Ultra Pro and Stone Blade Entertainment have outdone themselves with simple yet exciting city planning game, Sweetlandia.The rules are ridiculously easy to learn, and games can be completed in less than an hour. This makes Sweetlandia the perfect game to break out at parties or family gatherings. There are a few rough spots that could use some smoothing, but overall the rules are concise and the design is flawless.
Sweetlandia puts its players in the roles of city planners in charge of building up the titular town. Mayor McSweet wants several new real estate developments for his Candyland-esque city, so its up to the player to meet his demands. The players must bid against each other to lay claim to these new developments, and all the while they must attempt to meet the demands of their own personal goals as well as those of the mayor. Meeting these demands will reward the player with this world's form of currency: Donuts.
Become the Top City Planner
The overall object of Sweetlandia is to have more donuts than anyone else at the end of the game. The game is played out in three rounds, and each round is split into three phases. During the first phase different real estate locations are revealed that players will place bids on. Whoever places the highest bid gets first pick of the properties and then picks are given out in descending order. This phase is done five times during each round before moving on to the second phase. This phase has players add up all of the donuts that they received from location cards or incentives (more on those in a bit), and then keep track of everyone's score. The third phase just has the players reset all of the cards and start a new round.
While one way to earn donuts is by picking up location cards, there are actually other ways to earn the currency as well. One of the best ways is by completing incentives. These are special goals that are assigned at the beginning of each round that players can complete in order to receive an extra number of donuts. For example, there is one incentive that grants the player six additional donuts if they don't own any properties that are colored yellow or another that grants nine donuts to the player if they own a River, Mountain, and Forest location. Each player receives their own secret incentive that they hide from everyone else in the game that can only be completed by them, whereas Mayor McSweet also holds a public incentive that anyone is able to complete and earn donuts from.
Strategic and Charming at the Same Time
Another interesting aspect though is that each of the location cards have special directions on them that the player must follow when they acquire them. One card may tell them to grab the next card in the deck, steal a specific card from one of their opponents, or even grant their locations special abilities. There is actually a card that the player can use to grant a location the ability "Everlasting", which lets the player keep it in their hand for the rest of the game. This essentially adds this card's donuts to the end of each round's score, which can be a big advantage
Incentives and the actions on cards add a really fun level of strategy to each game that is played. Each player must work to acquire cards that help them fulfill their goals or work to ensure that their opponents can't complete theirs. The winner of the game isn't always determined by the person who gets first pick of the properties, but rather the person who knows how to use each of the cards properly.to help them towards their goal. Much of the time it is better to take a card with a lower donut count on it if that card also grants some kind of special ability or fulfills an incentive requirement.
Vagueness Leads to Rule Arguments
Despite the amount of fun that Sweetlandia can be, there are a few different cards that have vague actions on them. This can cause quite a few issues and fights between players as they try to determine what the game means. The Rocky Road card in particular is really confusing in its wording. It is worth one donut, but it states that you gain an additional plus two donuts for each other Rocky Road in the player's possession. Realistically, it seems that the intent was to have this action only activate one, but since each Rocky Road card has this description it could also be a cumulative for each card.
The problem with the Rocky Road card is that depending on which method is correct completely changes the way that this card scores. If, for example, you have three Rocky Road cards in your possession the difference in these two methods can make the point total for these cards either five or 15. There are a couple other cards in the deck that sport similarly vague language that can cause issues for players overall, but luckily these are for the most part pretty minor. Ultimately, this is also one of the only problems that Sweetlandia has, and its one that most first editions of board games deal with.
Fun Despite its Flaws
One of my favorite parts about Sweetlandia though is the beautiful design that it sports. All of the cards are beautifully illustrated and really show off the candy-themed world that the city planners find themselves living in. While the obvious Candyland comparison is pretty accurate, there is also a more modern industrial feel to the buildings and environments shown on the cards. This really gives a unique flair to Sweetlandia's charming world.
At the end of the day, Sweetlandia is a joy to play with both only one person or even an entire full group of opponents. It is also so simple that its easy to teach others how to play in just a few short minutes, and have them playing like pros in no time at all. Sweetlandia will definitely be a game that I keep in my lineup for when friends or family come to visit.
Get This Game If...
- You want something simple and easy to teach at parties.
- You enjoy auction and deck-building games.
- Sabotaging your friends sounds like fun.
Avoid This Game If...
- Vague card descriptions frustrate you.
- You want something that sports more complicated mechanics.
Sweetlandia is available for purchase now. A physical copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
- Easy To Learn
- Terrific Card Design
- Several Strategy Methods
- Some Vague Card Descriptions
- Little Variation in Gameplay