“Mad City” is a game that presents a very real scenario, and a compelling time challenge. Players become city builders, each trying to build a city filled with the most houses, factories and skyscrapers. In addition, every city looks best when filled with parks and lakes, so they cannot be overlooked during the building process. The object of “Mad City” is to create the best and most complete city by placing 9 tiles in a 3 x 3 grid. Each tile features different city elements, but the catch is that every player is trying to arrange their city tiles at the same time, and points are awarded after each round, based on who has built the best city after just 60 seconds. It takes 150 points to become the winner, which means multiple cities must be built and several rounds played, prior to determining the overall champion.
The game is suggested for 1-6 players, ages 8 years old and up and a typical game lasts around 30 minutes. The game contents include 6 double-sided player boards, 6 score cubes, 1 Park Ranger Tree, 54 city tiles, 54 scoring tokens, 24 contractor tokens and a 60 second timer. “Mad City” has been designed so that there are several different versions that can be played. There is the base game, which we will describe in more detail, the standard game and a solitaire variant. In the base game, the scoring tokens and contractor tokens are not used.
To begin play in the base game, each player receives one player board, flips it to the base game side, and places one of the score cubes in the 0 starting position. The Park Ranger Tree is placed in the middle of the table, so that it can be reached by all of the players. Each player then selects 9 of the city tiles at random from the felt bag (included), and passes them face down to the player to their left. When everyone is ready, the 60 second timer is turned over and all the players turn over their tiles and begin to arrange them in a 3 x 3 grid. Players try to position the tiles such that houses, factories, and skyscrapers (each a different color) shown on the tiles are placed in contiguous zoning areas adjacent to each other. The more of each building icon accumulated within a zoning area, the more points will be scored. If a player has a city that includes several parks or lakes, he may want to grab the Park Ranger Tree prior to the time expiring. That player and only that player will then receive additional points for the parks and lakes in his city. Play stops when time expires, and each city is scored.
Scoring is based on a Zone Point table that is shown on every player board. The more buildings shown in a separate zoning area means more points are awarded. Areas are not contiguous if separated by a road or if only connected by corners. Bonus points are given to the player who has the Park Ranger Tree, but that player must first count up his parks and lakes and check the scoring table. Finally, points also go to the player with the longest road in his city grid. Every player then moves their score cube from the 0 position the number of spaces corresponding to the number of points earned during the round. Rounds continue until one player reaches 150 points and is declared the winner.
Mayfair Games has also included some additional rules that can be used to spice things up just a bit. After mastering the base game, players may want to tackle the standard game. In this case, the scoring and contractor tokens are used, and the player board is flipped to its opposite side. The main difference is that the zone scoring is delayed until a player builds a certain number of zones of a particular type. The scoring tokens are used to keep track of the many building combinations and the contractor tokens can provide bonus points to the player with the longest road, most houses, most factories, and most skyscrapers. There are also several solitaire versions of the game, where players try to challenge themselves to accumulate more points each time they play.
We played “Mad City” multiple times on a daily basis over a two-week period. We found the base game of “Mad City” had universal appeal. The game moves extremely fast, and the more you play, the wiser you get regarding how to arrange and position the city tiles. With that, more points are earned and game strategies suddenly emerge. The standard game was a bit more complicated at first, but once we had it mastered, we found it did add an additional level of excitement for more experienced players. Of course, we always love a game with any sort of solitaire option, and “Mad City” was certainly fun to play on a solo basis.
— RJ Cullen