Quick Look: Gridopolis
Designer: Dave Schultze
Publisher: Gridopolis Games
Year Published: 2018
Gridopolis is a three-dimensional strategy game. If you have ever played checkers or chess, you get the idea. Only now, we are playing in 3D. This means you can move and jump and play in any direction! You can move horizontally, vertically, and diagonally – plus across multiple levels. Using an innovative (yet amazingly simple) structural system, game play happens in a three-dimensional space called a grid-set. And, unlike other games, the grid-set is dynamic and changes during play.
The Gridopolis game — and system — is also flexible, modular and expandable. Grid-sets can be re-configured at any time to expand the game, change the rules, or even invent your own brand new game from scratch. The only limit is your imagination!
When this game first made its appearance before my eyes, I will admit that I found the setup to be rather intimidating. Bearing resemblance to the classic Star Trek’s 3D chess, Gridopolis had a sort of imposing presence in stores that, as interesting as it looked, nevertheless managed to put me off by reminding me of how awkward stacked structures can be (as well as the mess that parents inevitably need to clean up when the kids are done).
I know that Everything Board Games covered Gridopolis on Page 52 of Everything Board Games Magazine Volume #1 a few years ago, and was surprised when we were offered a chance to give another perspective on it, so given that my kids are now at a better age to comprehend the mechanics, I decided to give it a go ; After all, if a product claims to be STEM or STEAM worthy in its labeling, that is typically a good thing.
First Impressions upon opening the box were very positive. The first thing I noticed is that every one of the game’s components has its proper storage niche, but one thing that stood out is that the dividers that held them in place were not flimsy at all ; and it is very commonly the case that these dividers are as cheaply made as possible, leading to an entire future of jumbled messes. So as a parent, that was my first uplifting observation.
The pieces all seemed well built (and there are a lot of pieces) but the question of how well they held together during setup would remain to be tested.
The rules are short and sweet, which again, given the intimidating look of this multi-tiered tower of a game was a bit unexpected, as I initially projected the complexity of the rule set to match the game’s table presence. In essence, the base game functions very similar to say checkers or Chinese checkers with only a few extra stipulations, which will be described a bit later.
However, I will only briefly be touching upon the base game rules, as the game creator wanted to highlight and test the flexible nature of the rules that are designed to allow children to make their own designs should they feel the desire.
In the basic rules, players will set up a symmetrical playfield that contains three levels. Like with traditional checkers, players can only move their players forward, and can jump to capture enemy pieces (or if playing Chinese style, simply aim to get all of their pieces at the end of the board). However, rather than being limited to just a simple, straight move forward, players may add a single vertical component to their move, going either up or down a platform to land on (and capture) another enemy piece or blank space if so desired. I know this may sound a bit complicated, but once you have the game physically in front of you and not on a picture, it becomes much more intuitive to grasp.
The game can have multiple objectives for winning, such as last-man-standing, or getting all of your pieces to the opposite side. It is also possible to convert your pieces to Kings as in checkers if you are playing this style by landing on a colored Kingerizer at the opposite end of the board, enabling multiple moves per turn, essentially making your base pieces functionally equivalent to Kings in checkers. The game pieces neatly flip over to show a crown to distinguish them from regular pieces when this happens.
Players are also given resources they can use during their turn instead of moving, allowing them to place these pieces onto the game board:
Blockers : Makes it so no piece can land there.
Teleporters : Teleports a piece to another teleporter when it lands there.
Builders : These let you build a new space on the board, allowing you to customize the board to your potential advantage as you play, creating new routes and possibilities.
Also of note , the base game can support up to 4 players, rather than the typical 2 for checkers.
For our tests, we employed 2-3 players, ranging from the age of 4.5 to 8.
Fist of all, let me talk about my impressions of the physical structure once the game is assembled ; I was expecting it to break apart easily , leading to a jumble of mess during every attempt to play. The last thing I need as a parent is an unintentional game of Jenga!
This was not the case. The pieces solidly attach into each other and fit snuggly, never once falling out after construction, but paradoxically also not being too difficult to disassemble when putting the game away.
The game does take some time to set up , though, and requires a modest amount of space. Definitely more than the aforementioned checkers boards of yore.
The Gameplay :
Talking about the basic mechanics, these were, as stated earlier, easy to grasp for an adult who was already familiar with rules of the classic games this was modeled after. However, I was a bit concerned that the rules may have been too much of a stretch for my 8 year old, who had not only never played checkers before , but also has more difficulties with logic/reasoning than my 4.5 year old does (who also played).
Needless to say, the kids took to the gameplay swiftly, which did surprise me. Soon they were playing multiple times per day, making full use of Blockers and Teleporters and the whole shabang. Needless to say , we left the game assembled as such for at least a week to allow them to adapt.
We then moved on to setups that allowed for them to modify the board to their own designs, and this is one area where it needs to be mutually decided as what to constitutes a “Fair” setup. Older kids are always keen to point out when another party has an unfair advantage, so this will usually self rectify under such cases, but younger children will definitely need a bit more advice and direction in that department. But nevertheless , it can be done. Once the kids tried to focus on keeping their sides relatively symmetrical to each other (with a small gap between opposing sides), things worked out smoothly for us.
Giving kids the flexibility to design their own rules for winning and constructing the board is a nice touch, though I can see some might like more formally written structure for rules as written. Either way, the game will let you take either creative approach.
It was also suggested that we try out the game’s Orbital mode, which is designed to play like the classic games of Sorry or Trouble, and requires the use of a die for movement. This mode has you setup the board in a circular loop where all your pieces need to go around the board and arrive at their Home safely. Landing on enemy pieces of course sends them back to their starting area.
Assessment : I will admit that I was a bit skeptical that my kids would take to this game , given their normal proficiencies. Ironically , my 4.5 year old is better at logic than my 8 year old many times, so I expected things would go well for her with this game, but not quite to the extent that it did. Moreover, she also loves Trouble a lot, so the orbital mode went well. From the kids’ perspective, it was all a blast.
Speaking strictly from my adult’s perspective had me personally noting some issues I had with the game that bothered me.
Notably the game does hold together without falling apart, but the game “board” becomes more flexible with more pieces added to it, almost becoming like a rubber band in some areas. While the structure remains intact if inadvertently bumped by a hand, it can often cause pieces to spring off their spaces. While I initially thought this was just the result of my big clumsy hands trying to squeeze between certain gaps to place a piece, this happened many times to the kids, too. Thankfully, they seem to have a good enough memory to know where to replace all the fallen pieces, but some of us old timers may not necessarily remember where to put everything, making way for potential conflicts if people “remember” proper locations of pieces differently. In this regard, things can feel a bit clunky, but it didn’t seem to bother the kids, so…
I also find that the extra Orbital mode took up too much space and time setting up to be a beneficial substitute for the original games of Sorry and Trouble ; the original game boxes are small enough and can be played within mere seconds of taking out, and Gridopolis would probably take closer to 10 to set up.
And overall, the game (in any mode) does take up a bit of space. The best thing one can do is to probably set it up and leave it set up for days at a time if that is an option. For some of us, this is feasible, but I imagine others would have difficulty in this regard. Thankfully, the game itself stores well when put away, so setup and tear down is efficient if though time consuming.
All in all though, the end results lie with my children’s assessment, and they highly favored their experience with the Gridopolis. Regardless of my personal quirks with the game, they didn’t just “seem” to enjoy their time—they earnestly did!
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Jazz Paladin- Reviewer
Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.