (unknown to the other players). Winning each goal (and ties do not count) leads to a population bonus so your planning and zoning is affected by these different goals. This helps vary the gameplay quite a bit.

6. One oddity: each player is building a borough and all of the boroughs constitute suburbia. The terminology for the level below suburbs as a whole likely reflects regional terminology. But, why not use municipality? Community? Just call each player’s board a separate suburb? Players actions can affect those of others so it makes some sense that each board is not a suburb but I found the word choice interesting.

As a suburban scholar, I think this game does a nice job simulating some of the broad aspects of suburban life. As noted above, zoning matters but a winning outcome also likely requires a mix of zones as a community needs population, income, and reputation to get ahead. Finding the right balance can differ from game to game given the goals.

2 thoughts on “Quick Review: Suburbia (the board game)

  1. Pingback: Board games for which I am thankful | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Responding to “The Disturbing History of the Suburbs” | Legally Sociable

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