How to Play
- Shuffle the cards in piles based on their type (roof, floor and contract). Each player gets two roof and floor cards and four contract cards. Each player also gets one stop card. The rest of the cards are put in face up piles next to the gameboard.
- Each player picks a color and takes the billboards, roofs, score track marker, and factory board of their color. The score track marker is placed on the “5” spot.
- Each player builds the following buildings in their factory: 1 one story curved roof, 1 two story curved roof, 1 one story pointed roof, and one 2 story pointed roof.
- A greenspace is placed on the green squares on the gameboard. The rest of the greenspaces are placed in the auction house area of the board. The two megamalls are placed on the bottom of the circular space in the auction house with the two spaceports being placed on top of them.
- The first player is randomly selected and they are given the key.
Order of Play
Skyline 3000 is played in four rounds. Each round consists of the following four steps:
- Construction Phase
- Improvement Phase
- Scoring Phase
- Draw Phase
Each round of the game begins with the construction phase. During the construction phase players take turns performing various actions. In the construction phase players take turns performing actions. The first player takes an action followed by the player to their left and so on. Players can perform as many actions as they would like during this phase. Play continues in this fashion until all of the players have passed. Once a player has passed they can no longer perform actions in the current construction phase. Instead of passing a player may choose to play a card and not perform its’ action.
To perform most of the actions, players need to play the corresponding card. While in the construction phase the numbers on the cards have no meaning. Players can perform the following actions during the construction phase.
Floor Card: A player can choose to play one of their floor cards. When a floor card is played the player gets two floor bricks to use in their factory area. The player can use the bricks however they would like but they cannot add bricks to a building that already has a roof. A player can start as many new buildings as they would like. Once the bricks have been played they cannot be removed.
Roof Card: A player plays a roof card in order to add a roof to one of their buildings in their factory. The player gets to choose whether they would like to add a curved or pointed roof. Once chosen the type of roof cannot be changed.
Billboards: A player may choose to play a billboard onto the gameboard. By playing a billboard, the player claims the spot on the gameboard where they play it. No other player can build on that spot unless the billboard is removed. To play a billboard the player loses one point on the score track.
Contract Cards: The player may play a contract card in order to play one of their completed buildings from their factory onto the gameboard. The player can only play the building in the section of the city that matches the district highlighted on the card. The player can play the building on a vacant space or on a space where one of their billboards reside. If the building will replace a billboard, the player needs to pay a penalty of one point in order to remove the billboard.
When placing buildings the following rules must be followed:
Each district (the large yellow, blue, and red sections) are comprised of three blocks separated by white walls. When the first building is built within a block, the building can only have one floor brick. Any future buildings built in that block must have either the same number of bricks as the tallest building in the block or it may have one additional brick than the tallest building. All buildings built within a block must share the same type of roof (curved or pointed). All three blocks of a district cannot share the same type of roof. For example if two blocks in a district already have a pointed roof, the third block must have curved roofs.
In the improvement phase the numbers on the cards come into play. Three items are put up for auction in the improvement phase. In rounds one and two, two greenspaces and one spaceport are put up for auction. In rounds three and four, two greenspaces and one megamall are put up for auction. In the improvement phase both greenspaces are auctioned off first and then either the spaceport or megamall.
In the auction players can use any combination of their cards in order to bid on one of the items. Each card is worth the value of the number on the card. Players first choose which cards they would like to bid. They place these cards on the top of their stack. They then place their stop card and then they place all of their cards they don’t want to bid on the bottom. When everyone has finished bidding, they reveal all of the cards they have bid until they reach their stop card. Whoever has bid the most card points wins the improvement and that player gets to choose where on the board they would like to place it. The improvement must be placed before the next auction begins. Greenspaces can be played on any vacant small space. The spaceports and megamalls can only be played on vacant circular spaces. The winning bidder discards all of the cards they bid while the other players get to take their cards back.
If there is a tie, the player who played the single highest valued card wins the tie. If there is still a tie, whoever is closest to the key player in a clockwise order wins the tie.
In the scoring phase all nine blocks are scored. Points are rewarded to the player with the most and the second most floor bricks in the block. If two or more players are tied for the most bricks in a block, the player with the tallest building breaks the tie and gets first. The other tied player(s) get the second place points. If the tied players’ tallest building are all the same height, all of the players receive the points awarded to first place. All of the players tied for second place get the rewards for second place.
The player(s) who gets first in a block receives the following points:
- 2 points
- 1 point for every greenspace in the block
- 1 point for every billboard in the block even if it is another player’s color
The player(s) in second place receives the following points:
- 1 point for every greenspace in the block
- 1 point for every billboard in the block even if it is another player’s color
When scoring a block that features a megamall, players receive twice as many points as they would normally receive.
