10 March 2009

Under The Spotlight

This week we look at Blue Moon City.

The Dark Age is over. The royal heirs, whose infighting and pride caused the destruction of Blue Moon City, have fled. The corrupt advisors and courtiers who whispered into their ears have been banished. The bitter division between the peoples of Blue Moon is beginning to heal. Now is a time of harmony and hope. But Blue Moon City remains in ruins, the barest outlines in the rubble giving a hint of the magnificence of the city before its downfall. The people have vowed that the city must be rebuilt, and the three elemental dragons have returned to help. As messengers of the god of Blue Moon, they have the power to reunite the Holy Crystal that once protected the city. The only question that remains is this: To whom will they bestow the new mantle of leadership?

Blue Moon City is this week's game in the spotlight. Set after the events of the Blue Moon card game, also by Reiner Knizia, Blue Moon City tasks players with reconstruction efforts to rebuild a destroyed city. Bryan Bornmueller, the Senior Sales Associate at Fantasy Flight, is an avid Blue Moon City fan. "Blue Moon City is the FFG game that I keep coming back to. I love that each game you are forced to accept your fate and deal with the hand you are given. You can't come into the game with any preconceived notions of what strategy to use. You need to be able to react to cards you are dealt and the choices of the other players or you are doomed. Every turn in Blue Moon City you are faced with tough choices, do you use your cards powers or finish a space?  Do you empty your hand to finish off a space, or wait for another player to do it for you?  Do you discard the extra card to try to draw something better? Add in the great art and components, short turns and a low learning curve and it easy to see why I love this game. I have a soft spot in my heart for Blue Moon City, as it was one of the first unreleased games I ever got to play when I started working at Fantasy Flight."

The game is very quick to pick up and play. The city is laid out first. These are the buildings that you will be competing to build. Everything is constructed around the Obelisk tile. This represents the center of the city, and is where you will make offerings. More on that in a bit. Every player will start at the Obelisk.

On your turn, you may move up to two spaces, no diagonals. The goal is to put yourself on a building you can reconstruct. How do you reconstruct a building? Every player has a hand of eight cards. These cards represent the various races that are aiding you in rebuilding the city. From the scorching Vulca to the childlike Khind, these races all have very unique appearances and abilities. At the top of each card is the ability that card has. The Vulca can move the mighty red dragon, the Mimix can combine to form wild cards, the Flit can move your figure to any space just to name a few of the powers. Each building space you land on has color coded spaces at the bottom of it. You must discard the number listed on the space, in the appropriate color. This makes abilities like the Mimix mentioned above, very powerful as they can be used as any color when combined.

Once a building has had all of the spaces filled, it is fully reconstructed. It flips to the other side, showing the fully reconstructed building. Each player who contributed to the reconstruction gains the reward listed below the asterisk. The player who contributed the most to the reconstruction efforts receives the reward next to and below the asterisk. ie. Trent has contributed twice, by discarding a total of five cards. Lucy has contributed once, by discarding two cards. This has completed the building, so it flips. Lucy will receive a crystal. Trent will receive a crystal and two extra cards. It is very important to watch what the rewards are, as some rewards can put you much closer to victory at the end of the game.

When a building flips, any building adjacent that has already been flipped will provide resources as well. The symbols shown on the back of the card are the rewards for building in the same area. Savvy players will flip multiple buildings near each other, or piggy back on other players buildings to gain those extra rewards. Some buildings, like the Royal Palace, provide a hefty reward for building next to them.

Resources are nice, but what do you do with them? The crystals are the key to victory. Crystals can be sacrificed at the center tile, the Obelisk, to gain a place marker. On the Obelisk is an offering track. Listed on the offering track are the number of crystals that must be sacrificed to place your marker. The bottom rung is the easiest to make offerings, while the top level is fairly difficult to make offerings to. Any player, on their turn, may make an offering if they are on the center space. The first player to make five of these offerings will win the game.

The dragon scales are an alternate route to gaining crystals quickly. There are 15 dragon scales in the game. Players receive dragon scales for completing buildings that grant them or by contributing to buildings when a dragon is occupying the same space. Once all the dragon scales have been passed out, and you need to pass out more, the dragon scales are scored. The player with the highest number of scales scores six crystals! Every other player with at least three scales will receive three crystals. Anyone who received crystals must turn in all of their scales to the supply once more. If you did not receive crystals, you get to keep your scales, giving you an edge on the upcoming round.

Blue Moon City is a very quick easy game to learn. The setup is simple, and the game plays very quickly. When teaching new players, the powers of the different cards can be tricky, but there is a full listing of the powers on page 4 and 5 of the five page rulebook. There are two pages at the back of the rulebook that are just the flavor of each building, allowing you to create a narrative for your game. The components are nice, and as a friend of mine found out, the dragon scales can be used to make your cat look like a Stegosaurus.

The dragons will help only those who help themselves, so get out there. The city of Blue Moon needs you!

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