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Sprawlopolis Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look:

Designer: Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka
Artist: Danny Devine
Publisher: Button Shy Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 15 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Sprawlopolis. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change. 


Sprawlopolis Button Shy Games Wallet Game Review

When I found out I might be able to review a game from Button Shy Games, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve played a few of their titles (Turbo Drift and Circle the Wagons) and really like them both. Knowing a bit about the games Button Shy produces, I was excited to get my hands on Sprawlopolis, as it looked like an enjoyable little city builder.

Spoilers: It’s better than enjoyable!

I was surprised at how quickly this game sucked me in. I played it over ten times within the first two days of receiving the review/prototype copy, with many more plays since then. It certainly helps that each game doesn’t take longer than 15 minutes, but the thing that really grabbed me was the many different ways to score points. The back side of each card has a different scoring criteria, three of which are chosen for each game. (Fans of Circle the Wagons will be familiar with this method of scoring.) With 18 cards in this review copy, that’s a lot of scoring options! Not to mention the other way of scoring points that stays the same through each game (more on scoring further on).

The gameplay works just as well solo as it does with 2-4 players, which is awesome. Being able to bust this game out on the fly (literally, if you’re travelling) for a quick game or two (or ten…) is one of the reasons it gets played so much. It’s fast, fun, and all kinds of addicting. Didn’t win? Why not play once more! After all, it won’t take long. Lost again (it happens)? You only missed the mark by one point, so go again! Did you win? Awesome! Now try winning with a different scoring strategy. Seriously. That’s how it goes down for me. I just can’t. Seem. To. Stop.

I almost wish there were more cards included in the game so that I could make my city even more sprawling. Some games I feel like just a few more cards would be great in order to help me close up a road or finish another scoring requirement. But, including more cards would defeat the purpose of this being a pocket-sized Wallet Game, since having too many cards wouldn’t end up fitting as nicely in your front or back pocket (or wallet). And, having more cards would also make the game take longer. While having more would be fun (I suppose I could always combine two games… Now there’s a thought!), I really like it how it is, which is short, sweet, and more addicting than a game of Sid Meier’s Civilization.

Now, let’s talk about some of the finer points of Sprawlopolis, including rules, gameplay, mechanics, and more.


Sprawlopolis Button Shy Games Review Wallet Game Scoring Condition Cards
Start with three scoring conditions. Total the numbers (in the yellow circle) to determine your Target Score.

Shuffle the deck of 18 cards, draw three, and use the back (scoring) sides for this game’s scoring conditions. Deal three more cards (“blocks” side hidden from the other players) to the starting player, and one card to each other player. Place the top card of the deck onto the table to start your city.

And you’re ready to play!

Rules and Gameplay:

Sprawlopolis Gameplay Review Button Shy Games Wallet Game

The rules are simple enough, and will be easy for most players to comprehend right away. But first, how do you win? I’m glad you asked! The objective is simple: score as many points as—or more than—the sum of the three numbers on the three scoring objectives. For example, if your game is using The Outskirts, Block Party, and Morning Commute score cards in your game, then your target score is 21 points. Score 21 points or more, and you win!

Aside from the various scoring conditions on the back of the cards, players also gain one point for each block (more on that under Gameplay) in their largest group of each type. So, if I had a cluster of five residential, three industrial, four parks, and four commercial, I would receive 16 points (5+ 3 + 4 + 4 = 16). Then tally your points according to the various conditions you’re playing with. Now subtract one point for each road in your city, and since each card has one or two roads on it, these can add up. Long roads that are all connected only count as one road, so keep that in mind when planning out your city. Anyway, subtract the number of roads you have from your total points, and that’s your final score. If you reached or surpassed the target goal, congratulations on your victory!


Sprawlopolis from Button Shy Games Review Scoring Final Wallet Game

The first player chooses one of the three cards in his or her hand and plays it adjacent to the lone card in the middle. Once the first player has played one card, the remaining two cards are passed to the next player, who then plays in the same manner as the first player. The first player will draw a card from the top of the deck, ready for the next go at it.

Easy enough, right? Right. But here’s where things get a little more difficult. Each card is separated into four “blocks,” and each block is a different color, representing a different zone type: commercial (blue), park (green), industrial (grey), and residential (red). As mentioned above, players score points based on the largest group of each zone type, so grouping these different zones is important to your final score. And, of course, roads subtract points. Let’s not forget about the other scoring conditions as well. There’s a lot to think about, and some placements may cause you to lose more points than what you’ll actually earn, depending on the scoring conditions. It’s a balancing act, that’s for sure.