The final step in each round is the draw phase. Starting with the key player, each player gets to pick at least six cards. The key player will pick all of their cards followed by the player to their left and so on. The top card from each pile is displayed face up so the player knows which cards they can pick from.
Normally players only get six cards but if they hold control over a block that has a spaceport, they get to draw additional cards. A player that is in first place in a block that holds a spaceport gets to draw two additional cards. The player who is second in the block gets to draw an additional card. Players could get extra cards from both spaceports.
After everyone has drawn their cards, the key is passed to the next player and the next round begins.
End of Game
When the scoring phase for the fourth round is completed, the game ends. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins. If there is a tie, whoever has the most points left in their hand wins.
Alan Moon, creator of Ticket to Ride, is probably my favorite board game designer. Ticket to Ride is probably my favorite board game and all of Alan Moon’s games that I have played (Ticket to Ride Europe, 10 Days in the USA, 10 Days in Africa, Incan Gold, Walk the Dogs) were at least above average. With Alan Moon’s pedigree, I was very interested in trying out Skyline 3000. After finding the game in an online clearance sale, I decided to give it a shot. While not as good as Ticket to Ride, it is still a very good game.
Before we get into the review, Skyline 3000 is pretty much a re-imangining of Alan Moon’s Capitol which is set in the future instead of ancient Rome. After a short look at Capitol, the only major difference that I can see between the two games is the addition of billboards in Skyline 3000. If you have already own Capitol, Skyline 3000 doesn’t appear to be different enough to warrant a purchase.
If I had to classify Skyline 3000 I would have to classify it as a city builder with elements of card management, area control, bluffing, and auctions. With all of those different mechanics you may start to worry that the game would be complicated. Like so many Alan Moon games, the game is actually pretty simple to play. The rules for the game may take a little while to read but they are wrote very well. While the rules for some games require you to reread sections in order to fully understand them, you should only have to read through the Skyline 3000 rules once. If you do need clarification the rules are easy to reference.
Skyline 3000 has a recommended age of 10+ and I feel that is appropriate. While the game is pretty easy to understand, younger children won’t be able to understand the strategy behind the game. Skyline is the type of game where you have to play a round or two before you fully understand the game. When I played the game it took a round or two to adjust but by the end of the game, everyone knew what they were doing.
Usually simple games are not very strategic, but like most of Alan Moon’s games that is not the case with Skyline 3000. While there are more strategic games on the market, Skyline 3000 holds its’ own. I would classify the game as a light to medium strategy game. What I like about Skyline 3000 is that there are several different strategies that you can try to implement in order to try and win the game. Players can either try to control as many blocks as they can, they can try to keep control over valuable blocks, or they could try to use their cards to win the auctions and have control over where the points are positioned on the board. After playing the game I can’t say that any of these strategies are more valuable than the others.
Since the game takes place in phases I decided that it would be best to break down the review into the different phases of the game.
The construction phase begins the game and is the main phase of the game. The construction phase offers quite a few strategy opportunities. While the cards in your hand decide what you can do in the construction phase, you still have quite a bit of control over what you want to do. The first decision you need to make at the beginning of the construction phase is whether you want to use most of your cards during the construction phase or if you want to hold most of your cards for the auction. I ended up using too many of my cards in the constructions phase which hurt me since I had no cards to bid in the auctions.
Once you have decided how many and which cards you want to use in the construction phase, you need to decide what order you want to perform your actions. The order you perform your actions matters quite a bit. With each move you make you give your opponents a glimpse at what you are planning to do for the rest of the construction phase. You are best off trying to hide your intentions for as long as possible. Trying to stall for as long as possible is a pretty important factor in the game. This tends to lead to a small problem where the last player to play in a round has an advantage over the other players.
The construction phase has this feeling that a game of chicken is being played. The players end up trying to wait as long as possible before they reveal any real information. Once a player takes control over a block it is very likely that another player will target it for a takeover. This leads to a lot of back and forth in the game. You always need to be aware of who controls which block. This could lead to some analysis paralysis as players try to figure out their optimal strategy.
One thing in the construction phase that I have mixed feelings on are the billboards. In my opinion they just don’t have as much value as you would think. First you lose a point to play the billboard and you lose an additional point to remove it. Also by placing a billboard you likely are going to give another player a point. This prevents you from playing billboards except when you really need to. The billboards greatest strength is securing a spot in a block when you don’t have the necessary contract card to build in the block.
