The idea behind my personal list of the best city building board games is to give everyone a broad range of games that would resemble the creation of a city or from a humble settlement into something magnificent.
I’m personally quite obsessed with all those games that involve building medieval villages, fantasy cities, war settlements and I could keep carrying on, but you probably already got the point.
I have an architecture background that probably could have helped this obsession flourish in my mind, but more realistically is because I’ve played too many hours playing at Age of Empires and SimCity back in the days.
I found the worker placement mechanic to be the more obvious one when it comes to creating a city, but I’ve included a few other alternatives that could be interesting to whoever dislikes playing workers on a board.
Hope you’ll find what you are looking for!
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Best City Building Board Games
1 • 7 Wonders: lead your civilization to be the most powerful in the Ancient world using the clever pass-and-play mechanic.
2 • Everdell: set in a fairy-tale world, lead your group of forest critters to build the best city before the next winter season comes.
3 • Puerto Rico: try to reach the greatest prosperity and respect in this legendary worker placement game.
4 • Underwater Cities: create your own nation under the sea by building houses, farms and laboratories connected together by a spiderweb of tunnels.
5 • Suburbia: very much like SimCity, players start from a humble small village and the goal is to develop it into a major metropolis.
6 • Ginkgopolis: build a city in symbiosis with nature using a pass-and-play mechanic, in order to gain as many success points as possible.
7 • Keyflower: start with a humble settlement and your goal is to develop it into a flourishing city during the course of 4 seasons.
8 • Charterstone: legacy worker placement game with the goal of building and developing new towns in order to expand the King’s realm.
9 • Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig: build the best castle with the players on your left and right in this tile-drafting board game with pass-and-play mechanics.
10 • Architects of the West Kingdom: worker placement game flavoured with loads of moral choices that will affect your reputation, giving you bonus or malus.
7 Wonders is a masterpiece created by Antoine Bauza and I couldn’t start the best city building board games list without placing this gem at the beginning.
Each player controls one of the 7 great civilizations of the ancient world and your goal is to make your city the most powerful of them all over the course of three Ages.
Similarly to the 2-players variant 7 Wonders Duel, the game uses the beloved mechanic of pass-and-play following this structure:
– choose a card from your hand of cards;
– play that card simultaneously with the other players;
– give your hand of cards to the player sitting to your left or right and receive another hand of cards from the player sitting next to you.
Will you focus on your civilization progress or will you try to play cards that slow down the progress of other players’ cities?
Plan your moves carefully to lead your empire on top of the world.
2 – 7 players | 30 min | 10+
Welcome to the valley of Everdell, where civilizations of forest critters live and prosper under the branches of the Ever Tree.
You are the leader of a group of creatures with the intention to establish a new city.
Everdell is a city building game that uses a worker placement core mechanic to let you build your own city over the course of 4 seasons.
During your turn, you can place a meeple on the board or acquire cards that give you boosts or points.
Season by season players will acquire more meeples, giving them the ability to perform more and more actions until Winter eventually comes and whoever has the most points by then, will be victorious.
Featuring a 3d cardboard tree, high quality components and stunning illustrations, this game will teleport you into a fairy-tale world that will be hard not to fall in love with.
1 – 4 players | 40 – 80 min | 13+
I could just leave this description blank as everything has already been told about the game and it is known to be one of the best board games ever designed.
I personally agree with that, Puerto Rico is a strategic masterpiece that has changed the world of board games for the better since its creation in 2002.
In this game players take on the role of colonial entrepreneurs in the Americas during the conquest of the Caribbean and your goal is to achieve the greatest prosperity and highest respect.
You can try to attain that by earning victory points.
The game is played over several rounds and for each round each player selects one of seven possible roles, (captain, mayor, trader, settler, prospector, craftsman, or builder) which then triggers the activity related with that role, that could be buying plantations and quarries, selling goods to the trading house, shipping goods to the old world, building new buildings and so on.
The player who best manages the changing roles with their associated actions and special privileges, will win the game.
2 – 5 players | 90 – 150 min | 13+
What if for once we try to create a city underwater, rather than on the surface?
Yes because the earth is overpopulated, the colonization of other planets in the universe is too far away and there’s currently no other space to build new settlements.
This is the scenario that introduces the game.
In Underwater Cities, players compete to build the best underwater nation, formed by cities connected together by a network of tunnels and all the facilities that will support the economy and the technological progress, such as farms or laboratories.
Using a combination of action slots and development cards, which have different effects, players build their under the sea nation through 10 turns, at the end of which whoever has collected the most points wins the game.
