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Best way to make a fun game about property development with Housing, Shops, and Factories

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AzemOcram's picture
Joined: 06/04/2015
City Landlords game board

I would greatly appreciate it if I received some feedback on how well the rules, theme, and mechanics go together in my work-in-progress game

Working Title: City Landlords
Inspiration: Monopoly City and SimCity
Theme: Urban Property Development
Setting: a brand new port city on a river delta (or a canal on a shore)
Game board: 24" x 36" with 26 districts (2 districts for the most expensive color group, 3 districts for the other 8 color groups) of 16 tiles of 1/2" x 1/2" size [attached picture is months old]

The players take the roles of major property development executives in a previously mostly undeveloped port city where they can find many different ways to win. If all the players are cutthroat landlords out to charge the most rent, the game will be much shorter than if everyone cooperated and tried to accrue as much money from the bank instead of each other.

I am making a city builder board game from the perspective of property developers. The first version (which I made to only play with my friends) was similar enough to Monopoly City that we were able to use some of the same parts without much modification. It has changed so much now, that it would be difficult (or expensive) to physically make it (especially since it no longer uses any parts from any preexisting games) so I might make the game a mod for Tabletop Simulator and possibly a simple Unity3D game before my final prototype for print-and-play. I do not plan on making any money off of it (this will be for a fun hobby that only costs me money) but I hope to eventually recuperate at least 1/4 of the expenses I incurred from buying the materials. After I make it fully functional and iron out any noticeable bugs, I hope to distribute it on the Internet for free.

The rules are difficult to explain in a short space but I think it is OK to post the full rules here.

1. You can only build (on your turn) after you move. If you roll doubles, you can choose to move again, which gives you an option to build again. If you continue rolling doubles beyond 28 total (so you can roll double 6 twice then roll a 1 and a 3 and be fine, or you can roll snake eyes 12 times then roll a 1 and a 3, but that would be unlikely) you get caught speeding and go to jail.

2. Buy residential and industrial buildings to increase the rent value of your districts. Commercial buildings do not generate rent but increase money earned on pay day (go). You can build up to 12 units of residential + industrial units and as many commercial buildings as you see fit as long as total spaces occupied by R, C, and I take up 8 spaces or fewer. 4 unit buildings cost the same as 5 copies of 1 unit buildings.

3. Industrial buildings remove income from commercial and all NIMBY buildings remove income from residential and commercial. Bonus buildings prevent NIMBY buildings from being built but do not mitigate the harm that industrial has on commercial.

4. Pay Day (equivalent of go) provides the players with $10 million each time landed on or passed. Stadiums can be built by the player in a district that has space where the player owns at least 1 other district of the same color. They bring $2 million extra when passing pay day. Commercial cost the same as residential and grant 50% of the rent value of the equivalent residential or industrial.

5. If a player owns all the districts of one color group, the player can build a skyscraper on it to double income. If a player owns all the districts of 2 color groups, he can build the HQ, which works like a skyscraper but applies to all the properties the player owns. Skyscraper costs vary between district colors. Only one HQ can be built per game and the player gets a 50% refund on their skyscraper if they built one before they built the HQ. The HQ costs $20 mil so it is only worth it if you own the whole blue or green district or multiple mid-range color groups.

6. A time limit (such as 30 minutes) or turn limit (such as after everyone has gone 10 turns) can be implemented to shorten the play time. If the game is ended before everyone except one goes bankrupt, the player with the greatest net worth wins. Otherwise, winner is last player standing (everyone else gone bankrupt).

7. There is one free bridge in the middle of the board and 1 toll bridge towards the end of the board. The toll bridge charges $100 if you land on it. There is also the option of building a VIP bridge between Omegrande Station and Union Station for 20 million, where the player who builds it collects 1-20k for passage. The VIP bridge offers a shortcut without subways but still requires the player to go the amount of spaces specified by the dice.

8. Rail stations allow the owner to build subway stations on their own properties during their turn. Subway stations allow any player to go between any district with a subway station. Rail stations come with a built in subway station. Any player can advance to any other district with a subway station as long as they pay the rent of both districts. If they own the district, they pay $1k to travel. Landing on a rail station (or deciding to take a subway to one) owned by someone else costs $250k unless the owner owns other rail stations, in which case it is $500k for 2, $1 mil for 3, or $2 mil for all 4.
*Think of the cost of toll bridge (reduced from $10k to $100) and self-owned subway stations as a guarantee of a quick, safe, and luxurious trip.

