Copenhagen is the brand new release from publisher Queen Games, which features pattern building and polyomino tiles. Designed by Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen, the game sees 2 – 4 players constructing the Nyhavn harbour building facades, found unsurprisingly in Copenhagen, in around 30 minutes. Cards will come up, tiles will be placed and hopefully some floors of the buildings will have windows. However, is this a puzzle you’ll see straight through? Let’s find out!
Setting up the game, the scoring board and card market board are put within reach of all players. Next a gloriously colourful market of polyomino, Tetris-like, tiles is created – with a selection removed based on the player count. Each player chooses a colour, placing their score marker next to the scoreboard and claiming their coloured player board. Note, all are identical aside from colouring. Shuffling the cards, each player gains cards depending on where they are in turn order. Finally, 7 cards are put into (around) the market and the game is ready.
On a players turn they have a simple choice of play cards or pick up cards – with the option to also trigger special actions they have available. Drawing cards is an interesting choice as players must take two neighbouring cards from the market. Whenever a player goes over the hand limit of 7 they simply have to discard down to 7. The taken cards are then replaced and the game continues on. If a player decides to play cards the tile they receive to instantly place, on their player board, is dependant on the set discarded. For example, a set of 3 Blue cards would see the 3 sized blue tile shape received, while a 5 purple would see the 5 purple tile received.
While the amount of the 2 – 4 sized tiles changes there is always only one 5 sized tile of each colour. Placing the tile onto your player board may score you points or unlock a special ability. The tile must be either touching the base of the board or orthogonally (not diagonals) touching another piece. If a shield is covered the player gets another choice to instantly place a 1 x 1 window tile, take a new special ability or refresh all their used special abilities.
While the 1 sized window tiles are helpful for filling in the gaps the special abilities are often chosen. Abilities range from the one everyone starts with, of choosing two non adjacent cards from the market on a turn, through to taking a third card, spending one less card to claim a tile or being able to use one colour as another. While each is a one time ability and individually strong, more importantly there is no limit to how many abilities you trigger at once – so the combos that are possible are huge.
All this is great but will only help you to win and will not directly make you win. Points are earnt when a player completes are row or column – not from shields or powers. Complete rows are by standard 1 point, with columns worth 2 points. These are doubled if the player manages to fill the row or column respectively entirely with window featured squares. This can be tricky as none of the tiles are entirely covered with windows – normally coming with 1 none window square.
The game continues until one of two things happen. When the deck runs out (unless it is a two player game) the discard pile is reshuffled with an end game card shuffled near the bottom. When this card then appears the game finishes instantly. The winner is then whomever has the most points – with ties split by whoever has the least uncovered squares. However, if during play one player manages to get to 12 points the game ends and they are instantly declared the winner. The latter is the uncommon ending of the two and really relies on perfect window usage.
The card based set collection is simple to teach due to it being extremely intuitive – in the same way it is in Ticket To Ride. If a player has some of a colour and they want a tile bigger in squares than the number of cards they have they will want to collect more of that colour. For those picking up the game it makes things easy but this opens up the door for blocking other players a few games in. If you notice a player going for one colour then you can try to take it from the market before your opponent gets a chance. This can backfire as you are then both left with a limited number of that specific colour – so it doesn’t always pay off to be “that player”.
There are two elements that change the feel of one game to another: the 5 sized tiles and the special powers. As each colour has a uniquely shaped 5 sized tile chances are you’ll only be able to get one or two of these in a game. Combining getting a different 5 sized shape each time with the way the market gets used and the puzzle develops differently from one game to the next. Then, to make players feel powerful in different ways there is a choice of what power to get – so you can try different routes to hopeful victory. It would have been nice for a second set of 5 sized shapes to mix and match with , though isn’t necessary.
There is one thing the colourful building tiles aren’t and that is thin. Included are chunky cardboard tiles, that hold plenty of promise that they’ll survive for many, many plays to come. Their depth, with their colour, makes them pop from the player boards and helps to construct an eye catching building. The cards are full size and shuffle nicely. More importantly they feature the shapes available from the market in that colour. This means players don’t get caught out staring at one group of coloured shapes, giving their plan away.
The visuals of the boards and tiles certainly capture the look of the iconic Copenhagen Nyhavn buildings. Alas, there is very little that ties the game to the namesake city. Perhaps it is due to the vast number of tetris like polyomino tile games out there but the more that come out the more the themes look pasted on. Don’t mistake this as a problem only Copenhagen has. It is highlighted by other titles as much as it highlights the problem in others. Worst case scenario there any many worse themes that could have been overlied and it does create a visually appealing title.
Copenhagen offers an interesting puzzle that to date has only improved game after game. Just as you think you’re getting better a new angle of the puzzle becomes more apparent: be it the limited numbers of specific shapes, the epicness that the ability combos can create or watching what your opponents needs. While I would stick to 2 – 3 players, even at the maximum of 4 the speed of the game is maintained due to the choices remaining simple. The game has gone down well with new gamers and experienced ones and for the playtime means it is a solid filler game. Now I just need to book a trip to play Copenhagen in Copenhagen…
[Editor’s Note: Copenhagen was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £39.49. It is also available from local board game stores, find your local store here]