Underwater Cities is Solitaire Times Approved. It's a favourite game of both Athena and me. I just bought it this year and have played it forty times in six months. Plus at least that amount of solo sessions on the Yucata website. I was curious what the expansion would add, so let's pretend you are as well and I'll share my New Discoveries with you.
Let's start with the bad news. The expansion contains a new variant, with an extra Museum board, that you can't play solo. So technically no "new discoveries" for us. Also: four out of the 52 new cards are multiplayer only. Yet, the other 48 cards offer a lot of variation to all sets of cards from the base game.
The box contains eight three-layer, double-sided player boards - for both the base game and this expansion. You can throw the old flimsy boards away! 🥳 Four of these boards are meant for the new options in the expansions: a quick start and new metropolises.
Instead of starting every game with the same resources, you can now skip the first round and choose from two random starting tiles. They'll give you one or two buildings and different resources. This is a huge improvement to the solo game, where you may have been inclined to use the same actions in the first round every time.
You also get to pick a new kind of personal assistant. They have an action like before, but also a special effect. This can be one-time bonus action at the start of the game, a permanent effect ("whenever you do this... that happens") or a benefit during the production phase. A permanent effect is just like having an extra card, its use is independent of the normal action depicted on the personal assistant. Again, this can nudge you towards trying a different strategy in solo instead of the same old comfortable one.
A new kind of city
Then there are the new metropolises. These don't just offer more variation to the ones that are in the base game, but are of a new kind. They give you free building actions, permanent benefits or a bonus in the production phase. It becomes even more important figuring out when to connect to which metropolis on the board.
So, in short, this upgrade adds a lot of variety to both components and gameplay. You are encouraged to try out new strategies while expanding your network.
👍🏼 layered player boards
👍🏼 👍🏼 👍🏼 layered player boards!
👍🏼 new cards for all piles
👍🏼 starting tiles with variable resources
👍🏼 personal assistants that are useful and vary from game to game
👍🏼 a new type of metropolis
👎🏼 a new Museum board with expanded gameplay that's only aimed at multiplayer.
Oh yes, it also adds this - just for us solo players:
😨 As if reaching 100 victory points in 10 rounds wasn't hard enough, the goal of the game when using the quick start variant is to reach 125 points in 9 rounds.
And even though you can get fun combos like this:
whenever you build a city, you have a discount of one credit or one steelplast
whenever you build a city, advance two spaces on the Federation track
whenever you build a city, gain a victory point and one credit
build a city for free
I did not come close. I maxed out on cities, but not on points. Oh well, on to another 40 plays!