Memory is a tricky thing. I could have sworn I used to own a copy of a game called Capital and traded it away because meh. When I got my hands on Warsaw: City of Ruins, I was told that it used to be called Capital when it was originally issued in 2016. I read the rules and it all seemed familiar to me…and yet not only is there no record of me having owned the game in my BGG collection, there is no separate BGG entry for Capital at all–it’s simply treated as an earlier edition of Warsaw: City of Ruins.
Not only that, but when I played it this time around, I liked it a lot more than I remembered. Solid, interesting gameplay, great graphics–apparently no different than the previous printing, though…hmmm…Mandela effect? Or is it just another case of “it’s all in the name”, since “Capital” is about as generic and bland as can be, whereas Warsaw: City of Ruins (W:CoR henceforth) sounds dramatic and redolent with history.
In W:CoR each player builds up a separate district of Warsaw over six epochs beginning in the 1600s. Players draft and place tiles to construct their districts, and at the end of each round the tiles activate to award points and money.
The game imposes a 3 x 4 limit on the size of your district, which means as the game goes on you’ll be forced to build up instead of out by laying new tiles on top of old. This allows you to tweak your strategy over time and react to what other players are doing.
One interesting twist is that at the end of the fourth and fifth epoch, each player must destroy tiles in their city–one after Epoch Four to simulate the tumult of World War I, and two after Epoch Five to reflect the even harsher destruction of World War II. In either case you aren’t allowed to split your city–everything has to stay contiguous–which means you must plan ahead to think about endgame strategies.
Finally, each round has a special randomly-picked Monument tile that is awarded to the player who best satisfies its condition: most cultural districts, for example, or best rapid transit system. Monuments can give significant rewards, although in later rounds they’re going to activate fewer times so they’re not as key.
Money is very tight in W:CoR; it is essential to build a solid economic engine early because tiles get more and more expensive with every Epoch, and there are some especially tasty-but-expensive buildings that can net you a lot of VP. Wasting a draft by discarding just for the money is something you want to avoid as much as possible. Every five coins is also worth a point at the end of the game, so you can really rack up endgame VP’s if you can bring in the moolah (or, um, zlotys, I guess).
The game that most comes to mind when playing W:CoR is 2015’s Between Two Cities. It’s also a city-builder with tile drafting and placement, but without a historical theme to the special buildings and monuments. BTC also has more player interaction, since your score partly depends on the configuration of your neighbours’ tiles, and ironically also has a solo mode. Whereas W:CoR is more multiplayer-solitaire without a one-player variant, and has cute mermaid-shaped scoring markers, because according to the rules mermaids are a Thing in Warsaw. Who knew?
In the end it comes down to how much you value history/theme versus interactivity. They’re both good light- to middle-weight games. Try’em both.
Warsaw: City of Ruins is published by North Star Games, who supplied a review copy for this article.
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