Sometimes, when you are scrolling through social media you just need to stop and watch a cute fluffy animal videos on your phone. The real world can be tough and these droplets of cuteness are a welcome break for many. So if thematically murdering your opponent across a board game needs some balance, Happy City is the ying to that yang!
If the name Happy City and the rainbow on the box lid doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling then you might need to check for a pulse as clearly you don’t have a heart! As the old saying goes, we should not judge a game by its box lid – although let’s be honest we regularly do! So, I have penned a review, so you can make a discerning choice whether to spend your pocket money on the spoonful of sugar that is, Happy City.
Each of the two to five players gets a Happy Market starting card and two coins. Then arrange a common pool of Dwellings cards and a randomly selected group of Special Building cards according to player count. Three decks of cards are shuffled individually and placed in a column according to their value. That is pretty much the setup complete and you will be ready to play in less than two minutes. That, I think you will agree is a happy setup, akin to a glimpse of a unicorn in a magical forest.
The aim of the game is to have the happiest city. Your happiness score will be determined at the end of the game by multiplying the number of people (indicated by green pawn icons) by the number of hearts (you can probably guess the icon!) that you have in your city. The game ends when any player places their tenth card in their city. All other players get a turn until it gets back to the first player, thus ending the round and the game.
At the start of your turn you gain income, this will be the total value of coins listed on your buildings, at the start of the game the Happy Market grants you one coin as indicated in the symbol in the bottom left. Your income will grow over the course of the game allowing you to buy nicer things for your city. You can never buy two buildings of the same name.
There will only ever be three cards available in the market for you to buy on your turn. If an opponent took a card on their turn, you can replace this from any of the three draw decks. You can also choose to discard one of the cards available, and replace it too. Once there are three available you can buy one, funds permitting. Alternatively you can buy one of the Dwelling cards on your turn if they are still available. You could also choose not to take a card and instead gain a coin instead.
Special Buildings can be obtained at the end of your turn if you have the required types of buildings in your city to develop them. Only one Special Building is allowed in a player’s city. If you use the expert variation this type of building has further objectives or ongoing benefits.
What it’s like
Happy City is a delight to pick up and play. Your turn involves revealing a card or two in the market and deciding whether to buy one or not.
If this all sounds simple, it’s because it is. While it is very light, there is enough to entertain. This is provided from the limited choice, the set collection towards special cards and the balance of people and hearts in the city. The game time reflects this lighter strategy too and it is never a game that outstays its welcome.
There isn’t a lot of player interaction, other than keeping an eye out for an opponent working too obviously towards a Special Card. The name suggests this isn’t going to be cut-throat and it isn’t misleading. This is much more a radiant race to ten cards, while balancing the points along the way.
The game scales well from two to five players. Turns go round fairly quickly due to the limited choice of cards, so downtime is occasional.
Happy City is a game the whole family can play and be competitive doing so. It appealed to all of us and has provided bursts of fun when time at the table is limited, it’s a great little family time filler. Think: the morning after the Tooth Fairy has visited for a comparable happy feeling!
The artwork in Happy City is as cheery and whimsical as you would want. Some of the buildings, particularly those on the Special Cards, have fun names too, adding to the jaunty vibe the game exudes. Bright and colourful throughout is the only way to describe Happy City.
The cards are on the smaller size and while they don’t need to be any bigger, they certainly could’ve been. You will move onto the Expert Special Cards and variant quite quickly, but that is why they are in the box, and it’s nice that they are!
The first player token/card/marker is a relatively boring card inscribed ‘Prem’s’. I feel like this is not themed with the game at all. I want a rainbow, or a heart as the first player token in this game. Oh, and what does Prem’s even mean?
The only other component is the coins, these are cardboard, sturdy and fine. Could they have been more happy with rainbows or unicorns? Probably! Is it a problem? Absolutely not.
The rulebook did a good job of translating things, so no problem there.
What the kids thought
Harrison (13): It’s a good quick game and I enjoy it. I like how there are different ways to play the game; you can go for lots of income, or try and get a Special Card quickly. The illustrations are quite fun.
George (10): Happy City is really fun. I like how the cards get better as the game goes on and I love the artwork.
Max (6): It was fun! The cards are very nice and it’s not very difficult!
Final thoughts on Happy City
There is a lot to like with Happy City. Easy to pick up and play with the whole family and a super cute theme that radiates sunshine on the gaming table.
With an RRP of £19.99 it is a little expensive for what you get and it might be a little tricky to justify over other things at that price. Mind you, whoever said money can’t buy you happiness had obviously not purchased board games with their money!
For a quick, lightweight family option that won’t get the brain cells hurting with decision making, Happy City is very fun. I really like the theme and I must say, it is nice to get a positive and chipper game to the table with my boys too.
Number of players: 2 to 5
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 10+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 7+
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Toshiki Sato & Airu Sato
Publisher: Coiledspring Games
Happy City is a jolly gaming experience. It is easy to learn, quick to play, suitable for all the family and has enough going on to keep it coming back to the table. Overall a bright and breezy filler game.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Easy to Learn
- Bright and cheerful
- Quick and light
- Expert variant included
- First player marker
- Will be too light for some
- If you are a bah humbug!
Buy Happy City
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