Now, to place a card, it must remain in the same orientation as the first card laid (i.e. landscape vs. portrait) at the beginning of the game, and at least one block edge must be touching another block edge. Cards may be played overtop other cards (but no sliding a card underneath!), and may be upside-down or right-side-up. Connecting roads is usually a good idea, but so is connecting zones of the same type. Talk with your teammates about possible plans of action (but don’t show them your cards) in order to solve the puzzle that is Sprawlopolis as best you can.

When the final card has been played, the city has finally finished its growth spurt and scoring can commence (see above for how to score).

For such a small, compact game, there certainly is a lot of thought that goes into playing the game.

Theme and Mechanics:

Sprawlopolis Wallet Game Button Shy Games City Roads City Building

The theme is that of building a sprawling city, and playing cards adjacent to and overlapping other cards fits the bill quite nicely. The mechanics allow for your city to be teeny tiny (due to overlapping) or great and spacious (with no overlapping). The scoring conditions play right along with the theme, as the names of the conditions—coupled with the method of scoring those conditions—reflect well-known aspects of city life. Indeed, from Tourist Traps to Superhighway, the way to earn more points compliments the theme nicely.

Artwork and Components:

Sprawlopolis City Building Card Wallet Game from Button Shy Games

The art is well done. Each card portrays four zones with buildings, trees, roads, cars, and et cetera as seen from directly overhead. This makes it easy to rotate cards without having to worry about continuity problems. Really, the simple art is all this game requires.

As for the components, there are 18 cards included, which are good quality and should stand through the many plays this game will receive. Button Shy’s Wallet Games also come in a compact, bi-fold wallet, which houses the cards and little rules sheet nicely. I actually really love the wallet, as it makes it way too easy to bring the game pretty much anywhere. The prototype version of Sprawlopolis I received did not include a wallet (single tear), but as an owner of Turbo Drift (another Button Shy game), I can attest to the wonderful nature and quality of these bi-fold wallets.

The Good:

Button Shy Games Wallet Games Sprawlopolis

Easy to learn, quick to play, and literally hundreds (816, to be exact) of different scoring combinations.

Fits in your pocket!

Playable on those tiny airplane trays.

Playable over and over and over and over and over…and over again.

The solo play on this is wonderful.

The Bad:
I’ve played Sprawlopolis enough that if there was a glaring or even subtle problem with the game, I’m pretty sure I would have found it by now. I’ll keep playing it, though, and if I find something, I’ll let you know.

Final Thoughts:

Sprawlopolis by Button Shy Games Review Kickstarter Preview

If you haven’t already figured it out, I really, really like Sprawlopolis. I think the main reason I love it so much is because each game is so totally and completely different. And with only 18 cards, that’s quite the feat! This is due to the hundreds of different scoring options, which forces a new strategy into every game. I can play countless times without getting tired of it, and that right there is a big clue to me of how good this game is. And you can bet I will be taking Sprawlopolis with me on any trip (especially ones where I’m commuting via airplane or train, since it will fit nicely on the trays and tables).

Players Who Like:
If you’ve played and enjoyed other games from Button Shy Games, you’ll love Sprawlopolis. If you’re looking for a small game—both in table space and pocket space—Sprawlopolis fits the bill perfectly. Fans of city builders and puzzle-like games will also enjoy Sprawlopolis. And, if you’re into solo gaming, Sprawlopolis does not disappoint.

Check out Sprawlopolis on:



About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding game designer. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.

Sprawlopolis Kickstarter Preview Sprawlopolis Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on May 14, 2018 Rating: 5


  1. thanks for the review. There seems to be a thought behind the combination of fronts/backs, as in if you mix up the order (pnp version), you can get a pretty bad game. What are your insights on this hidden mechanism?

  2. Well to be frank the rules are a bit obscure and terse, you need to check the corner case rulings on bgg.

  3. Hey, just now seeing this (sorry!). I guess mixing up the front/back combinations in the retail version isn’t an issue. I’ve found that no matter which scoring objectives I get, the games always end up being close. I’ve maybe played a couple games where there were some fairly large outliers, but that’s a rare instance.