Every time when we asked people what games we are still missing in our collection, they named Underwater Cities. This was supposedly one of the best competitive games from 2018. So naturally, we had to get our hands on it to test it out! Thankfully Delicious Games was kind enough to support us with a review copy of this game.
How to Play.
For the set up in this game, place the game board on the table and give each player his player board. make sure you have the right side up. Place all the components nearby around the board so that everyone can reach them and Shuffle and sort the Era cards in the three Era decks. Place the Era one deck (blue) facedown on the board and place the other Era decks nearby. It’s important the Era decks are thoroughly shuffled. Place the Era and scoring marker on the starting spaces on the game board. The special cards that cost three credit are separated and shuffled, you can place six special cards face up on the game board. The other special cards are shuffled into a deck and the first card is turned face up. Then each player chooses a color, takes three action tiles and a personal assistant with an info card. All players start with one kelp, one steelplast, one science and two credits. Also randomly deal one brown and two blue hexagon tiles to each player and place them on the player boards. Lastly, decide who goes first and place you player markers in the correct order on the federation track.
In Underwater cities you need to build the best underwater city you can to give the overpopulated earth some space. On your turn you can play one card of your hand in a chosen free slot on the game board, place your action token on your chosen slot to show it’s occupied. You will get to perform the action on the slot you chose, but your card matches the color on the slot, you may choose to perform both actions on the card and the slot. the actions on the slots can give you more recourses, or upgrades for example. The actions on your cards can also have many different options, from giving you extra recourses so you can build more, to gaining more reputation for example. The cards and actions in this game have many rules, all which are very well explained in the rulebook with clear examples. I advise you to carefully read them before you play the game.
A round ends when all players have spend their three action tokens, occupying three slots. The action clone tile can now go back to the middle of the table and each player takes back their action tokens. Decide who goes next according to the federation marker. Players who have earned more federation points, will be first on the advance track and can start first. Then place all the player markers on the right colors on the bottom of the track. Don’t forget to advance the Era track with one space.
At the end of an Era, you will reach the production phase. For each connected tunnel, city or building, you will gain recources in this phase. Upgraded tunnels and buildings always produce more. You can also collect cards that give you extra recources during this phase.
After every player has resolved their production phase, you can resolve the end of an Era. Here you feed your cities (each connected city needs one kelp), reset the Era deck to the next Era deck and advance the Era marker to the next space to begin the first turn.
Once the last space is reached and the last Era is resolved, the final scoring will begin. Each connected citym building or tunnel will give you points, as well as unlocked scoring tiles, upgrades, special scoring cards, remaining recources, etc. Count your city carefully and advance your scoring track accordingly. The player with the most points, will win the game.
Note that Underwater Cities is a medium advanced game with many rules to learn. In order to fully understand the rules, I advise you to first read the rulebook completely. Learning to play the first game, might be a lot of reading, but we found that everything in the rulebook is well explained and with many necessary examples.
Playtrough of the game.
Underwater Cities is a pretty complex strategy game that involves a lot of thinking ahead, and we like it a lot. On each turn, you only get to choose one slot with an action. This means, you need to choose what you need the most. Do you need recourses first so you can expand your city? Or do you already have recourses an do you want to place another building? Maybe you want to use one of your action cards to combine expanding your city with getting recourses. But if another player chooses a slot that you desperately need, you won’t be able to use it this turn and you might have to change your strategy. Your plan B could be gaining federation points so you are able to be the first player in the next round. That way, no one can choose the slot you want before you get the chance.
You also have to keep the production phase and end scoring in mind. Sure, you can choose to just expand the fast you can. But I found it more useful sometimes to sacrifice a turn and choose cards to place in my city that I can play during the production phase.
Besides thinking how to best benefit your city each turn, it’s also a lot of fun to see your city grow with each decision you make. You start out with one city dome and grow from there. Once you have build some more domes, tunnels and buildings, you really have something to look at. The game also gives you quite a lot of turns to accomplish this during the game. With three turns each space on the Era track, you can really build a decent city if played well.
Underwater Cities is a complex strategy game where you have to build the best underwater city. In this game you always have to think ahead and plan the best strategy, but you also have to be flexible if an opponent takes your action spot. The first game might be tricky with the amount of rules to learn, but once you’ve played the first Era, everything connects. We really like the competition and interaction between the players in this game and its nice to see your city evolve.