There’s little more inspiring than a blank canvas to fill with your own creativity. That’s the core appeal of city building games: an empty field, a bunch of bricks and you the architect. Only a few rules (and some annoying opponents) stand between you and your grand vision of utopia.
The visual of seeing your city come together in front of your eyes is just so satisfying. Mapping out a metropolis gives you the chance to combine spatial skills with strategic play in a manner few other genres can manage. That’s what most of our picks are all about, but there’s a few more artisanal abstracts to play as well.
Let’s start with the most popular and archetypical example of city building. Your city begins with a feeble three hexes, one park, one suburb and one factory. Adding to it means picking a hex from an agonizing conveyor of options, with closer choices costing fewer resources. Where to put it pushes further problems onto your plate, since the effects of most tiles change depending on their neighbors. Throw in an economic model that punishes rapid growth and you’ve got a seething stew of architectural agony and one brilliant board game. Best of all are the bizarre urban dreamscapes these competing demands create, where skyscrapers sit side by side with slaughterhouses.