18th Sep2020

‘Glasgow’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

Given that 2020 has been completely spoiled by the Covid-19 Pandemic, I find myself playing more and more games with just my wife. Whilst I always enjoy these head to head contests, she enjoys a much more limited subset of games to me, and so I have to make my proposed choice for any game night carefully. If I make a bad choice, it sets us back a week or two, with her often refusing to play again based on her sour memory of the last experience.

This brings us to Lookout Games brand new release, Glasgow. This small and exclusively two player only game follows in the footsteps of Foothills (also from Lookout Games) in the sense that it aims to deliver a reasonably thoughtful, interesting experience whilst catering for exactly two players. Sadly for Glasgow, it shares the same Klemens Franz artwork as Foothills, which my wife found particularly dull. In honesty, so do I, and whilst I was convinced that Glasgow‘s would have gameplay to suit us, getting my wife over the artwork was a challenge.

Thankfully, once we got the game setup, we found Glasgow to be surprisingly light and breezy, in comparison with the much more complex Foothills. Glasgow uses what is commonly referred to as a “roundel” system, where each player advances around a ring of spaces, taking whatever action they land on. The trick with all roundel game is that the player who is further back is always the next player, and on their turn, a player may jump as far forwards as they like. The difficult bit about this decision is that if you jump too far forwards, the other player can take every single action that you skipped, until their pawn catches up with yours.

In Glasgow, the spaces are made up of various resource collection spaces, interspersed with a smaller number of architects. Each architect will have a couple of buildings placed above it, and using the resources they collect (brick, steel, gold and the wild whiskey token) the players will compete to build these buildings in a four by five grid in the centre of the roundel. This is as simple as trading in any resources needed when landing on an architect space, and then placing the building anywhere in the grid with its arrow pointing towards you.

In addition to resource and architect spaces, some spaces will allow the players to activate the buildings placed on the board in any row or column. This, basically, means that depending on the placement and the timing of the activation, you are likely to be activating buildings controlled by both you and your opponent. Each building is worth points, and in the classic format used by similar games, the more points a building is worth, the less useful its abilities will be during the game. Buildings with good abilities have lesser point values come end game scoring, and some buildings score more or less depending on their positioning within the grid.

Once the grid of buildings is complete (and thematically the redevelopment of the city of Glasgow has been achieved) then the game ends. Typically, Glasgow lasts for about thirty minutes and presents little opportunity for analysis paralysis or boredom, whilst at the same time presenting interesting choices. One such choice, which is often the main one in multiplayer roundel games, is that of when to skip ahead on the trick, rather than creeping forwards.

In Glasgow, you’ll almost always edge forwards unless you deal (during setup) a run of “rubbish” placements and then there happens to be something really good at the end of them. The other reason is if a player sees a building that is worth a lot of points to them that they cannot risk their opponent getting. In such cases it can be worth skipping over two or three resource or building activation tiles, which will give your opponent a lot of control over what happens during the next few turns. This is a balancing mechanic in itself, but in general, Glasgow offers few opportunities to gain a huge advantage, or to give such an opportunity away lightly.

Unfortunately, this does lead to a little bit of a lack of tension, which is something I’ve always felt in bigger roundel-based games. My wife, on the other hand, really liked that there were nice, easy choices that often felt meaningful and rewarding, but which rarely came with real peril. We both enjoyed the city-building aspect, although it should be noted that it is very abstract and has relatively little “feeling” of being a city builder. Rather than feeling thematic, there’s an almost engine building or tile-placement feel about it, due to the way in which buildings score and/or activate.

Overall then, Glasgow is an interesting choice for any pair of players to consider. It can be learned in about ten minutes and setup in about five, and it returns about half an hour of gameplay each game. Compared to Foothills, the gameplay is much faster and lighter, and my wife certainly preferred it. If I compare it to something like Watergate, the lightness of Glasgow, becomes obvious, and you’ll start to look at it more of a two-player filler – perhaps something to throw in your laptop bag and take on work trips should we ever return to some kind of normality.

***½  3.5/5

Glasgow is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.


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