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Three hundred years in the future, a series of factions compete to rebuild the once-great city of Dubai. Can you take control of one of these factions and lead it to victory and glory?
At a glance: Dubai: Rebuild the Ruins is a worker placement/tile laying game from St. Louis-based Greater Than Games. The game is for 2-4 players, with each player controlling a faction as it seeks to gain resources, purchase tiles, and build in the ruins in the desert.
It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. A $59 pledge will get you a copy of the game and any unlocked stretch goals. But don’t delay too long–the campaign only runs through March 24.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Note: I was sent a prototype of the game for review purposes, but all opinions are my own. All images in this post are of the prototype, so the final version of the game may look different.
- 1 map and worker board
- 5 double-sided player mats
- 5 screens
- 50 structure tiles
- 30 goal cards
- 84 structure tokens/gems in 5 colors
- 20 worker tokens in 5 colors
- 20 bidding tokens/gems in 5 colors
- 5 scoring tokens
- Resource discs in 5 colors
- Cardboard dirham coins
Setup for the game is pretty quick. Each player chooses a screen and player mat for one of the five factions in Dubai and the worker/scoring tokens and structure/bidding tokens of that color. Each player covers the spaces on the player mat, and puts one worker on the scoring track. The board is placed in the middle of the table. The structure tiles are shuffled and six are placed face-up next to the board. Using a 6-sided dice, place a select number of resources on the board according to a table provided in the rulebook. Shuffle the goal cards and place them in a face-down stack, and then have each player draw one. Give 15 dirham to each player. Place the resources in stacks by color near the board. Deal each player 4 structure tiles, and give them the resource indicated on the top of each tile. Each player then places one structure token on the board to designate her headquarters.
Then, the players need to deploy their workers to the three worker tracks. The rules include a suggested first game deployment, which you will want to use until you figure out the strategy behind the worker placement mechanic. In later games, workers to distributed in turn order. You have four workers to distribute, and your first three must go on each of the tracks (in any order), with your fourth being placed on whichever track you choose. Then, the first player picks one of his workers, of his choice, up off of one of the tracks, with the other workers on that track moving to fill the space.
Each turn, the active player will place a worker on the next available spot clockwise on one of the three tracks. Then, all players perform the action designated by the track. Once that is complete, the last worker on the track–the one furthest from the worker that was just placed–is removed and given to its player, who then uses it to start the next turn. So, the turn order varies from one turn to the next, and it is possible for one player to take multiple actions in a row.
The three tracks all behave quite differently. The first is the Port. Here, all players act simultaneously. The player who triggered the port by placing her worker there declares one of the available resource types. Then, all players will bid for that resource by taking one or more of their bidding tokens and putting in their closed fist. It is acceptable to not bid, but you still hold our your fist. Then, all players reveal their bid. The sum of these bids determines the price of the resource, and the number of each player’s bid determines how many of that resource they must now buy.
For example, say the red player places a worker on the Port and declares Glass as the resource. This player really needs glass, so he puts two bidding tokens in his hand. The blue player also wants glass, but only needs one and is hoping to pay less, so she puts a single token in her hand. The black player is in the same situation and, likewise, bids one. The white player isn’t interested in glass at all, and so puts no token in his hand. All players reveal at once. Since there was a total of four tokens bid–two from red and one each from blue and black–the cost of each Glass in this round is 4. However, the red player bid two tokens, so he must now pay eight dirham to buy those two resources. Blue and black each only bid one, so they must each pay 4 to get their one glass resource. Since white didn’t bid, he cannot buy any glass.
If a player overbids and cannot afford the resource, they are removed from this round, as are their bids. So in the example above, if the red player doesn’t have eight dirham available, he can’t make the purchase. Therefore, his bid is removed, and now blue and black players get to buy their glass at only two dirham each. This is actually kind of cool because it prevents a player from intentionally overbidding just to drive up the cost for the other players.
