City of Gears is a steampunk themed game that mixes a lot of things I love, like robots, worker placement, and engine building, with the added bonus of high replayability.
Theme and What is it?
There was once a rich man who built a magnificent city, all run by gears. Unfortunately, he died before he was able to complete it. Many years in the future, corporations are competing to restore the city and be claim prestige as the founder. City of Gears is a steampunk themed combination of worker placement, engine building, area control, and dice rolling.
The game begins by selecting 9 random city tiles (of 21 possible) and arranging them in square, face down.
There are four phases in a turn. The first is producing resources, which you do by rolling dice. There are three resources available from the on the dice – steam, zaps (lightning), and gears, with some faces of the die giving you a choice between resources.
The second phase is activating tile(s) and gaining link bonuses. You can only activate tiles with one of your workers, and you must pay any additional cost listed on the tile. If you do activate the tile, you gain the benefit listed, which can be more resources, prestige (victory) points, and other actions. You also gain a link bonus for every tile you have connected to the activated tiles. The link bonuses can be resources, points, or the ability to reroll some dice.
The third phase allows you to perform as many actions as you can afford. You can move your workers by spending zaps or steam, as long as the locations are connected by your gears. If you end on an undiscovered (face down) tile, you discover the location by flipping it over and gaining two victory points. You can draw gears from the bag by spending gear resources, and then you can use one of the double sided gears face down as a link connecting two locations and another as a face up development. The development gets you a bonus that you can use every turn, if you’d like. You can also spend zaps to demolish other players gears or send their workers back to their corporation’s factory.
The final phase is the spoil overages phase, where you discard unused resources down to one of each type (plus one wild), and you can also exchange zaps for one prestige point each.
Once all nine tiles have been discovered, four white “opening day” gears are added to the draw bag. Once three of these gear tiles have been drawn, the game ends immediately. Players tally all of the prestige tokens they have collected, gain victory points for controlling a location (having the most links and/or workers), and for end game developments. The player with the most prestige points wins and is remembered forever as the founder of the great city of gears.
I LOVE steampunk and robots, as well as engine building and worker placement, so I was super excited to try this game out. The rule book was straightforward and linear, which made learning easy. I was also excited when I opened the box and realized it was the deluxe version – the wooden tokens and worker minis are awesome!
Game Build Quality
This game is very high quality! The cardboard is thick and the tiles align very well. The wooden tokens are unique shapes, look amazing, and came in the correct distributions (we never ran out of a particular token type). The worker miniatures are cute, though I wouldn’t have minded wooden shapes here, personally. The gears are nice too, and I enjoy the double sided nature. They fit into the spaces with a little extra wiggle room, so you won’t damage the cardboard. Although the sticker wells on the gears are recessed, they did get a little bit of wear being mixed around in the bag frequently. Although I have not tried this yet, others have recommended sealing the gears with a matte sealant.
The art fit very well with the steampunk theme of the game and it was fun to look at all of the unique designs on each of the location tiles. The iconography was also clear and consistent. If I could make changes to the art choices without regard to price point of the game, I would have made the worker miniatures grungier looking (maybe with some sort of wash?) and added background art to the location tiles.
I thought the game had a really nice arc, with different tensions throughout. At the beginning of the game, there is the excitement of discovering new tiles and the tension of balancing building an engine with establishing dominance at the locations. Once all of the locations are discovered, there is the familiar push your luck tension for the remainder of the game, as it can end at any moment. It also played rather quickly, which was nice for a game of medium complexity. A few times players had bad rolls, which meant they were unable to do the things they wanted. This can be frustrating, though there are many developments that help mitigate the luck of the roll.
Age Range & Weight
The suggested age is 8+, which maybe feels a little young since there is a decent amount of reading involved and a few complex scenarios to consider. I’d suggest 10+ unless the child had some experience with moderately complex games. Since a lot of what you’re able to do depends on a dice roll, I think it’s hard for a player to get lost in overplanning and could be good for players prone to AP.
City of Gears is a steampunk themed game that mixes a lot of things I love, like robots, worker placement, and engine building, with the added bonus of high replayability. It’s on the lighter side for the number of mechanisms it employs, which means it could be great end of night game for a group of heavier gamers or a more complex game for lighter gamers. It also has fun tension with the press your luck mechanism that ends the game and with the luck of the dice roll.
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