Nov 23, 2009

Urban Sprawl

A reader posted the following in response to one of my Municipality playtest summaries.

Tim Harrison said...
Your game is beginning to sound a lot like Urban Sprawl, by Chad Jensen, the designer of Combat Commander:

The rules are available on GMT's website. You might want to take a look.
First off, I'd like to thank Tim for letting me know about this game. The last thing I want to do as a designer is waste time designing and developing a game that someone else has already made.

Secondly, after some investigation, this does not seem to be such an occassion. For a primer, take a look at the Urban Sprawl rulebook.

Reading through this, I came to the conclusion that Urban Sprawl and Municipality are two very different games which occupy the same thematic space and, therefore, use similar terminology to describe some very different game mechanics.

I think Tim's conclusion that they were similar was caused by this terminology overlap. For instance, both games use "Permits" and have players gaining temporary control of various political offices.

However, the differences between these two games are along the lines of the differences between Carcassone and Caylus.

Urban Sprawl takes the latter route. It is detailed and highly strategic. Municipality, on the other hand, is simpler, shorter (between 1 and 1.5 hours instead of 1.5 and 3 hours), and more abstracted.

Also, when you dig down to it, Urban Sprawl is a city-building game and Municipality is, at its core, a bargaining game. Much the way that hotel construction in Acquire is just a pretext to drive the real meat of the game (stock purchasing and selling), Municipality uses city construction to force players into its main activity: bargaining of Political Capital.

So, I will continue development of Municipality. Despite the thematic collision, I truly believe these are two distinct games occupying different segments of the market.

I want to again thank Tim for alerting me to this in the first place. There aren't enough hours in the day for any of us, and the time I can dedicate to gaming gets spent mostly on design and testing. I don't have enough time to keep up with what other designers are producing. So, if you spot something that bears a similarity to one of my prototypes, please let me know in the comments.

I wish designer Chad Jensen the best of luck with getting his game published. You can pre-order it here.


  1. Are your rules online? I made my observation solely based on your blog posts.

  2. Tim, I don't blame you for making the comparison that you did. They certainly do sound alike based on what I had in my playtest notes.

    Municipality only entered playtesting a few weeks ago. I don't have the rules written out yet. I prefer to let a game stabilize before I write a rulebook that will probably have to change drastically anyway.

    When I do get to the rulebook stage, I hope you will share your thoughts on it.

  3. Anonymous2:56 PM

    Stop copying other people's games!