Gridopolis Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Variable gameplay length

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Visuospatial Skills

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Think in multiple dimensions

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

American business magnate, entrepreneur, industrial designer, investor, and media proprietor, Steve Jobs, said, “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” In this game, light game rules and abstract simplicity create a hotbed of creative focus and strategic engagement on literally multiple levels.

Gridopolis, designed and developed by Dave Schultze and published by SchultzeWORKS design studio, is comprised of over 200 pieces that come in seven different shapes. The pieces are made of solid plastic and very durable (we’ve put the game together and broken it down too many times to count, and not once did any of the pieces show any wear or tear). The overall design of the game is minimal, with soft colors. Of real interest – especially to those who are interested in engineering and architecture – is how the pieces interlock together and are used to form three-dimenionsal structures.

Setting the Grid

To set up the game, first give each player a set number of pieces. Pieces are recognized as “posts”, “pads”, “links”, “blocker-boxes”, “hyper-pads”, “kingergizers”, and “kings/pawns” (which is a unique marker pieces that is moved by the player during the game and is flipped over to determine its current use and status). Give each player two posts, two blocker-boxes, three pads, and three links. The links and pads should be connected at this time. These pieces are set aside for the moment but stay in control of the player who owns them.

Second, build the playing platform by connecting posts, blocker-boxes, pads, and links together. The final result will be a three-dimensional playing area with three levels to move pieces around that is referred to as the “grid-set.”

Third, give each player their king/pawn pieces and place them in their designated starting positions as a “pawn” in the player’s “home-row” on the grid-set.

Fourth, have each player place their hyper-pad pieces to any level on the gride-set they like.

That’s it for the game set up. Determine who will be the first player and begin.

A Game of Multiple Dimensions

Gridopolis is played in turns, with each player making a single move with their king/pawn piece. Movement allows the player to jump up or drop down a level on the grid-set. The game rules provide several different forms of gameplay (and scoring options). What’s offered here is a summary of the basic rules of movement and capture.

Your Basic Move

Pawns can move to an adjacent pad in any direction (including moving up or down a level) as long as they are never moved back towards their starting position in the player’s home-row.

Your Basic Jump

Pawns can jump over other pawns of the same color using the basic move rules. This allows the player to move their pawn over two or more pads and must be in a straight line (that is to say, players cannot turn corners and cannot jump from one level to another).

Your Basic King

Pawns can be promoted to a “king” by ending the pawn’s movement within an opponent’s home-row and ending the action on a pad with a kingerizer piece. The pawn is then flipped over to signify its promotion. As a king piece, movement is the same as noted above except king pieces can move back towards the player’s home-row (much in the same way as Checkers). Also, each king piece can make a total of two moves on the player’s turn, but these moves must be taken at the same time, with the second move always being optional.

Your Basic Hyper-Pad

Hyper-pads do not restrict movement, but they do augment it. When a pawn or king lands on the hyper-pad, the player may place that game piece to any other unoccupied hyper-pad section on any level. Traveling via the hyper-pad circuit does not count as an extra move, meaning a player who is using a king piece may take a second turn if they like.

This completes the primary movement in and around the grids and levels of the game. What follows are more complex rules that allow for deeper player interaction and strategy.

Add a Blocker-Box

At the start of the game, each player was given two blocker-boxes. Instead of making a basic move, a player may place a blocker-box to an unoccupied pad (this not only includes a pad with a pawn or king, but also a pad that is designated as a kingerizer or hyper-pad). This pad is now off-limits to movement. It is, for all practical purposes, a dead space.

Add a Pad

At the start of the game, each player was given three additional pads, three additional links, and two additional posts. Instead of making a basic move, a player may add to the grid-set using their extra pieces. The only restriction is when adding a pad with a post. The new pad must be directly above a pre-existing pad. Once added, it becomes a standard pad that can be moved into unless it later has a blocker-box added to it.

Capturing Opponeent Pieces

A player may “capture” an opponent’s piece on the grid-set by jumping over them. The pad in which the opponent’s piece is located in the “space” to be jumped over, meaning the player’s pawn or king moves a total of two pads with the first pad being the one occupied by the opponent and the second being an unoccupied pad. All movements must be in a straight line, but the capture itself can be completed by moving the pawn or king multiple levels on the grid-set. That is to say, a player can capture an opponent’s piece directly above it or below it in the grid-set if the movement is completed legally.

A player can also jump multiple opponent pieces. This is done in the same way as capturing an opponent’s pieces in Checkers. The straight line and single move rules are ignored if the move allows the player to capture an opponent’s piece legally. In this way, a player can capture two or more opponent pieces in a single movement. The only limitation is that a player cannot jump over their pieces. Each move must result in a capture.

