Ginkgo Box A review of Ginkgopolis Vacabck (Originally posted on Board Game Geek 12/8/2013)

In the year 2212 urban planning goes green and we the planners, are tasked with building a habitable, thriving city and keeping our resources in check.

Ginkgopolis is a City Building/Area Control game for 1-5 players from Xavier Georges, the designer who brought us such games as Troyes, Tournay and Carson City. In it the players use their resources to build buildings to gain success points. At the end of the game, the player with the most success points wins.

At the beginning of the game, the players select three character cards which will tell them what resources they start with and also form the beginning of their tableau of cards, that tableau will continue to grow through the game as you add cards to it and those cards will give the players bonuses based on the action that they take on their turn. These three character cards can be given out either at random by following the instructions in the rule book or you can have a draft for the cards. The players are then dealt a hand of 4 cards from a deck made up of card A-L and the 1-3 cards of each of the three colors.

On a turn, players simultaneously select from 1 of 3 possible actions, when everyone has selected their action they are revealed and starting with the starting player the players resolve those actions. Players can Exploit, they can Urbanize or they can Construct.

In order to Exploit, the player plays a card by itself in order to gain resources, victory points or tiles. If the player plays a card with a letter on it, they get the choice of either a tile or a resource. If a player plays a card with a number on it, the player gets rewarded with the proper reward. If the card is blue, you get tiles, if the card is yellow you receive success points and if the card is red you get resources. Each of those is equal to how many floors the tile of the corresponding card is stacked. For example, if a player plays a Red 17 card and the Red 17 tile is the third floor of a building, the player receives 3 resources. The player then places the card they played into the discard pile.

In order to Urbanize, the player plays a card with a letter and a tile. Around the modular board, Urbanization tiles from A-L are placed outside each tile. So when a player Urbanizes, the card tells the letter where they are expanding the town and building a new building by placing a new tile. Also when placing the tile they gain the item that the adjacent tiles represent, as many of those items as the building adjacent is high. For example, a player plays the B card and the Blue 6 tile. The player would place the Blue 6 tile where the A disc is, moving the disc outside of where they are building, the player would also place 1 of their resource tokens on the tile signifying that they have now built a new building that is 1 floor high. They would then collect the resource of the tile adjacent and any other bonuses that their tableau of cards bestow upon them. The player then discards their card played into the discard pile.

In order for a player to Construct another floor to an existing building the player will play a card with a number and a tile signifying that they are going to add a floor to a building that is already in the city. In order to build another floor, the player must have the available resources. If the tile they are going to place would be the third floor, the player would need to have three resources to place on the building. If the player is placing a tile of a different color on top of a tile, the player has to place one extra resource back into their supply as a “penalty” for playing a different color tile. If the player is placing a tile with a number lower than the tile they are building on, the player has to pay the difference in success points in order to be able to build that floor. The player then would place the card that they played into their tableau for bonuses.

After all of the players have played, they pass their three remaining cards to their left and are dealt one new card. If the draw pile of cards does not have enough cards, new cards are shuffled into the deck corresponding to the new tiles that have been played in the previous rounds. Play continues along this way until the piles of tiles have run out. When the tiles have run out the players choose how many tiles in their possession they want to return to the draw pile, collecting one success point for every tile they place back in the draw pile. When those tiles have been exhausted the game ends and success points are tallied to determine the winner.

Success points are gained in various ways, through play the players can gain success points via card play, returned resources, etc. Cards in the tableau that contain an equal’s sign are tallied for success points. Then districts within the city are counted and success points given out accordingly. A district is an area in the city that contains two or more tiles of the same color that are adjacent. Resources are counted up and the player that has the majority gains success points equal to the total number of resources in that district, second place receives the amount of resources equal to how many resources they have in the district and on down the line. Each player also is given two tokens at the beginning of the game that they can turn in when they would like a new set of 4 cards, those tokens are worth two points apiece at the end of the game. The winner of the game is the player with the most success points.

And that is Ginkgopolis in a nutshell.

The hardest thing for new players of this game to get used to is going to be knowing exactly what each action gains you as a player. But the symbols on the cards are easily interpreted and once they are properly explained most will have no problem knowing what to do after a round or two. The rule book is well laid out and easy to follow, with well written examples of play and a good breakdown of the end game bonuses on the cards at the end. The components are top notch, from the wooden resources to the cardboard chits they are all of the best quality and look fantastic on the table as the game is being played. With the tiles being the playing board and the player’s tableau’s constantly changing, it means that no two games will ever play the exact same way, sometimes you will have to try to score victory points as fast as you can based on the cards, sometimes it pays to keep urbanizing the board because of the bonuses you are gaining, but you will need to think on your feet and have the ability to switch up your strategy at a moment’s notice sometimes based on what is going on around you.

I’ve introduced this game to as many as will try it out, from my 9 year old daughter, to my Mother in Law who’s heaviest game played with me so far had been Biblios. All have expressed that the game was enjoyable and after that first play they would have no problem picking it up again. Ginkgopolis has all the makings of a great light/middleweight game. It’s easy to teach and it’s beautiful on the table. A definite winner in my book.


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