Year Published: 2000
Number of Players: 2 to 5
Play Time: 120 to 180 minutes
Set-up Time: About 10 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Table Size: Large Table
La Citta is a civilization building game that puts players in the role of an Italian prince trying to build the biggest kingdom with the happiest citizens. The premise is actually quite different than many similar games; instead of focusing on resource management, the game provides players with instant access to most available resources but requires them to build cities in such a way as to keep the citizens happy. If the citizens are in the mood for having a strong education system, for example, and a neighboring city has more schools than yours, you may find yourself giving up some of your city’s population to your rivals.
The game does this by focusing on the “Voice of the People”. Each of the game’s 6 “political rounds” represents one year of time, and each year the citizens of Italy decide weather or not they value Health, Culture, or Education above all else. It is unknown to the players which of these three primary services the citizens value most until the end of that game year, so keeping a well-balanced mixture of all available services will help ensure that your citizens don’t give up on you and emigrate to your competitor’s neighboring cities.
Players will also be required to have enough food to feed their citizens. By building up farms and acquiring food tokens, players can ensure that their people don’t go hungry. However, if a player hasn’t built enough thriving farms to nourish their people, they will lose citizens at the end of the game year. It’s important not to lose your citizens because not only do they measure your victory points at the end of the game, but also affect your ability to purchase new buildings.
Players start the game with two castles and three citizens in each castle. As they expand their empires by building new structures, such as schools, statues, hospitals, market places, and fountains, they must move citizens out of the castle and in to these new buildings. If you do not have enough citizens left at the castle to purchase a new structure, you simply cannot build anything new in that city. Fear not, though; at the beginning of each game year, all of your cities will automatically be populated with 1 new citizen, and it is possible to build up to two additional cities to put under your control.
One of the other mechanics that sets this game apart from other building games is the inclusion of “politics cards”. These are somewhat similar to resources cards in other games, but vary in that there are always seven (randomly chosen) cards available for the players to choose from, and all players draw from the same pool of available cards. These cards allow the purchase of larger buildings (Universities instead of Schools, Palaces instead of Statues, etc.) that add to your city’s ability to please its citizens, incraese the output of a farm for one year so you can feed yoru citizens, draw new people to your city, poll the citizens to find out what services matter to them this year, and more. Generally speaking, characters can choose two of these cards to round out their 5 total actions available in each political round. Other actions characters can take, up to three times per year, include earning money, building structures, and starting new cities. These latter three options are represented by a seperate set of cards which help the players keep track of how many actions they have taken this year.
By the end of the sixth game round, the person who has acquired the most citizens — and can feed them all — wins the game. Each citizen represents 1 Victory Point, but having a citizen die of starvation in the last game year inflicts a -5 penalty on the player’s score. Finally, to further encourage diversifying your towns, each city which contains all three of the available services — Health, Culture, and Education — gains 3 victory points. This last option for gaining victory points is significant in that it can help a player with a lower population still achieve the highest score, assuming he managed to build the best cities.
With all of this in mind, it can be easy to see hwo La Citta may be a complicated game to play. In fact, it actually does have a rather high set-up time and learning curve, but once players get the hang of things the game can flow a bit more smoothly. Still, with so many pieces to keep track of and count, it can take a lot of time to tally up each character’s various resources at the end of each game year. Below is a list of all of the pieces included with the game, to give you an idea of just how complicated things might be:
141 building tokens
22 terrain tiles
130 citizen figures (dark gray)
20 citizen figures (4 per player color)
32 gold coins
65 food tokens (30 large and 35 small)
27 voice of the people cards
15 actions cards
32 politics cards
5 summary cards
1 starting player token
Clearly, La Citta falls in to the realm of complex games and is not sutied for every player, least of all casual gamers. For those who do enjoy a 2 – 3 hour long game that requires a lot of thought and strategy though, La Citta may be just the thing you’ve been looking for. It offers a good variety of gameplay mechanics and is just different enough from other games of its genre to stand out in the crowd.
La Citta is a great civilization building game that may not be for everyone. Though its premise and game mechanics are generally unique, it can be difficult to play — both for people with disabilities and for people with short attention spans.
In-game Text: La Citta uses almost no in-game text. If you can get through the large and sometimes complicated rulebook, you can put it away and forget about reading fine details. All of the game’s cards and board pieces are colorfully illustrated with icons to represent their purpose. Some references back to the rules may be required at times, but as long as one player is capable and willing to do the work, those who don’t do well with text or don’t speak the language very well should not have much trouble playing the game.
Fine Manipulation: All of the pieces of La Citta are either small, flat, or both small and flat. This can make it difficult for someone with motor skill impairments or people who have trouble seeing tiny pieces. Because the game requires stacking of pieces (at times, you may have the board, a game tile, and a citizen figure all stacked in the same space) it is nearly impossible to play the game tactically, even with board or piece modifications; there are simply too many small pieces to move around to prevent a player from sending dozens, if not hundreds, of pieces sprawling. If your vision or motor skills are limited, it may be necessary to have other players place your game pieces on the board. There is no need to hide your game pieces from other players at any point in the game, so getting a little bit of help in this way will not jeopardize your chances of success in any way.
Multiple Colors: Game pieces do not contain text but are instead illustrated with colorful pictures. It may be somewhat difficult to discern certain game services from others; the only variance between showing weather or not a building provides “Health” rather than “Culture”, for example, is with a colored arch icon on the game token. Memorizing the other icons on the tokens (the building pictures, for example) or referring to the game’s included cheat sheet may help overcome color challenges.