Suburbia Game Review: A masterful, hand-wringing game of city development

Suburbia Board Game

Intro

This is an ingenious game. It is masterfully architected and balanced. It’s perfect for those who enjoy business-focused games (like me!) with some urban planning, a healthy dose of economy, and a touch of luck. You’ll love how much real-world sense it makes and how quickly the winds of chance can shift strategic direction. A timid leader prone to analysis paralysis won’t win nor will the blowhard, move-it-or-lose-it leader. Find a rational, balanced approach to succeed in Suburbia (and life for that matter!).

Gameplay Overview

Play as the leader of your borough trying to increase its population through a balanced approach of city planning, economic administration, and reputation management. Purchase buildings from the real estate market, strategically place them next to existing buildings, then reap the rewards or suffer the damaging consequences of poor decisions!

Quick Thoughts

You’ll love how much real-world sense this game makes! Of course, your suburban homes won’t want an airport, landfill, or freeway blowing through its community. Want to build a new restaurant in town? The first one there gets the long-term advantage. Oh, you may want to have a parking garage next to your commercial district! Every decision you make has an impact, for good or for bad.

Suburbia Board Game Tiles

Suburbia is one of those games that makes me nervous! I truly can’t identify what quality of a game does this to me, but certain games do. I’m not an anxious or nervous person in general, but certain games pull me in so much that it seems like every decision is a live-or-die choice. And I love it! =-)

While I promote balance in all walks of life, it is absolutely crucial that you find balance in this game. Don’t expect to win with too much focus on any one type of building (residential, industrial, commercial, or civic). You’ll need foresight and planning to build a borough that balances each of these four types in addition to some aesthetic parks and lakes!

There are so many features and nuances to Suburbia that you’ll love. Build a lake for some quick cash. Place one of three investment markers to double the benefits reaped from a tile. Work towards your secret goal to claim huge population increases at game’s end. There are just the right amount of non-core aspects to maximize interest throughout the game.

There is a powerful (and real-world?) equalizing factor at play where the larger your population, the more frequently your reputation and income decrease. This means that the better you do, the harder it is to keep progressing at the same rate. The result is that there are rarely blow-out games where one player completely dominates all others which gives the “little guys” a better chance of a last-inning comeback.

Suburbia Board Game Goals

Tips & Tricks

  • Think ahead but not too far ahead. You’ll want to have a plan for several turns out, but make sure to adjust smoothly when that plan gets shot to heck. It may work out for the best!
  • Focus on a track without being so hyperfocused that you lose sight of the potential around you. Sometimes what you love to do the most will be blocked by tile availability. Just shift and flex with the mechanics of the game (see any life lessons there?). =-)
  • Don’t feel bad playing a lake or two for some immediate cash. They can really help when you’re feeling stuck due to a lack of funds.

Scoring & Wrap-up

Overall, as a medium-weight strategy game, I give Suburbia an extremely high 9 out of 10 (“Excellent – always enjoy playing it” on BGG’s scale) for the following reasons:

Promoters

  • Strategy and luck are perfectly balanced.
  • The entire game makes real-world sense.
  • The rulebook is top notch. Little icons embedded throughout the text give a super helpful visual representation of the item referenced.

Suburbia Rulebook

  • The starting marker is a proportionally-large high rise building which does not get lost among game pieces like other games’ starting markers.

Detractors

  • It can get a little tricky remembering and applying the effects of each tile on each turn, especially those crossing over between boroughs.

Business, economy, and city-building games make up my very favorite genre (think Acquire and Lords of Vegas). Suburbia just further solidified my love for this type of game and became one of my top 10 games out there. The mechanics are simple and flawless, the real-world application is eye-opening, and player interaction is perfectly balanced. I’ll even go so far as to say this would be a great game to teach teenagers about business, economy, planning, entrepreneurship, and the like.

Buy Suburbia here!


Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.

12 thoughts on “Suburbia Game Review: A masterful, hand-wringing game of city development

  1. Thank you for the review. The game looks interesting, but I don’t think it’s quite for us. Not sure exactly why, but possibly because we’ve still got too many other games on the go at the moment.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Oliver! Based on my experience, this entire genre (business/economy/city-building) is one that people either really like or don’t enjoy at all. And yes, it’s always hard squeezing new games into the tried and true collection. 😀

      1. No I haven’t! I think I’ve heard the name but probably assumed it was a gambling game, which I have no interest in! I’ll have to check it out!

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