Cloud City – Puzzling Layers of Pathways
Does Cloud City build sky-high fun?
Cloud City from Phil Walker-Harding promises layers of fun in a family city-building game. Did it deliver, or was it more like the newspaper boy who throws in the general vicinity?
As an architect, build a model to show how your city will look “above the clouds” and earn the most votes from the city council for walkways that will benefit the residents. Blue Orange Games publishes Cloud City, a quick, abstract puzzle game for 2-4 players.
How to Play
Your goal in Cloud City is to build a small city grid (3 tiles wide and long), with the most and longest walkways between your buildings. Every player has a starting tile with two buildings, and a hand of three randomly-selected tiles.
On your turn, place a tile from your hand into your grid. Take the towers that match the squares pictured (short green, medium blue, or tall brown) and put them in place on the tile.
Then you may place walkways between towers of the same height. These are the source of points in Cloud City, and the longer the walkway, the more points it is worth.
Each tower is also limited to holding at most two walkways, so you’ll need to plan carefully; but you don’t have to place all your bridges right away.
Walkways at different levels can cross each other, but walkways at the same level can’t cross. Nor can you build a bridge across “empty” space (where you have yet to place a tile).
After placing your tile, towers, and any walkways, select a new tile to add to your hand from the three face up in the middle of the table, or the top of the face down pile, and wait until your next turn.
The game ends when all players have played eight rounds, to finish off their 3×3 grid. Tally up the points from walkways and determine the winner.
Build Excitement in Your Cloud City
That’s the basics. To spice up your play, you have two options.
If you have only two or three players, extend the game by three turns to make a twelve-tile city grid instead of a nine-tile grid. A larger city grid means more opportunities to build walkways, but also more chances for your opponent(s) to take the walkways you need.
Cloud City also has an “Upgraded Models” mode, adding Special Request cards. These cards provide additional goals that add or subtract points as you meet the requests.
Cloud City is fast to set up and engaging in its puzzle, so I don’t mind pulling it out for a quick play. But it feels like something is missing.
Maybe it’s because there is so little player interaction (it’s hard to draft tiles in a way that effects other players at all; about the best you can do is to take the last walkway in a certain length that they’ll want). Or maybe it’s because the tile drafting isn’t very meaningful when there are only a few combinations of towers on the tiles, and you always have three in your hand to make your choice.
The special requests add some interest – now you have a goal other than simply “get the most points”. Whatever you choose, it will add restrictions that make the puzzle aspect of Cloud City more interesting.
There are a lot of pieces here without much distinction. The towers and the walkways are attractive, but the green and blue can be hard to distinguish on the cards. There’s no symbology provided there to help, and it would have been so easy to add it! The different layers can be a little finicky as well. Threading a lower level walkway through higher ones can sometimes be a bit of a fumble for kids (or adults!) who don’t have excellent fine motor skills.
Having recently played the Bad News Bears expansion of Bärenpark, Cloud City felt very familiar. It’s clear Mr. Walker-Harding started with the same idea for the bear park monorails and the Cloud City connections.
But even though Cloud City is faster to set up and simpler to play, I’d rather play Bad News Bears. The decisions feel more interesting in the bear park, and there’s a real race for desirable pieces, not to mention a cute theme. Cloud City in contrast feels like a puzzle without a goal; there’s really nothing to hook me and keep me coming back.
That isn’t to say we recommend passing on Cloud City, though. If you have a budding architect who enjoys puzzles and want a light family game to play together, Cloud City is a good choice. Find it on Amazon or at your local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Cloud City from Blue Orange Games for this review.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 10+ (we say 8+)
Playtime: 20-30 minutes