Played Suburbia on my iPad and enjoyed it, but not enough to get the physical version. Subdivision seemed a little more up my alley in terms of puzzler, so when I was able to snag a used copy for a song, I jumped at the chance.
The rulebook is a large, square single fold pamphlet. I own Castles of Mad King Ludwig as well and it has the same oversized book. In my opinion (and this goes to Fantasy Flight as well), KNOCK IT OFF. Just because the box is large doesn’t mean the rulebook has to be too (in dimensions, not pages). Minor gripe, but not a fan.
They are clear and well written however and that really is the more important thing.
The game comes with lots of hexagonal tiles for zones and improvements. Also included are some bonus tiles to introduce variability from game to game and four double-sided player mats. The parcel-die (used to determine the parcel you can play on each turn) is a large chunky thing, but since you’re only rolling one, it works just fine. Additionally, there is a score pad, four reference cards for tile activation benefits and scoring rules, a supply of wooden “sidewalk” pieces and a set of cardboard coins in denominations of five and one. These are all of excellent quality. No problems at all with the components.
If I had to balk at something, I’d like the die’s corners to be a little more round as it liked to just land with a thud without rolling unless you gave it a good lateral heave.
In Subdivision, your focus is on building up a complete and well-rounded town. Instead of the multitude of building choices in its big brother, you place five different zone types which in turn can build improvements when activated. A zone does not do anything for itself when placed, but it will activate the previously placed zones adjacent to it. If placed next to an existing lake, you’ll earn some coin too. So while there are similarities in style and concepts of Suburbia, it’s definitely a different game.
The game comes complete with a solitaire mode that I found to be challenging, fun, and fast playing. I was worried scoring would be a spreadsheet nightmare but it actually moves at a pretty good clip.
To play, you setup the game as if for three players. You remove four of the five different zone tiles leaving 12 of each. The 60 remaining are shuffled and then stacked into four random piles of 15. Next you separate the bonus tiles into their round two, three, and four groups and shuffle each set. Randomly pick one from each set, reveal it and place it on top of the second through fourth zone piles. Before you start those rounds, if you’ve met the conditions on the bonus tile, you received the reward it provides. This can be extra money or activiations of tiles you already have in play.
The player board is divided into hexagonal parcels where you can play tiles to build your town. Each parcel is marked with a color/shape combination (a nice touch for the colorblind) that matches the faces on the parcel die and a negative point value. The negative value comes into play only when scoring. It’s two sided, one with the highway around the edge and the other with the highway intersecting the town.
The game plays over four rounds and four turns each round. The first turn you’ll take the top five zone counters and reveal them. Roll the parcel-die to determine the area on your player board where you get to place a zone for free. Alternately you can pay $2 to play a zone on a different parcel or play no tile that turn and collect $2 from the bank. When you place your zone, then you reap the benefits of all the tiles adjacent to it. After you place a tile, all the remaining tiles (of those you drew) are discarded. Next turn you’ll do the same, only drawing four, then three, then two. The bottom tile of each stack is discarded. Score the bonus tile on top of the next stack and then start the whole process over.
In the non-solo game, each player would start with tiles, choose one, then pass the remainder to the next player, receiving tiles from another. So this 5-4-3-2 method perfect emulates the multiplayer experience.
When all sixteen turns have been played, you score your town in six areas. You get points for zones adjacent to parks, unique zones and improvements around sidewalks, schools, money on hand, zones connected to the highway, and then a penalty for undeveloped parcels (the negative numbers mentioned before). There is also a +2 location on your board which gains you two points back if its undeveloped but can be developed in the game for free. Anything less than an 80 is pretty much a “loss” though the game doesn’t quite phrase it that way. However, the master score of 140+ should prove a challenge to most gamers.
After you’ve mastered or become bored (if possible) with the basic solo game, the rules includes seven designed scenarios that can be also be played with the solo rules. Each has a specific setup and target score to try to attain.
For solitaire play, Subdivision is quite enjoyable and highly recommended. As I only plan to play solo, I can keep the zone tiles needed separated into a single plastic bag so it will setup faster. The improvement tiles are of three types and not secret, so these can simply be left in a single bag and dumped onto the table and sifted through to get the one you need (there are a lot of each type). So setup and tear down are a piece of cake.
It is a puzzle and a beat your high score solo game. However there is enough variability introduced with the parcel die, the bonus tokens and the zone shuffling to make it a unique and entertaining experience each time out.