Room Boom: Suburbia Review

When most people think of property ownership board games, they think of Monopoly.  My heart goes out to those people.  If their thoughts first go to Monopoly, chances are they have never had the chance to enjoy sublime tabletop experiences like Carcassone or Settlers of CatanRoom Boom Suburbia is an all new property-owning experience that has far more in common with the latter than the former, even if its virtual nature means there’s not actual board involved. 

Room Boom Suburbia places you in the hard hat of a suburban home developer competing against other developers for territory.  These territories are represented by squares on a 5×5 board (although you can make this smaller in the options if you want a quicker game).  Each territory is a tiny part of the neighborhood where you will build homes.  Place more homes in the territory than your competitor and the territory will be yours.  The game is over when one developer can control a horizontal or vertical line of territories, kind of like tic-tac-toe.

This alone would make for a pretty nifty game, but Room Boom Suburbia offers several layers of gameplay to offer up a much richer experience.  You’ll be assembling each of the homes you build first hand.  Every home will neat certain rooms, and the rooms need to be connected by matching doors.  A house is finished when it has all the rooms and no doors are unmatched.  The bigger the home you build and the more doors you match, the more rent you’ll collect.  You’ll use that rent money as the game goes on to purchase building rights on new territories, as well as to pay for attacks on your opponent like bulldozers and protestors.

The matching gameplay definitely feels inspired by the aforementioned Carcassone. Veterans of that game will feel right at home building houses.  Adding even more depth to the game is the Room Factory, where you’ll be tasked with building the rooms that you’ll use when building houses as they come down a conveyer belt.  The rooms usually only require an extra wall or door, but choosing the right pieces to match up on the fly can really put your spatial reasoning to the test.   If you put on too many pieces with doors, how many rooms will you be able to match?  And how will the bathroom you just created match up with any of the kitchens you’ve been assembling?

One of the nicest things about Room Boom Suburbia is how adjustable the level of depth is.  The game can been as deep or as simple as you want it to be.  Don’t want to assemble houses?  You can automate that.  Don’t want to build rooms? You can automate that too.  The only downside is that the AI for automation isn’t nearly as smart as you‚Äôd like.  It will usually only build enough houses to win a territory, but not enough to hold it through consecutive turns.  As well, the rooms it builds will usually offer up very little variety in terms of shape or door placement. 

The only other real gripe to be had about Room Boom is in its choice of camera control.  The game is played from an isometric perspective, which makes lining up rooms in house building mode or walls in room building mode can become something of a chore.  What’s worse is that once a room is placed on the ground it can’t be removed.  On more than one occasion I found myself placing the living room a full row away from the kitchen when I thought I had things lined up perfectly.  And while there are lit up squares on the ground to help guide where things are being placed, the isometric perspective means that sometimes the building you’ve already placed will block the view enough to cause problems.

Combining elements of popular land control board games like Carcassone with quick-paced moments of spatial puzzling action, Room Boom Suburbia brings something truly new into the virtual board game space.  While some poor camera choices and weak AI hamper the experience somewhat, it’s nice to see something so new in a genre that’s been buried under adaptations of child-accessible table top games.  If you’ve ever been a fan of challenging property-control board games that involve more than moving a thimble past Ventnor Avenue, Room Boom Suburbia will probably be right up your alley.

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