Happy City by Gamewright
Players: 1 to 5
Playtime: 20 to 30 minutes
Perfect for: Families who enjoy light and quick card-drafting mini-engine building games.
Happy City is a breezy game of town construction and citizen satisfaction! Players buy and collect cards which represent the buildings in their city. As their town grows and expands, they’ll have the ability to purchase even more expensive structures, vying with their opponents to have the happiest residents.
To begin Happy City, one to five players each collects 2 starting money and a Happy Market card, indicating the start of their town. The city cards are shuffled and divided into three stacks, along with the residence cards—buildings that are more expensive, but always available to buy. Three cards get turned face up from the stacks, indicating the initial supply. A first player is selected, and the game starts.
Gameplay occurs over two phases. First is the Income Phase where players collect money as indicated by all the buildings they have constructed with an income symbol. Next, players move into the Action Phase where they may complete several steps including: discarding a building in the market; replenishing the market so that up to three cards are available; purchasing a building (a card); and acquiring a bonus card if they have met its requirements given what they’ve constructed in their town.
Along with income, building cards also have heart and resident symbols on them and these determine the happiness level of the town. When one player has constructed ten cards, it signals the endgame with each person getting an equal number of turns. Players then multiple residents by hearts in their town to calculate a final score, and the person with the highest happiness level wins the game.
What works in Happy City is the sleek and engaging introduction to card drafting and town building game mechanics. Happy City is incredibly simple to teach and play, but the interaction and strategy are compelling enough to keep interest levels high. On top of that, Happy City comes with an expert version which can be employed for more experienced players.
Players seeking a more complex game with direct competition may not enjoy Happy City as much as others. While people might occasionally get thwarted by an opponent purchasing (or discarding) a building they had their eye on, the majority of the strategy involves making the best decision for the town on a player’s turn. Also, games take less than 30 minutes. Therefore people seeking a grander city-building experience might want to look for something with a bit more weight.
Happy City is an excellent family game that can be enjoyed by all ages. Employing some tried and true mechanics, Happy City is a great introductory title that veterans can also enjoy. Highly recommended.
Recommended if you like: Splendor, Machi Koro
Final Grade: A