City Square Off Review
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Players: 2 (ages 8+)
Playing Time: 10-15 minutes

People who enjoy head-to-head strategy games often find themselves playing intense games that could go on for hours—or even days—like the long, drawn-out checker games that my dad and grandpa once played. But if you don’t have time for a lengthy game of chess, you can find plenty of head-to-head challenges in City Square Off.

The rules of the game are pretty basic. Each player begins with a nine-by-nine city grid and 21 city tiles. To start, each player chooses a cityscape starter piece and places it in the center of his or her grid. Then, one at a time, shape cards are revealed. With each new card, both players much find their matching tile and place in on their grid, in a position that’s both completely contained within the grid and touching at least one square of a tile that’s already been played.

Play continues until one player can no longer fit the tile within his or her grid.

The rules of City Square Off may be easy to learn, and game play may be pretty basic—especially if you’ve spent a lot of time playing Tetris—but that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy game to master. Each new game brings new and different challenges, depending on the shape and placement of your starter tile and the order in which the cards appear. For that reason, you’ll have to be careful to plan ahead, keeping an eye on which tiles you’ll still need to fit into your grid.

Of course, for those who prefer games of pure skill—or games that are played in direct competition with an opponent—this one doesn’t exactly fit the bill. While there’s plenty of skill involved, you’re still at the mercy of the luck of the draw. And although you’re competing with an opponent, you’re still playing the game separately, on your own grid (though it might be interesting to try competing on the same grid, taking turns drawing cards and playing tiles).

But if you’re looking for a game that will allow you to think spatially and strategically while facing off against a friend, City Square Off is sure to challenge you time and time again. The rules may be simple, but game play is anything but—so you won’t lose interest after just a game or two. Best of all, it takes just a few minutes to play each game—so, although you could very well find yourself playing all afternoon, you don’t need to set aside an entire afternoon to get your strategy-gaming fix.

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