Building the city of the future over 3 generations – that is the theme of the Neom Board Game. What does the complex draft and levelling game offer and for whom is it worthwhile?
Build attractive residential areas, supply the whole city with electricity, build lucrative industry and invest in infrastructure in the long term. In the expert game Neom – Build the City of the Future”, you learn to think like a real city planner, investor or municipal politician. Little by little, each player builds his or her own city and tries to lead it to success through strategic considerations.
The most important pros and cons and for whom the game is worthwhile can be found in the conclusion after the game presentation.
Note: The publisher ASS Altenburger, which also distributes the Lookout games, kindly sent us a free copy of the game for review. However, this review is not paid for or agreed upon in terms of content, but reflects our own opinion.
The basic principle of the Neom board game is easy to explain: Each player receives his own game board on which he builds his own city. In 3 phases, called generations in the game, all players try to get the tiles that best fit their strategy in each of 7 rounds and place them with them. This involves, among other things, the distribution of money, the production of raw materials, trade goods and finally luxury goods, as well as sometimes disasters.
All players pursue the goal of having the most victory points at the end. Since the rules for scoring are quite complex, it is hard to foresee beforehand who has won. In addition, there are a variety of strategies that can lead to success.
In the Neom board game, each player receives his or her own city map, which represents an empty building area. Depending on what kind of landscape it is, you already produce a raw material from the beginning. In the middle of each game board, a starting building block is painted, which represents a crossroads with paths in all four directions.
Now the square tiles are sorted according to their backs and divided into piles for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation and anchor tiles. At the beginning, each player receives a sum of money and the resource tile that belongs to their game plan. The remaining tiles for money, raw materials and other goods are placed in the centre of the table as a supply.
Drafting refers to the process of players selecting 7 tiles for each generation according to a specific mechanism. It differs slightly between the 1-2 player game and the 3-5 player game. First and foremost, players try to get hold of favourable tiles that they can usefully invest.
However, since there are also catastrophe tiles that the players can use against the other players, you should think carefully about whether to take them yourself. Theoretically, it is also possible to snatch a tile that would be ideal for another player. In practice, however, the tile is usually not as valuable for you, so this is not the most advisable strategy.
When placing the tiles, please note that they must always be connected to the starting point in the middle by a road. In the Neom board game, the tiles also have a clear orientation, i.e. top and bottom, and you can only place them in this way, i.e. you cannot rotate them. However, it is possible for roads to end in nothingness. As long as the tile is correctly connected to the origin via roads, everything is allowed. It is important that you fulfil the condition that the tile indicates that you are allowed to place it. Usually this is an amount of money or raw materials or other goods. If you do not have the latter, but still want to place the tile, you can also buy the raw materials or goods from other players who produce them.
When choosing and placing the tiles, you should look strategically to make favourable decisions. It is good, for example, if as many residential buildings as possible are adjacent to each other, thus creating residential areas. On the other hand, it is bad if industrial buildings border directly on residential buildings. In the end, that results in a deduction. That’s logical: pollutants and so on, right? In fact, the rules in the Neom board game are very intuitive and you can’t really go wrong if you think about how it would probably make sense in real life.
The “anchor tiles” drawn at the very beginning can be attached instead of the drawn tile if the tile selection was not so advantageous for you. Here you should definitely read up on what the anchor tile is all about, because they bring a lot of bonus points at the end if you make sure that the conditions for them are fulfilled when you continue building. Accordingly, you always adjust your strategy when building.
Economic buildings bring money at the end of each generation, which you can use either for tiles, required raw materials, trade or luxury goods, or at the very end of the game for victory points. There are also buildings whose income depends decisively on the other structures of the city. For example, the income of the casino depends on how many houses there are in the city, i.e. how large the population is.
The industrial buildings extract raw materials or process them into trade goods or, in the 3rd generation, even luxury goods. Here, however, you immediately – not at the end of a generation – place a corresponding tile at the top of your board. From now on, you produce this raw material or this trade or luxury good and may take corresponding tiles when drafting without paying money for them.
When we played the Neom board game for the first time, there were two of us and we had different strategies. In the end, we didn’t have a feeling for which of us might have won, because everything gives possible points and you can’t assess that at a glance. That’s an advantage because you don’t have to keep looking at who’s obviously winning, but can concentrate on your own tactical considerations.
Among other things, the number of residential buildings, the size of the residential areas, the raw materials, trade goods and luxury goods produced in the city, the money left over at the end, as well as numerous different bonuses or deductions that depend on the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of certain requirements, e.g. on the anchor tiles, flow into the scoring at the end. The more often you play the Neom board game, the more ways of getting victory points you get to know.
Although the Neom board game clearly deserves to be called a connoisseur’s game, which is also printed on the box, getting started is relatively easy. Neom is therefore a game that can also inspire people who usually play family games, but who like to get involved in something more strategic. In a way, it is a bridge from the world of family games to the world of connoisseur games. The short playing time of 45 minutes supports this.
In this respect, the game is recommendable for experienced players as well as for players who are just starting out in the world of connoisseur games. And those who like games in which you freely assemble landscapes or cities will get their money’s worth with the Neom board game anyway.
What we really liked about the Neom game is that the rules make intuitive sense and represent a quite realistic treatment of the topic of city building. Examples: That industries with pollution emissions should not be directly adjacent to residential areas, that buildings should be secured against catastrophes as much as possible, that you get more favourable purchasing conditions for goods and raw materials by expanding trade routes, etc. The thematic implementation is therefore very well done. Only the addition “…of the future” could have been left out, because the concept is not really futuristic. We liked the design.
Neom includes many different tiles, and especially the anchor tiles have many that can be used to score points if you plan for the long term and think strategically. However, the fact that there are so many tiles also has disadvantages: especially in the first round, you have to constantly leaf through the glossary in the game instructions and read what exactly this tile does. However, this still happened to us from time to time after several rounds. For us, this did not diminish the fun of the game, but some players might be bothered by it.
Another positive aspect of this game is that you quickly understand what it is all about and can enjoy the game from the very first round. Since all moves are played at the same time for 3 or more players, there are no waiting times, and when playing with two players, they are very short. Neom was a lot of fun for two as well as four players. You can even play it as a solo variant. The game offers a lot of variety and you can win with different strategies and focuses.
In general, you play the Neom board game mainly for yourself or with your own game plan in mind. There are only elements of interaction when drawing cards, buying resources or goods, or when laying a catastrophe. In itself, interaction is quite important to us when playing, but here the game worked very well for us as it is.
However, we had to swallow the rather high price of currently around 50 euros. Well, a complex game, a lot of material and, of course, new on the market…
A connoisseur’s game with easy entry that implements the theme of city planning very well and will also be fun for less experienced players
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