19 October 2018
Bruno Cathala, creator of many notable board games including Kingdomino, 7 Wonders Duel and Imaginarium, has teamed up once again with his Kanagawa and Abyss co-designer Charles Chevallier for a tile-drafting game about building an anthill called Micropolis.
Micropolis effortlessly nails the balance between offering easy, approachable gameplay and multiple strategic paths to victory. It is a perfect gateway game, where tabletop newcomers will not struggle with understanding the rules while veteran players will still find enough to sink their teeth into. While this makes Micropolis a really enjoyable game it also lacks in originality, making it hard to compete on the same level as games in the same wheelhouse, such as Majesty: For the Realm.
Majesty and Micropolis share very similar DNA and, unfortunately for the latter, this does not work in its favour. In both games, all players start with identical bases and then proceed to draft cards or tiles – in case of Micropolis, to trigger abilities and earn victory points. The drafting also works in a similar manner, with the first card in the line-up being free to pick up but, in order to gain cards further down the line, players are required to leave meeples or red ants on the preceding cards. While powers, activated by specialist ants, work well in Micropolis and are nicely integrated with the theme, special abilities are just more varied and fun in Majesty.
Having said that, Micropolis still has some, if not completely unique, interesting mechanics that help to give it its own character. The anthill is composed of tiles that create a complete circle around the central base core. There is a certain spatial awareness that is required of players to figure out which tiles to connect together to build tunnels with ants. The scoring in part is dependent on how all tunnels are connected and what ants or fruit are located within it.
The artwork, like the theme, is adorable and the game has a lot of details that make it really aesthetically pleasing. The little ant miniatures, in themselves quite detailed, fit perfectly into a chunky central base, around which all the tiles align perfectly. When the whole anthill is complete, it looks really nice on the table. The game box has been specifically designed to fit all of the components perfectly, making setup and pack-up seamless.
What really soured my impression of otherwise a very good game was a little note inside the rulebook about the decision to use male pronouns only. Unfortunately, while this is hardly unusual, if there is enough space in the rulebook to add a note that attempts to justify the choice, then there is definitely enough space in there to use ‘him/her’ or ‘their’ instead. Let’s finally let go of the false pretences that exclusively male pronouns are used for clarity – particularly laughable when the rulebook contains typos.
Micropolis, unfortunately, suffers from coming out in an incredibly busy board game market. While it is a really enjoyable game, with sound mechanics that work perfectly well together and even its components have clearly been designed with care and attention to detail, its unoriginality makes it easy to forget and allows other, similar games to outshine it. Ultimately, it’s more of a drone than a queen.
Micropolis is a perfect gateway game that, despite its many virtues, falls just short of impressing. However, its attention to component design can only be applauded.
Designer: Bruno Cathala, Charles Chevallier
Artist: Camille Chaussy
Time: 30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the August 2018 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.
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