Sprawlopolis & Agropolis: A Delightful Urban Planning Puzzle

card games puzzles review solo mode travel-size games

Recently, we got a chance to try out an early copy of Agropolis by the folks at Button Shy Games. They also sent us a copy of Sprawlopolis, which is already in production. Both games can be combined using the free combo pack included in the kickstarter.

Sprawlopolis is a cooperative tile placement (or card placement) puzzle game where you build a city to very specific specifications. To score points, you’ll need to place each card carefully based on a unique set of success criteria.

Agropolis is a new, standalone version of the same game where you arrange a farming village rather than a sprawling city. A few new features add a bit more depth and challenge.

We used one of our Tuesday night livestreams to try both games as well as the combined mode and we had a lot of fun! We started with Sprawlopolis, then moved on to Agropolis, and finally we tried combining the two. Each game took about 20 minutes and playing them in that order was a nice escalation in terms of both complexity and challenge.

Sprawlopolis rules

Sprawlopolis comes with 18 double-sided cards. One side shows the four different types of “blocks”: commercial (blue), park (green), industrial (gray), and residential (orange), along with 1 or 2 roads running through them. The other side shows a scoring condition and a unique number that will help you determine how many points you need in order to win.

Shuffle your cards, then draw three and set them to the side of the board, objective side up. These are your objectives for this game. Add the numbers in the top left corner of each objective card to determine the target score. Review each card to understand how you will gain and lose points this game. These will help you decide how to place your cards.

Determine the starting player and give them 3 cards. Give all other players 1 card. All players should hold their cards so that only they can see the block side. You can talk about your cards all you want as long as you don’t actually show your hand.

Place the remaining cards in a deck somewhere that’s easy for everyone to reach with the block side up. This will give all players a preview of the upcoming card.

Finally, take the top card of the deck and place it in the middle of the table block side up. This will be the start of your city.

Now you’re ready to play!

On your turn, play one of the cards in your hand to add it to the city. Make sure all of your cards are oriented the same way and each new card touches the edge of at least one other card. The blocks need to be lined up to form a consistent grid, but the cards may end up with gaps between them.

You can also place new cards partially or completely on top of other cards. But you can’t tuck cards underneath anything that’s already been played.

When you play cards, connected blocks of the same type will form ‘groups’ which becomes important during the scoring phase. Likewise, road segments that connect together count as one continuous road.

At the end of your turn, pass any remaining cards in your hand to the next player and draw the top card from the deck if there are any remaining.

Continue taking turns like this until all 15 cards have been placed. Now it’s time to add up your points, subtract your penalties, and compare the result to your target score to see if you won.

Recall that touching blocks of the same type form ‘groups’. Gain points equal to the size of the largest group of each color.

Subtract one point for every road in your city.

Finally, take a look at the objectives and count up any bonuses or penalties.

Compare the total against the target score. If you met or exceeded it, congratulations! Your city has met exacting specifications and you’ve won the game. If not, you can always try again!

Agropolis rules

The rules for Agropolis are more or less the same with a few modifications. Note that, because we’re showing an early version of the game, the rules are still subject to change slightly.

The blocks in Agropolis are a little different. You now have cornfields (yellow), livestock (brown), orchards (red), and vineyards (purple). The cornfields, orchards and vineyards all operate just like the blocks in Sprawlopolis, but the livestock pens are a bit more complex:

There are 3 different types of livestock pens: cows, pigs, and chickens.

Also, livestock blocks contain either one or two pens. Some objectives will count the number of a certain type of pen that meets the placement criteria. In the case of a block that contains two pens, both are considered to be adjacent to anything the block touches, even if the actual pen doesn’t touch.

Some Agropolis objectives include optional challenges known as feed fees. You can use these to increase the target score, therefore increasing the difficulty of the game.

Here’s an example of an objective with a ‘feed fee’. If you decide to go for it, you will look for the symbol on the objective, and compare it with the symbols at the bottom of all your objective cards. The total will then be added to your target score. You’ll want to make the decision of which feed fees, if any, you want to play with before you take your first turn.

Proceed using the same gameplay and scoring rules as if you were playing Sprawlopolis.

Combopolis rules

For this, you’ll need both games as well as a combo pack. The combo pack is made up of six additional cards, each with blocks from both games mixed together as well as objectives that involve interactions between the different building types. It's available for free as part of the Agropolis kickstarter.

Shuffle the Sprawlopolis and Agropolis decks separately. Do not combine them and do not hand out cards. Set both decks next to each other somewhere within everyone’s reach.

Draw one objective from each of the decks and one from the combo deck. Another card from the combo deck will act as the start of your city. At this point, you can set the combo deck aside since you won’t need it anymore.

On each turn, you will look at the top card of each deck as a group and collectively decide where to put one of them. The other card is discarded. There’s no hidden information when playing with the combo rules.

When it comes to scoring, there is no difference between Agropolis roads and Sprawlopolis roads. Any one road can be made up of segments from both games.

When counting the largest group of each block type, count the largest 2 from each game. So you could have the largest residential and commercial plus the largest orchard and vineyard, but not the largest residential, commercial, and park plus the largest field.

Our thoughts

We both really enjoyed playing all three games (even though we only won once)! They felt challenging, though not unfair. The times we lost, we realized that we got too greedy and didn’t prioritize the right things. Trying to figure out the best move got really satisfyingly brain-burny at times.

High replayability

We only saw a few of the objectives, but the way they changed between the games strongly impacted the strategies we used and what we focused on while building our cities. Each individual game has 816 different possible combinations of objectives, so their replayability factor is excellent.

The flip side of that is that having so many different objectives means difficulty can vary wildly from game to game based on how the objectives synergize or conflict (in addition to the actual number of points needed to win).

Tiny footprint

We were impressed by the physical size of these games. It’s one thing to know that they’re “wallet games” and another to hold them in your hands. They can easily fit in a pocket or in a bag. These But even so, for many people shelf space is still at a premium and having a small physical footprint is definitely a plus.

Given the ongoing pandemic, we’ve been considering how easy new games are to play via webcam. The relatively simple board layout, limited shapes and colors, and cooperative nature of the game make these games solid options. They would be particularly easy to play remotely with friends, as long as you can point a camera down at the surface of your table and you don’t mind periodically moving cards (such as the objectives) closer to the camera. Depending on your setup, the text on objective cards may be difficult to read.

Production details

We had a production copy of Sprawlopolis, but our copy of Agropolis and the combo pack were pre-kickstarter versions, so we didn’t get a chance to see what the completed product will look like. That said, the Sprawlopolis rules are succinct and helpful and we're sure the Agropolis rules will be very similar. The cards felt sturdy and slid easily into their little wallet container.

Where to buy

All that being said, Agropolis and Sprawlopolis are both easy recommendations. They pack a lot of game into tiny packages! The basic gameplay of each is very similar. If you can only choose one, we'd personally recommend Agropolis since it adds just a little bit more depth and is slightly cheaper than Sprawlopolis. If you go for both, though, the combo pack means that you’ll have a whole new game mode to enjoy!

Update: We've got several copies of Agropolis available for sale!

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