Puzzling Through Sprawlopolis and the Art of City Planning
Create a city of bustling districts with just a handful of cards depicting blocks and roads with Sprawlopolis.
After my husband and I put up a pair of enormous Kallax shelves, I figured we wouldn’t have a space issue for a long time. How wrong I was! So the very compact size of Sprawlopolis was certainly appealing, and I was excited to give it a whirl after waiting ages to pick up a copy for myself. City building expert? Not at all, yet I was excited to build away!
Just 18 cards provide the basis for city-building fun! 3 are drawn during setup to provide a set of goals and scoring threshold for victory. The rest are used to build the city. Very simple rules, yet there’s a challenging puzzle here. In fact, I was about to find out how bad I was at it… Ha ha!
June 22, 2021
June 22, 2021
24" x 16"
A Properly Sized City
My Calico Critters were exceptionally pleased with this choice! A tiny otter and goat had a car that was almost the right size for the roads. Both lanes? Close enough. Ha!
Not to go off on a wild tangent for long, but my Calico Critters village has been in storage elsewhere for years now. I’m hoping to bring it back sometime soon!
With these cheerful animals nearby, I flew through the short rulebook in no time. Nothing too complex here.
So I set to work thinking through the puzzle and how I would construct a city everyone could be proud of.
This trio of goals provided some additional ways to earn points, although I had to be careful about negative points.
In a clever way, the combined value also provides the minimum point threshold to count as a victory. Here, I needed at least 25 points to call myself a master builder.
It was clear that parks needed to take center stage, yet the interaction between some of the elements gave me pause. How to avoid industrial blocks when I might need them?
The actual play was where I would learn the intricacies of these decisions. No time to waste: I laid out the first card!
My First City
In a very unsurprising turn of events, my first city was a bit of a mess. This was a lot harder than I imagined!
Maybe I should have picked up on it right here, but my mind just couldn’t quite grasp the different blocks and how things should fit together. It wasn’t clicking for me.
Still, I could see where I should have overlapped more cards, limited the number of roads, and otherwise made progress toward completing more goals.
At least it only took about 10 minutes and seemed fun! I kept the same set of goals and went for another try…
Try as I might, extra strategies just didn’t seem to work for me. I had a very large park district and still couldn’t come anywhere close to the point threshold. Why?!
As much as I appreciated the design, I was quickly getting frustrated. Something felt off despite multiple checks through the rulebook. No mistakes there. So what was it?
I moved onto an approach used with Orchard: A 9 Card Solitaire Game. Lots and lots of overlapping cards!
Yet try as I might, I couldn’t wrap my head around the best path forward. Not even a single winning strategy.
Fun in the Park
I enjoyed the fun little details, particularly in the park. Such a lovely area of ponds, fields, trees, and greenery!
It was almost comical how poorly I scored. Sometimes when I fail at a new game, there’s still some sort of clear progress to show how I might improve with practice.
Truth be told, I was disappointed. Not necessarily with the game itself, but with how I felt about it. I wanted this to be an instant classic I could turn to regularly for some fun!
Alas, the pieces weren’t clicking for me. Each play felt like an endless struggle for no apparent reason.
Around and Around
With such a quick play time, though, I kept going not to frustrate myself into disliking the game, but to see what I might be missing from any misunderstandings.
I built fewer roads. I made my city districts larger. I tried to avoid as many negative points as possible. I came close, yet there was never a clear-cut victory in all my plays.
Maybe I started with a difficult set of goals. After all, I wasn’t looking at a low score threshold for victory.
As unhappy as I was, there was still a desire to continue. I had to triumph in this business of building a little city!
The Right Way to Play
Sensing my struggle, the Calico Critters decided to add a comedic interlude to my woes. Voila! I was given a lesson in the correct way to play the game: Sprawling out. Ha!
Maybe therein was my issue: I was trying very hard to make my city sprawl, though that wasn’t very wise.
What mattered was the cuteness and the fact that the little red car just kept flying around the city! I was rather surprised that a tiny house didn’t also take shape.
That might just be a little fun saved for next time! After a short break for laughs, I reset and began to build again.
Utterly Failed Plans
Try as I might, I couldn’t come close to getting anything going. It actually might have been the roads: I just couldn’t quite “see” them in many cases.
Hence the poorly constructed areas here! I was on the right track, yet ran out of cards before I could finish.
So I was right back at the beginning with abysmal scores. I felt no closer to grasping the important pieces of this puzzle. It was so odd to have this fall so flat, so quickly.
I decided to try my luck with a new set of goals, and the lowest-numbered ones at that. Surely I could win?!
Play Number: 1-8
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Play Details: Goals 3, 7, 15 and 1, 2, 3
Outcome: -1, 23, 14, 9, 9, 6, -6, 3 (8 Losses)
Nope! I did feel a little closer to winning with this setup, yet I didn’t want to keep playing for fear of never wanting to try again. Perhaps this is simply not the game for me and my mind was trying to tell me that by not fitting the pieces together. I can certainly see the fun in the puzzle, though! It may just be something that others enjoy more than me, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- Dual-purpose cards provide a wide variety of different scoring goals without adding extra components.
- The wallet is compact and the play area rarely spreads out of control, making this easy to play nearly anywhere.
- Each play lasts around 10 minutes or less with an interesting puzzle that’s often quite challenging to figure out.
- Roads provide an additional element to think about in addition to the unique blocks on every card.
- It takes very little time to read through and understand the rules, yet mastering gameplay is an ongoing effort.
- Even with the same set of scoring goals, plays can progress very differently with the order of the cards.
– Cons (Negatives)
- Scoring well takes a lot of practice and the abstract sort of puzzle may not be intuitive to everyone who plays.
- There are interesting and difficult combinations of scoring goals, yet no obvious way to adjust the difficulty level.
- Gameplay can be frustrating when the best way to earn points isn’t clear and feels more tedious than it should.
- Working towards completing a trio of scoring goals over and over can seem very repetitive rather quickly.
Meet the Scoring Goal Requirements
- Overall Goal Progress 50% 50%
Goals and Milestones
Score at least 10 points.
Score at least 20 points.
Win with scoring goals 1, 2, and 3.
Win with scoring goals 3, 7, and 15.
Continue the Conversation
How has Sprawlopolis worked for you? I surprised myself when it didn’t work for me after I was certain it was the kind of puzzle I would enjoy. Did you find that it improved over time? Maybe it’s a case of getting used to the way the cards can be placed. I certainly didn’t figure out the best placements! For now, I’ll let this quietly sprawl on the shelf. Ha ha!