As someone who’s spent much of their life in Wisconsin, I’ve been taught to react with revulsion to anything that comes from south of the border, the Wisconsin/Illinois border, to be exact. It’s just not cool to show any appreciation for Cubs, Bulls, or even the pristine, toll-funded freeways that turn into potholed monstrosities as you meander north. Now, having a wife that lived for many years in Chicago (and living there myself for a period) has made me a tad more appreciative of what other Wisconsonites call FIBs. It’s with this more accepting eye that I peered at a new board game on Kickstarter set in the City of Big Shoulders called, appropriately, City of the Big Shoulders. It looks and sounds like Automobile and Arkwright had a baby, and I’m more than okay with that.
City of the Big Shoulders is a game now on Kickstarter that is right up my Martin Wallace/18xx/Heavy-Economic-Game alley. First of all, the board eschews any semblance of resembling Chicago or an industrial center and, instead, takes the Automobile/Arkwright path of looking like a spreadsheet. What a glorious world if all games looked like something straight from Excel! [This may sound like sarcasm. I can guarantee you that Dave actually believes this -ed.] Secondly, there are stocks, another mechanism that would make every game better. Yes, even Gloomhaven. I don’t know how it would work, but I’m going to ask Isaac Childres to make it so.
Let’s take a look at the Kickstarter blurbs and, maybe, you’ll see why I was instantly taken by the campaign:
About the Game:
City of the Big Shoulders is a euro-style, resource management and worker placement with an 18xx-economic style engine.
That may just be the greatest elevator pitch for a board game ever. Stand back, it gets better. The game is played over five decades (1875-1915) with each decade consisting of five phases. Those are:
In the Stock Phase players will have the opportunity to buy and sell stocks, investing in both their company and opponents’ companies alike. The goal of the game is to gain as much wealth as you can, as quickly as you can.
During the Building Phase players will chose a building to play, one to discard, and one to consider for the future. Constructing buildings creates additional action spaces across the game board. With over 40 different buildings, players will have a unique experience each time the game is played.
On the Action Phase players will send their Partner meeples across Chicago, hiring workers, recruiting salespeople, acquiring Capital Assets, and taking actions on behalf of their companies, preparing to run those companies during the Operating Phase.
In the Operating Phase palyers will acquire resources, craft goods and sell them to the Demand Track, distributing them to consumers throughout the Midwest. Once goods are sold and players calculate their company’s earnings, they will decide if they should pay their shareholders or withhold funds, affecting the company’s stock price.
[The boring stuff. -ed.]
Now, if you’re an 18xx player, several of those stand out as coming straight from the 18xx playbook. Stock rounds followed by operating rounds in which you decide to pay investors or withhold funds is the core of every 18xx game I’ve ever played. The fact that the Operating Track also involves a demand track is what makes me think of Automobile or Arkwright. In other words, everything about this game sounds perfect. Maybe too perfect?
Let’s talk about the designer and publisher. The designer is Raymond Chandler III who, while sharing the moniker of one of my favorite authors, has only one other published game design under their belt. That would be 2016’s Corrupted Kingdoms which I know nothing about. To me that’s not a huge negative–we all have to have earn our sea legs somehow–but I could see it being an issue for some tabletop gamers who might be a bit more frugal than I am. The publisher is Parallel Games who aren’t exactly a household name in the biz. Again, not a huge deal for me, but this is Kickstarter and some have a problem backing stuff from creators without a healthy Kickstarter pedigree.
Regardless of both, I’ve backed the Kickstarter. The game looks too juicy to miss out on and something in the back of my skull always convinces me that I’ll never be able to buy a Kickstarted game via retail. It’s a sickness. Anyway, if you’re in a heavy-economic tabletop kind of mood, head over to Kickstarter and check out all the details for yourself. There are the usual stretch goals and whatnot that I haven’t touched on at all that might be of interest to you. They’re looking for $60K to bring CotBS to life, and are currently just over $50K with 27 days to go, so it’s looking good. You can even back at the $5 level and get a print-and-play copy to test it out, or just go check out the rulebook which is available and awaiting your scrutiny.
Hat tip: OhBollox (who seems to delight in eviscerating my wallet lately)