Rocketville Review

Rocketville is an Avalon Hill game by Richard Garfield.

What follows is a modified and updated version of a review I wrote for Board Game Geek back in March of last year. The review aims to tell the reader what type of game they are dealing with and does not get into the details of how the game plays. For information of that sort see Avalon Hill as they have a detailed and accurate description of the basic play of the game. I know this is a bit non-topical since the game came out a while ago but as you can often pick up Rocketville for a very reasonable price perhaps this review will convince some of you to give it a try (or show others of you that even for a very low price, this is not the game for you.)

Before I go any further I would like say that I am a big fan of Richard Garfield so I had been pretty excited about this game coming out. When I say I like the good doctor I don’t mean I play Magic, though I do play Magic but that’s beside the point (or least not directly on top of it).

I also happen to love Robo Rally, Filthy Rich, What Were You Thinking, etc… so I honestly enjoy his style of game and not just the one that he is most popular for. I might also make the argument that much of what Magic has become is rather contrary to his actual game style but since that would be a rather large tangent (something I am rather famous for) I will avoid going there right now.

So What’s Rocketville About?

Rocketville is a fine example of Garfield’s game style. If you like Filthy Rich you will probably like Rocketville. Both are simple and quick but involve enough thought to keep you awake and interested in the outcome. The basic theme of the game is that you and the other players are running for Mayor of Rocketville. You travel via rocket ship from sector to sector of the city making promises (represented by cards) and trying to secure votes from those sectors in the upcoming election.

Luck and Strategy in Rocketville

Rocketville is not for the hardcore among you. If you love games with little or no obvious chance then you probably will be disappointed and frustrated with this game. All games have luck, Puerto Rico has tons of luck no matter what people want to think (any game with more than two players has luck in other words) but that’s another argument (an argument that I may bring to this blog eventually as it is near and dear to my heart). The point is that Rocketville does not go out of its way to disguise its luck.

Rocketville seems to me to be about choosing your battles. Some cards are better in certain zones than others and you have to decide where you think you have the best chance of winning. At times you just have to hang back and draw cards for a couple of turns and hope that an opportunity presents itself.

In our first sitting my group of four played four times before deciding we needed a break. This is the kind of game Rocketville is. If you crap out the first game, don’t worry there is most likely time for another. Rocketville is not the best game for gamers that like to play one big game. If you like to play one huge complex game then don’t mess around with this. If you like to play a couple of neat little games or one fast game several times then this is more your speed.

I came in last almost every game we played when I first got this game and didn’t win any of them. However my friend who is good at counting cards and knowing probability borrowed the game to play with some new players and beat them two games straight. I think that indicates that:

  1. I suck, and
  2. There is some skill involved

The important thing is that even though I didn’t do very well initially I still had fun and was looking forward to playing again.

Since our initial session I have played the game a number of other times. It has become a staple in our groups as it is always quick and usually fun. I would say that I have improved somewhat but I still come in dead last sometimes. Against players unfamiliar with the game, however, players with more experience tend to dominate.

I highly recommend the use of both of the optional rules. The Sponsor cards make every game a tiny bit different and starting with a Robot card means that everyone has the chance of some bonus points during the end game. Since the bonus points are not revealed until the end the outcome of the game can not be determined fully until it is over.

For Those Who Like Fast, Fun Games

I hope this at least gives you an idea of the kind of game you are looking at. It’s fun, it has some strategy and it moves really quickly. It can be frustrating however; for example when you drop a big card that should win a space for you but an opponent has a card one point higher, and there is obvious luck involved due to the blind bidding.

If you like quick games that have decisions but are not going to give you a headache as you try to make those decisions this game will probably work for you, but if you prefer in-depth strategic games and long complex games this is not one of them. Perhaps for many this game will work best in the role of filler.

    Scott Says:

    I have to admit, the one time I played this game (at your house in fact) I was none too thrilled with it.

    This had almost everything to do with the fact that I got trounced– no, wait, that I lost but didn’t understand or “get” the strategy, and concluded it must have none.

    Thinking back, I can picture the concept you mentioned, choosing your battles, as where a lot of the strategy resides in this game. Perhaps if I get the opportunity to play it again I’ll give it another go with this in mind; certainly I don’t think my initial off-the-cuff reaction was a solid evaluation.