9. Bonus buildings and NIMBY buildings get to be built if you land on a Planning Permission space or you draw a Planning Permission card. The Planning Permission space allows you to build a large park (4 tiles) or small dump (1 tile). The Planning Permission card allows you to build a school (2 tiles) or large dump (2 tiles). If you own a utility, you can build the corresponding 1 tile bonus or 4 tile NIMBY building if you wish. NIMBY buildings cost the district owner $500k per block to remove. Bonus buildings take up space that could otherwise be used to build on the district. That is one reason why owning a utility company is so worthwhile. Landing on a utility company also has a variable bill needed to be paid to the owner 40k the amount rolled on 2 dice, unless the owner of the utility owns other utilities (then it is x1mil, x2mil, or x4mil).

10. If you do not have enough money to pay rent to another player, you can mortgage districts for their rent value, sell RCI for 75% cost (which makes you have to pay the full cost to rebuild), or abandon RCI for 50% cost (which allows you to pay 25% the cost to move back in but turns the R, C, or I into a NIMBY until it is fixed up again).

11. Minimum denomination of money is $100, each player starts with $30 million (unless all players for a game session agree on initial funds of $20 million or $50 million). Using electronic tracking (such as the debit cards with newer editions of Monopoly) might make it easier for the variation between $100 and multi-billionaires. *edited to change minimum denomination from $10k

12. Movement is determined by dice rolls (2 standard, 6-sided dice), unless one has received a movement card from Chance, in which case, the player can use that instead. Chance cards also include advance to x district, 1 for each 26 districts, which requires the player to go to the district, bypassing any fees and collecting pay if they passed pay day. There are also chance cards that allow the player to move up to x-spaces away from dice rolls, which can be used at any time and chance cards that force the player to go back x spaces which must be followed immediately.

13. Charity (let's not call them Community Chest) cards deal with money. The player must pay money if he is wealthy and the player might receive money if he is poor or lucky. Chance cards deal with random events and movement. Some random events include "minimum wage: commercial buildings generate 25% less" and "rent control: price to build new housing increased for all players for 20 turns, residential rent for middle districts lowered to equivalent of 1 block of residential on 3rd cheapest district multiplied by number of blocks (instead of 1.5x price of rent of 1 block less), most expensive properties don't lower rent."

14. The cost of purchasing the districts, construction of RCI, and rent is printed on the cards but can easily be calculated as well (if I don't have the right cards printed out at the time)
Cheapest property (Slum Street) is worth $600k to buy and Boardwalk is worth $5m to buy. Seaside Park is worth $4.8m to buy. From Slum Street to Royal Court (24th district), the price raises by 100k for subsequent districts in the same color group and 300k between the most expensive of one district to the cheapest of the next district.

Base rent = 10% district price
Rent with 1 block = 5x base rent
12 block rent = 180x 1 block
= 90x district price = 900x base
Residential Price = 1 block rent of most expensive property in color group
Industrial Price 2x Residential Price, Skyscraper Price 2x Industrial Price

*Rule I forgot to post:
15. There are spaces for auctions, chance cards for auctions, and the mechanic of all districts landed on a player that are not immediately bought to be auctioned off, with them only being unsold if no one wants to buy the property. Auctioning could start at 80% of base price at the lowest but preferably start at 100% base price.

* New Rule:
16. Jail time, bail amount, and impact of dice rolls for getting out of jail depend on the level of scruples/ethics/morality of players. Wealthy and immoral players get greater risks for skipping out on subway fare for their own rides (since the populace will start to hate you and might mug you). They might be able to draw from another deck for morality choices (altering the chance of going to jail, or other chance encounters) of when and where they can cut corners or rip off other parties (other players, the bank, the city/populace) or help out others. Charity cards have have an effect on morality points but these have purely economic consequences in the short term (instead of having new actions and mechanics). I could make morality tokens be black or red chips for unethical business decisions and white or blue chips for ethical business decisions. In which case, I would have to figure out mechanics for differences for when someone has an equally large amount of both (morally inconsistent risk taker) or none of either (play it safe). Of course, the object of the game is to have the most money at the end, so the morality chips would have to be a side mechanic that can be skipped for certain game sessions or be used to varying effect, depending on "house rules" and preferences.

