Capital City from Calliope Games gives players the chance to live out a fanciful take on the boomtowns of the Old West. Settlers are pouring into town, making it swell with new structures and businesses hoping to profit. It is hardly a land of equality, however, since nepotism is a strong force, with families helping family.
Capital City begins with players receiving a City Founder, a free character card that will help lay a foundation for their strategy over the course of the game. Play then proceeds over four rounds, each a season of a year in the burgeoning town. Things begin with dealing cards to the Main Street of businesses, each worth victory points and inherently tied to the newcomers to town, with half of a symbol showing their profession. At the beginning of the season, players bid on Priority cards to determine who will go first, second, and so on. Going first has the obvious benefit of getting the best choices of passengers getting off the train and businesses to buy, but strategic players may hold onto their money to buy bigger businesses for more profit.
Once player order has been determined, the game continues with the arrival of a trainload of character cards. Players select their characters, placing them face down on the table. Opponents will want to keep their memories sharp to know who has what. This will prevent unpleasant surprises as players begin staffing the town. Players continue by purchasing buildings from the Main Street selection, moving them in front of their own space on the table.
The Attach and Activate phase is the meat of Capital City. Going in reverse order from the Priorities that were bid upon, the players attach their characters to their buildings. Once a business is fully staffed with all symbols matched, it generates revenue or victory points at the player’s choice. Players may wish to grab money early on for bidding and purchasing, but victory points determine the winner at the end.
The real kicker to Capital City is its mechanic for chain activation. Once one family member activates, so does the rest of the clan. If the one coyote member of Waldcott family, Harriet for example, activates at the Boarding House, every other Waldcott able to earn gets money as well, no matter whose player they are. This suit-matching provides a great opportunity for players to scoop up the majority of a clan and earn several paydays in a row. However, other players will want to get in on that bonanza and vie for members of those wealthy families, making each bidding round even more important than the last.
Capital City is a board game for three to six players aged eight and up. It is a moderately long game, lasting between 30 minutes and an hour. Its social aspects are very strong with its frequent building, but it will take keen strategy to maximize a family and rake in the victory points.