REVIEW: Denver’s city planning board game works best with a friend who doesn’t care that it’s not a board game

Here are some observations on how this game fits in the broader world of board games.

Construction and a skyline at 3200 W. Colfax Ave., seen from the Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales branch of the Denver Public Library on West Colfax. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

skyline; construction; development; cityscape; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite;
Construction and a skyline at 3200 W. Colfax Ave., seen from the Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales branch of the Denver Public Library on West Colfax. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) skyline; construction; development; cityscape; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite;
Construction and a skyline at 3200 W. Colfax Ave., seen from the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales branch of the Denver Public Library on West Colfax. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The city of Denver this week released their board game that lets you plan Denver’s growth.

Since I have played a lot of board games, including the sit-down-for-three-hours kind, here are some observations on how this game fits in the world of board games.

Style: Cooperative
Players:
Unlimited
Time: 15 – 30 minutes
Age: 14+ (Mainly because I have a hard time imaging middle-schoolers getting heavily invested in minutes of city planning.)

Objective: Learn about how to plan a city

This is where this board game does its best work, in my opinion. I enjoyed seeing Denver’s mature urban centers versus its emerging urban centers, and it’s nice to see all the priority transit corridors on a map.

Gameplay: There’s not a lot, so find a friend

Playing alone on my work laptop is not the ideal setting for this game. However, if you were playing this game with a bunch of your neighbors, people who presumably have different ideas about how the city would grow, I could see how this could be fun. And that’s how Denver introduced this game — as a community workshop under the Denveright planning initiative.

That said, it’s kind of hard to call this a board game when you can’t make any mistakes.

The purpose of the game is to “help residents, planners and decision makers understand the implications of different amounts and patterns of growth.” But in the high-growth strategy I pursued online, I never faced any consequences. I just dutifully followed every step of the process.

Winning condition: None

You can’t lose the game or win the game. I guess you win the game if you learned something, so most people who play the game will win. But it’s disappointing to spend my time crafting a city vision and get no feedback. Did I just play this game so the city could collect data?