Suburbia Collector’s Edition Review – A City To Behold?

Suburbia Collector’s Edition is the brand new edition of Bézier Games’s hit city building board game. Designed by Ted Alspach, featuring artwork from the likes of Jason Boles and Stephanie Gustafsson, the game utilises tile placement and economic gameplay. This special edition includes all of the expansions and improved components. Whether with base or expansion content the game sees 1 – 5 players build their city for around 1.5 hours. However, will the boroughs be filled with brilliance or boredom? Let’s find out!

There are a fair few steps to the setup, but not too much for the length of the game. Most of it is to do with the stack of tiles being created. All of the hexagonal city tiles in Suburbia, be them from the base game or expansions, fall into three categories: A, B and C. Shuffling the types separately a selection of A, B and C tiles are selected, the number used being dependent on the player count.

If using an expansion players would swap the same number of expansion tiles into each A, B and C. In the top half of the C pile a special “One More Round” tile is shuffled in. Creating the full draw pile, the C stack is put on top of B, which in turn is all put on top of A. This is neatly placed into the draw tower on the market board, which is filled with 7 tiles. A number of public goal tokens are revealed, the amount equalling the player count.

Players then take a player board, the matching colour wooden pieces, 3 investment makers, $15 and two secret goal tokens – with one to be kept. Each player starts the game with one Suburbs, one Community Park and one Heavy Factory in their borough, taking the tiles and putting them in that order going away from the playerboard. The way these basic tiles trigger provides the player with 0 income and 1 reputation.

Starting with whomever has the start player marker, the game is played in turns. On a turn the active player chooses to place a building tile or an investment marker. Building tiles can come from the real estate market for a denoted cost. The tiles themselves have a price and then how far up the market they are adds to the cost, with two +$0 slots. These tiles can be flipped, reducing the cost to only the +$X from the market, to become a lake. While lakes aren’t great long term they do gain money for adjacent none lake tiles. The other city tile option comes in the form of the basic tiles, with a tile still needing to be discarded from the market. Instead of playing a tile, investment markers can be placed on any of your borough tiles, doubling every effect.

Every tile in the game has an effect, sometimes coming with more than one. Tiles can come with instant or ongoing effects, and some will even trigger based on what other players build. For example, a mobile home community has no ongoing effect but gains the player 6 population. A movie theater however gains you borough 1 income instantly and then another 1 income for every adjacent tile with a house symbol. On going effects, as the name suggests, aren’t just when the tile is played. They also trigger when future tiles are played that satisfy the condition. Note that not every effect is good, there is always a balance to play.

Once this step is done the player collects their income, before upping their population by the number of reputation they have. Both amounts are tracked on the player board, with coins then taken for the money and the population tracker counting the score. One interesting aspect of the scoring is the red roof mechanism. Whenever a player’s population passes one of these coloured roofs their income and reputation are decreased by 1. Later on in the game it is more than possible to pass multiple of these in one turn and see a huge swing in income and reputation. At the end of a turn, regardless of the action taken, one space in the real estate markets should be empty. The last phase is to refill this from the bottom of the draw pile / tile tower.

The game continues with tiles being played until the “One More Round” tile is drawn. One final full round is played before the game ends, with the starting player marker there so everyone has had the same number of turns. Two steps are performed before the final scores are reached: goals and money conversion. Firstly, the public goals are scored. These award bonus population to the player(s) with the most or least of something, for example the most lakes, the fewest tiles with the Suburbia Nightlife symbol or the least money. Each player then scores their private goal if they have best fulfilled it. Players then trade in their money at $5 to 1 population. Finally, whomever has the most population wins!

Shuffling in expansions is a breeze with Suburbia and they don’t change the weight of the game. An extreme example of this is the Essen micro expansion tile set. Made up of only 6 tiles, two for each stage, these could be in a gamer’s first play and they would be none-the-wiser. There’s one extra symbol but the complexity isn’t raised, and you could get the iconic Messe in your borough!

Not all expansions alter as little as the Essen one. Part of the Suburbia Inc. expansion for example adds border tiles, a brand new tile type, amongst a host of other content. During play these borders are taken in the same way as drawing basic tiles – seeing a normal tile discarded. They can be powerful tiles, though they also add the building restriction of being a border. For this small extra item to contend with they can often trigger a lot of income or reputation. Still, the way that they work is so similar they don’t make things more complicated and are just another option.

With so many expansions included there is the option for incredible variety between games. This does decrease the chances of combos, for example like airports that want other airports. Some will love tactically reacting to what becomes available, which is ramped up when throwing loads of expansions in. Those that like less variance can choose to throw one expansion in at a time – allowing players to know a little more what may come out of turn tile tower.

This isn’t just any version of Suburbia, and the components mostly shout that. Alas, elements let it down. The first player marker is a bit too blocky. It does the job of a first player marker, something which a cardboard token could have achieved. This is a collector’s edition so Bézier Games has clearly gone over the top, though it is a little brash and uninspiringly looks like something found attached to a pipe behind a dishwasher. What makes this chunky plastic marker almost an irritating use of plastic are the fiddly cardboard coins: which would be lackluster in any edition of the game, let alone a collectors edition. The 10s are a good size and the 5s are okay. However, the 1s – which are used a lot throughout – are tiny and fiddly. A collector’s edition should have something special. They don’t need to be metal, or even plastic, still they should be of adequate size not to be annoying.

Suburbia

There is little else to fault and plenty to drop jaws with. Firstly, the ample amounts of tiles are of good thickness and the artwork allows them to build together to form a pleasing city. The use of colours and symbols makes it easy to identify how tiles combo together, leaving players to work out what they want to do not what tiles do. During play these tiles come out of a 3D tile tower and onto an incredibly satisfying market. Whenever a tile is removed from this the rest slide round, making it an effortless bit of admin – the only good kind.

Finally, there is the storage solution in the terms of the custom Game Trayz. There is a serious time investment up front to Suburbia Collector’s Edition. The game comes with plenty to pop from punchboards. There are so many they don’t even all fit in the box prior to punching. This is something to be appreciated though as once punched the waste can be recycled and the lid fits perfectly on the box! Once ready the system works incredibly well at making setup easier, from having expansions all separated and making it easy to get tiles from the insert.

Suburbia as a core game is full of choices and there is a balancing act to play during each turn. What tiles to go for, how much one is worth paying for, through to where to place it are all up to the player and most have dynamically changing “correct” answers. The amount of maths builds up throughout the game, allowing for a slightly forgiving start.

At 2 players the game has a higher pace to it, with turns quickly being taken – however the market does stay a little stale. Yet, for me, at the full player count the tiles are cycled through too much. Amazing tiles can come and go, and there is little point starting to plan ahead until the previous player has started their turn, and this slows the gameplay down.

As a collector’s edition this isn’t just the core Suburbia though. Coming with every expansion available the potential for variety and replayability is through the roof, even one of those red roofs on the population tracker. For the most part the quality is faultless and completes the awesome gameplay with admin solutions. Not liking the first player marker isn’t an issue but the provided coins are, they will most probably be replaced by any fan that is ready to splash out on this edition. That is truly who Suburbia Collector’s Edition is for, fans that want everything in an amazing set – thankfully it is what this game provides.

(Editor’s Note: Suburbia Collector’s Edition was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, find your local store here.)