Boom Town!


Boom Town! is a high-stakes game of land speculation and urban development in the industrial age. Your little podunk cow town is on the verge of exploding into a bustling metropolis--and that means there's money to be made, if you play your cards right. But you aren't the only one looking to cash in on the boom. Will your opponents be stepping stones in your climb to the top, or will they block your path like broadway traffic jam?

The inspiration for this game came from two sources:

  1. Conway's Game of Life, a computer simulation in which the life and death of a grid of "cells" is governed by a set of very similar rules based on the state of each cell's eight neighboring cells, giving rise to patterns of extraordinary complexity; and
  2. An Urban Economics course I took while studying urban planning, in which I learned about how the value of land is based on the most profitable use that land could be put to--which is in turn governed by the surrounding land, the location of transportation infrastructure, etc.

It occurred to me that I could combine these two ideas into a game about city growth and development.

The basic outline is that there will be a set of square cards, each with a different type of building or land use (farm, house, factory, park, etc.). The players will take turns using their cards to create the city. Each card will generate rent for its owner based on the eight adjacent cards in its "neighborhood", as well as other factors. For example, a "Corner Store" card might provide greater rent if it is surrounded by residential cards, while a fancy "Mansion" card might be worth less if it's next to a giant factory.

I've thought about this a lot, but I'm having trouble nailing down the specifics. I've found I tend to make things more complicated than they need to be, so as this proceeds I welcome advice on how to make things simpler without sacrificing gameplay.


Not a diagram, but here's a rough outline of the order of play:

  1. Bid on land spaces and actions. 
  2. Take actions such as: place new building tiles, draw more tiles, reorient a building tile,  etc. 
  3. Collect rent income from buildings 
  4. Repeat. 


I think the victory condition will be a pretty simple whoever-has-the-most-at-the-end-wins setup, though exactly how I want to define it I'm not sure. Part of the point of this game is that building value is very relative, and in flux. Perhaps your most recent total income? Or there could be a system of victory points that you gain over the course of the game, based on how you're doing relative to the other players. 


I was trying to come up with ways to keep my idea that buildings affect their neighbors without leading to a lot of counting and complicated calculations. I thought maybe having colorful icons or flow arrows might do the trick, and I eventually settled on arrows. If you line up the arrows in two adjacent buildings, they are connected and it has some sort of positive effect--usually for the owner of both buildings.

Green arrows represent the flow of citizens or workers, yellow of goods, and purple of intangible "amenities". In the example below, the farm tile feeds into the dock tile, allowing the farm to sell its goods.

In this example, the top house provides workers for a shop, which in turn provides benefits to the surrounding houses:

Similar types of buildings can be strung together into "districts" (an idea I snagged from Gingkopolis--thank you Grant for the tip). This allows you to pump larger quantities of workers or resources into buildings with higher requirements (like large factories or office buildings). In this example, the three farms all flow together into the mill, while the houses on either side provide the necessary workers:

Each of these buildings might be owned by different players, so they'll all have to weigh the benefits to themselves of being part of this setup vs. the benefits to their opponents. For example, if the owner of the middle farm decided to orient it differently and cut off the flow, it could bring the whole operation to a halt--and although that farm owner would receive no income, neither would anyone else.


Based on the brainstorming lessons, I tried to think of what sort of actions players can take, and how they're limited. I also thought about core mechanics/activities that I wanted to include, and the idea of land speculation--predicting how valuable you think a parcel will be in the future and bidding on it--rose to the top. I thought that maybe this would be a good mechanic to use for ALL actions players take.

The current idea: All actions will be taken through the use of bidding tokens. Each player will have three tokens, meaning they can take up to three actions per turn. The tokens will have two faces each, and each face will have a dollar value (I'm thinking $1/$2, $1/$3, $2/$5). By placing the tokens on empty parcels, parcels controlled by other players, parcels they themselves own, or on the draw piles, they can perform actions such as constructing new buildings, buying tiles from other players, and drawing new cards to fill their hand. When you successfully win a bid for an action, of course, you have to pay for it--so players have to weigh the value of their actions against the cost.

It will also present a bit of a tactical challenge: If you use the $2 face of your $2/$5 token you won't be able to bid high on something until next turn, but if you use the $2 face of your $1/$2 token you might have to pay a little extra for a lousy action that no one else wants.

I also want players to be able to "steal" parcels from each other by bidding on them--that is, I don't think you should have the choice to NOT sell your parcel if someone bids high enough. Not quite sure on the mechanic for that yet--perhaps some sort of wager on how much money that parcel will make this turn--if it's higher than the bid, the original owner keeps it, but if it's lower they have to hand it over.


The primary way to do well in this game will be to invest in well-positioned buildings that generate lots of income. The specifics of how much each building generates will be written in the tile, but for the basic types it will be something like this :

  • Farms (or other resource industries like mines or ranches) generate a flat rate of income,  as long as their resource outflow arrow is linked up to something. 
  • Houses (or other residences) generate a flat rate of income as long as their worker outflow arrow is linked up to something. They will generate additional income if they are hooked up to amenity-generating tiles like shops or parks. 
  • Shops (or other commercial venues) generate a variable rate of income based on how many surrounding land uses their amenity outflow arrows are linked up with. Most will also need to be linked up with a residences worker outflow arrow (to provide workers). [NOTE: I'm thinking I might make it so that commercial establishments don't need workers, just because that would simplify things a bit.]
  • Factories (or other industrial buildings) generate income if they can successfully link up inputs (workers and resources) with outputs (docks or a railyard). These will be the hardest to line up properly, but with the greatest potential payoff. Can't decide if it will be a set payoff for meeting requirements or if there will be benefits to more efficiently combining resources.
  • Offices benefit from exchange of knowledge, so their income will be based on proximity to other offices. 

As always, feedback is appreciated!


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