Genre: Worker Placement w/ Tile Exploration
Play Count: 2-4
Play Count as of this Review: 8
- The components for City of Gears are outstanding. Without a doubt, they are some of the best you will find in any board game. While it does not have fancy metal tokens or resin miniatures, it does have wooden robot meeples that are unique to this game, plastic Cogs that are inventine in their usage and lastly, city tiles that are thick and sturdy cardboard with custom layouts. City of Gears has a table prescense that makes you want to explore to see the next tile and pull the next Cog from the bag just to feel it. The layout and inventive nature of placing the Cogs in-between the city tiles gives City of Gears an look that makes it stand out from its competitors. The game really leans into the steampunk theme and City of Gears is better because of it. A few of us did remark however that we were not sure if this game would still be enjoyable to us if it wasn’t for the unique theme and excellent components due to the paint by numbers actions afforded by the city tiles and Cogs. A good comparison might be Wingspan; a game that is fine on its own but definitely bolstered by the art and components.
- As a worker placement game, City of Gears stands out due to its use of Cogs. Cogs can be used as bridges so that players robots can move from city tile to city tile, they can be used for their bonus ability by activating them on a player board and they also count for area majority when final scoring occurs. It is a simple mechanic that is included in most of the decision making of the game and again, looks incredible on a table.
- The other aspect that helps City of Gears stand out is the bonuses associated with linking tiles together (by activating a tile that has a Robot and then having Cogs connecting other city tiles to the one you activated). This can be incredibly popular and more than anything is the cause for interaction between players. Keeping players Cogs away from city tiles will impact end of game scoring but in our plays, we found that more often than not players were targeting the Cogs that would break the link when activating a tile. With the limited amount of resources and the randomness of the dice rolls when finding out what actions you can take that turn, link bonuses offer a monumental shift when used properly.
- There are a ton of city tiles so no two games will ever play out the same. This is nice as there is no dominant strategy (as you do not know which tiles are in play or even which Cogs will come up when). The strategy of City of Gears was rather interesting as players won’t have a feel for the board until it is all revealed but by that4 time, it may be too late to make a push in a particular direction. Players will lean heavily on the drawn Cogs more so than the city tiles in my opinion as you are guaranteed to see certain scoring Cogs but that is not the case with the city tiles.
- City of Gears is a lightweight game. The decision making is straightforward but there is enough behind each action that players can create a strategy and course of action. Even with the planning of an action, I do not think there is enough here to trouble players that worry about having too many options. That being said, many of us were left wanting more. Players are limited by their dice rolling and their stored action tokens (which are limited to one of each type of action plus a wildcard location where you can store a second action token of one you already have saved). It felt hard to pull off the satisfying combos that the game teases you with and more often than not, you were left splitting your ‘big’ turns between two turns. Which is fine; City of Gears does not pretend to be something more than it is and for what it is, the game is a solid worker placement with interesting mechanics.
- City of Gears is a four-player only game in my opinion. The box says it accommodates two to four but in two and three player games, the ‘board’ is just too open and players are basically either playing a solitaire experience or they need to be super aggressive; there is no middle ground. If you want to explore the map, the less playing the game the better. If you want to interact with others, play with more people. However, I found the game at four players to still be slightly open and we debated utilizing a smaller map to force one another to have to be more aggressive. The other issue with lower player counts is that it is far too easy to string along bonuses and if one player is able to get a Cog that allows them to draw Cogs more than once per round early in the game, things can get out of hand relatively quickly.
- Speaking of the Cogs, there are forty to draw from which makes for a wildly variable experience each time you play. I really liked this but we did run into issues where one player got a ‘good’ Cog early and there was no way to catch up or it impacted players abilities to do other actions. Besides my earlier example, another was a Cog that allowed players a chance to save their robot in the event it is destroyed by another player. As destroying opponents robots is basically fifty percent of the interaction that is encouraged in City of Gears, the prospect of halting that action is powerful. That alone gave players reason to pause in their quest to destroy an opponent but later, that same player drew another Cog that let them reroll a die if it landed on a certain face. This effectively gave them two chances to save that robot (if they wished). The other players at the table no longer saw the point in targeting that player as it would be a waste of their limited actions. Now, having those two Cogs in their development area did mean they did not have end game scoring or other Cogs there but this player won handedly so something worked. This was a highly unique scenario but it was not uncommon for something similar to this to happen each game. While other players can work to ensure the king at the table is dethroned, there is a limit to how much you want to throw at a problem that cannot be solved.
- There are no negative consequences to your actions. There is one city tile, the Casino, that allows you to roll a die and you have a chance of losing one point (but also a chance of gaining one or four points). Players are free to explore tiles as quickly as they can without repercussion. Landing on a space where another player resides has a threat of action but it requires them to have the right actions available to them that turn (and the desire to want to take that action). This is a lightweight game but I rarely needed to worry about not being able to do what I wanted, only when.
- Regardless of player count, I do not see this game taking more than an hour to play. On one hand, this felt perfect. The game is light and quick and has never felt like it overstayed its welcome. On the other hand, it felt like once the game truly got going it was over. Once you are able to do the truly fun stuff (linking multiple tiles to gain benefits), the game should be in its final rounds as players start drawing the opening day Cogs from the bag.
- The end game of City of Gears is interesting to me as well. The game ends when three of the four opening day Cogs are drawn from the bag. We had ample discussion over just not drawing anymore Cogs. Players could freely run up the score as wanted. You may also have a player just draining the draw bag to force the end of the game. It doesn’t feel organic and feels slightly disappointing as you are limited in what you can do to mitigate these factors. If you’re trying to rush the end of the game, the dice rolls may not align with that strategy. If you are trying to prolong the game, there is nothing you can do to keep others from ending it.