Make Plans to Build Sunrise City

Kickstarter Tabletop Games

Sunrise City game in progressSunrise City game in progress

Sunrise City: let's start building! Photo: Jonathan Liu

SunriseCity-boxSunriseCity-boxOverview: A new city is on the map, and you’re one of the founders. Sunrise City is an upcoming board game from Clever Mojo Games that has you zoning, bidding, and building out and up. The game had a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign last fall, and will be available to the general public in April this year.

Players: 2 to 4

Ages: 13 and up (though experienced younger players might try it)

Playing Time: ~60 minutes

Retail: Currently only available through pre-order from Clever Mojo Games: $60 includes shipping to US, $70 to Canada, or $90 anywhere else internationally.

Rating: Plan-tastic! A fascinating combination of tile-laying, bidding, and role selection make for some great Sim City-inspired urban planning, with an ingenious scoring system.

Who Will Like It? Well, I never cared for Sim City (except for running disasters through pre-built cities), but I really liked Sunrise City. If you like strategic tile-placement games (like Carcassonne), check this one out — but be prepared to do a lot of addition.


A sampling of zone tiles: City Hall (with compass rose), community centers, and tiles for building.


Sunrise City has an Art Deco look, kind of an old Miami feel. Cars with big fenders, men and women with hats and gloves, buildings with a lot of ornamentation. The city grows in phases: first, zones are laid out, expanding the foundation of the city. Next, players bid on empty lots for construction. Finally, buildings are built up on lots (and on top of other buildings).

Theme-wise, you do feel a bit like you’re building out a city: zoning restricts what types of buildings you can build in certain locations, and you get points for buildings placed on lots where you own the rights. Some community centers offer bonus points when something is built next to it: placing Parks & Recreation buildings next to the Zoo, for instance, gives you extra points. And the various roles that you can select do have effects that are at least somewhat related to their names: the Protester prevents players from doing anything to a particular zone tile; the Union Boss gets points for any upper floor built by any player for a round.

There are a couple places where the theme doesn’t really seem to match the gameplay (though it doesn’t really take away from the fun of the game, in my opinion). For instance, you get bonus points for building an odd-numbered floor of a building, but not even-numbered floors. That’s a rule that doesn’t have any sensible connection to real-life building, as far as I can imagine. The game designers also made the decision to use canals and sidewalks on the tile borders: canals can’t be built across on the first floor. But this gives you a big sprawling city that’s full of sidewalks and canals, but no roads whatsoever. Sunrise City still works as a game, but you wonder where those big-fendered cars are going to be driving.


A few building examples: primary points in the center, bonus points on the sides.


The first thing I noticed about Sunrise City, before I even opened it up, was the sheer weight of the thing. Believe me: the reason for that $60 price tag is at least partly due to shipping costs. As you can see from the photo below, the box is crammed with components: wooden bits, cards, and a whole lot of cardboard. (Bonus: it all came pre-punched, so you won’t have to spend any time punching out all those tiles.)


The box is jam-packed with cardboard tiles and wooden bits. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Here’s what you get:

  • 1 scoreboard
  • 4 wooden scoring pawns
  • 24 wooden bidding chips (6 of each color)
  • 1 protester meeple
  • 70 wooden benchmark tokens (yellow stars)
  • 20 wooden floor markers (black spires)
  • 16 role cards
  • 1 City Hall tile
  • 5 community tiles
  • 60 zone tiles
  • 60 building tiles

They even threw in several little plastic baggies, I guess if you wanted to individually bag the bidding chips and scoring pawns for each player, but I found that a single bag for those works just fine — they’re large enough that they aren’t hard to sort out. (But the extra bags are a nice touch.)

The zone tiles are pretty large, just over 2.5″ square, and a typical cardboard-token thickness. The building tiles, on the other hand, are extra-thick cardboard, with beveled corners. They’re sized to go across two zone tiles but within the sidewalk boundaries, so about 2″ by 4.75″ and maybe twice as thick as the zone tiles. They feel pretty sturdy, though the edges are raw pressed cardboard so you’ll really want to avoid spilling anything on them. The City Hall tile has a different colored back, making it easy to find when you’re shuffling all the tiles up for setup.

The wooden bits are nice, particularly the benchmark tokens, which are bright yellow stars. The artwork is all very nice: the building illustrations all have a great Art Deco look and I love the stylized people on the role cards. You’ll notice a few of the roles actually feature the game designers and developers, or even Kickstarter backers who chose the higher levels to be worked into the game.

The one complaint about the components is in identifying the types of zones and buildings. Each type (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.) has a color and an icon associated with it. However, the icons are very small both on the zone tiles and the building tiles. If you go back up to the images above, the zone tiles have small wooden boards with white icons: a house for residential, a tree for parks & recreation. The buildings have these same icons, in color, on the bottom corners of each tile. But they’re tiny enough that if you’re color blind and trying to scan over an entire city to decide where you can build, you’re going to have a very hard time. The other issue is that the blue (for commercial) looks a bit purplish on the zone tile and doesn’t really match the blue of the building tiles, so the first round we had some confusion when I said “purple” (for mixed-zone) and somebody thought I meant the blue commercial zones.

Once you’ve played the game once you’ll figure out which buildings go with what zones, but I think larger icons could have been nicer, even if they cut into the illustrations a little more. I’ll usually take legibility over aesthetics, as long as it’s not horribly ugly.

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