Review: City of Remnants (Board Game)

Post apocalyptic gang warfare that features more paperwork than pounding.

Designer: Isaac Vega
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
• Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 2-3 hours
Release Date: Available Now


City of Remnants is a game that turns playing it safe into a strength. A medly of mechanics pilfered from similar games are combined to create an experience that- whilst not altogether original- is both functional and fun, making for a surprisingly relaxing afternoon of mini-empire building amongst the ruins of a dead city.

Remnants in Play

At the start of the game each player takes control of a unique deck of cards that represents their gang and their goal is to earn respect by advancing onto the board from their designated edge, holding areas and then developing their territory.

Every turn each player may perform four actions that range from buying equipment from the black market, founding small businesses that take up tiles on the game board, selling the products those tiles produce, bidding against others to recruit new gang member cards into their hand, reshuffling their hand or moving gang members onto and across the board- during which they may participate in a battle.

The battle mechanics of the game are simple but extremely tactical, with players rolling dice based on the number of figures in or adjacent to the contested area and bolstering these rolls with gang member cards from their hand. Gang member cards also possess special powers that can be used at any time during a player’s turn to boost the performance of other actions. So, the player must carefully balance which cards they should discard for their powers and which they should hold onto to attack or defend their territory. This is made additionally complex by the involvement of the police, who sweep across the board in a Battleship style-salvo at the end of every turn, destroying anyone foolish enough not to hold any cards in reserve.

Player actions are relatively quick and alternate to ensure that no one is ever waiting around for too long, and whilst the mechanics seem to be a check-list of the designer’s favourites from other games, they all make sense within the narrative of the game.

My only issue is with how the narrative actually flows in practice.

Because of the power of adjacency when it comes to controlling squares, as well as the need to hold onto developments you create, to receive an appropriate pay-off, our game boiled down to each player holding their own mini-empire along the edges of the board – creating an impenetrable fortress that could withstand anything but the most time consuming of attacks. Skirmishes over the more powerful and rewarding central developments did occur towards the end of the game, but in general our fights were with the police more than each other. For a game that is meant to be about street gangs wheeling and dealing through the remnants of a shattered metropolis, this is a little too neat, too solitary and too polite a game.

We played a second time with a couple of changes, namely allowing players to have multiple battles go on at once, and to hop over each other during their movement. These small tweaks meant that districts changed hands multiple times, with profits snatched quickly before the areas were abandoned for a more defensible position. It was a small and no doubt incredibly unbalancing alteration, but in that play through more than the first the theme really shone.

And the game really is in love with its theme. Despite the primitiveness of the artwork and the rather awkward short story in the rule-book, the sheer enthusiasm for the world building really shows through. It’s an earnest game and because of this I would suggest overlooking the flaws and enjoying an afternoon of casual empire building that isn’t going to have players flipping the table over if their best laid plans suffer a few minor dents.

Passionate design
Familiar mechanics done well 
Poor artwork
Not quite thematic enough

City of Entrepreneurs.

Review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd.
Official Game Site

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  1. Agner

    Well written review. But your conclusion just seem plain wrong. It sounds like you havn’t played this game enough times to really explore the strategic depth it offers.

    Yes it is true that if all participants play a conversative empire builing style, the game might be quite relaxed and quite solitare. But it takes only one aggressor to completely change the feel and outcome of the game. Suddenly it’s a nerve racking, bloodbath of a gangwar where gang members are being shot on every streetcorner of the city.
    I have actually never played a game of City of Remnants that felt even the least bit solitary.

    This is what I absolutely love about this game. It doesn’t force a specific playing style on you and it is never the same experience twice! Depends totally on how you (and your gaming group) plays.
    Try it again a couple of times, and you’ll see how many different strategies City of Remnants has to offer.

    Simon Agner

  2. Hey Simon,

    You may be right, but I feel the issue also lies with my gaming group. Rightly or wrongly all felt that being the aggressor would put them at a disadvantage (‘wasting’ a turn repositioning their figures for example), making them vulnerable to attacks on all sides so, more often than not, most games had everyone lay defences of such strength that to make any kind of dent in them would involve leaving your own territories open and with heavy losses.

    My group do tend to overthink or analyse such things and be very cautious but it is my opinion (which you are welcome to disagree with) that a game should not ask players to play within the ‘spirit’ of a game to take full advantage of it.

    Like I said we did have a blast playing it regardless and I’m glad your group seems more suited to its subtleties!

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