NEOM: Facing the Future with a City Paved in Tiles
Build a futuristic city through a series of eras with all sorts of unique locations to produce, earn, and live in NEOM.
Long live the tile-laying solo games, particularly ones about building something! NEOM has always remained a favorite of mine, and although it might not make it to my table all the time, it’s such a joy to play. I’m far from the top scoring tiers, yet find something new to discover with each play. Not an easy feat, and this one is just so much fun!
Solo tile drafting provides tons of options to build during a trio of eras. Residential neighborhoods take shape, streets connect areas, local production provides resources, and so much more happens! It’s a quick experience that packs all the goodness of city-building into a compact space.
February 1, 2020
September 23, 2023
16" x 16"
The First Era
Most eras involve placing 7 buildings, many of which have costs or resource requirements. Initially, I often focus on building up the raw resource production of my city.
Looking back, though, I wonder if this might not be the best strategy. Those resources lead to more production, but are only worth 1 victory point each. Not too great!
It was more interesting to space out my cornerstone tiles, which are arguably the most variable and interesting part.
The public safety department served as a fire station and police department, all together. Stay away, disasters!
With everything clearly set in the production department, I went ahead and shifted away from that in the second era. Genius strategist over here. Ha ha! Still, it kind of worked.
Powering the entire city by the end is vastly important, so I got that done… Doubly so. The extra victory points seemed worth it, but I really only needed a single tile.
I watched a neighborhood take shape in the northeast corner, while the commercial district took off.
There are tons of different scoring conditions, but I was just having the time of my life picking out buildings!
A Glorious City
When the third era ended, I had myself a lovely city to admire! Those resources all paid off with an additional building with victory points. All filled up!
Actually, a city will always have at least 3 empty spaces, but this opens up plenty of possibilities.
One thing I often fail at is building up neighborhoods. I guess I don’t want people messing up my lovely creations. No one lives here… Just vacation rentals. Ha ha!
My final score wasn’t anything exciting, yet I loved putting this little grid together. Onward to play again!
The park cornerstone tile came up during my next play, and I thought about how I could use it to my advantage.
Pollution is always detrimental to nearby residential tiles, so I spread those out. However, with a park in the middle of all that mess, the victory points were pretty great!
It might seem like a city will always look the same in the end, yet the decisions are always a little bit different.
Tile stacks contain 4 to 7 tiles. Early on in an era, disasters might even be discarded with no impact. But with so many options, it can be hard to pass up a great tile!
How Different Does Each Play Need to Be?
One of the interesting elements I came across with this one surrounded the tile variety. Although there are plenty of decisions, almost all of them show up in a single play. That creates a sort of static pool of tiles that will show up, but the cornerstone tiles are typically very different. Lots of unique options there! So I thought about the overall variety…
In a way, it does feel like the majority of tiles are seen over and over again. However, gameplay seems to be very much about figuring out to maximize the scoring opportunities present in the cornerstone tiles. It’s more like having a common pool of tiles and making decisions that change just a little bit. Gameplay is similar, but cities can vary wildly!
For me, it still feels like there could be a little more tile variety, but with this one no longer in print, I’m still happy with what it offers! I still have a long way to go before I’m reliably earning a high score, which should be a fun challenge.
Brand New Insurance
Another benefit of the cornerstone tiles is how rarely some of these show up. I don’t even think the insurance office appeared in any of my previous plays!
I took a risk with it, but the discount on disaster payments was pretty awesome. My only question is why I added a police department… Probably for the victory points!
There might be some tiles that are inherently better than the rest, although I’m not here to create the best city.
Mine are usually a little haphazard. For me, the real fun is just watching a city take shape and having little districts!
As I thought through all of the decisions related to production, I came across the modular factory. What a neat sort of building! Sort of like a wild resource tile.
This wasn’t as useful, since I didn’t focus on creating the luxury goods worth lots of victory points. But I can see some more strategies around not just adding a swamp. Ha!
Most of the standard buildings may seem a little static since almost all of them are used during each play.
But the cornerstone tiles provide so many neat options! Some work really well together, too… Just not always.
Play Number: 23-26
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Play Details: 1+, 4+, and 5-Player Tiles
Outcome: 105, 95, 93, 111 (2 Wins & 2 Losses)
Not too shabby! My final play was all about meeting the scoring requirements for streets through the parking authority. Another intriguing cornerstone tile! I look forward to playing some more, as this is just a wonderful experience for me about building a little city. There are plenty of familiar elements, but finding synergies and enjoying the futuristic artwork make it a unique game!
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- Solo tile drafting is handled in an interesting way with plenty of choices and even some timing decisions.
- Although disasters are annoying, they’re generally predictable so that they can be mitigated or even avoided.
- Each city ends up a little different with various scoring methods and a specialization that typically changes things.
- The artwork may be a little on the smaller side, yet lots of tiles include hidden features and jokes to discover.
- Play time is very reasonable, particularly since a full play only takes place over 3 eras with a quick sequence of play.
- Cornerstone tiles add a lot of variability and set the stage for an interesting experience during the setup process.
– Cons (Negatives)
- High scores often rely on excellent combinations of cornerstone tiles, which don’t always happen during a play.
- Being able to see all of the synergies between the tiles can be difficult with so many options to choose from.
- Aside from the cornerstone tiles, almost all of the tiles are seen during each play, limiting the visual variety.
- Most of the iconography is pretty straightforward, yet the rulebook is often needed to reference specific tiles.
Score 120+ Points
- Overall Goal Progress 67% 67%
Goals and Milestones
Score at least 100 points.
Score at least 120 points.
Score at least 130 points.
Continue the Conversation
What do you like about NEOM? It’s a bit of an older title that can be hard to find, yet it continues to stand up over time for me! Are there other solo games you’ve returned to playing after a hiatus? The fun that can be found on our shelves is always awesome, particularly when it’s unexpected. Can’t wait to keep on building out these tile-based cities!