Billboards can also be used to prevent other players from taking control of one of your blocks. In an extreme case, a player could theoretically take over an entire block by using all of their billboards on the one block. If a player were able to accomplish this in the first round they would have a good chance to win the game since they would score at least five points every round since no other player would be able to take control over the block. The only way this strategy would ever work though is if a player controlled a block and was the last player remaining after everyone else passed. A player couldn’t make this move if other players were still playing since another player would likely jump into the block and take points.
After the construction phase comes the improvement/auction phase. At first I underestimated this phase but it turns out to be very important in deciding who ultimately wins the game. The greenspaces help you earn points while the spaceports and megamalls can give you a huge advantage in the game. In my opinion the spaceport and the megamalls are much more valuable than the greenspaces. The spaceports in particular are very valuable early in the game which I will discuss more when I talk about the draw phase.
I really like the bidding mechanics in Skyline 3000. Since you can play multiple cards for a bid, Skyline 3000 was clever to include the stop card. This way players can bid as many cards as they would like and none of the other players will know how many cards the player bid since all cards are put into your pile and revealed one at a time. The only information a player can gather from your stack of cards is how many cards at max that you can bid.
If you don’t enter the auction with enough valuable cards, you are unlikely to win one of the auctions. I ended up not winning any of the auctions which is part of the reason that I didn’t end up winning the game. My one problem with the improvement/bidding component of the game is that luck could play a factor in who ends up winning the auctions. Players could hurt themselves in the auction by not bringing enough cards into the auction, but luck can also have an impact. When drawing cards one player can get lucky and get all high valued cards while another gets unlucky and can only pick from low valued cards. No matter how the players play their cards, this puts one of the players at a pretty significant disadvantage.
After the improvement phase comes the scoring phase. Scoring is actually surprisingly easy which is good since it is done nine different times each round. The rules do a good job explaining the scoring process. Each block probably takes at a maximum 30 seconds to score. Due to the different heights of the buildings it is usually pretty easy to tell who is first and second in a given block. Since you only score points based on the number of greenspaces and billboards, the scores are really easy to tally.
If I had one complaint about the scoring is that it seems a little too hard to score points. In the game I played all of the players only scored between 35 and 50 points. This lead to a very close game which I liked. It just felt like there weren’t enough points scored in the game. The score track for some reason goes up to 99 which is kind of pointless since I can’t imagine anyone ever scoring that many points.
The final phase in a round is the draw phase. The draw phase is pretty simple but I like how the game implemented it. I love the idea that the cards are displayed face up. This eliminates a lot of the luck that would normally be involved in drawing cards. You can see what cards are available and decide which to pick based on what you need and the different values displayed on the cards. While picking cards you need to plan on what you are going to do in your next construction phase since you need to take enough roof and floor cards to build the necessary buildings and you need the right contract cards to be able to build them where you want. As I mentioned earlier, having control over the spaceports are very important. Cards are key in Skyline 3000 so the more cards you can draw, the more flexibility you have. Having more cards either allows you to add more buildings to the gameboard or gives you more ammunition for auctions.
Overall I really liked the components for the game. I always love wooden pieces and the wooden pieces included are nice except for some faded paint on some of the pieces. The artwork on the gameboard is well done. All of the cardboard pieces are made of a thick cardboard. The only real complaint I have with the components is that I think the game should have included more floor pieces. I am guessing the game limited the number of floors pieces so players had to implement that into their strategy but I would have preferred there to be enough bricks that everyone could use as many bricks as they wanted. In the game I played we actually ran out of bricks which ultimately affected one of the player’s strategies.
While I really liked Skyline 3000, the game is not perfect.
While the game supports between two to four players, I don’t think playing the game with two or three players would be nearly as fun as with four players. The problem with three and two players is that the board is too large to support two or three players. I played the game with four players and it took till the late rounds for any blocks to be even close to being full. With less players it will be too easy to enter any block since there will always be enough space to build another building.
The other problem I have with the game is the theme. I personally love futuristic themes. Outside of some flavor text in the instructions and the artwork on the board though, the theme is almost non existent in the game. The game feels like a re-skinning of Capitol. If theme is important to you, Skyline 3000 may disappoint you.
Skyline 3000 is another good/great game made by Alan Moon. The game is simple enough for most people to understand while providing enough strategy that players feel like their actions really matter in the game. Skyline 3000 kind of feels like a more sophisticated version of Monopoly (that is not meant to be an insult). While the game is not perfect, it is really fun to play. If you already own Capitol, it probably doesn’t pay to pick up Skyline 3000. If you are not a fan of moderately strategic games, Skyline 3000 also is probably not for you. If you like Alan Moon’s other games or like moderate strategy games, I think you will really like Skyline 3000.