Happy City Card Game Review
WBG Score: 8/10
Player Count: 2-5 Players
You’ll like this if you like: Quadropolis, Villagers, Sushi Go!
Published by: Cocktail Games
Designed by: Toshiki Sato, Airu Sato
Sometimes, you play a game, and instantly fall in love! That is what happened for me and my family with Happy City! It looks so cute. You can learn and teach it in under a minute, and that’s with a break for tea. And the games last around five minutes for a two-player, with scoring being a thing of pure simplicity! If you are looking for a quick, light, fun filler game, this may be my number one recommendation right now.
Based on the Japanese release from 2018 Happiest Town, this is a simple translation into the English language, and the core game stays the same. I can imagine there are publishers and distributors out there all the time, looking for great games in Japan and other non-English speaking counties. And when they stumble upon a gem like this, their eyes must light up!
It is such a simple concept, but it is incredibly satisfying and fun to play. It’s the perfect combination for a light card game, and one I can highly recommend.
Set-up is simple. Lay out the three different ‘Dwelling’ cards on the top row, removing one of each for any player count under five, so one remains in a two player. Then sperate the other building cards into their three types, clearly marked on the back into three separate face-down rows below. Give each player a Happy Market card, two coins and the starting card to one player. You will then gather the special buildings, always two more of them than there are players, lay them out and the game can start.
All players will then gather income for all buildings showing a coin symbol on the bottom left of their card, and then in turn, each player will lay out three cards into the display area. Flipping cards from either of the three face-down rows. They can then choose to buy one of these three available cards from the cost shown on the top left of the card. Buy nothing and simply claim one more coin or acquire any ‘Dwelling’ card that had not yet been acquired from the top row. You can also take one of the special buildings as an extra action if they have fulfilled the necessary criteria.
On subsequent players turns, if the player before chose to buy, there will be two available cards face up for purchase. This means players can flip only one extra card. There can only ever be three face-up in this area, but never any less either. Players may choose to discard one card from this row before they flip, meaning they can then flip over two cards to increase their buying choice.
The three rows of available cards are marked on the back with the potential cost when flipped. The top row has cards with a value of one to three coins. The middle row is worth either four or five. And the bottom row is worth from six to nine coins. Players can then flip cards to the potential value of their current balance, knowing they will have a chance to buy them.
Players will continue taking turns of taking income and buying buildings until someone claims their tenth building, all players will ensure they have had the same number of turns, and then the game ends. Scoring is a simple act of multiplying all hearts shown on the bottom right of your building cards with the green people symbol shown in the same place. Highest score wins.
There is a minor variant in the box where you can flip over your starting Happy Market card to show a colour and symbol. You can also use the advanced special buildings which have more complex requirements for their acquisition. These cards can be added into your tableau at any point, not taking up your turn, if you have cards in your array that match the symbols on the card you are taking. Your Happy Market when flipped, will have one of these symbols on itself, and they are all different. This increases the chances that players will aim for different special cards at the start of the game, making it less of a race for certain cards.
I have played this game multiple times in the short time I have had it. It has become a minor obsession for me. I cannot stop thinking about the game and want to play whenever I have five-minutes spare. It is just so quick and simple to play. But offers a fun and engaging experience.
I enjoy how your town comes together and the cards work. The Haunted house offers extra revenue but reduces your population by one. Maybe they got scared off? I hope its nothing else too sinister?! The Factory will also increase your income but reduces your hearts as the population don’t enjoy the pollution that comes from it. Or perhaps the new roundabout created for the increased traffic. That would bug me. The previous crossroads was fine. Everything just makes sense.
All the card art has been thoughtfully done and looks so cute! There is no other word for it, other than perhaps ‘Kawaii’, which is the Japanese word and art style for cute cartoon art. The Shoe shop is one giant pink shoe shaped building. The Museum has a tiny Dinosaur skeleton outside the main entrance. The luxury apartments has a roof top pool. There is so much unnecessary detail that just adds to the fun and overall theme of the game.
There are a few ways to try and win. Perhaps you want to accumulate income as quickly as possible to start buying the more valuable buildings. You may miss an early chance to buy and take a coin instead to try and get a more valuable building that also gets you income on a later turn. This will increase your income collection potential for the rest of the game. You will now have a harder worker engine within your city, which will exponentially grow faster than someone who chose cheaper early buildings that don’t generate income.
However, that other players may be just trying to end the game as quickly as possible. Buying the cheapest buildings available to keep the game progressing. Remember, getting your tenth building ends the game that round. So, any players who have missed buying and took money instead could be a building or two behind by the end of the game. However, I have found it is possible to win the game with less buildings if your population and happiness is higher, which is of course highly possible when you have bought better buildings.
But if you get it wrong and loose a game of Happy City, fret not. Simply re-set and start again. You will be back playing within a minute and the next game will most likely be over within another five! The game is so fast and fun. Your turns are so quick and enjoyable. But the fun to be had from this group of cards is massive. This is one of my favourite filler games I have played in a long while. I expect it will be played after dinner most nights in my household and will come with me to every game night for the foreseeable. It plays in a nice tight space so could work in restaurants and pubs when waiting for food, but the cards are quite light so probably not great outside with any wind!
Happy City is sticking firmly in my collection and I think will become a firm family favourite for many years to come.