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‘Welcome to Centreville’ is an unusual title to be published by GMT Games. My view of their games is mid-to-heavy weight wargames using ...

Welcome to Centerville Welcome to Centerville

Welcome to Centerville

Welcome to Centerville

‘Welcome to Centreville’ is an unusual title to be published by GMT Games. My view of their games is mid-to-heavy weight wargames using lots of different game systems. What often sets GMT’s games apart from other publishers for me most is their production quality. In my opinion, many wargame publishers skimp on production quality whereas GMT consistently knocks it out of the park. This game is a departure from the normal wargame I expect from GMT but nothing has been lost from the production quality in this new game from Chad Jensen.

If I had any criticism about component quality, and I am nit-picking here, the ‘cloth’ bag from which you draw new vocation tiles is very light-weight, almost paper-like; but it works and gets the job done. You do have to apply 12 stickers to the wooden pieces before your first play. The board and wooden pieces are all excellent in terms of quality, as are most new hobby games released these days. The theme and the artwork are appealing to the non-wargaming audience. In fact, my wife expressed an interest in playing this game just based on the box art. (disclaimer: my wife doesn’t share my gaming obsession…yet.  Fifteen years in and I still haven’t given up. To play a GMT game with my wife was/is on my bucket-list, so thank-you for making such an accessible game GMT. I just need to get her to step up to Here I Stand next…(spoiler: it's not going to happen!))

I don't know what this material is called but it's not cloth.
Welcome to Centreville, as the title and box-art would suggest, is no wargame. It is a Yahtzee-style dice chucker to compete for the most lucrative buildings, positions and jobs in the titular Centreville. Each player is attempting to increase their Prestige and Wealth above those of the other players to win the game. These two metrics are scored separately on the same track and the lower of these scores is your final score. If you have 67 Prestige but only 20 Wealth your final score is 20.

On your turn, after you’ve rolled the extra-chunky six dice, up to 3 times, you can use the rolled icons to occupy spaces on the board. In general, the most rewarding, or more powerful spaces of the board are available when you roll 3 or more of the required icons. There are 10 different icons that you can roll and each icon can be used individually, or in sets, to place one of your tokens onto the board, or to take a counter that provides a turn-changing ability from the board. Alongside the icons, each die has a different colour which affects which areas of the board those icons can be applied to. Using my basic (and probably wrong) maths there are 36 different icon/colour combinations that you could roll (4 icons are colour agnostic).
Hunky, chunky dice!
As you can see, there are a plethora of options available to players and it proved bewildering to new players on the initial rules run through. However, each player is provided with an excellent player aid, which after half a dozen turns or so makes it abundantly clear what you can do with the icons you’ve rolled. I found, after the briefest explanations of how you win the game, and the basics of what you do on your turn, the game and it’s many options are best explained by playing/explaining the first few turns rather than painstakingly going through each possible outcome.

I am not disposed to like the randomness of Yahtzee-style dice chucking games. In this game however, the number of options and their combinations with the turn-changing abilities mitigates that randomness somewhat and after half-a-dozen plays, it has become my favourite Yahtzee-mechanic game. You’re still limited to the dice you’ve rolled after the third roll (or even four rolls with the Urban Planners or Media tile's special ability) however, there are two special icons on the dice that behave differently from the other symbols which allow and require you to roll tactically to be more effective.

The first 'special symbol' is a question mark icon which duplicates any other icon. If you roll one tree icon and 3 question marks you effectively have 4 trees and can occupy the most expensive property in town.
Icons...icons everywhere. There are 13 distinct board areas on display in this corner of the board.
The second special symbol on the dice is the hourglass symbol which effectively locks that dice in that it cannot be rolled again on your turn. Each hourglass will move the time marker on a space, (potentially triggering a scoring round or adding a disaster tile to the cloth bag) and they provide a small bonus to either Wealth or Prestige for the rolling player.

The number of symbols on each dice is different but you can attempt to control the roll through ‘Master Tiles’ and the question mark symbol. For example, the blue Master Tile allows you to set the Blue die, there are Master Tiles that allow you to set 4 of the 6 dice. The black die has 2 hourglass symbols on it, more than any other die. Rolling and re-rolling the black die has a greater risk and there is no equivalent Master Tile to control it with.

Initial Setup for a four player game
The board itself is a pleasantly compact board that contains a multitude of icons and areas. In general, the ‘town’ is divided into areas which provide Wealth, and areas which provide Prestige. There are other areas which allow players to add new abilities to their standard turn. These new abilities, gained through Vote icons or Education icons allow further control of the dice or the game turn. The standard turn is simple and even in the late game where each player may have 3 or 4 turn-changing abilities a turn can be completed in short order.

