RogerBW's Blog

Suburbia Five Star first look 21 September 2015

Suburbia Five Star (or 5★ if you follow the cover style) is the second expansion to Suburbia.

Physically it's another flat shrinkwrapped package without a box, like Suburbia Inc.. It contains six card sheets, a rule sheet and a bag of wooden pieces.

There are new components for a fifth, green, player: an income cylinder, reputation cube, population square, player board, and set of three 2× multiplier markers. The new main board allows for five goals and eight tiles up for purchase. I like the idea, but this is already a game that can be held up by a player who's prone to analysis paralysis, so I'd want to choose players fairly carefully if I were going to go with five; it can be cumbersome with four.

The other components deal with the new resource: stars (essentially, "attractiveness to tourists"). New tiles (such as Swanky Spa, Wax Museum, and Man-Made Volcano) have one or more gold stars: each gold star you build moves the star piece (one supplied per player colour) up the star track. As one's position rises, it gives a boost to income, then reputation. The player with most stars gains one population at the end of the round, the player with least loses one, and the next round is played in descending order of stars. On the other hand, star tiles tend to be relatively expensive, and don't give much in the way of other benefits.

There are three new star-related goals, two new star-related bonus/challenge tiles, and six new border areas.

These new star tiles aren't shuffled wholesale into the A/B/C stacks; a new setup board shows how many star tiles and how many standard ones to use in each stack, based on the number of players. It's basically the same stack size as Inc., with half the tiles replaced by stars. This should keep star and non-star tiles relatively balanced, though it means the chance of being able to collect a set of the old tiles (e.g. airports) has gone down very substantially. This isn't an expansion I'll necessarily use on every play; it does seem to change the flavour of the game. (A variant suggests that each time you draw a non-star tile, you take a random non-star tile from the main tile pool of the same letter and put it in the same slot; whenever a player takes a tile from a two-tile slot, the other is discarded. I may well use this.)

What this expansion mostly brings is a new goal: not only do you have to balance income/cash and reputation/population, you have to stay in the race for stars too, to get the income/reputation bonuses. It's already something of a struggle to stay on top of the various shifting demands of the game, and I suspect this will slow things down a little, but it adds a welcome complexity and a new strategy.

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