The Electropolis board game is a light-to-medium-weight tile-laying game for two-to-four players that takes about an hour to play. While the box says ages 12-plus, gamer kids as young as eight will probably be fine with it. Thematically, each player is trying to balance the power needs of their own town against its pollution output by placing power stations and public facilities, while collecting energy tiles. But in essence, this is an abstract game with a theme that gives what you’re doing a thematic hook.
Related: Essen Spiel 2022: Reviews incoming
In the box, you’ll find eight sturdy boards (one per player, two support tracks, plus turn order and score track), 38 cards, 144 tiles with a tile bag, 20 chunky wooden tokens, and a few cardboard tokens. All the components are of high quality and the iconography is simple to follow. However, the overall look of the game is a little grey and drab for my tastes, although some find it charming. Comparison site Board Game Prices shows it for around £35. However, for the UK, you’ll need to import it which adds another £10 or so.
Teaching the Electropolis board game
Electropolis is a simple game to teach, which is made all the easier by there being no hidden information. Each player gets their own 5×5-space player board, with the central space only used to show your player colour. Before play, you’ll reveal thereof the six Trend Cards and place them face up. These are end-game scoring cards for all players, so add a little extra variety to each play. A game lasts eight rounds, with four Development Cards being revealed each round. You also draw 14,16, or 18 tiles from the bag, depending on the player count.
The tiles are randomly placed in a circle (in the same way as Patchwork, if you’re familiar with that). Players then place their player pieces on one of six spots on the Turn Order track, which will indicate how many tiles they’re going to take this round (between two and six, with two ‘three’ spaces). The fewer tiles you take, the earlier you’ll get to place on this board next time. Then, in the new turn order, players take exactly their allotted number of tiles from the circle, plus one of the Development Cards. The wrinkle is the tiles you take can be from anywhere in the circle, as long as they are all in a row.
Placing your tiles on your player board
Development Cards have two pieces of information on them; either an immediate or end-game scoring condition/bonus, plus information on which section of your player board you have to place this round’s tiles. The size of the placement areas gets more generous as the game goes on, with unplaced tiles drawing a penalty. Only buildings (power stations and public facilities) go on your board, with energy tiles going to the side. You’ll want matching power sets to score (eg. a coal plant, plus a cola energy tile), but you must also manage pollution (most plants create it, while public facilities balance this by giving public support).
Points come from your development Cards, the shared Trend Cards, and power plants (if you have matching energy tiles for non-green plants). You may lose a few points for empty spaces on your board, and potentially big points if your pollution outnumbers your public support. The number of points lost is the square of the difference, so if you have a deficit of five pollution, you’d lose a whopping 25 points. In a game where scores come in around 100, this can make the difference.
The four sides
These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.
- The writer: While it doesn’t look like much on first inspection, the Electropolis is one of my favourite tile-laying games of the past few years. While the rules are simple, the decisions always seem tricky. Design-wise everything slots together perfectly, with just enough going on to keep you thinking but nothing extra thrown in for the same of it.
- The thinker: While not deep enough to keep me coming back regularly, I did enjoy the game. The fact that you don’t know what tiles you’ll get if you’re not first is delicious. Taken with the fact early choices get you first dibs on a card, but that leaving blanks on your board means you want lots of tiles, is a fun conundrum. A good-looking, clever, and surprisingly interactive game that I’ll definitely come back to.
- The trasher: From a distance, Electropolis looks like a heads-down boring euro-style game. But the importance of turn order, especially once the game has been going a while, really ups the score for me. You start to see what people need, and where they need to place. So going early and taking a particular card can mean a big point swing. This isn’t going to be a go-to game for me, but I’ll certainly always be happy to play.
- The dabbler: While the look is a little dull (a bit more colour would’ve helped!), it only takes a few minutes to get totally engaged in this puzzly little game. You have to be aware of other people, sure. But just solving your own little board dilemmas was fun enough to keep me engaged. A really good game.
One thing I really noticed is how different Eloctropolis plays with different player counts. There are no changes to set up or gameplay with fewer players, so only two Development Cards are taken with two, which makes it a lot easier. It also removes the tension of turn order choice, as there are so many spaces. But on the flip side, you won’t see all the tiles which means it is possible for things to get a little lopsided distribution-wise. I still enjoyed it at all player counts, but a bit more development to detail could’ve removed this quite easily.
I’m a little worried about replayability, largely due to the low number of Trend Cards. These make each game feel different, shifting the focus for everyone. But there are only six in the box, where it feels it would’ve been pretty easy to at least double that without much thought or added cost. Finally, while I really like the game, it didn’t wow many people. however, I only played with one person who was meh about it out of more than 10 who tried it.
Conclusion: Electropolis board game
Electropolis has been a hit for me and most people I’ve played it with, making it a definite keeper for me. It’s relatively small, simple to teach, and broad-ranging in terms of the types of players I would teach it to. While I would’ve preferred a bit more colour, the art, production and design are also top-notch. Overall, a pretty fabulous little package.