Game Reviews

Damn Little Town

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| Damn Little Town
Damn Little Town
| Damn Little Town

Which UK towns would do best in a catastrophic event? Which would do worst?

Milton Keynes would be a relative cinch to get out of thanks to its US-like grid system.

On the other hand, the citizens of Tunbridge Wells, with its one main road in and out, would be screwed.

It's an odd thing to ponder, I grant you, but then Damn Little Town makes you think in such worst-case-scenario terms.

Phases set to run

Though it's a simple-looking tile-based boardgame, Damn Little Town is all about helping your citizens to escape on the eve of the apocalypse.

That involves two phases of play. The first sees you constructing the infrastructure for their escape by laying down random tiles, Carcassonne-style.

These tiles contain variously shaped interconnecting settlement components. They can also contain bits of road, which are required to link your settlements together. You also need them to connect your town to the four escape points situated at each corner of the game board.

When you lay a settlement section down, you have the option of assigning one of your eight citizens to it.

The trouble is, you have up to three other players (AI or human) trying to do the same. You need to try and block off their progress - or come to an unspoken, begrudging truce - if you're going to get your people out of there.

Anti-social networking

As you settle your citizens and construct the network of roads around them, you'll notice several ominously glowing fissures appearing at random.

These pertain to the second phase of play, the escape itself. Once it starts, a bunch of evil monsters will settle over these fissures, blocking off escape routes and killing anything beneath.

You then take it in turns to move your citizens towards the escape points. Each go you only have a limited number of moves. You'll also get a couple of monster cards, which have to be placed alongside matching coloured beasts.

You're not just fleeing for your life. You're trying to murder your fellow players too.

Survival skills

We've spent some time discussing the mechanics of play, but that's because Damn Little Town offers quite a fresh combination of ingredients.

It's also because the game doesn't spend much time explaining itself. If you're not a boardgame veteran, you'll probably be completely lost for your first few attempts. I know I was.

When you get down to it, though, Damn Little Town is actually a pretty straight-forward and lean experience. If anything, it needs a little fleshing out.

Citizen pain

You'll usually find that at least a couple of your citizens are cut adrift and doomed before the second phase even starts.

It's part of the game's harsh tactical core, of course, but it just feels annoying and wasteful. They should have some secondary function in the escape phase, or there should be some means (however unlikely or tricky) of redemption for them.

Games can easily descend into a mean-spirited, fractured mess. There are too many ways to spoil a competitor's escape plan and not enough ways to circumvent underhand tactics.

Damn Little Town is an interesting, surprisingly nuanced, quick-fire board game, but its edges are a little too harsh.

It's a challenging, engrossing experience, but it needs to improve its infrastructure if it's to survive the attacks of its App Store competitors.

Damn Little Town

A sparse quick-fire boardgame with plenty of interesting ideas, Damn Little Town is just a little too punishing for its own good
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.