Underwater Cities Board Game

Underwater Cities Board Game Review

The world’s population has boomed beyond control, and there’s barely any space left on the earth’s surface to accommodate the masses. Space travel has been debated for centuries, and Mars sure does sound like an exciting option. But, maybe the earth isn’t as full as we think it is. Perhaps the solution to our overpopulation problem lies right below our nose, in the vast ocean that covers over 75% of the earth! Considering the amount of space on earth that is covered by water, one can only wonder why no one’s thought of this idea before!

Players: 1-4

Game Time: 80-150min

Complexity: Hard

Age: 12+

Release Year: 2018

The game is not your ordinary, run-off-the-mill city building board game. Instead, it requires careful planning and strategy. Players must focus on building and expanding their underwater empire quickly and efficiently. Although the element of competition exists, this game is much more focused on improving your own area rather than bringing down your opponents. So if you want to exercise your brain a little, don’t mind deep diving into complex strategies, and engaging in a fun game that does not end friendships, then this is the most suitable board game for you.

How do you play this game? Well, we’re glad you asked. Let’s take a look at Underwater Cities Board Game, brought to you by Rio Grande Games.

Underwater Cities Board Game Review


​​Vladimír Suchý’s infamous Underwater cities board game explores the possibility of having a successful and thriving underwater world. The most intelligent individuals of the populated world, the players, are entrusted with the difficult task of building the most resourceful, well-established, and thriving underwater area. The player that can leverage their actions and resources to create the most successful underwater space is the winner of the game.

Underwater cities incorporate nation-building, engine building, and worker placement elements all in one game. Sounds too much? It isn’t once you get the hang of the game. The different aspects of the game make it that much more exciting and enjoyable. So that by the end of the game, you genuinely do feel like you’ve accomplished quite a feat.

The game can be played solo or by two to four players. As mentioned previously, this game requires a fair amount of strategic planning if you want to win. So, as expected, it is not a particularly fast or aggressive game and usually lasts for thirty to forty-five minutes.

There are ten rounds in the game. The player with the most points wins at the end of these rounds. If you’re playing solo, you would need seven connected cities and a hundred points to win.

Your job is not just to build a well-connected area. It is also to create a resourceful and well-established, self-growing site. Your main aim is to:

  • Expand your underwater network through tunnels
  • Construct buildings
  • Complete tasks using experts
  • Connect to metropolis for an additional bonus
  • Become a prosperous and resourceful underwater nation

 To understand how this game works, let us look at the components and setup. 


The board game comes with the following components:

  • Double-sided main game board: One side is for one to two players, while the other side is for three to four players.
  • Double-sided player boards
  • Era 1, Era 2, and Era 3 cards. The timing of these cards is written on the top left, and their action is written across the top while their description is given below.
  • 1, 2, and 3 special credit cards
  • Player information cards. These cards give you information about the cost of construction for buildings, cities, and tunnels and will also tell you what these structures will produce in the production phase.
  • Cities or Domes. These are either white for non-symbiotic domes or purple for symbiotic domes.
  • Various buildings come in the form of small disks. There is the green buildings that represent kelp producing farms, yellow buildings that make credits, and grey buildings that make science
  • Double-sided tunnel tiles
  • Resource tokens
  • Credits (1, 5, and 10)
  • Kelp (1 and 3)
  • Steelplast (1 and 3)
  • Science (1 and 3)
  • Brown metropolis tiles
  • Blue metropolis tiles
  • Action cloning tiles
  • Action tiles
  • Multiplier tiles
  • Scoring cards
  • Player markers
  • Rule book


To set up the game, you must first decide how many players will be playing the game. For demonstration purposes, we will choose a three-player game. To set up this game, you will need about eight steps.

Step 1: Place the main game board in the center. Remember to place the correct side corresponding to the number of players playing facing up.

Step 2: Create a supply pool in the middle, within reach of all the players. You will place the credits, tunnels, buildings, resources, and cities in this. When you place the cities, you will put all of the white domes but correspond the number of purple domes with the number of players. For example, if there are two players, you will use seven domes. You use ten domes for three players, and if there are four players, you can take out all the purple domes.

Step 3: Separate the Era cards into three separate decks of Era 1 cards, Era 2 cards, and Era 3 cards. Shuffle the cards in each deck and then place the Era 1 deck on the main game board in its designated space, and the Era 2 and Era 3 decks off the board but near the first deck, in a series-like fashion.

Step 4: You must put the era marker in the starting space of the era track. You will be using Era 1 cards from rounds 1 to 4, Era 2 cards in rounds 4 to 7, and Era 3 cards in rounds 8 to 10.

Step 5: Separate the special cards into two separate decks of 1 and 2 credit special cards and a separate deck of 3 credit special cards. The cost of the card is indicated on the top left. First, shuffle both the decks thoroughly and place the 1 and 2 credit special cards deck in the middle of the main game board with the top card flipped over. Next, draw six cards from the deck of 3 credit special cards deck and put them face-up on the board in their designated spots. Finally, you must put away the rest of the deck.

Step 6: Each player chooses a color and gets their allotted components. You will receive the corresponding action tiles, markers, personal assisting card, and final scoring card. You will also get a player boar, a player information card, one steelplast, one kelp, two credits, one science, two blue metropolis tiles, one brown metropolis tiles, and a white city dome. Remember, the player boards have two sides; one side is symmetric, whereas the other side is asymmetric. If this is your first time playing this game, it would be best if you used the symmetric side. 

