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MegaCity: Oceania

Aid 22nd Century Australia by being one of the architects to create a hamlet in a rising sea in this city-building dexterity mash-up.

Gameplay

MegaCity: Oceania offers 2 to 4 players the opportunity to test their building skills in a calculated race to complete contracts and build a simulated city in the middle of an ocean. Players begin with one hexagonal park tile, and depending on the player count, a set of randomly drawn plastic pieces that will aid in constructing architectural anomalies in a fictionalized Gold Coast. A central park tile is placed in the middle of the table and will be used as a basis for building the city.

The multicolored contracts (minus the four landmark contracts that come into play near the end of the game) are shuffled and, again depending on player count, a set number of contracts are placed face up in their respective colored piles for players to choose on their turns. There must be at least two contracts of one color. Hexagonal platforms mirroring the colors of the contract cards are shuffled and placed on the table, with three being placed in a market for players to collect during their turns. 

These contracts and hexagons are tied together. The color each contract card denotes can only be fulfilled on a hexagon of a matching color. Contracts will contain building specifications, such as minimum height, the number of pieces that must be used, the type of pieces that may not be used, and requirements for what a building must have such as a lower level arch or an uncovered courtyard. Hexagons have three portals, simulating connections to public utilities, that must be covered during building. These hexagons also have vents (small hexagons of different colors that alert players to the predominant color of a hexagon if it is flipped over) that cannot be built over unless a contract card specifies this as a building requirement.

Players have two actions they can complete during their turns. Obvious choices are drawing a platform from one of the three on display, choosing a contract, or drawing three pieces at random from the bag of pieces. These actions also offer alternatives that allow players some maneuverability. For example, players can spend an action to flip over one of their platforms to its other side, revealing a different color and layout. They may rotate contracts that are on display, choosing to shuffle the one available in any color to the back of its column. When choosing pieces, they can declare which kind of piece they are looking for (black, gray, or clear each representing the different materials in the game) and draw one. Passing on one or both actions is also allowable. There is also the special action, which counts as both actions during a player’s turn, that allows them to deliver their completed buildings to the center of the table. Players can have no more than two contracts and hexagons in front of them at any given time.

Construction of buildings occurs during other players’ turns, so as not to slow up the game and to allow players to figure out how to meet a contract’s requirements. Once a player has built their latest creation, they would use the special action during their next turn. When this occurs, all other players must stop working on their own buildings and remove their hands from the table so as to avoid causing the table to shake. The player carefully moves their building to join it to other tiles in the city, being mindful that their building is no more than four tiles away from central park. When placing a building near a park, they may place a random piece they have not used from their own pile (along with a colored marker showing who placed a building or piece) in the middle of the park as a monument. This will allow for bonus scoring at the end of the game. If the building is the tallest building, place the tallest building marker near it for scoring at the end of the game.

If a building falls during the move to the city, the player collects everything and tries again. They have no more actions and their turn is complete. If a building falls later during the game after already joining a city, there is no penalty. If it was the tallest building, move the tallest building marker to the next tallest building. 

The end of the game is triggered when the last colored contract is taken. Players may now choose to work on one of the four landmark contracts, only if they have finished all their colored contracts. Once the final landmark contract has been fulfilled, the last round begins (unless the last player has completed the last landmark, then the game immediately goes to scoring).

Prestige, earned by completing contracts, is added to bonuses earned during the game for the most buildings of one color, the tallest building, and buildings surrounding parks with monuments. The player with the most prestige is the winner. In case of a tie, the player with the tallest building is declared the winner. 

Megacity: Oceania components
Photo by Erik Yurko (kalchio on BGG), licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Review

At first glance, the amount of actions and choices players face may intimidate some. However, the rule book is succinct, easy to read, and offers novice gamers solid guidance and advice for playing MegaCity straight out of the box. Set up is a breeze, with the box including compartments for everything to slot into. In fact, it would not be difficult to keep hexagonal tiles in the box during gameplay and draw from those stacks as hexagons are taken from the market. 

MegaCity’s iconography can be easy to follow after a few playthroughs, but the contract cards could do a better job of outlining the requirements needed to complete them. In keeping the game’s components language agnostic, there is a bit of information that is lost without the help of the rulebook. Having reference cards could have been a nice touch, especially when translating the rulebook requires international printings. 

However, once players grasp the game it becomes a light and fun affair. The dexterity element plays a big part in all of this, and considering how forgiving the rules are to buildings falling — especially if they are already in the city — even the clumsiest of players will not be at a disadvantage. This is aided by the delivery action’s requirement that players stop building and not touch the playing surface. Just make sure you’re playing on a smooth surface. A dip or raised line could prove disastrous as the game requires you to slide the completed buildings, not to lift them.

The variety in contracts is a little thin, but the range of prestige to be scored from different color contracts is variable enough that players who want to challenge their building and stacking skills will be delighted by the rewards for their patience. This also offers plenty of opportunities for different strategies: targeting a bunch of smaller, easier to fulfill contracts or going for high prestige earners. Focus on a specific color of contracts or going for the tallest buildings. An element of area control is also in effect with parks and monuments, so wiley players will place buildings strategically throughout the growing city to maximize these endgame points.

The component quality, which matters in a dexterity and stacking game of this sort, is great. The plastic building pieces are cool to look at, fun to manipulate, and provide interesting architectural anomalies and obstacles to completing contracts. 

That said, the run time may be a bit long for casual board gamers. Even at two players, games can stretch to 45 minutes and at the higher player counts, an hour is the average. But the game is ripe for house rules that can shorten game time (reducing the amount of contracts or completed buildings, eliminating landmark cards for younger players, etc.) for players who fall in love with the game’s core mechanics. 

It will be MegaCity: Oceania’s tactile nature and clever use of dexterity that will win over certain players. There is an actual board game involved that just so happens to challenge spatial and cognitive skills, but without too much penalty for being a bit sloppy or slow. 

Pros: Clever use of dexterity and stacking without punishing clumsy players, great components and packaging, easy to set up and store, variable gameplay choices

Cons: Games run longer than expected, requires a smooth surface to play on, limited contract card options, could benefit from reference cards