New Stack City

Posted by on Apr 25, 2011 in Game News | 0 comments

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In a recent BoardGameGeek News round-up, W. Eric Martin featured a brief tease about Sunrise City – a tile-laying city game currently in production by Clever Mojo Games. Intrigued, and always wanting to know more, I contacted Clever Mojo Games, who graciously got me in touch with game designer Isaias Vallejo. Here is what Isaias had to say about the game, and his experience with W. David MacKenzie and Clever Mojo Games:

“The idea for the game is definitely inspired by Sim City. I’m sure everyone can relate to starting up a new city on Easy mode, spending that $10k on laying down a nice city, and then scrapping it after you realize you actually have to manage it! While doing the initial development, some other games inspired me: Medici (on iPhone), Metropolys, Caylus, and Carson City.

Playtesting prototype of Sunrise City. (click to embiggen)

The motivation to create the game came from the Quick Print n’ Play Design Contest on the forums.

I had initially entered a different game into the contest, but a few weeks in Jack Neal, the person running the contest, decided not toenter his city building idea. I sent him a message asking if it would be okay if I entered a city building game and he gave me the go ahead. That same night, I had a bolt of inspiration and wrote out some (terrible) rules.

Card and tile art are temps. I'm guessing the giant wooden cubes are hear to stay, though.

For a few weeks, I kept tweaking the game and taking advice from forum posters. The game evolved quite quickly, which was exciting, but unfortunately, although I didn’t know it at the time, it was evolving in the wrong direction.

I was one edit away from adding in useless mathematical (taxes/rent) mechanics when David MacKenzie from Clever Mojo Games jumped on the forum thread. Luckily for me, he invited me to his weekly play-testing Meetup group and asked if he could take a look at the game in person.

From left to right: Sunrise City designer Isaias Vallejo, regular Clever Mojo Games playtesters Seth and Robert.

When I went over to David’s Fortress of Solitude (a mecca for a fledgling designer such as myself) with Drew Sayers, my design partner, we were lucky enough to have David all to ourselves while the other play-testers played a different game. We went through the game according to the rules at the time and it quickly became evident that the game was slow, boring, and wasn’t achieving its objective: laying down buildings. David suggested some (a lot of) changes and we quickly scrapped a lot of the things that were holding us back. We basically designed as we played the next game and it instantly felt a lot better.

With those changes we had a new rule set and goal for the game: to make a fun filler game you can play during a lunch hour. After that session, I came back a few more times and played the game with others and I guess David liked it enough to start asking about publishing the game. Or I insisted he publish it. Either way, we were on our way to making a great game together.”

Isaias was kind enough to send me a copy of the beta rules for Sunrise City and the game has a good mix of smooth play, strategic complexity and great potential replay value. Since it combines three of my favorite gaming things – bidding, tile laying, and city building – this is one game that I’ll be keeping a close eye on as it develops in semi-open playtesting. Be sure to watch Dice Hate Me for more updates!


  1. A New Frontier for Alien Frontiers | Dice Hate Me - [...] designed by Fred and David MacKenzie was release in 2009. Games planned for 2011 and 2012 include Sunrise City, …
  2. The Crowded Table: April/May Edition | Dice Hate Me - [...] with a larger group. Hopefully we can get our city-building, tile-laying fix from the upcoming Sunrise City, of which …
  3. Tequila Sunrise over Clever Mojo Games | Dice Hate Me - [...] many of you know, Dice Hate Me featured a brief interview with Sunrise City designer Isaias Vallejo last month …

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