However, players that suffer Analysis Paralysis could be catatonic here. Trying to min-max this game I think is best left to Alpha-zero. If your group suffer with any AP players then don’t buy this game, or just refuse to play with them. In this game there is nothing to do between your turns; you can’t start planning until you see the first roll on your turn. I timed (discretely of course) 12 and a half minutes in between one of my turns playing a four-player game with 2 AP players. Playing quickly it could come back around to you in under 5 minutes.

This is an easy game to introduce casual gamers to. It’s a step above the likes of Catan or Dominion and is just as appealing. It may not be as accessible as those games, just because of the number of things you can do with the icons you’ve rolled, but after that initial rules-hurdle has been crossed this is a good game and surprisingly quick game that new or experienced gamers would enjoy; especially if they’re looking for something a bit meatier after their umpty-teenth play of King of Tokyo. I imagine that if you’re reading this, you are the serious-gamer in your group; this may be the ideal game to introduce your 'less-serious' friends to GMT Games. Next stop Fire in the Lake …
After the first scoring phase.
I did try, unsuccessfully, to introduce this to non-gamers. Specifically, my in-laws; it's not something I can recommend trying. It's either a next step game or a mid-weight euro, I can't decide but it's not a game to convert people into gamers. In terms of complexity, it feels about the same as 7 Wonders. There are many more choices in this game and it plays in approximately the same time. In fact, the playtime along with the number of decisions you have to make is the biggest appeal of this game to me. I can't think of many other short(ish) games that provide so many decisions in such a short time.

The adage ‘do what the other players aren’t doing to win a Euro’ doesn’t really apply here. You need to focus equally on your own Prestige and Wealth to be successful. There isn’t much player-interaction aside from the usual worker-placement DOS (Denial of Spaces) attacks and through the voting mechanism. Votes enable you to take the ability provided by a Public Office from another player by rolling more votes, in a particular colour, than they did to win it initially (each public office corresponds to a different coloured die).
After second scoring phase
There are three phases, to this game which each end with a scoring round. The phases end after the time marker has moved a number of spaces which is determined by the number of players there are. If none of you are rolling hourglasses (unlikely), the phase is going to be long. However, after the first scoring round and the first disaster has occurred there will probably be very few rules questions as the iconography on the board and the summary player aid do an excellent job to answer most questions.

Scoring follows the principle of if you have the most or share the most of something with a player you both receive a set number of points. Second most owning player(s) receive significantly less.  This is applied over the board in all its different spaces, and in that, this is the epitome of a point-salad game - everything scores some points. Scoring only stops play for about 5 minutes and it allows you to strategize for the next phase i.e. do you need to concentrate on Wealth or Prestige for the next phase.
Endgame scoring: Yellow wins with 75 points, Brown has 61 points, White has 54 points and Grey just 47 points. (Grey hadn't played before, and Yellow (me) had played and taught it at least 4 times by this point)

Each player also starts with a secret Legacy Tile, in effect, this is a secret mission, revealed at the end of the game, and is only scored in the third and final scoring round. There are 7 Legacy tiles in the game so each game will have a subtly different scoring regime in the final round. In one of my games, the Legacy Tile changed the winner of the game. This was one of those stand-and-shout gaming moments. I love it when games provide sufficient balance and tension throughout the game that the winner is still undecided up until the final reveal of the game. In my experience, there is skill involved in this game, and for equally skilled players there were rarely run-away leaders.

The game claims 2-4 players. Unfortunately, at two players, the rules introduce a third-player bot, which to me, indicate that it’s really a 3-4 player game. I have played with the bot and it is well designed and its actions can be resolved fairly quickly (there are no bot-action flowcharts here. Lookin' at you COIN!) but it was never really a competitive player. The bot's main purpose is to disrupt and deny spaces from the other two players. The concept and implementation of a bot for the intended audience of this game may be a step too far and I don’t really like a bot that isn’t competitive. I know earlier prototypes of this game there were rules to limit board spaces with two players but they’re not in the published rules. I have a feeling the proto-type 2 player rules would be more interesting to me.
Setup from here takes about 5 minutes

The game does play well at both 3 and 4 players, assuming you’re not playing with AP-prone players, but it is a better game with 4 players. It has a small foot-print and plays in just over an hour. It provides enough choices to satisfy any crowd of gamers and is now my go-to take-along-a-game-to-a-game-group game. I am pretty confident that very few gamers will have tried it or even heard of it. I hope that GMT Games' foray into more Euro-style games continues and proves successful for them. I notice Chad Jensen also has Golden Gate Park up on their P500 list, needing some love.

I would like to thank GMT Games for providing this review copy. GMT Games have started shipping this out so you can still get it from their website for $59 or from a few online websites offering a pre-order price here in the UK. I don't think this game will be very common and I think it will be difficult to track down if you don't act soon, but I guarantee it is worth it.