The second track is the Engineer’s Guild. This track allows players to buy structure tiles that they will later place on the board. It’s also where you can get more money. The player who triggers this track by placing a worker here goes first, followed by the next worker on the track, and so forth. No one can go more than once here, so if a player has two workers on this track, the second is simply ignored for turn order, but is important for the structure cost.
If a player chooses the Project Finance option, she simply receives 7 dirham from the bank.
If the player chooses the buy a structure, she pays the cost of the structure based on its position on the track and the number of workers they have on the track. The top structure has a base cost of 10, the second one 9, and so forth down the track to a minimum cost of 5. However, the actual cost is that base minus the number of workers the player has on the track, so if a player has two workers on the track, the top building only costs 8, while the bottom one costs 3. After all players who have workers on the track have gone, the buildings all slide down to fill any holes, and new structures are placed from the deck. One of the game end conditions is running out of tiles.
The final track is The Ruins, where you actually build structures in the desert, manage goals, and trade resources. The turn order here is determined by the order of the workers, but unlike the Engineer’s Guild, it is possible to go more than once here if you have multiple workers. Each player may use a worker to perform one of three possible actions: rebuild a structure, trade resources, or manage goals.
To rebuild a structure, you must pay the resources listed on the tile and then place it on the board. All structures must be placed adjacent to a structure you already have on the board, unless no such space is available in which case you can place it anywhere. Tile placement is important, as there are a variety of victory points available based on how the structures align. You also get points immediately upon building the structure.
Trading resources can be one at a cost of 2-to-1: you can take any two resources you have and trade them for one of something else.
The goal cards provide victory points at the end of the game, so your third option here is to either draw a new goal card or discard one of the ones you have that you have decided not to work on.
There’s one final option while playing: if one of the three tracks is activated and you do not have any workers on that track, you can “press a worker into service.” To do this, you pay 3 dirham to the bank, and then take a worker from any spot on one of the other tracks and place it on the activated track. This way, you can still participate in this round. However, if you choose not to, either because you simply don’t want to do whatever the action for the track is or because you like your current worker placement, you can instead take three dirham from the bank.
One other wrinkle: each faction has its own set of abilities that come in to play during the game. One allows you to start the game with a structure on the board. Another lets you pay less to build a structure, but at the cost of one less victory point. There’s a faction that allows you to buy two buildings at once, one that allows you to take two consecutive actions at the Ruins, and, finally, one that allows you to buy an additional resource at the Port. Each of these allows for different strategies, so players need to decide which one best fits their playing style. Each player mat has a reverse side that provides each faction with two powers for even more variability.
The game ends when either the structure tiles are used up or the workers reach a certain point on the Ruins track. At that point, you get bonus points based on how many different structure types you have and how in what order you placed them. You also get points for the total number of goals you completed minus the number you didn’t complete, so managing these during the game can be important. The winner is the player with the most points.
The game seemed quite complicated when I read through the rules, and it is, but it’s one of those games where the complexity is really in just understanding the mechanics. Once you have that figured out, it’s pretty easy to keep track of what’s going on and not get lost along the way.
The mixture of the two main mechanics–worker placement and tile laying–turned out to work really well. And the unique worker placement thing with the tracks was very interesting. You constantly had to be aware of where your workers were, and even had to consider that placing your worker on one track, while giving you the ability for that track, also meant that an opponent would get the next first turn, which you might not want. So at times, you might take a track that wasn’t as important to you immediately because doing so gave you the next turn as well, at which point you could get the action you really wanted.
The tile laying part is less unique, as it combines the idea of tiles that get progressively cheaper, so you have to decide to take the chance to wait on a tile you want until you can pay the price you want, but realize that someone else might get it first, and the tile placement strategy common in a lot of games. And if that were all there was to this game, it wouldn’t be that exciting, but when mixed with the very cool worker placement element, it turned into something that was quite interesting.
All in all, we had a lot of fun playing the game. I think that this is a game that is going to see more plays in the prototype, and I can’t wait to see and play the final version. I’d definitely recommend backing this one. As a reminder, you can do so for $59 on the Kickstarter page.