Type of Game: Tile Placement and Pattern Building
Number of Players: 2-4
Designer: Orlando Sá & André Santos
Artist: Tiago Lobo Pimentel
Publisher: MEBO Games / Arcane Wonders
Publisher Arcane Wonders graciously provided Comic Book Yeti with some of their lighter, less complex games. The newest of the group being Neotopia, a tile-placing puzzle played out across three separate board regions that each score independently of one another. It’s quick to teach, learn, play, and it’s FUN!
Players take on the role of entrepreneurs in the not-too-distant future year of 2055. Together, you set out to create the most advanced city the planet has ever seen, but really you want to be the one who’s best at it. Factories produce four Elements: Sustainable Energy, BioFarming, Technology and Community. You’ll use these Elements to construct projects across three regions of the city, but you must be diverse in your projects and build off what your competitors have started to help complete your own projects. Sound confusing? It isn't! If you're not into the backstory or are playing with younger gamers, everything is color-coded with a symbol to make play easier to understand; “I’ll take the green tile to complete this card and increase my points on this track.”
HOW IT WORKS
The game board consists of three regions, separated by Factories. Factories produce the Elements that are used to complete projects by being placed into a region. An Element can only be played in the two regions it touches. In the middle of the game board are a stack of Production tiles with Elements on top waiting to replenish an empty Factory. As this occurs the Production tiles are discarded, acting as a countdown to the end of the game. There are also bonus tokens that can be obtained by covering certain parts of a region and by certain scoring benchmarks in each region. Bonus tokens allow you to place Elements, gain cards or perform more actions.
On a turn, players have three actions that they can perform. The two types of actions are:
Move an element from a Factory to a Region
Draw a Project Card
These two types of actions can be performed in any combination. Projects show a certain configuration of the Elements and how many points you will score if you can complete that arrangement. Finish a project to score the card for points in that region.
End-game scoring breaks down like this:
First-highest scoring region
Second-highest scoring region
Your lowest region score is multiplied by three.
Remaining bonus tokens score three points each
The player with the highest score wins!
Neotopia can be played with two, three, or four players. Any player count works, but the higher the number of players, the less planning you can do. The more players there are, the more the board changes and the fewer available Elements. I’m a big fan of two-player games and this game, for me, is at its best with two players. Your moves can be a little more calculated and you aren’t waiting as long to make them.
The components are great! The Element tokens are a nice chunky acrylic. The Production tiles and Bonus tokens are a thickness of cardboard that will hold up with handling. The game board is colorful and almost everything is marked very well as to where things should go. My only complaint is that each region is surrounded by very faint semicircles. These are utilized by one of the bonus tokens, but very hard to see just looking at the board. I would also love to hear from someone with a Color Vision Deficiency. The Element tokens are double-coded, but I am interested in how the board translates.
Neotopia is a high-quality, yet simple-to-learn game that I'd recommend for anyone looking for a way to bring the family to the gaming table this holiday season. It's a good gateway game that I’m more than happy to bring to the table for gamers who may want to branch out from Settlers of Catan but not quite ready for something as multifaceted as the Battlestar Galactica board game. If I’m with a more experienced group, however, I feel I may skip over this more often than not.
I played a game of Neotopia with fellow CBY contributor Jimmy Gaspero. Here’s what he thought…
“I really enjoyed the simplicity of Neotopia. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with more complex games, but it’s nice to have a game with an interesting concept/backstory that I can also play with my 11-year-old where she isn’t already bored by the time we finish reading the rules. I played this with 3 players and I liked how the pace of the gameplay increased quickly as everyone got the hang of the game mechanics. There is a good bit of strategy to this as well, planning which tokens you are going to take to match a given project card, and so there is an opportunity to perhaps unknowingly beat a competitor to the punch by matching your tokens to a project and gaining that card before them.”
If you like the concept of this game, Jimmy mentioned a comic from Literati Press called We Promised Utopia. He said:
“The design of the game and certainly part of the theme of Neotopia reminded me of We Promised Utopia. The graphic novel is set in 3 different time periods: the present day, a utopian future, and a dystopian distant future. It heavily involves the climate crisis and is a fascinating read.”
For more info, listen to the podcast episode where he interviews Literati Press about this comic.