Kamikaze

The only exception to the rules of the capturing pieces stated above is the kamikaze move. In normal circumstances, the player must end their movement on an unoccupied pad on the game-grid. If the player chooses, they can elect to sacrifice their piece by making a capture move on the same level that would cause it to land outside of the grid-set. The capture is successful, but it will cost the player by forcing them to remove their piece from the game, as well.

Example of a two-player game in progress at my breakfast table

Going Forward, Creatively

Gridopolis is as much a game as it is a game system. Included with the rule book are the basic moves and specialized actions that can be taken. These rules are provided as a baseline, not a limitation. Pieces are intentionally minimalistic and abstract, allowing creative players to create their own games and are encouraged to share them with the Gridopolis Community on Facebook. New movement rules can be added, new ways to interact with pieces can be used, and of course, how the grid-set is built can be easily modified.

To learn more about Gridopolis, visit the game’s website.

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed the game, both the gameplay and the visual aspects of the game design. According to one Child Geek, “I like how you get to move around on different levels. Makes you think in multiple directions at once.” Another Child Geek said, “So much better than Checkers! You can teleport, jump to different levels, and even build onto the game as you play! I love it!” While the games played were enjoyed, the Child Geek really liked building new structures and testing how far they could make the grid-set move upward and outward. Eventually, they played a game on it, but it always met with success regardless of how they built it. All the Child Geeks voted to approve the Gridopolis.

The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game, finding it to be a fun activity with their kids on the weekend, but it fell flat within their peer group. According to one Parent Geek, “A wonderful game that challenged both my girls and me to think on different levels. A true test of strategy and tactics, but not to a point where I ever felt overwhelmed. I think it had to do a great deal with how visual the game is. You can see it all before you, and that helps.” Gridopolis is one of those games you might find yourself getting up from your chair and walking around the table. Necessary at times when you need to see all your possible moves. Another Parent said, “Great stuff for the fam, but this game isn’t one I had success with when I brought it to the table to play with adults. We enjoyed it, but it just didn’t fit the mood at the table.” When all the jumps were completed, the Parent Geeks voted to approve Gridopolis as a fun and visually exciting family game.

The Gamer Geeks enjoyed the game’s concept and how you built your multi-level board, but were not overly impressed with the gameplay. “According to one Gamer Geek, “This is 3D Checkers with a few other rules built into it. This could have just as easily been a combat game with jumping figures going from rooftop to basement. Still, because it is so abstract, you lose any semblance of connection to the gameplay other than just the maneuvering. I think that is fine, but the game never caught my attention or tickled my fancy.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A visual delight and a bit of a pain in the ass to build, but it is pretty solid. The setup time to playing time is a bit off, but the gameplay felt fast and fun. A game I would play again? Probably not. I fully approve of this game for families and kids.” When all the votes were counted, the Gamer Geeks rejected Gridopolis.

Gridoplis is a solid game, in regards to its component quality and gameplay. It’s one of those games you’d expect to find in a game boutique and immediately draw your eye’s attention. Visually, it grabs you. Trace the different levels and pads, see the pathways, and you’ll want to “jump” into the game. Once you are playing it, it’s an engaging blend of tactical thinking and strategic puzzle-solving. How should you move to avoid your opponent but set yourself up for a capture? Do you attempt to own the topmost level or dive deeper into the structure to try a pincher move from above and below? It created for more than a few great conversations with our players both before, during, and after our games.

My only negative comment about the game is its setup time. Building the levels with the pieces is literally a “snap” (everything snaps together), but it always felt too long to create for a child or family game. Admittedly, and as of this review, I’ve built the game and put it back in the box no less than 25 or so times. That gets old fast, and we should take that into account. I wouldn’t mention if it weren’t for the fact that other reviews said it, too, from all three of our groups. This should not be considered a negative against the game. Heck, I play a significant number of games that take a good 15 to 20 minutes to set up due to the many cards and other game components. I even have games that require two tables to play. Just approach this game knowing that you need to give yourself time (about 10 minutes) to set up the game. Less if you have a friend to assist, but this is not a game you can just play on a whim. It takes time to set up.

Overall, I am most pleased with Gridopolis. It’s built on the basic concepts already well established with 3D Chess and Checkers, but then adds a few of its ideas. This proved to be an additional level of fun and allowed for further customization with the game (which the game designers strongly recommended). This leaves you with a game that can be played for years and years to come, allowing players to adjust the difficulty. You could even buy another set of the game, and now you have double the options. The only limit is tablespace.

Do take a look at Gridopolis and sit down for a game or two when the opportunity presents itself. It will be one of those games in your collection your kids will play with and most likely not forget. Don’t expect to get it to the table often, though, due to how long it takes to build and breakdown. Still, in the hobby of board, dice, and card games, the game set up is just as fun at times as playing the game. Give this game a shot and see if it engages you on multiple levels as it did for our groups.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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