City of the Big Shoulders – Parallel Games – Review

City of the Big Shoulders is a great game. It leaves you wanting more and wanting to do better each time you play. If you enjoy 18xx-style games and want a less lengthy game, this is for you! Or if you are not sure if you would like 18xx-style games, this is a great one to try.

Mary Crabtree

MeepleGamers

9/10

Theme and What is it?

8/10

In City of the Big Shoulders players take on the roles of entrepreneurs and investors seeking to rebuild Chicago into a city fit for the world stage. In this unique merger of 18xx-style stock manipulation mechanics with euro-style gameplay, players start companies, trade in shares, hire employees, equip their factories, produce goods and sell them to be delivered to homes across the Midwest.

Although City of the Big Shoulders features a large amount of strategic depth and rewarding gameplay, it does so in a shorter timeline than is typical of most heavy economic games.

Gameplay Mechanics

10/10

The publisher describes the mechanics perfectly. Considering this is a heavy game with a lot of mechanics, I will use their summary.

Players play just five rounds (also known as decades) in about two and a half hours. Each decade consists of five unique phases:

A Stock Phase where players can buy and sell stock (They can also purchase new companies); a Building Phase where players rebuild the city of Chicago, placing action spaces on the board; an Action Phase where companies send their partners to make deals across Chicago; an Operating Phase where companies buy resources, produce goods, and ship them out of Chicago; and finally a Cleanup Phase where the board is set up for the following decade.

At the end of the fifth decade, the game ends. Players then exchange shares that they have purchased over the course of the game for cash, are rewarded for any of the public goals they have accomplished over the five decades of play, and tally their money to determine who is Chicago’s greatest resident.

City of the Big Shoulders is an excellent mixture of several mechanisms. Worker placement is a popular mechanism in the gaming world these days and incorporating this into an 18xx-style game is brilliant.

Initial Impressions

7/10

I had never heard of this game and it was heavy. It took me some time before we got it to the table, but I wish I had done so sooner! Do not let the beast of a box fool you. This is more medium weight that heavy in my opinion but it is a lot of game.

Game Build Quality

10/10

The component quality is superb. All the tokens (resources, goods, automation, etc) are wooden and painted. The game board is a robust cardboard. The player mats and company mats are thick, cardstock and sturdy.

Artistic Direction

8/10

From a personal standpoint, I am not fond over the art, however it is on point for the time period and theme. Because of this, it is not overly bright and colorful and will not draw you into the game. But, the artwork is fantastic. I have no complaint other than it does not draw me in.

Since I have played this game, it doesn’t matter to me because it is something we will keep playing, but if I was browsing my FLGS and saw this, I would not be attracted to it or interested.

Fun Factor

10/10

We have played this twice now and my entire group loves it. This is probably our first 18xx-style game. I don’t believe we have ever really played one. That being said, I don’t know that we would want to try a heavier one. City of Big Shoulders was perfect for many reasons: no extended length of gameplay, easy-to-understand rules, not an extreme amount of math, etc.

So far my favorite company to play was Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. aka the BBC. It was slow to build up but once both factories were running, it had a great payoff. I made a critical error in the fourth decade that completely cost me the game, but you live and learn.

We love old school games with paper money. We play Empire Builder, Iron Dragon and even Monopoly. There is a lot of satisfaction with paper money.

Age Range & Weight

10/10

The suggested age is 14+. I 100% agree. Although the game is not difficult, it is still a lot of game. There is a lot of economic presence that would probably bore a younger audience but is challenging to the older audience.

Conclusions

10/10

City of the Big Shoulders is a great game. It leaves you wanting more and wanting to do better each time you play. If you enjoy 18xx-style games and want a less lengthy game, this is for you! Or if you are not sure if you would like 18xx-style games, this is a great one to try.

It is always great to try before you buy a game. Sometimes, it is not that easy if you are not around a FLGS that allows you to demo, etc. Fortunately, in this case there is a Print-and-Play file available on boardgamegeek.com

Go now and print! Try this! It should not disappoint you!