I played Chinatown last night and came 2nd in a four player game, and although I thought I did okay at the time would probably have done better had I known all the ins and outs – there would have been less “oh you can do that” moments!
Chinatown is a negotiation game played over six rounds where the goal is to end up with the most money. The game comes with a large board depicting Chinatown consisting of 85 plot spaces, numbered plot cards, building tiles, and colour markers for each player. Each round has four phases: “draw”, “negotiation”, “build”, and “income”. In the draw phase you draw plot cards (then discard two of them) and building tiles. You place markers of your colours on the board corresponding to the cards you kept and place the building tiles in front of you. Next comes the negotiation phase and the source of many of my “oh you can do that” moments. Literally everything is up for trade – your counters on the plots, the building tiles in front of you, and your money. In the build phase you may place any building tiles you have on the board spaces where you have your counters. The building tiles are sets of 3, 4, 5, or 6 (there are 3 more tiles than needed for the full set in the game), and you want to place tiles from the same set together (A building is a set of the same type tiles placed orthogonally adjacent to each other with no roads in between) . In the income phase you get paid for the buildings on the board you own depending on their size. A single tile gets you $10K, and two orthogonally connected nets $20k, but larger collections net you more than $10k per tile! You also get a bonus if the building is complete. So if your size 3 building is comprised of Laundry tiles (that are 4 to be complete) you get $30K, but if they were Tea Shop tiles (that need 3 to be complete) you’d get $40k. The income increases greater on larger buildings (a size 5 “incomplete six-type” nets $80k, but a complete five-type nets $110k).
Chinatown is an enjoyable game. Last night the rules were explained to me and seemed fairly straight forward. In the first round I negotiated swapping buildings for buildings and sites for sites, and in the second I realised you could interchange these or add as sweeteners – “I’ll offer you $20K for that Dim Sum” or “swap that marker with that and I’ll give you this tea shop tile”. Then in the third round I realised you could simply buy a plot marker off someone. If I was explaining it to someone else I would really emphasize that everything is negotiable – you can swap similar (e.g. plot markers), swap different (marked spaces for tiles), or simply buy something outright – or any combination. 3-way deals can be quite good too. The game had some sweet moments, like when I agreed a marker swap with Hugo that included buying a tile from Hugo for $50k that gained me the $50k back in come that turn (and as it was turn three I had 3 more incomes at the increased level too). In the end I came a very credible second with $350k, only a few thousand (I think $20k) behind first place and over $100K in front of 3rd place.