The Daily Worker Placement

Friday, December 6, 2019

MegaCity Oceana: Precarious Architects

by | published Friday, November 8, 2019

The Gold Coast of MegaCity: Oceania is a very different one to the one from my childhood. Instead of looking out from the coast to the ocean, the coast is rather seen from the large oceanic structure that players of the game will construct to deal with sea level and population increase. I’ll be honest here, I didn’t mean to go with back-to-back reviews of games where humans have messed with the planet so much they’re forced to innovate/leave but.. Well, here we are! It’s a good reminder to be good to the Earth – especially because I’m not going to be someone you want in charge of contributing to any real MegaCity if my experience with this dexterity strategy game is anything to go by! Save the planet lest we are forced out of game-world and into the oceans. 

MegaCity: Oceania is a light strategy and dexterity mash-up that plays out in a decently short time, with a variety of building contracts to mix up your game experience each time. It also scales nicely for length with various players, you’ll just need to have fewer contracts available with smaller player counts. These contracts drive the game and shape the city as players aim to complete them matching their various prerequisites and join them to the MegaCity. With at least two contracts of each type of building (residential, commercial, public, industrial) available at the start of the game, it gives players plenty of opportunity and choice for plans. Every contract specifies an exact or minimum height, exact or minimum number of building pieces, and then a particular architectural goal. When a structure is successfully built and delivered, a player will turn its contract facedown for game-end points. 

Contracts aren’t the only points-generator in this watery architectural colony. During the game, you might wrest the accomplishment for tallest building, earning you prestige; perhaps you’ll install a new monument in Central Park for prestige; or even at the end of the game, win one of the awards on offer for majority or diversity of building types. And never, ever forget that you can earn big prestige if you base your platforms around parks – but those parks must have monuments installed. For we must not forget culture in our MegaCity. At any rate, the game is a grab-bag of prestige points and you will most likely get a big bump at the game’s end – and I like that up on the first page of the rule book it states the variety of point sources (and then follows up with a detailed list later).  

The bread-and-butter of your turns boils down to either two simple actions, or choosing to deliver a platform. Actions consist of the more practical stuff – taking a platform, taking a contract, taking 3 building pieces at random from the bag – and the more “administrative” stuff as I like to think of it – “rezoning” a platform (flipping it to the other side for a different colour base for a building), refreshing the platform piles to get some new options, or reorganizing contracts to shuffle through to the next option in a pile. With contracts, platforms and building pieces in front of you, you can start working on your masterpieces. The bonus of this is that players will spend their downtime building up their structures to be ready to deliver, rather than waiting for everyone’s turn to pass. I can’t imagine the drag that would be!  

Structure building will be determined by the parameters set out on contracts. Perhaps you’re looking for a not-too-tall building, that has to have no pieces overlapping as you build up. Or a tall building that also requires an upper archway! Each of these provides their own unique challenges, as does the layout of your platform. Each platform has a vent (a hex that indicates the colour of the reverse side) and three utility points situated at different spots on each tile. Unless you have a contract that states otherwise, you’ll need to avoid the vent and make sure you’re at least touching (if not covering) the three utility ports. This absolutely can make things a tricky dance of placing your building pieces – but hey, a city needs utilities! You’ll likely find yourself taking a few turns here and there that are just taking building pieces twice, to mix and match and find out what works for your intended builds. The struggle of perfect pieces is real! 

Delivery is a turn on its own, and it’s a doozy. You’ve spent some time getting things just right, as per your contract card. Check your height (“uhhh how is that not 30mm?”), the number of pieces you’ve used (“check out the extra stuff I stacked up there just for fun!”), the elements of the platform you’ve covered (“no seriously, where did the vent go? Oh no!) and then pop a cube of your colour on there to signify it’s yours. Now? It’s time to slide it out to meet the rest of the MegaCity. Oh no! Oh yes. If I had a recommendation for you, it would be: make sure you play this on a pretty smooth table surface! Because during the delivery phase, if any parts of your structure fall, your turn is forfeit and you have to start again. Watching the slowness with which players can gently slide their platforms is nerve-wracking and maddening. Success is almost always greeted with a “whoop!” even though this is a competitive game. The sheer human feat of succeeding at a dexterity task brings us together. And we all learn a little more about the physics of building weird structures and sliding them around. 

After a successful delivery, you can choose 1 of 3 park-related follow-ups to end your turn. Either place a monument in the “Central Park” (aka the starting tile), replacing whatever is there and earning you a point, place your own park tile adjacent to the platform just delivered, or build a monument in an empty park adjacent to the platform you have just delivered. The “monuments” are a building piece you opt to get rid of by placing it, and if you’ve had a particularly frustrating piece that hasn’t helped it can feel nice to make it into “art”, so to speak. Why not do this every time you deliver? If you are keener on saving your supplies for the next building for flexibility, it might not be worth the prestige point gained by tossing one piece. However, as you near game-end, getting rid of surplus pieces is better than the negative points they’ll cost you (and better than the one-point “recycle” turn you can optionally take at the game’s end). The key part of the parks are the game-end scoring benefits – squeeze in and around and between park tiles because your proximity to these will be a big boon for prestige goodness. It can be somewhat terrifying if you have to slide your platform further to get to a better park-adjacent position, but it’s worth it! 

Once there’s a decent flotilla of platforms out on the table, the game comes to an end. My only gripe with the later part of the game is the point where you’re trying to pivot to end up delivering a more complex Landmark Contract on your last turn. For me, it can be super variable as to when game-end is triggered (the last standard contract being taken) to when the last turn is triggered (the last standard contract being completed) and I’ve not seen anyone get to a point even remotely close to completing a Landmark. They are large structures with very specific requirements, and I feel like I’d need at least a couple of turns to forage for the right pieces to construct something. Perhaps this is an aspect of the game that players will only see once they’re practised MegaCity architects, or the entire table of players doesn’t rush to complete contracts and rather builds up their supplies along the way. It’s natural to get in there to grab and complete contracts when you can – they’re a big points-driver! I think perhaps pacing the building would work out better. 

It’s been really interesting watching different people play this game – the way they build their structures, the choices they make in pieces used and the like. It’s all a little bit unique and it’s a fun part of the game’s experience to me. So far most of the gameplay focuses on grabbing contracts, platforms and building pieces; I haven’t seen too much need for the simple actions like wiping the platform tiles to see new ones, or reorganizing contracts. However, it’s great to have those options there if needed! I can’t tell you how many games that have a flop of cards or tiles to choose from don’t have a way to change things up and it can be a frustration.  

I like that MegaCity: Oceania is easy to dive into – the actions and rules are all really straight-forward. There’s a lot of great examples in the rule book too, and you’ll have most of your questions answered there, which is nice. I do wish there were some way to have a small player aid with a simplified version of the back page reference guide, to avoid passing around the rulebook for people to check what their construction parameters mean. But despite my one or two quibbles, it’s hard to fault the game overall – it’s got fantastic table presence that will be sure to attract players, and the simple help of the rulebook will ease in newer gamers to play. The experience feels serious and silly all at once, and I love what’s come out of mixing strategy and dexterity in this regard – building/stacking etc. Most of that mix has previously been in the “flicking” genre (Catacombs, Flick ‘em Up, etc). So just don’t drink like, 5 cups of coffee before trying this and you’ll be just fine!  

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MegaCity: Oceania is a light strategy and dexterity game for 2 – 4 players, taking approximately 45 – 60 minutes. Designed by Jordan Draper and Michael Fox, it is published by Hub Games and distributed by Asmodee in North America. Thank you to Asmodee NA for sending a copy of the game for us to try! 


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