23 November 2019
Big smoke on the water
The future is wet. Very wet. With sea levels rapidly rising, building homes for people on land is no longer feasible. The solution is to create sprawling megacities which float on the ocean’s surface, on immense high-tech platforms. Not only is this endeavour innovative and challenging, it turns out, it is also fun.
Megacity Oceania is a dexterity game with a strong, engaging theme and a welcome infusion of light strategy. Each player works together to create the titular floating metropolis, but against each other to complete contracts and earn the most prestige by, say, constructing the tallest building, or making their tower out of a single material (glass, concrete or steel).
Interestingly, all of your construction has to happen when it isn’t your turn, making the game almost entirely downtime-free. While the other players are busy taking their goes, you must beaver away with your building pieces, a crazy array of geometrically formed plastic tiles, to create your own mini Gherkin, Burj Khalifa or Sydney Opera House, following the rules of whichever contract you’ve selected. It might need to be a residential building (which means it must sit on a red hex-tile platform), at least 55 storeys high, comprise exactly eight pieces and include an archway, for example.
When your turn comes, however, you must pause construction. At this point you’ll have two options: if your building isn’t complete, you’ll take two actions (three in a two-player game). You can pull new building pieces out of the bag, take a platform, or choose a new contract, among other things. If your building is complete, however, you can choose to deliver it to the city, which must be arranged around a Central Park tile at the play area’s centre
This is where the dexterity really comes in. Your stacked-and-balanced skyscraper must be sturdy enough to withstand being slid along the table surface and slotted next to another tile. If it falls over during its journey, your turn is over and you have to reconstruct.
Each delivery proves entertainingly tense, especially as every other player has to stop what they’re doing and watch until your building’s in place. Of course, someone could be a jerk and knock the table during such delicate manoeuvres, but designers Michael Fox (Holding On) and Jordan Draper (Import/Export) encourage a semicooperative group mindset: you’re building this city together, after all,
and the real joy is in watching it grow, both vertically and horizontally across the play area. Winning almost feels a secondary concern to this painstaking act of creation.
As you might guess, the game is more entertaining with a higher player count, especially as with two players your building efforts will be interrupted more regularly. Even at four, it can become a little frustrating at times to be snatched from your tower-creating focus by people ordering you to stop and take your turn. But this is a minor niggle. Megacity Oceania is a true delight, in terms of its gentle strategies, its visual impact and, most of all, the sense of satisfaction you get whenever you successfully add a building to the city. Who ever thought climate catastrophe could be such a hoot?
PLAY IT? YES
Designers: Michael Fox, Jordan Draper
Artists: Anita Murphy, Mike Best
This review originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.