Rivers ’til I reach you.

Naturopolis continues the Button Shy tile-laying series of Sprawlopolis (2018) and Agropolis (2021). It was designed by Steve Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka, with art by Danny Devine. Naturopolis is an 18-card wallet game that plays solo or coop (up to 4 players) in about 20 minutes.

See the Colorblind Games review of Agropolis, too!

Gameplay

In Naturopolis, players start by randomly selecting three bonus point cards and placing them to the side for reference. These cards will provide direction to player actions and the scoring goal, which changes every game. This innovation cleverly adds variety and replayability. I’ve never played the same game of Naturopolis twice.

Example Bonus Scoring Conditions

Players then place the remaining 15 cards, each of which has four blocks (Mountain, Forest, Meadow, Lake), either adjacent to or overlapping existing cards. A new rule introduced in Naturopolis is that rivers and roads must not connect, adding another limitation to the puzzle.

Cards from Naturopolis

Along with the bonus cards mentioned above, players score end-game points in two other ways:

  1. Earn points for the largest group of each zone type.
  2. Subtract 2 points each separate road segment.

I do have one nitpick with Naturopolis, after several plays. I dislike that building long, connected rivers – which feels quite satisfying – does not typically generate points (unless a specific bonus card requires it). At times I feel forced to make an “uglier environment” to earn points. I realize this a difficult design challenge to balance, but I wish these elements were more closely aligned.

Button Shy quickly turned my frown upside-down with Nessie: A One Card Disaster Hits Naturopolis. I don’t even know (or care) what it does – it’s my new favorite card.

Accessibility

Color Vision

Sprawlopolis, Agropolis, and Naturopolis use color to distinguish the block zone types.

  • Sprawlopolis introduced the first four zones and their colors: Orange Residential, Green Parks, Blue Commercial, and Grey Industrial.
  • Agropolis followed this pattern, introducing four more zones (with associated colors): Yellow Cornfields, Red Orchards, Brown Livestock, and Purple Vineyards.
  • Naturopolis includes four more zones: Pink Meadow, Blue Lake, Cream Mountain, and Green Forest.
Cards from Sprawlopolis and Agropolis

In addition, previous and upcoming Combopolis sets combine block zones from more than one game, allowing players to put multiple sets together (including all three). While I cannot distinguish these 12 different colors, I can still play the ‘Opolis games just fine with no modifications needed.

Double-coding. The design and publishing team have continued ensuring colorblind accessibility in Naturopolis with clear double-coding. Each of the 12 different zones in the series includes a design or pattern distinguishing it from the others. I can see the Mountain and Meadow zones apart by their art, even though the colors are similar to me.

Jason Tagmire of Button Shy Games provides direction to designers and artists to provide double-coding in nearly every game they publish. He described it in this way for Agropolis, and the same holds true for Naturopolis:

 “There are visual non-color elements in each type of block, just like Sprawlopolis. It’s not as fast as the color identification but it’s there.”

This tracks for me. I am sometimes the “slow player” as it can take a little longer me to process the current game state due to color vision limitations. As long as a real-time game isn’t added to the -Opolis series (and even then I’ll give it a try), I anticipate being able to play these games forever.*

Low Vision

Naturopolis scoring cards have large fonts and clear graphics, so I don’t anticipate concerns there. The block-side art is clear and easy to distinguish, including large roads and rivers. There is one special element on some cards: camp sites. The little tent and campfire might be difficult for some players to pick out amidst the other art. I found it only a mild inconvenience, similar to Agropolis’ need to distinguish pigs, cows, and sheep.

Is This Game for You?

If you’ve played Sprawlopolis or Agropolis and enjoyed either, you should continue the series with Naturopolis. It will be familiar, but with some new twists that will bend your mind in slightly different ways.

If you’ve tried the previous games but they weren’t a hit for you, Naturopolis probably won’t be either.

If you are new to the -Opolis games, I would not recommend starting with Naturopolis due to its increased difficulty. Instead, I think you should consider Sprawlopolis first. If you like it, then you could add this expansion, Agropolis, or both – including the expansions that allow you to combine the games together.

How to Get Naturopolis

Button Shy will be crowd-funding Naturopolis on Kickstarter soon, and you can follow along on that page to learn more. Along with Naturopolis, the team will release some additional expansions, including Ultimopolis to mix-and-match all three games.

If you’re reading this later and for other Button Shy titles, I recommend their website at buttonshygames.com. It’s rare to find these games in retail stores, but since the games are inexpensive and they ship in small envelope at a low cost, buying direct from the publisher has worked great for me.

Disclaimer: Colorblind Games received a prototype copy of Naturopolis from Buttonshy Games for this preview. Some game elements may change in the final version. Final color correction is not complete, so all comments related to color refer exclusively to the pre-published prototype.

Image Credits: Button Shy, Brian Chandler

*Not literally forever. I’m not claiming immortality, nor the ability to take these games to a next realm or dimension that may or may not exist when I die.

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