Looking for something new in the vein of worker placement board games? Need something a little on the lighter side in terms of rules to teach to family or friends? Do you simply want to see greater representation of the world's population in board gaming? Then perhaps Dubai: Rebuild the Ruins is the board game for you. It's currently on Kickstarter and if it sounds like a game for you, you've got until March 24th to get in on it. What do we think? Read on and find out.
In Dubai, players take on various factions living in a post-post-apocolyptic world in what can best be described as the rebuilding that comes after a Mad Max future. These factions reprent everyone from the old residents of the city, to the nomads, to the escaped criminals, all of whom have their own special asymetrical powers they bring to the table. A game of Dubai sees players placing their workers in turn in order to obtain funding, purchase resources, lay out blueprints for projects, and finally rebuild the city. Structures give bonues to each player as they go up as well as earning victory points, and the player who does the best job of rebuilding the city wins. Nice and simple.
Prototype of the worker rotation tracks. The final version of the game will have these tracks elevated on little cardboard buildings as featured in the title image.
The centerpiece of Dubai and what makes it stand out against those that came before it is what the creators refer to as a "worker rotation" mechanic. The three locations players can place their workers have spaces arranged in a circle. When a player places a worker at the front of one of the three location tracks, governing the basic actions of the game, they (and everyone else in turn with workers already there) perform an associated action. However, the next player to take a turn becomes the last player in that chain of meeples. They remove their worker from the back and place them again at the front of one of the worker circles, perhaps repeating the same location's action but perhaps going to another location instead. Play passes from player to player until the Ruins track, which governs when structures can be built, reaches one full rotation at which time the game ends.
During the course of your buildings going up, you also accumulate special powers. Every building you place removes a cube from a corresponding track on your player board. You use this cube to denote the building's ownership on the main board, but for every cube missing from your player board you also gain a +1 to some special ability. Residences allow you to gain bonus, free resources when purchasing blueprints, for example, making them easier to build. Businesses allow you to gain extra cash when taking the "funding" action. When you buy resources at the Port location, they get more expensive the more that people want them (think supply and demand); however, if you've built Factories you can keep your bid low (and hence the cost) while still purchasing multiple goods. There are multiple lines of play and ways to boost your economy as you attempt to literally construct your own victory. Oh, and there's also a sprinkling of hidden goals that players can achieve during play, netting more points at game's end if they're accomplished but potentially also losing players points if they remain uncompleted.
Another prototype image. The final board will have more polished artwork, and the iconography will be color blind friendly! I'm not color blind, but I'm always glad to hear these kinds of things from developers.
You know what's fun in board games? Getting handed goods by the fistful. You know what else is fun? When people around the table can be heard constantly saying things like, "Wow, that power seems really good," or "That thing you did is super powerful." Dubai has these things in spades. What starts off as a simple game of getting some money, buying some resources, and putting up some buildings quickly snowballs as the mid and late game sweep in. As the game goes longer it also gets faster, more and more cubes coming off your bonus tracks and onto the board, until by the end you are raking in huge amounts of resources while benefiting from all kinds of crazy discounts and powers, combining them with your faction's unique power to steamroll into a win.
The gameboard we used during PAX East 2017. It was a lot of fun to play with the developers right there!
If you're wondering if some of these abilities are broken, then rest at ease. The 2+ years of playtesting that have gone into the game really shine through. Each faction has its own style of play, but none are any less powerful than another. All the powers you can boost on your player boards are useful, and no one has any greater chance of winning based solely on powers alone. It's as if the creators want everyone to unlock their own little overpowered economic engine and race them in a mad dash together to the finish line. I went into this game thinking it looked just like any other euro game of worker placement but was surprised at just how much fun I had with it. That's not a small thing.
If you think this sounds like something you might want to kick money towards, you have a little under two weeks to do so. Visit their Kickstarter page, and see if it's a game you'd like to see on your own shelf!