If you are familiar with Monopoly trivia, you are probably aware that the entire board game is based on Atlantic City in New Jersey. Every property in the game is either the name of an actual city street, the name of a rail line that runs through the city or the name of a public utility. Monopoly isn’t the only board game based on an actual real life city. In fact, there are dozens, many of which are much better games. The following are the best board games based on real life cities.
Caylus – Based on a small commune in southern France, Caylus is rather unique because it has almost no random elements at all, and none after initial setup. It is a rather basic worker placement game, but it also one of the games that helped popularize that genre of board game. There are a surprising number of viable strategies for winning this game, which means no two games are ever the same. The one downside of the game is that, in general, about halfway through the game it becomes clear who has a chance of winning and who is out of the running.
San Juan – This spin-off of Puerto Rico turns the popular role selection game into a quick card based game with a similar feel, but very different mechanics. The incredibly popular Race for the Galaxy pretty much borrows every mechanic it has from this game, so if you enjoy that game, you will enjoy this one. Games of San Juan tend to be very fast, which is nice. It is incredibly luck based, but that is less frustrating in quicker games.
St. Petersburg – The theme of this game appears in the artwork, but is almost entirely hidden in the actual game play. It is a simple game that is simultaneously intricate. The general theme of the game is resource management, though similar to Dominion, you need to balance that resource management with point acquisition. You can have a nearly perfect infrastructure and lose because you never earned any points. A few overpowered cards detract slightly from the game, but otherwise it is a lot of fun and plays quickly.
Carcassonne – Based on the French town of the same name, this tile laying game draws heavily on the theme of the city. Your goal is to build the city and countryside of Carcassonne. By randomly drawing tiles, you end up building a city that has the same architectural oddities of the city in question. The final map of any given game looks like a city builder went insane, but also looks humorously similar to the actual real life city. The game itself is particularly friendly to new and casual players, which makes it not just a great city based game, but a great board game in general.
Notre Dame – This worker placement game has a large number of moving parts, yet is surprisingly accessible to new players. Conceptually, the game takes place in the city of Notre Dame, though that fact has little effect on game play. Game play is primarily dictated by random card draws and the decisions of your neighbors. Yet, despite that, it still is dominated more by strategy than by luck. It is a fun, quick game that is easy to teach. If you enjoy worker placement board games, give this one a shot.