Ground Floor & Skyline

22 Feb

Image taken from Board Game Geek – thanks to Nathan Morse for uploading it.

Two game reviews for the price of one!  Ground Floor and Skyline are the two newest games in Tasty Minstrel Games’ increasingly impressive game library.  Both games exist thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign from mid-2012.  Ground Floor was the star of the campaign.  Skyline was added as a stretch goal bonus.  Both games have a similar goal, in that you are trying to build a skyscraper (or in Skyline’s case – skyscrapers).  Both games come at this goal from very different directions.

Ground Floor

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Grilled mac & cheese with bacon not included…but delicious

Ground Floor is a fairly deep economic game.  The economy is almost exceedingly tight at times.  In Ground Floor, you are trying to build a successful business from nothing.  You have no employees, little money, and just a basic 6-room office at the start of the game.  All you really have is time, and your drive to be a success.

Ground Floor plays out over 9 rounds (or when a player builds his or her 5th extra floor).  Each round, as you might imagine, includes several steps.  The first step is to gain money, the amount of money you get depends on how many employees you have.  Fewer employees means more money, but fewer opportunities (time markers) to do things during the rest of the turn.

The second step is to hire employees from the potential employee pool shown on the main board.  Depending on how the economy is (Recession, Boom, Stable etc) there may be a whole lot of cheap labor, or you may have to pay dearly for just one more person.

The third step is by far the the meatiest step in the game…under the innocent title of “Schedule Business.”  In this step, you take all the time markers provided by your staff, and place them on the boards.  If I were to try and explain each option available to you, this review would take 3 days to read.  To simplify matters, I will broadly discuss the functions of the personal board and the main board.

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Personal Board

The personal board is your office space.  This is where you do things like train employees, produce the goods you want to sell, set up meetings and all that jazz.  Actions on your personal board can be done as many times as you can afford during this step.    You may upgrade each room in your office, making them work more efficiently.  Each player starts the game with a different room already upgraded.  I believe this little boost is a good aspect to the game.  When you first sit down at Ground Floor, it looks rather intimidating, and it is for new players.  Giving this one area of focus can help drive a player’s early game strategy a bit.

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Main board

The main board is where all the player interaction happens.  There are 5 different buildings here that are available for use.  In some cases, these buildings can give you the same resources your personal board can, but there’s an element of risk involved.  For example, the Consulting Firm can get you 10 info (info is a resource like money, you need it to be able to do much of anything in this game), but only if someone “meets” with you (plays a time marker on the same line as you) next turn.  Losing a time marker here hurts, because you’ve tied it up for 2 turns, and gained nothing.

Once everybody has scheduled their business, then you conduct business.  This is simply resolving each time marker placed on the main board.

The final step in a round of Ground Floor is “Reorganize.”  While it’s mostly just basic cleanup, and bookkeeping; you are allowed to downsize during this step.  Downsizing means you fire employees…why would you want to do that?  Well, say it’s the last turn of the game, and all you really need to do is build one floor of your office.  There isn’t any need to keep all those extra people around to do that simple task, so you can unload them, and get more money.

When I played the print and play edition of Ground Floor back in May 2012, I really loved it.  I am not usually a fan of really deep or overly long games, but this game hits on a “happy spot” I’ve only found in other games like Power Grid and Automobile.  It’s got a tight economy, but not completely unforgiving.  As I sit here today with my brand new copy in my hands, I still love it.  The artwork is absolutely stunning.  The game looks incredible on the table.  It will turn heads.

I have found that playing with more than 4 players (and it supports up to 6) can drag, especially when everybody has three or four employees… that’s 10-13 actions per player per round.  You have to kind of make sure people keep up with things, and don’t get too focused on what other players may or may not do.   I can say, however, that the game feels like it plays just as well and the decisions can be just as tough with 2 as it does with 5.    Just don’t expect it to fit into the 120 minute time frame listed on the box with over 3 players.

Skyline

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Skyline is designed by the same person as Ground Floor, David Short.  However, Skyline is a completely different kind of game.  Skyline is a push-your-luck dice game.  The goal in this game is to build skyscrapers.  You get points based on how many floors each building is.  A bonus for me is that Skyline has a solo mode.  I’ve played that a few times, and have played multi-player a couple times as well.

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The highlight of the game is the 60 custom etched dice.  There are three types of dice, bases, middle floors, and penthouses.  These dice are set up in three piles, collectively known as the Construction Yard.  One a turn, a player either chooses three of these dice, in any combination, or they choose all the dice that have collected as a result of the Abandon action.  Once dice are chosen, they are rolled, and depending on what comes up, an action can be taken.  There are three actions that can be taken.

First, as stated earlier, you can abandon a die.  If your roll a bunch of garbage, you can throw one of those dice into the Abandoned Dice pile, and re-roll your others.  Keep in mind that if too many dice end up abandoned, that could give another player a turn with four or more dice.

Next, you can build.  Building simply means moving a die (or dice) to your row of buildings.  If there’s a base die, you start a new building.  If there’s a floor die, you extend a building upward, and if there’s a penthouse, you can cap off a building and turn it into points!

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The final action is  Demolish.  With this action, you take a rolled die (or dice) and one of your buildings, and send them back to the Construction Yard.  I honestly can’t find a strategic reason to do this action, unless you are willing to take points off your own board to keep from adding a die to the Abandoned pile.  I can only gather that this action exists mainly for the solo game.  In the solo game, the Abandon action is not allowed, so I assume that if you roll a handful of dice you can’t use, you must demolish a building.

Skyline hasn’t really grabbed me yet.  I do find it more fun with a group of people, because the Abandon die action brings forth some rough decisions at times.  After a few plays, I’m still left feeling a bit underwhelmed by the whole process. Luckily, it only takes 10-15 minutes for a full game, so it’s an easy one to slip in as a filler.  Plus, the dice look really cool, so it’s easy to get to the table.

Final Thoughts

If Ground Floor had made it to my doorstep before December 31, it would have officially been my favorite game of 2012.  As it stands, it’s definitely a front runner for that award this year…but there’s a long way to go.   Ground Floor should be making its way to traditional retail outlets fairly soon, and when it does, I hope folks give it a chance.  I think it fits in very favorably with some of the top board games around.

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