Happy City: Pick the Best Buildings

Happy City

Build a happy city full of happy people!

As a kid, I played SimCity for hours on end. When my kids were little, we’d set up whole cities with blocks or LEGO for trains and cars to travel around. I’ve tried plenty of city building board games and card games, and they often leave me disappointed.

Happy City, by Airu Sato and Toshiki Sato, promises a happier experience. As mayor of a new tiny metropolis, you need to choose buildings to add to your city while balancing income, population, and happiness.

Appropriate for older children (7+) and adults, fast-playing Happy City has been brought to the USA by Gamewright.

How to Play

Start with setting up a central Building Supply: three Building card decks (in three price ranges), Residence cards (sorted by price), and a few Bonus Buildings.

Happy City setup
Setup for three players. (Error: there should be five Bonus Buildings for a three player game.)

Every player starts with two coins and a Happy Market building, which gives one income.

At the beginning of each round, all players take their income in coins.

On your turn, you may choose to discard one face-up card from the central market area. Then reveal cards from any of the three Building decks until there are three face-up cards in the market.

Happy Market and First Player card

Once the market is ready, it’s time to buy! Choose to purchase a face-up Building from the market, a Residence, or pass and take one coin. If you bought any kind of card, put it in the next available spot in your city. Every card in your city must be unique, so don’t buy a Building identical to one already in your city!

At the end of your turn, check whether your city meets the conditions for any of the available Bonus Building cards. If so, you may take it – but you aren’t required to! In fact, you may not want to take the first Bonus you’re eligible for, since your city can only have a single Bonus Building.

Dream Factory, Ghost Control Headquarters, Dragon Park-N-Ride, Pirate Ship, Disco, Chocolate Shop, Mega Ball Pit
Bonus Buildings

When a player puts the tenth building into their city (including the Happy Market from the beginning of the game), their city is full and the end game is triggered. Finish the round and then calculate scores.

At the end of the game, your city score is its total happiness – the number of citizens multiplied by the number of hearts.

Complete city: Happy Market, Book Shop, Perfumery, Observatory, Office Building, High-Rise, Shopping Center, Day Spa, Mars Embassy, University
This city scores an amazing 60 points (10 population x six hearts).

Expert Mode

For a more challenging game, make two small changes. First, swap out the Bonus cards for the Expert Bonus cards. These are more complex than the pink Bonus buildings. Some have interesting end-game conditions, some give immediate bonuses, and several of them give opportunities for more interaction with other players.

Expert Bonus Buildings

The second change is to the Happy Markets. Set out all five with their colored side up, no matter how many people are playing. After revealing this game’s Expert Bonus cards, players choose the Happy Market they’d like to start with – in reverse order (last player first).

The rest of the game plays the same as usual.

Can you have the happiest city?

Happy Market cards in 5 colors


So often city building games don’t live up to my SimCity ideals. They’re too hard (Tokyo Jutaku and Cities: Skylines) or don’t have enough variety to stay interesting (Flip City). And if there’s player interaction, it tends to be very mean (Machi Koro).

But Happy City does exactly what I have wanted in a competitive city building game. Here you build the best city you can with the resources you have. Player interaction is mostly the cards you choose to discard from (or add to) the central market. There’s a sense that we’re all striving for the same goal here.

Happy Market, Shoe Shop, Police Station, University, Apartment Complex, Happywood Studios, Repair Shop, Day Spa, Theme Park, Zoo
This looks like a fun city – at least to visit.

And our cities are fun! With options like a Book Shop, a Ski Resort, and even an Igloo, I’m never sad about putting a new Building in my city. There are five different building classes (shops, industrial, residential, municipal, and entertainment) and new Bonus buildings in each game, providing plenty of variety for my hypothetical citizens.

The game also plays incredibly fast – the only time we went longer than the 30 minutes listed on the box was when teaching a game to five players. In my experience, most games actually take less than 20 minutes. You’re never overwhelmed with decisions, and the game can be over in as few as eight rounds.

I really appreciate the art (from Makoto Takami). Bright, slightly zany illustrations make your city a perfect backdrop for a happy Phineas & Ferb adventure. And the graphic design has clever touches. Every class has an icon that is echoed in the background color, and the card backs show the distribution of cards in each price range.

Happy, but Tiny

There is one drawback – the cards are very small. This makes them easier to fit on the table, but harder to grab. My middle-aged eyes sometimes struggle to read the text on the Expert Bonus Buildings.

But those concerns are minuscule. I am loving Happy City and doubt I’ll get tired of it any time soon. Although the box says 10+, I can play with our seven-year-old and we both enjoy ourselves, building the cities we want. And since it accommodates five players, our whole family can sit down and play it together, too.

Find Happy City on Amazon (for under 20 bucks!) or at your local board game store.

Still not sure? Try Happy City for free on Board Game Arena, and see for yourself why we love it!

The Family Gamers received a copy of Happy City from Gamewright for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Happy City
  • 9/10
    Art - 9/10
  • 9.5/10
    Mechanics - 9.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Family Fun - 8.5/10


Number of Players: 2-5

Age Range: 10+ (we say 7+)

Playtime: 30 minutes (usually less)