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Back in the 90s, I enjoyed collecting SimCity: The Card Game. I can't help but feel excited that there's a lot of potential in the game, but that the rules are broken and in certain aspects, to be honest, downright absurd.

SimCity: The Card Game

I am especially bothered by a number of things that are either annoying or out of balance:

  1. The sheer amount of counting the rules have you do.
    • Once you have a decent city going, keeping track of the number residents within however many of blocks—either by road or rail—is a headache.
    • Worse yet, add a couple of Receive # for every [card type] within # blocks into the mix, and you'll spend a good deal of the evening counting.
  2. Zoning bonuses become crazy. Once a residential zone has reached a modest size, the value of putting any card down is dwarfed by the massive bonus of appending it to a zone. There's no sense in trying to close off a zone, either, because your opponent will eat you alive.
  3. Council members are useless. Never does the game reach a point in which rezoning is really an issue, because it takes too many members to veto the mayor and/or council chairman. You require much too many in the deck, and pretty much any other card yields more value in the long run.
  4. City services pay off much too much. Put down a few schools and a few police stations, and you'll be "adding" & "receiving" yourself to bliss.
  5. Many of the event cards are either extremely focused on the council, or, like Fire!, extremely destructive.
  6. Phase one cards pollute your deck once you have passed beyond that phase, but there's a dilemma: you can't really have less than a third of your deck filled with them unless you intend to sit around collecting cards for the first hour or so.

Some of these rules might be somewhat alleviated by limiting the playing area to something like 6×6, and having the good sense not to add too many city services, but that doesn't cut it for me. I sometimes get the impression that I might not be fully understanding the rules, but the official rulebook leaves so many questions unanswered.

For some reason, I feel very attached to the game, but the rules just let me down. Are there any good alternatives?

This Flickr stream has some photos, for those who haven't played for the past 15 years and wish to refresh their memory.

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I wish I could help you, but it's been far too long since I've played this game. –  McKay Nov 2 '10 at 17:42
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I picked it up recently after about 10 years. After the first game I already had some ideas for improvement (dealing out the council members pre-game and having separate stacks for Stage I+II and Stage III+IV). There's something to it that just makes me excited. I know there's got to be a great game in there somewhere, but I always end up annoyed by the rules. If there as enough interest, I'd make this a wiki to hear suggestions, but it seems the game never got a big following. –  Paul Lammertsma Nov 5 '10 at 10:00
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I enjoyed this game, it was played pretty heavily in our shop for 6 months or so. I still have a stack of the long cards somewhere... What I remember is that you could get wildly different decks depending on which cards you had. The store set was relatively complete, but individual people unwilling to buy a large amount of packs would tend to be lacking in some basic resource like certain council members or they'd have 5 of one power plant and no other ones. I think it could be a better game in a Dominion style everything in one box approach. (Plus a rules cleanup!) –  Pat Ludwig Nov 5 '10 at 21:24
    
I also really enjoyed the game, long long ago, but all I can do is agree that it suffers from poorly designed rules. Not certain what to suggest for revisions. –  tryaria Feb 1 '11 at 22:05
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I had a similar response to a Wolfgang Kramer game "The Market of Alturien". The components are so pretty and you want it to be great... but in the actual play it's a stinker. I tried to suggest variant rules to my group and the only response I got (in slightly less polite phrasing) was "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear". It's a shame... –  thesunneversets Feb 2 '11 at 22:35
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think it's all how you build your deck. Everyone should be playing from the same deck. I've just recently found the game and am planning to pull it out at the next friendly get-together I go to. I don't have a rule book anymore, so maybe that's why I'm not haunted by the 'official rules'. But I did use the rules I could remember and play tested a few solitare games, I know it will play much easier and be more interesting when there are two or more players.

So here's how I played. All cards are now unique. When I built the deck I tried to keep it down to one police station, one fire station ect. 100 card deck (for now) I did include the the Phase 1 guard house (but I love the Phase 1 colonial era cards) as a bonus. Only one power plant of any kind can be played, after the first is played, players just discard any they draw in the future, UNLESS it is a phase 4 power plant, then it may replace the existing one.

Playing a zone: I think it makes sense to award a bonus point for each connection you join when you play a zone. For instance, you play a road block next to another road block, you get a point. You can earn up to three bonus points this way (road, rail, power lines).

Split the game into 'rounds' or agree to a point goal. A round is defined when all players have finished their turns. So for large groups maybe you just say, lets play five rounds and whoever has the most points wins. A point goal would be something along the lines of, whoever has reached $250 at the end of a round wins, if two or more players have done this in the same round, whoever has the most points wins.

Players split up duties along with keeping track of their own points. This is still not the most appealing, but it's part of the game. It will slow the game down, but hey, this isn't meant to be a fast paced action packed shoot 'em up game, lol. Each player also needs to write down the cards they have played (generically names cards like River, Forest, ect just place a scrap of paper with the player name on it), this will help keep things sorted out. Each time something is played everyone should be looking to see if it effects them, this will keep people engaged even when it's not their turn.

The following needs to be counted (Road/Rail means the card has both):

Poulation: Total Population, Road Population, Rail Population, Road/Rail Population

Jobs: Total Jobs, Road Jobs, Rail Jobs, and Road/Rail Jobs

Crime (don't forget to minus Police coverage)

Polution

You can't play a card that requires Sims, unless you have enough available sims to run it. Rail bussinesses need rail or road/rail sims, ect.

Buildings covered by the Police/Fire stations need to be kept track of by the player who placed the station. 0 crime blocks can be covered by the police station for points at no coverage usage.

Complexes (Farm 2, Hospital 4, Univertity 1, ect), which I always loved, just need to be placed adjacent to another complex card to get the bonus points (you don't need four anymore).

As the city grows, the point bonuses will get huge, BUT, I do feel that's how it should be, the more developed your city is, the more services it provides, the more value everything has.

There was other stuff and I'm still flushing this out. Hope this helps anyone else who wishes to mess around with this game.

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I really like some of these rules. I'm thinking of buying some colored beads so each player can easily identify which card is his. –  Paul Lammertsma Jul 19 '11 at 10:14
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I found some house rules for SimCity here (TXT), which don't address all of your issues, but had some interesting ideas, such as:

  • If playing the common deck game, then consider splitting the deck further as follows:

    • One pile for Phase 1 & 2 cards + Phase 3 Power Plants + Council Members
    • One pile for Phase 3 & 4 cards + Events
    • One pile for Long cards

    • You may draw from the Phase 1 & 2 deck anytime

    • You may draw from the Phase 3 & 4 deck in phases 2-4
    • You may draw from the Long Cards in Phases 3 & 4
  • You may play one event card in addition to placing a block on your turn (presumably to done down events)

  • Minimum size of a zone or complex before it counts as a zone / complex is 2. City Services are wild for all zones in the normal way.

  • The Zone and Complex Bonus are calculated normally, except that only cards which are within 2 blocks of the block being played count as within the complex / zone for purposes of calculating the bonus.

I haven't played SimCity before, so I can't say for certainty how useful his rules are, but they look promising.

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