For play-testing, I have been using parts from Monopoly City but this new board will just use interlocking centimeter cubes to represent the buildings because of difficulty with possibly running out of pieces and issues with using preexisting parts.

*EDIT: Also, the board I showed is not the current version (the current version is much higher resolution with a slightly different layout, I made the board in a 3D modeling program and render it before adding details and text). I will change Luxury Tax to just generic Super Tax.

Please give me your feedback on my game. If there is any way you can think of improving it let me know. Do you think the rules and mechanics make sense together and are fun? What do you think will make it more enjoyable? If you do not think it is very original (though there is no other game quite like it), please tell me how I can make it more original.

chris_mancini's picture
Joined: 05/01/2015
My 2 pennies

Hey Ocram,

From your description and the image of the board, here are my thoughts which may help to improve your game.

First, change all the terminology and alter the mechanics found in Monopoly which you have present on your board. Community Chest, Go To Jail, Luxury Tax...this makes your game seem like a cheap knock-off, and you stand to lose any potential playtesters right there. I see from your description that there's a lot more going on here, which makes the presumed similarity all the more're doing your game a grave disservice by using these terms.

What is the object of the game, and how does the theme enhance it? Are players big-shot developers, fighting one another for the most control over the city? Are players working together for the good of the city and its citizens? What is the mood/tone of the game? It will help readers get through your rules if you clearly state the object of the game, followed by a BRIEF description of how you achieve that, before diving into specifics.

Why does a toll bridge cost $10K?? That doesn't make much sense thematically. I'd change the identity of that fee to something more befitting such a large sum. A crucial part of any game is making sure the reasons for a player's actions are sensible...otherwise you stand to lose player immersion in the theme.

Likewise, why does "speeding" send you to jail? If jail time is a threat in the game, it would be so much cooler if it ties into your development practices. You can try and cut corners on your builds to save cash, or gain rent with minimal upkeep effort as a slumlord...but get caught, and it's the slammer for you! Make it a moral issue which players can control rather than a random event...MUCH more interesting!

All in all I sincerely encourage you to at the very least strip away any literal similarities to Monopoly, focus on the things that make your game unique and expand on those.

Look beyond Monopoly, as there are SO many more interesting city building games out there. Suburbia, New York 1901, Machi Koro, Skyline 3000...all very different, with plenty to inspire you.

AzemOcram's picture
Joined: 06/04/2015
RE: 2 cents

1. Changing the terminology is easy enough. I didn't finish the design of the current revision of the board game. I can easily change the name of the Community Chest cards to Charity cards since my implementation of them is all related to charity, charitable donations, and their impact. Luxury Tax could be called something as generic as Super Tax. As you can see from the board, Seaside Park and Boardwalk are both on the shore so I rather like their names (but I could change them if I get good feedback on alternatives).

2. a) The object of the game is to end up with the greatest net worth. One could play as a cut-throat landlord trying to squeeze the rest of the players dry, a property developing mogul who relies on commerce to gain billions while only developing enough residential to support the commerce and maximize land value (thus having low rents), a corrupt utility company executive placing eyesores on all your opponents properties, a railroad baron (owning all 4 railroads) who charges extra for rides across the city with expensive apartments on all districts with stations, or somewhere in between and still come out winning.
b) The players are big shot developers out to make the most money. Whether they do it ethically and cooperatively or unethically and competitively depends on the players.
c) The atmosphere of the game depends partially on the players because of the aforementioned playing styles that can all potentially win.

3. I changed the price of the toll bridge and also lowered the minimum denomination of money to $100.

4. Thank you for the ideas and suggestions on the topic of jail time and morality! I added that to my Original Post.

5. I look forward to learning more about Suburbia, New York 1901, Machi Koro, and Skyline 3000 as well as playing them if I have the ability (mostly time and money).

EDIT: What should I change "Go To Jail" to? I was thinking possibly "Arrested" or "Put on Trial" because with the new morality system, one might be able to avoid jail time.

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