Review – Ginkgopolis

pic5975231

 

Designer Xavier Georges

Artist Gaël Lannurien

Publisher Pearl Games

Category Tile Placement, Action Selection

Length 60 minutes

Release Date 2012 (new edition in 2021)

Player Count 1-5

Ginkopolis is a euro-style game of building a futuristic eco-city. With an unusual twist on action selection, this game feels very different than most euros – and most other games in general. How does it work? Read on!

Review

After spending years out of print, the highly-regarded Ginkgopolis is returning to store shelves. In this game, 1-5 players work to earn points by expanding a grid of tiles representing city buildings. Each turn, players select actions to execute; actions always require the playing of a card, and may also involve the playing of a tile.

The central tableau begins as a 3×3 grid of building tiles, numbered 1-3. Around this grid, circular letter tiles mark spaces where additional buildings can be placed.

Building tiles come in 3 colors, each numbered 1-20. Red buildings give players additional resources, yellow buildings award points, and blue buildings let players draw more tiles. Throughout the game, players will collect resources and tiles, which they can use to expand the board and claim spaces on it.

All tiles – both lettered and numbered – have corresponding cards. As building tiles are added to the board, their cards are added to the deck.

The actions players can take are:

  1. Play a letter card by itself to gain a resource or a tile.
  2. Play a number card by itself to gain the item(s) from the corresponding building tile (either resources, tiles, or points). The number of items collected is equal to the height of the building, meaning a building that is 3 tiles tall awards 3 resources/tiles/points.
  3. Play a letter card and a tile. Doing this expands the tableau. The player moves the matching letter tile and puts the building in its place. Then, the letter tile is placed adjacent to the new building. When a player adds a building, they place a resource marker on it to signal ownership.
  4. Play a number card and a tile. This action lets players build upward. The tile is placed on top of an existing building, meaning that the building will now award more of its item. To mark ownership, the player adds resources to it; a building must always have resources on it equal to its height. If another player already had resources there, those resources are returned and that player earns points.

By the end of the game, the grid will look something like this.

In the case of the first 3 actions, the played card is discarded after use. When using the last action, however, the player keeps the card, adding it to their personal tableau. Cards in a player’s possession provide bonuses, either gameplay advantages or endgame points. For instance, a card might grant a free resource any time the player adds a building, or a free tile anytime they play a card by itself. In this way, Ginkgopolis has a slight engine-building flavor.

Play continues like this, with players choosing and executing actions, until either the tile supply is exhausted or until all of a player’s resources are on the board. When either of these things happens, the game ends and points are tallied. Points come from several sources, including cards and area majorities on the board. The player with the most points wins!


Ginkgopolis is one of the weirdest games I have ever played. Despite its rules being only about 5 pages long (including setup) it feels heavy, complex, and strategic. It uses tried-and-true mechanisms like action selection, tile placement, and area majority, but combines them in a way I have never seen before. This is both a positive and negative.

On the one hand, Ginkopolis feels totally unique; there is simply nothing else like it. A far cry from “just another soulless euro,” even experienced strategy gamers will be surprised at how inexplicably different it feels. On the other hand, for this very reason, it can be a bear to teach and understand. Its uniqueness means that nothing about it is intuitive, and players may find themselves stumbling through 30 minutes of gameplay before they even understand what is going on.

However, this is not to say that I dislike Ginkgopolis. On the contrary, I actually found it to be quite engaging and interesting. I just don’t recommend it for new gamers. In order for this game to go over well, it’s important that all players have experience with strategy games and that they all understand that this one has a learning curve.

With this in mind, if you are a fan of euro-style games and want something that feels totally fresh, I suggest checking out Ginkgopolis.

A review copy was provided by Asmodee.

The Bottom Line

Ginkgopolis blends tried-and-true mechanisms together to create an experience like no other. Its uniqueness is a double-edged sword, but it is a good choice for seasoned gamers looking for a totally-fresh experience.

 

7.5

Stephen Hall

My geek roots run deep. I have been a gamer and comic book reader since I was a kid, but tabletop games are my #1 hobby.