Due to the overall difficulty level and the deep strategic choices that you can make, this product is probably suited for more experienced players.
1 – 4 players | 80 – 150 min | 12+
When I think about the best city building board games, Suburbia is one of those that represent the category the best.
This game has very strong similarities to the beloved videogame SimCity and requires each player to build and develop a small town into a huge metropolis.
Your city is represented by hex-shaped building tiles (residential, commercial, civic, industrial areas and special points of interest) that have to be placed one adjacent to the other in order to trigger effects that will boost your growth.
For each placed tile, you can earn or lose Income and Reputation points, so it’s necessary to plan where to lay your buildings as that will have a huge impact on the victory.
The player who has the largest population by the end of the game will win.
1 – 4 players | 90 min | 14+
The game introduces the players to a scenario in which our beloved Earth is in a situation of resources and space scarcity.
The only way to let the Earth and humanity live is to build in symbiosis with nature, keeping an eye on the fine balance between resource production and consumption.
You and your friends take on the role of urban planners with the difficult yet interesting task to build new environmentally friendly cities in order to gain as many success points as possible. This is in fact the ultimate goal to win the game.
Similarly to 7 Wonders, Ginkgopolis uses a pass-and-play mechanic, along with a melting pot of different types of games, to add depth to an already quite difficult game.
1 – 5 players | 45 min | 13+
Best of the “Key” series games designed by Richard Breese, Keyflower is a city-building board game that uses a mix of worker placement and auction mechanics.
The game is divided into 4 rounds, representing the seasons, in which players start with a humble settlement and throughout the “year” they will have to develop it into a flourishing city.
Despite the inexisting theme and the poor quality of some of the components, I think this game deserves to be featured in this list of best city building board games for its level of strategy, the (indirect) interaction between players, thanks to the auction mechanic, and good replayability.
2 – 6 players | 90 – 120 min | 12+
Charterstone is a worker placement city-building board game under the shape of a legacy experience that will permanently change the look of the game as you carry on through your campaign.
These permanent changes are mostly in the form of writing on the board/cards and stickers, as often happens to the legacy board games.
In Charterstone players are settlers who just arrived in an empty valley with the goal is to build and develop new towns in order to expand the King’s realm, throughout a scenario composed of 12 linked games.
As the game progresses, the story unveils different choices players have to make, that will irreversibly change the outcome of the campaign based on what you’ve chosen.
The game is not without flaws and in particular the rules ambiguity and lack of a strong story.
I strongly agree with whoever thinks that Stonemaier Games should have put more time into the game’s development.
Nevertheless, Charterstone is ultimately a simple legacy game, with nice mechanics, awesome artwork and good quality components, that will keep you and your friends busy for quite some hours.
1 – 6 players | 45 – 75 min | 14+
Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Have you ever wondered what building a castle feels like?
In Between Two Castles you are a builder who has been asked by the Mad King Ludwig to design his new house.
Since the project is huge, it will likely require more than one pair of eyes, therefore you’ll be paired with other players in order to build the best castle in the entire Reign.
To give a shape to the fact that players have to co-operate with each other and also aim to be the best builders, the game requires you to work together with the player on your left to design one castle, and with the player on your right on another castle.
At the end of the game, your score will be the lower score among the two castles you helped design.
Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a tile-drafting board game with a mechanic of pass-and-play, that will challenge you to build the best castle while keeping an eye on what your opponents do.
BETWEEN TWO CASTLES OF MAD KING LUDWIG
2 – 7 players | 45 – 60 min | 10+
Architects of the West Kingdom
Having an architecture background myself I couldn’t not include this game among the best city building board games.
Architects of the West Kingdom let you play as one of the Royal Architects appointed of building new landmarks across the country to impress your King in order to keep your noble status.
You will have to acquire materials (wood, clay, silver, stone, marble, gold), hire apprentices, oversee all the construction sites and most importantly defend your reputation from rival Architects.
This game is a fairly classic worker placement type of board game, with a strong moral choices component that will affect players’ Virtue value.
As you want to keep your noble status at all costs, you have to be prepared to make more or less legitimate shortcuts.
Will you keep your reputation high by paying your debts with the advantage of participating in the construction of the Cathedral and earning Victory Points?
Or will you follow the dark path by hiring Pickpockets and Swindlers, using the Black Market and evading taxes?
ARCHITECTS OF THE WEST KINGDOM
1 – 5 players | 60 – 80 min | 12+