Suburbia, a 2013 Mensa Mind Game Award Winning game, features an official solo mode. Is it worth your time?
About Suburbia Board Game
- Suburbia (2012)
- Designer: Ted Alspach (Suburbia), Dale Yu (Solo Mod)
- Publisher: Bezier Games
- BGG Rank: 46 (Nov 2015)
At it’s core, Suburbia is a tile placement game. The goal is to have the largest population in your Suburb by the end of the game. This is achieved by your Suburb earning population through a strong reputation (which translates into people moving to your area), bonus population points for special area attractions (such as large parks) and by converting money at game end.
The base game is for 1-4 players, with a recent expansion pushing the game up to a player count of 5. There is also an additional expansion that includes a new set of tiles and borders. This review we will be covering the base game.
Suburbia Board Game: Solo
The box contains the following components:
- 1 Population Board
- 1 Stacks Board
- 1 Supply Board
- 1 Real Estate Market Board
- 4 Borough Boards
- 8 Suburbs
- 8 Heavy Factories
- 8 Community Parks
- 1 “1 More Round”
- 32 A Tiles
- 36 B Tiles
- 32 C Tiles
- 20 Goal Tiles
- 4 Player Aids
- 1 Start Player Marker
- 66 $1 Coins
- 48 $5 Coins
- 12 $10 Coins
- 4 Reputation Cubes
- 4 Population Squares
- 12 Investment Markers
- 4 Income Cylinders
For a game with a $60 MSRP (standard online US pricing at $40), components are subpar, with just a series of cardboard (albeit thick) tiles, boards, cardboard coins, 12 small wood tokens and no box inlay for easy sorting & storing.
Tangibility is important, and a draw for board games. With Suburbia being available on both iOS and Android devices for $5, I would have preferred to see a higher quality set of components or at minimum a better sorting option included in the box.
Suburbia does include two separate solo variants. The most popular, and the one we’ll be covering here, is a combination beat your score and beat AI opponent, named Dale the Bot (after developer Dale Yu)
Dale always chooses the most expensive tile on the board. He pays only $3, regardless of tile price. I’ve had solo games where Dale purchases a $15 mint, a very powerful card that earns roughly $50 in income during the game, for $3. This discounted purchase rate leads to Dale jumping out to a large income advantage in the early portion of the game.
Outside of this, Dale earns points along the population board and with bonuses. One of his downfalls is in his rule set. Dale does not purchase:
- Beginning Tiles (Community Parks, Heavy Factories, Suburbs)
- Investment Markers (2x tokens)
These unique rules help to mitigate Dale’s income advantage, particularly when it comes to in-game goals.
The solo version of the game includes three randomly selected goals. Goals give bonus points for tasks such as building the most green tiles, having the highest income, having the lowest reputation, etc.
Due to Dale’s lack of above marketplace selection, these are all fairly easy points for a solo player to earn. For example, Dale cannot purchase any of the three beginning tiles. Thus if a goal such as ‘player that has the most industrial tiles) is a public goal, the human player can purchase these tiles on demand, while Dale is shut out.
Lastly, the solo game uses a different marketplace selection method.
- The solo player always goes first.
- Each letter (A,B,C) has a total of 25 tiles each game.
- A total of four Tiles are placed on the board, ranging from $8 down to $0.
These tiles are ‘swept’ at the end of Dale’s turn (he always goes second), and four new tiles are laid out. This gives the solo player the advantage, as we can essentially pick and choose what Dale selects later in the game via what he is left with.
An example of this: since Dale always buys the most expensive tile, players can effectively chose the tile that Dale buys by flipping the most expensive tile or purchasing it themselves.
Gameplay moves quickly, playing in roughly 30 minutes. Ultimately Dale is a one trick pony; he can purchase discounted tiles, but he can’t invest, nor optimize his purchases around needs & bonus goals.
At end game, the only real concern on the board is Dale’s earned points via converted money. Money is turned into points at a rate of $5 for 1 income. It’s not unusual for Dale to have $125 – $150 (or 25 – 30 points) at end game.
Once a solo player has a few games under their belts, they can effectively work the game and Dale’s limitations in their favour for easy wins. This turns the solo game into a beat your own score type of game. Unfortunately, since Dale usually buys the similar tiles (high priced blue business tiles early and government businesses late, almost entirely forsaking green tiles), the game, even with randomness, can feel ‘samey’ after 5 – 10 plays.
Overall Solo Ranking
While at larger player counts Suburbia is a fun game with an accessible & inviting theme, it falls short as a solo experience.
If you’re going to be playing Suburbia primarily as a solo game, I recommend skipping the physical board game version and purchasing the $5 app.