Board games Games and Learning Play Journals

I really like Sim City!

I had quite a few options for this week’s play journal entry. I played a new, lighter game on Tuesday with some friends, I have a new Nintendo 3DS game that I’m itching to open, and we’re having a game night on Saturday, which we are expecting a turnout of around 8 people. Although I had all these fun options to choose from, for this cycle’s game I decided to play a game I’ve never played before, only with my husband, to get the full experience of learning a new game for the first time. We played The Capitals, a board game about building a city through different eras. Think Sim City, but in board game format.

Usually, before we play a game for the first time, we will watch Rahdo’s Run through of the game to get a sense of how to play. Since this was a last minute decision (on my part), we didn’t have that option since the game plays for two hours, and it was after 7:00 on a weeknight. So we only had the rule book to go by to learn the game. As I punched out all the pieces, my husband took on the responsibility of reading the rules.

Game board - example of tracks
Game board – example of tracks

The game, in my perception, is actually very complicated (link to rule book). There are a lot of factors (referred to as tracks in the game) that influence play, such as: culture, money, technology (or energy), population, employment, public services, and initiative. On top of those factors, you have the added randomness of the buildings available to purchase and build. Plus, there’s a limitation of where you’re allowed to build these buildings, and you need energy to activate your buildings to get the perks.

This game is a minimal player vs. player game. There is no working together, no deals to be made with each other (as seen in games like Monopoly). There is an element of sabotage, if you can figure out what building(s) your opponent(s) desire, you can pay to go first and take that building before they do, this however might hurt you in the long run. You can also lose your tourists to other players (but I won’t get into that, it’s complicated). But realistically, there is minimal interaction with other players in regards to playing the game. You build your city and try and strategize to get the most points in the end.

One of the commercial buildings available for purchase
One of the commercial buildings available for purchase

This game attempts to teach quite a bit of strategic thinking. That museum might look nice, but will it help you gain victory points? Is the penalty of the public services track going into the negatives worth whatever you are getting from that building? There is also a fair amount of math involved when trying to figure out how much money you gain from building next to other structures and if that activates perks or not. At multiple points during the game, we helped each other figure out how much money we were earning, or where our culture token needed to go.

At one point, my husband read that we don’t actually HAVE to follow the building rules (the rules that pertain where we are supposed to place the buildings in your city) and that if we chose not to follow the rules that we would suffer a penalty of negative victory points. I found it interesting that this game allows for rule breaking. My husband actually did break the rules at one point because he felt it would benefit him. I found these particular set of building rules very constraining. There may have been a great building that could be built, but I couldn’t build it because of where my roads were, or I didn’t have the correct buildings beside it. The rule breaking stipulation was a relief, but it came a bit too late for me to benefit from it.

When we finally finished the game we figured out that we were playing one of the rules wrong the whole time. Usually when we play a game for the first time, we usually do something wrong. After further research, turns out we were playing at least half of the game wrong! This is probably due to the very extensive set of rules, and the limited time we had to learn how to play.

If I would have planned better, we could have leveraged some affinity spaces to learn the rules better. I also think other factors mattered in this scenario. My husband was the holder of the rule book, so I would always defer to him for rule clarification (seen in this week’s Stevens et al), I saw him as the expert, even though he had just learned the rules himself. On top of that, near the end of gameplay my toddler woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep, this greatly affected my game play because I was worried about him, and not the game.

My husband ended up winning 46 to 29. We do plan on playing again, this time following the rules properly!

My finished city


About Lisa


  1. From my perspective, it seems like you and your husband are gamers in the truest sense. You seem to be game connoisseurs that make play a priority in your life together. Getting this glimpse into your life is refreshing and makes me want to establish a game night in my own life.
    The Capitals looks really fun and your comparison to The Sims is making me rethink my affinity space. I love to build things and not necessarily attempt a boss fights a zillion times.
    Now that you have your first game under your belt, how soon before you play it again? When you play this game again, what will your new strategy be? How do you see your strategy adjusting to your husbands motives?
    And most importantly, what is your number one resource for deciding on the next game to play?

  2. Game nights are great! We don’t have a set schedule, but we try to have at least one per week. It’s also nice to step away from technology for a few hours.

    I think we will probably play the game again in the next couple of weeks. I’m not sure what my strategy will be considering we pretty much played the whole thing wrong the first time, it’ll be like learning a whole new game again!

    We often watch YouTube run throughs of games before we purchase a game, then we’ll watch it again before we actually play it. To decide which game to actually play? I guess that depends on our mood. Are we awake and alert enough for a deep strategy game? Or do we want a lighter game that plays quick because we’re tired and don’t have much time? I also have the compulsion to play games that are still in shrink wrap so I don’t feel guilty about buying them.

    Sometimes, our moods conflict with each other making for bad gaming experiences. For example, this week my husband received a new game called Nippon and asked if I was willing to play, I said sure, not really knowing how difficult the game is. Well I was just starting a cold, so I was tired, and it took us 30 minutes to set up the board and another over 20 minutes to explain the rules. I’m not even sure I got through one round. I know my husband was frustrated, and I was getting frustrated too, so we put the game away and will play it another time.

  3. I hate it when that happens. When I reflect back, I can think of very few times where a game was new to everyone at the table, and we got it all right. It almost seems magical when it does work out. After you get a chance to play the game correctly, let me know how you would rate the game. I typically enjoy games like these, however poorly designed ones start to feel tedious very quickly.

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