Sometimes you just want to yell at people. As a teacher I get to do this a lot, but occasionally I want to do it in my free time as well. When the need hits me I’ll usually head into the city, get drunk and scream in stranger’s faces that the space monkeys are coming. When my wife steals my car keys, I’ll stay home and play Chinatown.
Chinatown was designed by Karsten Hartwig and is published by Z-Man games. It allows 3 – 5 people to yell across the table over the price of dim sum shops. It isn’t amazing with only 3 people but it’s fantastic with 4 or 5.
You win Chinatown by having the most money at the end of six years. Game years, obviously. In reality it only takes about an hour to an hour and a half to play.
Each round the players will be randomly be giving some space to build in Chinatown and some shops to construct. The idea is to connect your shops in groups to increase your profit. One antique store on its own will earn you $10,000 a year, but six in a group will grab you an easy $140k.
Due to the random distributions at the start of each year, each player will wind up with land and shops that other people want. This is where the negotiation comes in. After all of the housekeeping has been taken care of, players are free to negotiate at will with each other. You can trade land, shops, money, promises, bribes, threats, children, anything you want. This part of the game is a massive free-for-all.
There is a little calculation involved. A wise player considers how much money a trade will generate for them and their opponent. You don’t want to be too generous in your dealings, but you can’t afford to be too miserly either. Players tend to remember that you screwed them over in the last round and become less willing to help you in the future.
At the end of each year players earn money based on the size of their shops. I know this seems silly, but I like the money cards. Some games use tokens to represent money, which is fine. Others use paper money, which is not. Chinatown uses good quality cards to represent your cash, much better.
I really recommend this game for everybody. It’s easy enough that Monopoly fans will be able to pick up the rules, in fact it’s significantly simpler than Monopoly. Hard-core gamers may not be impressed but it’s not supposed to be a four-hour long brain destroyer. It’s a medium-length game designed for interaction, fun and luck.
This one can be a little hard to find online but if search around you’ll be able to pick up a copy somewhere. It’ll be worth it.
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