Step 7: You place the main game board in the middle of the playing area. Your white dome will be placed in the bottom right circle on your player board. Next, the brown metropolis tile is placed at the top left hexagonal outline on the player board, and the two blue metropolis tiles are placed on the top right and the bottom left hexagonal shapes. You must also place a marker at the zero mark on the score track on your main game board. Finally, all your action cards, resources, and various remaining cards are put on the side of the player board.

You must also keep two markers on the federation track in order of your turn. For example, if you are first, you place the markers below the federation track, the second player will place their marker on the fourth space in the federation track. In contrast, the third player will place their marker on the third space in the federation track and will receive one credit. If there is a fourth player, they will be on the second space on the federation track and will receive one steelplast and one credit.

Step 8: You pick up your starting hand, with each player getting six Era 1 cards. Players can choose three cards and discard three cards. If you are new to the game, a good strategy would be to keep one card from each color.


The design of the game is based on its theme. The deep blue color of the main game board and the player boards, carry a resemblance to the ocean’s mysterious depths. Likewise, the various components and cards are all colored to resemble things you would typically expect to find in the sea. The game is simplistic in design but well thought out. The numerous different pieces fall perfectly in place and are a visual treat for those who understand its subtle references.

The game’s rules are numerous, but they add to the game’s charm. After all, this is not a game for individuals who want to kill time without using any brainpower, but for intellectuals who enjoy spending their time in some friendly banter while playing a challenging game.

Gameplay Experience

The game is not very fast-paced, so you have ample time to think about your moves. The victory points come from various sources, including building cities with sets of supporting plans. So you have to be patient and have plenty of foresight to succeed. If you don’t have a good start at the beginning of the game, you can easily catch up with the right strategies.

The game has ten rounds in total, and in each round, a player gets three turns. The rounds can be divided into three phases, the first one consists of players’ turns, the second is the production phase, and the third is the scoring phase.

During the first phase, each player will play their turns. You will place one of your markers on the action slot and gain or utilize its benefits in each turn. You will also put an action card on the main game board. The important thing to remember here is the color of the cards. If the color of the card corresponds to the color of the action slot, then you get to utilize the benefits of the action slot and the action card. If this is not the case, you will only get the benefits of the action slot.

Let’s take a moment to understand the cards here. There are five different types of cards that you can use:

  1. Instant cards: These are cards that give you immediate power
  2. Production cards: These help you produce more resources in the production phase
  3. Action cards: These are of different types and can be utilized when they are placed on the action spot
  4. Permanent cards: These cards grant you bonuses throughout the game
  5. Scoring cards: These come in handy right at the end of the game

To advance in the game, you must make critical decisions and take the needed measures with the help of the actions on the board and through your action cards. Some of these actions are pretty simple and straightforward, such as building a city, a base, or a tunnel. However, more complex actions can help you progress rapidly in the game. These can include building more than one plant, using resources such as science to upgrade a building, advancing on the track, changing the order of turns, and getting generous bonuses. Such actions help keep the game engaging throughout as you never know what hand your opponent may play that can propel them closer to becoming the ultimate winner. So it is always best to play the boldest cards and strategies as quickly as possible to advance in the game. Since your opponents can not harm you technically, except for placing their cards on the action slot and blocking it, you don’t have to slow down your pace or save your best strategies for the end.

Your main aim in the game is to build an expansive underwater network. The more connected and extensive it is, the more chances you will win. For this, you will need to build cities and connect them to your underworld network using tunnels. Additionally, you will also build plants around the city to produce resources during the production phase. Remember, for your city to grow, you need resources. These include money, science, biomatter, and steelplast. So the more plants you have, the more resources they will yield and the higher you will score. Without resources, all your actions are limited. This includes constructing cities, tunnels, and other structures.

The resource plants can be simple, upgraded, or paired. Each level of plant provides different kinds and levels of resources. As is evident, the upgraded and paired plants provide considerably more resources than simple single plants. Production rounds come after rounds four, seven, and 10. During these rounds, resources are produced from the plants.

After the last production phase, you will have created your large underwater empire and will be reaping its benefits at the end of the three rounds. After this phase, you will have the scoring phase, where your scores will be calculated, totaled, and compared to determine the winner.

Repeated Play

People often dismiss complex games such as Underwater Cities for fear that they will become monotonous and boring. However, that is simply not the case. This game is light, fun, and intuitive and does include any complicated techniques that can make your brain hurt. Yes, foresightedness and strategy do help in the game, but in the end, you simply have to choose from a bunch of actions you can perform to build the best underwater nation you can.

There are numerous different tricks you can apply to get ahead of the game. Players can employ fun new tactics to make the most of the hand they’ve been dealt with and get ahead of their opponents. You have to be quick-witted to progress in the game rapidly, but at times complex strategies fail, and simple common sense is more than enough to win the game. So you have to choose your battles carefully and make thoughtful decisions. All this just goes to show that this game does not get boring no matter how many times you play it.

Underwater Cities Board Game Review

Final Thoughts

Underwater Cities is designed after careful consideration of various aspects of board games. The game is suitable for children above 12 and adults alike, can double ad an engaging family bonding activity, and is a means to kill time without killing brain cells. Once you have played this game, you will find yourself returning to the board more often than you initially thought as you think of new ways to defeat your opponents. The playtime is thirty to forty-five minutes which is a decent amount of time to keep you engaged without making you overwhelmed.

The first game may require some patience before you get used to the numerous rules and components. But once you do, it is smooth sailing. We recommend referring to the rule book frequently during your first few games so that you can get the hang of things quickly. At its heart, the game is relatively straightforward and fun. There is also a creative element in this game that most board games lack. Since you are in complete control of your underwater nation, you can design it to be according to your preference. The more well connected you can get the cities to be, the better will be your final score.

All in all, this game is a definite hit for us and must be tried by everyone bored with the usual average board games.